Bedford Co., VA - A horse expert has launched a fundraising effort to help a horse made famous on Facebook.
A picture of a horse in Bedford County, tethered to a telephone pole, has now been shared more than 24,000 times on social media.
The original poster, Lisa Zellner from Roanoke, encouraged people to call the Bedford County dispatch number, bombarding emergency dispatchers with hundreds of calls on Wednesday. Those calls came from as far away as California.
Animal control officers have visited the home and say the owner isn't breaking any laws.
The post also got the attention of a local woman who has been around horses all her life. She wasn't sold by what she saw on Facebook, so she went to see the horse in person.
Katie Gardner's specialty is thoroughbreds, and you could say caring for horses is in her blood. She's a third generation equine professional, with a grandmother in the hall of fame. Her family's farm, Otteridge, is just a few miles from where Thunder lives, out in the elements.
"It's in my backyard practically and seemed like a good opportunity to help," said Katie Gardner.
So Gardner called up Thunder's owner Tyree Bryant and his wife.
"They were a little defensive at first because they've been pounced on with a bunch of negativity, and a bunch of people assuming they know what's going on," said Gardner.
That call turned into an invitation for Gardner and her sister-in-law to come visit Thunder and the Bryant's other horses, five in all, on Thanksgiving.
"This is absolutely not an abuse case. It's absolutely not," said Gardner. "The animals are in good weight. They've been vaccinated. They've been dewormed. Their feet are in good condition. They are friendly. At the same time, there are some serious needs here."
The most basic need is all-weather blankets to cover the horses. Five are on their way to Bedford County, from Gardner's horse show friends who live all over.
Next Gardner started an online fundraising page, to pay for gelding the three stallions. She hopes to have enough money to build a shelter.
"They need three walls and a roof at least, so I'd like to see that happen," said Gardner. "I'd like to see his fence get improved."
"I am absolutely not a rescue organization. I'm just one person that got really, really interested in helping these animals," said Gardner.
Gardner says there are horse rescue organizations all across the country that are overrun right now, so the goal is for the Bryant's to be able to safely keep the horses. If you're interested in her fundraising effort click here.