NORTON - As they bask in the afternoon sunlight and munch happily on hay, Nottingham, Blue Moon and Luke are a world away from their past lives as overworked, starved and brutally treated horses.
The three horses were all rescued by Heidi Medas and now reside at Medas' 11-acre Smokey Chestnut Farm in Norton, a non-profit that takes in rescued horses and dogs in need of a loving and safe home.
"They're all good and they just need to be given a chance. Everyone can be a star if someone believes in them," Medas said of her four-legged charges.
Medas, 49, is an interpreter for the deaf at a local high school and Boston University. She runs Smokey Chestnut Farm with the hopes of giving horses and other animals in need a better place to call home.
Luke, a quarter horse appendix, found his way to Medas after being rescued from a stable barn that had brutal training.
"This stable used harsh training measures, and tried to train him in just three days. His back is screwed up as a result, and he can't have anyone on his back at all," she said.
Blue Moon was found starving to death at a large saddlebred farm in New Hampshire. She was one of 25 horses New Hampshire authorities seized. Because she didn't receive the proper nutrients at a young age, she is now stricken with arthritis.
"She's only 8, and she has arthritis in each leg. She can be very achy depending on the weather, just like people can be," Medas said.
Nottingham, the newest addition to the farm, was part of the Johnson & Wales Equestrian Team until his retirement. He lived with a man who free leased him to a local agricultural school where he was overworked, and is often lame as a result.
"When it became clear that he had served his purpose there and needed to be retired, a few of the students advocated for him to be rescued and reached out to see if I could take him," Medas said.
Nottingham, who Medas has nicknamed Notty, is now enjoying his retirement and life free of work at the farm.
"Notty lives life on his own time now," Medas said.
In addition to the three horses at her Norton farm, Medas also has two horses in Middleboro. She also has two rescued black labs.
Bear was found wandering the streets of Randolph. When the owner was found, he said he didn't want the dog anymore. The family that found Bear couldn't keep him, but worked to find him a good home and placed him with Medas.
"He's 100 pounds of pure energy. He loves to run around," she said.
In July 2012, Medas also took in Nattie, a black lab that is blind.
"She was found wandering the streets of Taunton and was brought to the Taunton Dog Shelter. When no one claimed her, we claimed her as our own," she said.
After just a few months, Nattie needed emergency pyometra surgery to remove her infected uterus, Medas said.
Recently, Nattie's eyes became infected and a visit to an ophthalmologist led to the recommendation that she have both eyes removed.
"During the surgery to remove her eyes, doctors also tested a mass in her throat found during her earlier surgery. The doctors suspected that her vocal cords had been cut and the mass was scar tissue," Medas said.
Putting the pieces together, they determined that Nattie was likely used as a breeding dog who was abandoned when she could no longer produced puppies to be sold, Medas said.
"It's an unfortunate, sad thing. She's the sweetest, most playful dog I've ever met," she said. "People need to stay committed to their animals."
While Medas loves taking care of the animals that she has rescued, keeping up with their costs has proven to be a difficult task.
"It costs $300 a month to feed one of the horses, so I'm spending $1,500 a month just on feed for the horses, never mind any medical costs," she said. "It's financially challenging."
The medical costs for the animals can be crippling, as well. The recent surgeries for Nattie, alone, totaled more than $6,000.
To help alleviate some of the costs, Medas gained her non-profit status in 2012. Still, the cost of caring for the animals is high, and she's hoping for donations from the public to help offset the expense.
"Donations to the farm are tax-deductible because we're a non-profit. I'll always take care of these animals because I see the value in them, but we could use the financial help," she said.