It isn’t every day that you find an interesting travel destination that also offers hope for rescued animals, but Ray of Light Farm in Connecticut is just such a place.
Nestled in the back roads of East Haddam, not far from the famous Gillette Castle mansion, the farm offers sanctuary to abandoned animals as well as humans who are feeling down and out. The mission of the farm is to bring hope and peace to all those who enter, whether you arrive on four legs or two. If you’re looking for fun things to do in New England, this is a must do.
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Saving the Premarin Foal: How Ray of Light Farm Got its Start in Connecticut
Ray of Light Farm got its start as an animal rescue by rescuing Premarin foals. Premarin is a common hormone replacement drug given to women to ease severe menopausal symptoms.
The drug is created by drawing urine from pregnant mares. To ensure a profitable business model for Premarin farmers, these mares are kept in foal most of their reproductive years. As a result, mothers and their offspring are usually separated shortly after birth, so that the mare may be bred again more quickly.
While Premarin mares may lead a stressful existence, the fate for their foals is even worse.
Many Premarin foals are sent to slaughter. Some grow up to become Premarin mares themselves. A few lucky ones, like many of the inhabitants at Ray of Light Farm, are rescued and put to work as companion or therapy animals.
Ray of Light Farm, a Home to All Animals in Need
Bonnie Buongiorne, founder of Ray of Light Connecticut, has been rescuing horses since 1993 when a battle with cancer inspired the need to give back to others.
In rescusing Premarin foals, Buongiorne focused on learning natural horsemanship techniques. Training under esteemed equine trainer Anna Twinney of Reach Out to Horses, she learned how to help the foals to trust their human companions.
Many horses grow up to return the favor, participating in the farm’s Horse Feathers program as therapy animals for veterans, first responders and others in need of their healing.
Since rescuing her first horse, Buongiorne has gone on to rescue many animals, including guinea pigs, tortoises, ducks, peacocks, llamas, goats and even a zedonk, a cross between a donkey and a zebra.
What’s wonderful about the farm, is that the rescued animals are available to visit six and many of their stories are on display.
Turning the tragedy of their circumstances into a ray of light for others is what the farm is all about. The other activities, such as lessons, boarding and the onsite tack store all feed that mission, as do donations, so please consider dropping some cash into the boxes located around the farm.
Giving Back to Animals and the Community
Giving back to animals and the community is Ray of Light Farm’s mission, and since COVID, the need has been tremendous. According to the Farm’s website, they are at capacity, but are continuously asked to shelter abandoned small animals, such as 2 young female guinea pigs who were left in a local park with nothing but a box for shelter.
These little ladies are safe and at home with other guinea pigs on the farm and welcome more sympathetic friends to stop by and visit. Guinea pig and goat cuddles are available by scheduling in advance.
If you’re looking to spend time with some of the other animals, Ray of Light Farm in Connecticut offers a host of additional programs, including Bye, Bye Troubles. Spend time feeding and caring for many of the farm’s inhabitants in this interactive, half-hour session.
While riding lessons are also available, the farm currently has a waitlist. However, if you’re interested in spending time with these special equines, unmounted classes do have openings, including weekday programs for retirees.
Another option is to skip the mall and build your own furry plush to benefit the farm. Palooza Pop Ins let guests build their own stuffed animal, replicating some of the farm favorites for as little as $15 a person. This special opportunity also includes an exclusive you won’t find at any mall store: the chance to feed the goats.
The farm offers a number of other scheduled activities which all go to support the upkeep of the grounds as well as the health of the animals. Be sure to check the website to see what’s available and call ahead to schedule one of these unique opportunities. Or, take a self tour of the farm. More on that below.
Dropping in for a Visit at Ray of Light Farm in Connecticut
Ray of Light Farm Connecticut is open 4 days a week for self touring from the hours of 10:00 to 4:00. Guests may feed the goats and visit with the other animal inhabitants during this time.
They also offers an excellent tack store for equine enthusiasts. We found several steals here, so be sure to bring your check book if you think something might catch your eye. The Save-a-Buck tack store is open Friday through Sunday.
While visiting the farm is free, please keep in mind that the organization survives on donations. You’ll find donation boxes conveniently located around the farm when you visit. You can also purchase items online or make a donation directly to Ray of Light Farm.