Villa Chardonnay animal sanctuary provides therapy for disabled

Sanctuary provides renewed purpose for animals without homes

Photos by Villa Chardonnay
Villa Chardonnay is an animal sanctuary that is celebrating its 15-year anniversary this year.

■ Matt McPherson / Columnist

Just south of Hemet in Sage lies a sanctuary for horses, dogs, cats and other animals that strives to improve the quality of life for all of God’s creatures. Villa Chardonnay – Horses with Wings is a 30-acre ranch that continues to expand and improve its facility and 24-hour care. Villa Chardonnay has become one of the largest animal sanctuaries in Southern California and will celebrate its 15-year anniversary in October.

The horse that started the sanctuary
Monika Kerber founded Villa Chardonnay, a nonprofit equine sanctuary, in 2003 after being inspired by Chardonnay, a two-year-old injured palomino that was headed to slaughter before being rescued. The cage-free, no-kill facility provides a permanent home for animals that were destined for slaughterhouses or have special needs or medical conditions.
Over the years, they branched out from horses and now have more than 270 animals, including dogs, cats, goats, turkeys and donkeys. At Villa Chardonnay, a whole staff of workers, vets, and horse experts nurse horses back to health through dental work, surgeries, therapy and relentless care.

Nitro Active and Miss Duchess, two of the more famous horses at Villa Chardonnay, are descendants of Secretariat and Seattle Slew, respectively.

Kerber and her partner, Mercedes Flores, head the animal sanctuary and rescue animals from all over the nation and world. Villa Chardonnay has recently rescued horses from New Hampshire, New Mexico and many other states. Last spring, Kerber received a call in the middle of the night from Texas: 600 donkeys were to be slaughtered and Monika was able to save 14 that were pregnant, which later gave birth at Villa Chardonnay. Today the donkey families prosper together under their watchful caretakers.
Villa Chardonnay’s famous residents
Dakota, at 40, is the oldest horse at Villa Chardonnay, but continues to live a comfortable life. The ranch is home to progeny of famous racehorses, including Nitro Active, the great grandson of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, and Miss Duchess, who was rescued from slaughter, is the foal of 1977 triple crown winner Seattle Slew.
Last year Kerber rescued 12 dogs from the streets of Taiwan and almost as many from the streets of Mexico City. A couple of Thanksgivings back, two turkeys were dumped at Villa Chardonnay’s gates. While Kerber is not sure who brought them, she figured they must have a certain sense of humor. The turkeys, Snowball and Eric, roam free throughout the ranch, but are returned to their pens every night to avoid predators.

Lumi the three-legged dog found a happy home at Villa Chardonnay.

Horses have healing effect on disabled persons
At Villa Chardonnay, Kerber and Flores see first-hand their collaborative partnership with Pacific Coast Learning Center (PCLC) of San Marcos and APK Serene of Oceanside. Both organizations provide services to a wide variety of adults with developmental disabilities, and bring their patients to Villa Chardonnay to experience the healing effect of horses. Many patients have severe cognitive impairments and are transitioning from institutional life to enjoy the benefits of community living.
“I see such a strong connection between all of the animals at [Villa Chardonnay] sanctuary and the individuals we serve. The lives of the animals parallel those of our patients. They are all living in a place that has given them another chance and, as a result, they are starting to flourish,” said Dr. Deborah Varos of PCLC. “I saw Mikey, a patient that I have worked with for years who does not communicate verbally, actually start to laugh out loud and giggle as he was feeding carrots to the horses. I have seen him smile but never laugh. He was absolutely giddy! It was an incredible moment. All of us who witnessed it shed tears of joy.”

This horse is all smiles and obviously enjoys life at Villa Chardonnay.

Colloidal silver sideline hopes to increase sanctuary’s income
In an effort to improve the quality of life for the many horses and at the same time generate an income for the sanctuary, Kerber and Flores have started a colloidal silver business. They claim the medicine and ointment works miracles for many of their animals, from infections to rashes to sinus issues. Silver has been used to fight pathogenic bacteria going back to antiquity. Hippocrates was the first to describe its antimicrobial properties in 400 B.C.
In the past decade, numerous studies have proven that silver is one of the most effective agents in the battle against antibiotic-resistant super pathogens. According to a 2013 report in “Medical News Today” it’s been proven that low doses of silver can make antibiotics up to 1,000 times more effective, and may even allow an antibiotic to successfully combat otherwise antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Monika Kerber founded Villa Chardonnay in 2003. Here she is hugging Misty.

Congressional actions reopen slaughterhouses
This last month congress voted 27-25 to reopen slaughterhouses throughout the country, so horse sanctuaries like Villa Chardonnay are a godsend for animals looking for salvation. The sanctuary is all self-funded mostly through grants and donations. Villa Chardonnay is looking to coordinate with clubs, school districts and community organizations in an effort to generate funds and bring awareness to the plight many animals face throughout the country and world. This year Villa Chardonnay received a $2,500 grant from Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington and they hope, through community involvement, more funds can be secured.
Villa Chardonnay will soon complete its courtyard and fountain and looks forward to hosting weddings, quinceañeras, anniversaries, birthday parties and other events.
Kerber is seeking donations from leaders in the animal welfare community, corporate donations, sponsorships and grants from various foundations. Individual donations are also welcome.
“If just 3,000 animal lovers make a one-time donation of $75, which is 33 cents per animal, we’d meet our goal,” said Kerber, a long-time animal rider and lover. “Of course, any amount is welcome.”
Kerber isn’t afraid to put her money where her mouth is – she also supports Villa Chardonnay with her own funds.
Donations of all kinds, including corporate donations and sponsorships, are critically needed. All donations are tax deductible and may be made through their website www.villachardonnay.org

Donations may also be mailed to: P.O. Box 890130, Temecula, California 92589.

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