By Ladonna Paedae Rodriguez
Photography Lisa Taylor Hall 

A kind-hearted person might rescue a horse or two that has been neglected, is injured or simply is no longer wanted. To take responsibility for over 40 endangered horses is more than kind, it is a labor of love. It is a daunting task and Lori Schirard Grubb of Sebring has fully embraced it in a way that the majority of people simply could not. 

Lori Grubb owns and operates the only local horse sanctuary in Highlands County, The Sanctuary at Horse Hammock. Hailing from a major Florida citrus family, youngsters Lori and her brothers tagged along with their outdoorsman father, exploring, learning and falling in love with nature and God’s animals along the way. Lori began trail riding horses for pleasure as a young girl, and she has grown in her respect for and understanding of the majestic horse over the years as she matured. 

I got my love of horses from my father, but I like to think I got my desire to care for animals from my mother who was a true example of a life filled with love and service,” she added. 

Lori began her sanctuary after retiring from River Brite Citrus Sales, part of the family citrus business. She knew that rescuing horses and providing a safe haven for them to live out their lives was to be her new direction, her passion, and her God-given purpose. Said Lori, “My goals are helping unwanted, abused and neglected horses, and I also want to be an advocate for responsible horse ownership.” 

A determined and grateful Lori said, “I’ve never worked harder or felt more blessed. God finds where your purpose is, and I believe that is where your passion is.” 

Her sanctuary mission began with a visit that opened her eyes to the incredible need that existed to care and provide for unwanted, neglected horses. She visited a horse rescue in North Florida, “Horses Without Humans,” and there she met Yvonne Barteau, the founder and executive director of the rescue, who is also a world renowned horse trainer with a passion for at-risk horses. After meeting with Yvonne, Lori had a renewed sense of determination that she could, and would, do whatever she could to help horses in need. From that meeting, she returned home with her first sanctuary horse, who had been neglected and abused by his owner before being seized by law enforcement. Still in Lori’s care, Joey has a peaceful home to live out the rest of his life, and has learned to trust Lori’s sanctuary team, but he still carries the scars of abuse, as he spooks easily.

In May of 2022, Lori partnered with Barteau’s Horses Without Humans to save nearly two dozen horses in a massive rescue operation in Okeechobee— so massive that it was featured in the local and statewide news. These horses were malnourished and abused, and their future looked bleak because most had never been handled by humans and were basically wild. Thankfully, Sheriff Noel Stephen of Okeechobee allowed Barteau to take in all of the horses, which required more than $8,000 worth of medical treatments while in the Sheriff’s care. Twenty-three horses survived (including five pregnant mares), made great recoveries, and from that original herd, 14 are now living out their lives at The Sanctuary. 

That led to even more horses being brought to Lori from other rescues who had horses with little or no hope of being adopted. Fortunately she has the land to board and care for them, but the enormity of tending to well over 40 horses cannot be overstated. From veterinary bills, to feed, to grooming, and stall upkeep, there is an endless list of needs to sufficiently care for these horses, many of which are brought to Lori sick, starving and elderly. Lori is quick to add that none of this would be possible without her Sanctuary Team and the family, friends, neighbors and equine professionals who give so much of their time and love to care and provide for them. Lori said, “It is a 24/7, 365 days a year labor of love, and I am beyond grateful and thankful for everyone who plays a part, large or small, to provide for our herd of horses.” 

As a private foundation, The Sanctuary is not open to the public on a daily basis. However, Lori prayed that God would send her people that could benefit from her mission, and in her words, “Boy did He!” 

She recalled a time when, while in her pasture, she heard someone who had jumped her fence yell, “Hey, are you Lori Grubb?” The woman visitor introduced herself and explained that she had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer and she was concerned for her three horses. She feared that they would be separated upon her death, or worse, mistreated, or even taken to slaughter, and would Lori please help her. She left the pasture knowing that the sanctuary would take in her horses. Said Lori “It killed her to let them go. She wanted to beat the cancer.” Lori takes comfort in knowing that she brought light into the woman’s last days with her assurance that the horses would not be separated, but indeed would be well-cared for and loved. 

Lori has established a 501c3 private non-profit corporation which enables her to accept horses from animal control and law enforcement agencies and the like, and to start, among her other goals, a network so that they can combine resources and individual talents to work together to find solutions for reducing the number of unwanted horses. 

Added Lori, “Horses have meant so much to me my whole life. It is now time to give back and help as many horses as we can at The Sanctuary, who have, through no fault of their own, fallen into harm’s way. But it is not just those horses that need our help. We can all be the voice to raise awareness among horse owners everywhere to be a ‘forever home’ for their own horses, if it is at all possible. All too often, once a horse is no longer ‘rideable,’ the well-intentioned owners will try to find another home for it, and sell it or give it away, and eventually they lose track of the horse. 

Their once beloved horse is all too often left to an unimaginable end. If circumstances make it impossible to keep them, it should be a priority for all of us, as responsible horse owners, to make certain to find that forever home for them no matter how long it takes, and make sure we don’t lose contact with them. We all owe the horses, who gave so much to us, a loving and safe home until the very end.” 

Lori is now firming up plans to accept volunteer help for things such as grooming and bathing horses, stall cleanup, and helping to maintain pastures and barns. The need is significant, given the sheer numbers of horses she cares for. She welcomes donations and assures that any donation will directly benefit the horses she cares for at The Sanctuary at Horse Hammock.

Veterinarian Liz Steele of Steele Equine, Lori’s long-time friend, recently built a state-of-art facility complete with two surgery rooms, a water walker and treadmills. Noted Lori, “We are so blessed to have an incredibly compassionate and knowledgeable veterinarian along with her incredible team. And to top it all off, Steele Equine is located within 15 miles of our sanctuary. We simply couldn’t do any of what we are able to do for our horses without their professional care and guidance.” Regarding the Sanctuary at Horse Hammock, Dr. Steele relayed that, “The Sanctuary is simply ‘Heaven on Earth’ for horses. As an Equine Veterinarian for almost two decades, I can attest to the quality care, attention and outpouring of love offered to each horse under their care. Peace, hope and love fill the equine atmosphere for the many deserving horses.” 

Her passion for horses and her determination to help as many as possible was palpable as Lori added, “The hardest part of what we all have to do is to say goodbye. It doesn’t matter how long they are with us, or how many times we go through it. It never gets any easier when you lose one, and since most of our horses come in as seniors or with medical issues, we are never guaranteed as much time as we would like. But of all the many things I have learned from Liz through the years, the most important is knowing when to make that painful decision so they can be pain-free. It brings us peace knowing that there was nothing that we hadn’t done for them.” 

“Every horse has its own story, and every horse teaches me a lesson. I benefit so much. To have the resources to do this, to house and feed these horses, is a blessing,” she added. 

Truly the blessing is Lori Schirard Grubb, who humbly and without the desire for attention (other than for the benefit of the horses) gives these majestic creatures sanctuary. They have become her sanctuary as well. 

To contact Lori, email her at Visit her website at