She just couldn’t say nay

Martha's Vineyard woman rescues horses from New Jersey auction.

Wendy Oliver with her two new horses in Oak Bluffs. Oliver rescued the horses from a New Jersey auction.— Gabrielle Mannino

A pair of rescued horses have found a new home in Oak Bluffs, thanks to dedicated Islander Wendy Oliver. Oliver is known on-Island for growing orchids in her Frosty Hollow greenhouse off Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs, but her true passion, she said, is animals.

For a while, Oliver had been thinking of getting a horse for herself and her family, especially for all her grandchildren. Oliver, who is in her 60s, grew up with horses, but hasn’t owned one in more than 45 years. Like her dogs, Oliver wanted the horses to be rescues.

Becky Daniels, a friend who owns a horse stable, suggested that Oliver talk to Jen and Nate Hess, a couple who had already adopted three horses and boarded them at Daniels’ stable.

Daniels showed Oliver the Cranbury Sale Stable/Horse & Tack Auction Facebook page, an online horse auction based in New Jersey. The auction gets new horses each week and puts them up for bid. The horses range in breed, age, and health. Oliver became emotional when she told The Times what happens to all the horses who are not purchased. Some are listed as new, while others are listed as urgent — meaning they’ve been at the auction for several weeks or months, and are headed to a slaughterhouse.

Oliver was scrolling through the page, writing down the numbers of different horses. When she called the auction, most of the horses on her list had already been bought. She settled on a pair of brown and white pinto horses, labeled 423 and 424. Pictures of spotted horses were accompanied by videos of them being ridden.

As Oliver was about to leave Daniels’ house, the Hesses’ car pulled into the driveway. The Hesses, who were thinking about getting another horse themselves, offered to haul any horses Oliver purchased from the auction with their trailer.

“It had to be fate,” Oliver said. Without a moment of hesitation, Oliver called up the auction and bought the two horses.

Once her payment was secured, Oliver got to work on building an area for the horses to graze. With the help of friends and family, she put up a fence and shelter to make the horses feel at home.

Late last Thursday, the horses arrived inside a trailer. When the doors opened, the horses trotted straight off. Oliver said she was shocked when she first saw them because they were both thin. She was worried the horses wouldn’t adapt to their new home.

But Oliver’s worries began to ease over the weekend as the horses settled in, drank water, and ate food. Oliver said she was having a difficult time being away from them, spending the past several days watching the horses as they munched on grass and swatted flies with their tails: “They are just so gentle. I love them. I won’t even leave them.”

She dubbed the 15-year-old mare Nakoma; she has two different colored eyes, one dark and one bright blue, and the 19-year-old gelding, Jack Diamond Phillips or Jack. For the past several days, Oliver’s family has been spending time with the horses, petting them and feeding them molasses treats. She said the horses were gentle with all of her young grandchildren.

For now, Oliver said she’ll continue building the shelter and making sure the horses are happy and healthy. The horses are rideable, but she’s having a veterinarian look at them first. “It worked out really well,” she said.

Oliver stressed that if people are not in a position to get their own horse, they can still support them and other animals by donating to rescue centers that raise funds to purchase horses for adoption.

Oliver frequently donates to animal rescue organizations and charities, and is certainly no stranger to rescuing animals, as both of her dogs are rescues. “It was time to step it up a little bit, go a little further,” she said, “It’s saving the lives. I don’t care if they sit out in the field and I just get to go give them apples everyday. I’m not a public person. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a hero, I just needed to do it.”


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