BRANDON — In September, Shawn Jayroe climbed on a tractor and drove to the back pasture at her RVR Horse Rescue to measure off space for a 30-stall barn, then fill and level the land.
She had no money to build the structure, but said if RVR Horse Rescue had a big barn where it could board horses for a fee, the money raised would help keep the non-profit operation robust.
In ensuing days, Jayroe prayed about it, cried about it, screamed at God. Then, she said, let it go.
“The problem with people praying sometimes is the fact that they aren’t still,” she wrote on her Facebook wall recently. “God expects us to be still and wait on him.”
That was about three weeks before Carole Smith walked through her office door.
“Back in August 2013 an angel walked into my life,” Jayroe wrote on Facebook. “She kept coming out to RVR and volunteering her time. She dressed like me when I’m out here at the ranch — holey clothes with a big old T-shirt ...”
Then came the day when Smith walked in to Jayroe’s office, asking to interview her for a retirement community newsletter. Smith asked all kinds of questions about how Jayroe first came to know horses, why she started the rescue in rural Riverview, how she made it work. Jayroe responded that her vision was someday to build that 30-stall barn out back. Smith asked if $50,000 was enough to get started.
Since then Smith has committed about $125,000 for the project, including adding electricity, digging a well and installing water pipes.
And she’s not done. Smith plans to pay for completion of a medical stall, including installation of an electronic horse lift.
Smith is a retired Internal Revenue Service agent whose husband, Mehlin Smith, a dentist, died in 2011. She never had children. Carole Smith’s only family is a brother. A good pension plan, a few investments and some inheritance landed her in a decent financial position, she said.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less and less fond of ‘things.’” But leaving RVR the money in her will, she said, was not an option. “RVR needed it now; not when I die.”
Smith’s husband died unexpectedly shortly after the couple moved to a 10-acre farm in Rockford, Ill. She decided to sell the farm, give her horses to her best friend and move to Florida. As she sought out volunteer work, she learned about RVR, just 15 minutes from her home. But she was hesitant. A volunteer job years back in a dog and cat shelter left her bewildered and sad. This time her experience would be different.
“As soon as I walked onto the property, I was just blown away,” Smith said. She was impressed not only with the health of the horses, but by Jayroe’s commitment and the dedication of volunteers who come out weekly to care for the horses and the ranch.
Horses accepted at the ranch have experienced abuse, neglect and cruelty. Many are near death. Some die shortly after arriving. Jayroe calls it part rescue, part hospice. She and her volunteers occasionally spend the few remaining hours of a horse’s life holding onto it, pouring out their love. They consider it an honor.
“From the get-go, it was the people here that kept me coming back,” Smith said. Add to that her two adopted horses — Bella, a palomino; and Horace, a mustang— both turned over to the rescue by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s a God thing,” Jayroe said. “It’s no coincidence Carole Smith ended up 15 minutes down the road. God knows my heart and what I’m doing here and that’s it’s real. This was meant to be.”