Tucked away in the woods of Chiltonville, Darlene Nickerson spends her days caring for abused, injured and abandoned horses on a plot of land her grandfather purchased in 1912. She established Black Feather Horse Rescue in 2004, shortly after adopting her first rescue, a Palomino named Luke.
“Luke and I just had this connection,” says Nickerson, who grew up riding and now cares for 21 horses, two llamas, two donkeys, two pot belly pigs, two goats (and countless chickens and ducks). While some of the animals are rehabilitated and placed in new adoptive homes, others live out their days at the rescue.
“I take in horses that have been exploited or overbred,” says Nickerson, who rescued two female Percheron horses from an auction.Operating on a shoestring budget, Nickerson relies heavily on donations to help buy hay and pay for barn upkeep. In 2010, she teamed up with her cousin Stacey Hathaway to publish the first of a series of children’s books to help raise money for the cause. “Murphy’s New Home,” illustrated by fellow horse lover Maureen Tracy Patrolia, is a touching survival story about a 4-year-old Shire named Murphy’s Law who came to Black Feather suffering from a bad infection, but who was lovingly nursed back to health and now stands tall and proud.
To date Nickerson has published five different titles about some of her four-legged friends. Book number six is in the works and all titles are available for purchase on the Black Feather website and at Morrison’s Home and Garden in Plymouth.
Nickerson makes an effort to be active in the local community, occasionally hosting local school groups and taking her mini horses to visit area schools and nursing homes. “It’s very healing,” she says, “I love being able to give back.”