EASTHAMPTON — Created in memory of a loving horse named Jasper who needed only one summer to change the life of a young girl, The Joy of Jasper offers care and sanctuary to horses in need.

“When I met Jasper, I was an adolescent girl in desperate need of self-esteem, confidence and a safe space. My home life was chaotic and difficult,” explained Gina Barry, president and founder of The Joy of Jasper, whose father was struggling with issues brought home from the Vietnam War. “As I worked with Jasper and trained him for the show ring, he gave me not only self-esteem and confidence but also unconditional love and trust. I knew I was safe with him, physically, mentally and emotionally.”

After Jasper had to be euthanized after shattering all the bones in his hoof and Barry’s father had overcome his issues, Barry spent the next 20 years thinking about Jasper and mourning his loss. He had made such a tremendous impact on her life that Barry wanted to do something special in honor of his.

“There was a hole in my heart that only horses could fill,” recalled Barry. “While attending a Tony Robbins seminar called Date With Destiny, I was inspired to form a horse sanctuary that would take in abused, abandoned and unwanted horses and ponies. I had a greater vision of also providing space for others to work with our horses and receive the gifts that I received while working with Jasper.”

Founded in 2007, The Joy of Jasper is a nonprofit sanctuary that provides forever homes to abused, abandoned, neglected or unwanted horses and ponies. The horses remain at the sanctuary for the remainder of their lives in a loving, kind home.

“Over time, our model has evolved, such that we take in older equines, who are often at risk for euthanasia or slaughter simply because they have gotten old and are no longer traditionally useful,” said Barry. “Our horses typically come from owner surrenders or livestock auctions, but we do currently have a horse in our care who made his way to us through the MSPCA. There is no shortage of horses in need of a soft place to land. “

Due to the increased care needed by senior horses, the sanctuary limits itself to having five horses. This allows it to provide the best personal care that it can offer. Over the last 17 years, the sanctuary has cared for 13 horses and 2 ponies.
Currently, the sanctuary has a roster of 25 volunteers, some of whom have been with the sanctuary since the beginning. People are always welcome to fill out a volunteer application and the sanctuary will reach out when they need additional people. Adolescents who are at risk are especially encouraged to reach out for volunteer opportunities. Barry and the other volunteers believe strongly in the healing power of horses.

“Mind you, I am not a professional therapist, rather I, and many others, have found that horses are natural teachers and exceptional healers,” explained Barry.
In addition to the support of their volunteers, the sanctuary also relies on the financial support of their NEIGHbors, who provide monthly donations to keep the sanctuary running.

All of the horses are housed and cared for at Legacy Farm, owned by William and Geraldine “Gerry” Page. Gerry Page, a lifelong horsewoman, was the director of Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Inc. in Holyoke when Barry volunteered there as a young girl and met Jasper.

“When my horses arrived at her property, it truly felt like I had come full circle,” said Barry. “The Joy of Jasper has been my catharsis, transforming grief and pain into so many moments of absolute joy. I have watched this same transformation occur in many others.”

The Joy of Jasper is located at Legacy Farm, 26 Strong St. in Easthampton. More information can be found on its website joyofjasper.org and on its Facebook page.

Tina Lesniak
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