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Charity Event for Horse Haven of Tennessee

For Sarah Merrell, a local fashion guru known for her style segments with WATE TV and a HUSHH contributor, horse rescue is near and dear to her heart. She grew up riding and competing on horseback and has had a passion for horses since she was a child. In her teens she taught riding lessons, participated in Pony Club and competed in National Championships in eventing at the Kentucky Horse Park. After a break from horses to pursue her career, she dreamed of owning a horse as an adult.

In January of 2015, an opportunity came about. A friend of hers through the fashion community knew of a horse that was rescued from neglect and was in need of a home. She sent Sarah a picture of the 17.2-hand, bay gelding and she felt this was it—her chance to rehabilitate a horse in need while making her dream of owning a horse come true. On a cold, wet winter day she drove with her mother-in-law and a horse trailer to pick up the horse, named Donner, and she could barely contain her excitement.

Over the next few months, Sarah worked with a veterinarian and farrier to rehabilitate Donner. Throughout that time, it became clear that Donner had suffered not just neglect and starvation, but abuse. He was jumpy, anxious and feared the bridle, but she worked hard to gain his trust while also working toward improved overall health for Donner. And as months passed, he began looking healthier and his coat became shiny. He loved apple-flavored horse treats and became best friends with his four-legged pasture mate, Luke.

Donner, although he looked healthier, had many underlying issues caused by old injuries that were never properly cared for and years of malnutrition. And in the end, at a veterinarian’s recommendation, he was ultimately put down. It was heartbreaking.

Several years later Sarah Merrell now has the opportunity to help other horses have a brighter, happier future. She was selected as a celebrity dancer for Dancing with the Horses, a “Dancing with the Stars”-like benefit for Horse Haven of Tennessee.

Since its inception in 1999, more than 1,000 horses have been cared for by Horse Haven of Tennessee, the only nonprofit equine rescue serving the entire state of Tennessee. And on Saturday, May 18 at Bridgewater Place in Knoxville, local celebrities throughout the Greater Knoxville area will compete in a ballroom dancing competition in support of this valuable nonprofit.

The celebrity dancers are each paired with a professional dancer from Go Dance Studio. Sarah has been paired with dancer Jeffrey Bryant and they will be dancing the Rumba.

Sarah and Jeffrey are seeking donations. Every dollar donation that is received counts as a “vote” for them and goes towards their final score in addition to supporting Horse Haven of Tennessee. Donations can be made through this link:

For information on how to purchase tickets or sponsorships for Dancing for the Horses that will benefit Horse Haven while counting as votes for Sarah and Jeffrey please contact Sarah at For more information on Horse Haven of Tennessee, visit

“Through Dancing for the Horses, I hope the funds will provide survival, care and homes for more horses,” said Sarah. “The abuse and neglect that horses like Donner have experienced is horrific. No animal deserves that. Donner didn’t have a happy ending, but by sharing his story and participating in this event, other horses can lead happy lives and find loving homes.”



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