Joeandrescuehorse-w500-h500

Joe Mann and rescued horse

Big Oaks Rescue Farm
Shelley Griffitts and Ashley Goodlett
Photos by Ashley Goodlett

March 20, 2015 – What a fabulous day! Shelley Griffitts and I had on our trip to meet Joe Mann and all the animals at Big Oaks Rescue Farm in Greenwood, SC! Shelley and I had seen a post on Facebook about a horse named Coffee, who was in desperate need: starving, just holding onto life. We decided we wanted to visit Big Oaks and help bring some attention to Joe Mann’s mission: to rescue and rehabilitate discarded and abused animals. We had a great time catching up in the car ride down to Greenwood. As we talked about our showing days, Shelley told me about a Quarter horse that her family had owned, upon retirement, they sent him to a retirement place in New Mexico and then lost track of him. She said it haunts her to this day – did she do right by him? That is why now she and I both are caretakers to several retired show horses -all fat and happy on our farms – they have homes for life.

We got to Big Oaks Rescue Farm which is off Hwy 221 near Lander University. We were immediately greeted by Maggie, a donkey, and her little colt, Merlot, who are big fans of ladies with carrots! Merlot was leaving the next day to go to his new home with a special needs child – he was a sweet little guy who loved hugs and attention. Within a few minutes, Joe Mann, a tall, thin gentleman appeared, greeting us with a warm welcome. We introduced ourselves and soon he was telling us the stories of the animals that share his life and farm. We started in the paddock closest to the house, where Joe keeps the most recent rescues that need special attention and frequent small meals. Dakota came right over to us – curious and bright eyed – he seemed on his way to recovery. Sweet old Trigger was lying down, but got up to see us too. Coffee, the horse that introduced us to Big Oaks was still very fragile and weak. Coffee was a very nice horse a year ago, but is now emaciated and fighting for his life, Joe hopes he will be a different horse in 6 months. The recent rescues (Coffee and Trigger) both looked weak, but peaceful, as if they know Joe is there to help them.

Rickythesherriffturkey-w500-h500All the animals have names, and many respond to them. It’s a very personal atmosphere, where humans serve the animals that need them. Joe spent about 2 hours with us as he proudly showed us around and told us all about all of the animals. There are horses, ponies, minis, donkeys, mules, pigs, cows, bulls, sheep, rams, emus, deer, roosters, a turkey, and a raccoon. Joe is the star because all of the animals come up to him to say hello. Many of the animals stories are horrific, and some are still tied up in pending court cases. Shown here is Ricky, the turkey!

Animal control (from several SC counties) contacts Joe on cases where horses need to be seized. Joe gets no financial support from counties, even when abusers are ordered to pay restitution for animal cruelty by the courts. Joe thinks it would be more just to have the funds go to the rescue groups that rehabilitate and care for the animals. All of these animals need veterinary attention and lots of food, the funds come out of Joe’s pocket and from any generous donors. Asked if he ever gets overwhelmed, and he said “everyday”!

Joe has no hired help, with all the work done by Joe and volunteers. There were three volunteers there today working away – feeding, cleaning stalls, filling water tubs, raking the aisles, and anything else that needed to be done. Mary, who has been with Big Oaks since 2007 has only missed one day in 8 years! They are devoted for sure.

CashtheTalkinghorse-w500-h500Despite the mud that we all have this time of year, the barn was very clean, all of the water tubs were full and crystal clear with fresh water. Every pasture had nice, dry, big shelters and the hay rolls in the fields were beautiful quality – green and fresh. All of the horses out in the big fields were in very good weight.

There was an adorable paint horse named Cash that will do tricks for a treat, Joe calls him the “Talking Horse”. He was rescued from a house tied to a tree. Here is a photo of Cash on the left!

We met Norman (to the right), a Holstein steer, lying NormantheCow-w500-h500down under the shed, he was the picture of contentment. Norman let Joe pat him, lying down, calmly chewing his cud; Joe told us his story. Norman was rescued from a man that tried to castrate him with a bungee cord. Norman’s testicles were extremely infected, but the man would not let Joe take the cow. Joe offered him $250, money that was needed on the farm, to get Norman out of his terrible situation. There was also a pet boar, Wiggy, at the same farm and they said that Joe could take him too. Now Norman and Wiggy are buddies and stay out together in the same pasture.

Rufusthebull-w500-h500To the left, here is the big bull in the other pasture named Rufus, and I mean BIG. Joe rescued him from a family who said their dog bit off his ears. They could not afford the vet bills so they let Joe have him, Joe took him to the vet and had his ears trimmed as best they could.

We met an adorable little palomino Quarter Horse named Cameo. We could immediately tell she was a beautiful horse, and we wanted to load her up and take her home! Joe said he rescued her from a millionaire’s farm after he died and the family did not want her. She was beautiful and so sweet!

There is a big pig there named Charlotte who was rescued from a school greased pig contest. The principal thought it would be a fun thing for the kids to do, but the kids proceeded to pick the pig up and then drop it on the hard basketball court. They did this over and over until the pig could not walk. Worried about the pig, a caring person called Joe, and of course, Charlotte was immediately rescued! He took her to the vet for x-rays to see if her legs were broken. They were not, thank God, but she needed a lot of TLC.

Only 4 horses have been euthanized at Big Oaks since 2007. Joe says that is the LAST resort after he tries everything else! There are 300-350 animals at any given time on his farm that is about 40 acres. Joe has to pay for the veterinary costs, and he drives all the way to Denmark, SC, several hours away to buy hay.

Coming from a hunter/jumper show background, we were amazed that all the animals cohabitated so easily. There were goats, pigs, horses, minis, cows, bulls – all out together in the same pasture. The alpaca and the cat were also very good friends, everyone seemed peaceful and happy. These animals were thriving together!

Joe also rescues deer, goats & sheep. He has sheep from a place in Due West; when he arrived there were at least 40 dead sheep and 32 dead cows and calves. We can’t imagine how Joe does it, he sees so much death and starvation, but he goes in and saves the ones he can.CocotheAlpaca-w500-h500

He even introduced us to the “meanest animal on the property – Ricky, the raccoon”… soon to be released. Joe says that every animal deserves a chance! Shown above is Coco the Alpaca!

Peanutthemini-w500-h500Little Peanut would be a perfect therapy mini. She is super sweet, and came when Joe called her name. Beautiful Arabians, several mustangs, a mini mule & a riding mule, Kate, along with a sweet mule named Shiloh were all out with Peanut. A very wise bay QH named Phoenix came up to say hello. Joe rounded up cattle with him and said he was great to ride. Peanut and Joe shown here!

There are 350 different stories there and we could sit and listen to Joe talk for hours. We can’t wait to go back, and we are praying that Coffee and Trigger make it! If they do, we can’t wait to see them in the summer with shiny coats and more meat on their bones!

Joe says he never says no, but the cases of animal abuse and neglect are overwhelming! Joe needs help, he needs financial help – he needs more people to spread the word. He needs volunteers. He needs people to care. There are horses and animals everywhere. We cannot imagine the workload.

Joe is an angel and an animal whisperer all in one.

Potential adopters must provide pasture and shelter for any animals adopted and Big Oaks does follow ups with adoptees. Adoption fees, which vary according to the animal, are very reasonable. New owners post on Big Oak’s FB page updates on adopted horses, it’s great to see the success stories – 10 horses have been adopted thus far in 2015. Please consider adopting so Big Oaks Rescue can save more lives!

If you would like to donate – you can give via Pay Pal and their email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or you can mail a check to Big Oaks Rescue Farm, 2305 Kateway, Greenwood, SC 29464. If you want to volunteer contact Big Oaks at 864.993.9691 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Check them out at http://www.bigoaksrescuefarm.org or on Facebook at Big Oaks Rescue Farm. April is Adoption month – half off adoption prices.