High school can be a difficult period for many teenagers, but for 16-year-old Avery Seaton, simply getting out of bed was a struggle.
“Avery went through a very hard time. It got to a point where she was depressed and needed to get medical care” Sandy Seaton, Avery’s mother, told TODAY.com. “She was getting bullied at school, wasn’t doing well socially and was just having a lot of problems.”
Avery showed no signs of improvement until she reached out to The Pegasus Project, a horse rescue organization in Texas that matches up rescue horses with families wishing to adopt, primarily through its Facebook page.
“She just needed to be loved and accepted,” Sandy said. “She needed something to love and accept.”
Avery and her mom took a trip to Edom, Texas, approximately two hours from their home, to visit The Pegasus Project and see if any of the horses would be a good fit. There, Avery met Diamond.
“It was love at first sight,” Sandy said.
Allyson and Mike DeCanio founded The Pegasus Project in 2009 after taking in 12 neglected and starving horses. The organization has since grown to care for 35 rescued horses at a time on the DeCanio’s 95-acre ranch while the couple tries to find each horse a permanent home.
“Mike and I purchased this ranch and built everything the horses need with our personal resources,” Allyson said.
Those wishing to adopt pay a one-time fee of $750, but aside from that, the ranch runs on personal donations and the DeCanio’s own finances. When Mike’s not home to help with the horses, he’s working as a captain for Southwest Airlines while Allyson balances working as a lawyer and keeping things running at the ranch and updated the group's Facebook page with pictures, videos and the latest updates on their horses.
“This is a sacrifice well worth making because of our love for these horses,” she said. That love shows to those who come by looking for a horse, like Ross Mathson and his family who adopted two horses from The Pegasus Project, Grace and Dixie, who is visually impaired.
“In the horse industry, you don’t know what you’re gonna get. But Mike and Allyson train their horses and then match up the horses up with riders," Mathson said. "[The DeCanios] knew every horse and gave background on each one.”
In the course of their five years running The Pegasus Project, the DeCanios have helped more than 100 horses find owners like Avery, whose life has completely changed since she adopted Diamond — whom she later renamed Mira (short for Miracle).
“She’s a healthy, happy, normal, functioning 16 year old,” Sandy said about her daughter, adding that Avery is now planning to study equine therapy when she goes to college. And just as much as Avery’s life is being changed by a horse, the horses that come through The Pegasus Project are changed with a second chance at life.
“We can’t help all of the world’s starving horses,” Allyson said. “But we change the world for those that come through our gate.”