EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 28, 2012

Horse rescued in honor of young shooting victim

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — HAMILTON — Six-year-old Jessica Rekos dreamed of having her own horse one day.

While her parents promised to get her one when she turned 10, Jessica’s dream will never come true. She was among the 20 children and six adults killed when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., two weeks ago.

“Jessica loved everything about horses. She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses and writing stories about horses,” wrote her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos, in a statement. “She asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat.”

To remember Jessica, a Hamilton-based nonprofit organization, Hope4Horses, has rescued an 8-month-old standardbred colt from a slaughter pen and renamed him Rekos to keep her legacy alive.

Co-founder Janine Jacques will travel to New Jersey next week to pick up the young colt and his mother and will bring them to the organization’s barn in Hamilton. Rekos will live in town until a family is selected to adopt him, she said.

They will be looking for a family with a young girl about Jessica’s age who is also passionate about horses, she said.

The idea to rescue a horse in Jessica’s honor came out of the Equine Rescue Network, a website managed by the group that coordinates rescues for young horses. Hope4Horses rescues and rehabilitates young horses under 3 and uses the network to find homes for the horses.

“What we are trying to do is fill her dream,” Jacques said. “It is really sad for a lot of us, because the horse community very much sticks together. It is just sad we lost one of our own; it is sad to lose any kid in such a tragedy.”

She said many of the group’s supporters grew up with the same “horse gene” as Jessica and understand her passion.

“I grew up as that little cowgirl,” Jacques said. “I can really relate to this little girl who spent all of her time watching horse videos, drawing horses and wanted a horse.”

Jacques said it typically costs about $1,000 to rescue a horse. A group of supporters took to town singing Christmas carols earlier this month to raise money to save the horse.

With 20 carolers, a rescue horse and a donkey, the group raised $900.

Some 157,000 horses will be sent to slaughter in Canada or Mexico this year, Jacques said.

The organization, which is run by all volunteers, has saved 120 horses since being founded in 2010. They saved 46 horses this year alone.

Jessica Rekos also spent time writing in her journals, making up stories and doing “research” on orcas — killer whales — one of her passions after seeing the movie “Free Willy” last year, according to her parents.

Another one of the girl’s dreams was to see an orca, a dream that was realized in October during a trip to SeaWorld.

Once Rekos is placed in the perfect home, a bound book will be sent to Jessica’s family, Jacques said.

For more information on Hope4Horses or to contribute to the cause, go to hope4horses.org.