Thirty minutes past the hustle of bustle of Gainesville, in Alachua, Florida, lies a bucolic and serene property only open to visitors one day a week. The rolling hills and peaceful pastures are home to the Mill Creek Farm Retirement Home for Horses. It’s the kind of place you won’t find unless you’re looking for it. And trust me, you’ll want to find it.
The History of the Farm
A couple by the name of Peter and Mary Gregory started the Retirement Home for Horses in 1984, to provide a place for working and abused horses to retire in peace. Set on 335 acres between I-75 and an environmentally protected easement, the farm provides sanctuary and medical care to horses from the military, police, circus, and from pharmaceutical testing. The RHH will not adopt out any horses, and promise each one a blissful retirement with continued care on their property.
Though some horses are retiring because of old age from their jobs in the military or in police mounted units, many of the horses come to RHH sick, skinny, lame, or blind. Law enforcement seized these horses from private owners due to abuse and neglect. A handful of these are Premarin mares.
Premarin is a trademarked name for a popular hormone replacement therapy treatment in North America. The name describes exactly what the treatment is: PREgnant MAres uRINe. The pharmaceutical company has since changed its name to disassociate the treatment with its source, and the disturbing lack of ethics behind acquiring it. For more information about Premarin horses, click here.
People have abused these mares for their entire lives by forcing them into pregnancy, and dehydrating them to collect their urine and the concentrated hormones in it. They take the foals from the mothers, usually to send to slaughter, since they’re considered an unnecessary byproduct of this procedure.
Because of this abuse and neglect, not all the horses here trust humans. When visiting, it’s best to remain mindful of where some of these animals came from.
The staff and volunteers at Mill Creek have done an amazing job providing love and services for these animals. It’s evident these folks provide top-notch care for all their horses, while giving them a peaceful place to live out their lives.
Time flew by while we were here. We had so much fun handing out food and interacting with the horses that we didn’t realize how long we’d been walking. Our vehicle was the first one there when the gates opened in the morning, and I’m glad we arrived as early as we did. The farm gets busier in the afternoon. But the time I enjoyed the most was the first hour, when the farm was calm and quiet, and there weren’t many people there yet.
Visiting the Farm
My family and I have visited the farm twice now (the first time was about five years ago), and we enjoyed it just as much this time around. We checked with the farm in advance to find out what the horses could eat, and loaded up with carrots, apples, and bananas in our wagon for the feeding frenzy.
Most of these animals LOVE treats, and we didn’t have any trouble finding horses waiting at the fence to eat from our hands. They are used to visitors and know exactly what to expect. Since we were afraid the horses near the back of the property might not receive as many carrots, we took the nature trail to the back and started there.
Several horses on the property are blind, or missing an eye. These horses like carrots just as much as the others. You may need to call to them or tap the carrot against the fence so they know you’re there, and be patient.
Know Before You Go
What You Can Expect: You will do a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes. This is a farm, which means you are exposed to the ever-changing meteorological conditions in Florida. You’ll want to wear sunscreen, bring plenty of water to drink, and check the forecast before your visit.
After you park your car, walk toward the entrance with the red building. From there, a volunteer will provide you with a map and give you a quick overview of the grounds. If you choose to purchase your carrots at the farm, you can do so here at the red building. They accept cash and credit cards.
As you tour the grounds at your own pace, you’ll notice they named the pastures to make for easy navigation. There are signs and maps posted throughout the property to guide you. One interesting feature of the pastures are the signs telling visitors about the horses, as well as information about horse care and fun facts.
Pro Tip: Purchase a lot of carrots, apples, and bananas before your arrival. The more food you have for the horses, the more you get to engage with them. The horses that don’t shy away from visitors are happy to follow you down the fence for as long as they can to get more food. Bring a backpack, cart, or wagon to hold your food, if you can. We had our camping wagon with us and the 20+ pounds of food we brought was gone before we circled back to the entrance.
Feeding the Horses: Guests are welcome to feed carrots, bananas, and apples to the horses. During our visit, the staff advised us that horses wearing a yellow band could only consume apples and bananas because of dental issues. For this reason, we were glad we brought apples and bananas, as we didn’t want to leave these horses out. The farm has a table set up at the entrance with apple corners, so you can slice them before handing them out.
Accessibility: They have pathways around the pastures. We saw one wheelchair and several strollers on the paths. Please contact Mill Creek in advance for more information about accessibility and service animals.
Address: 20307 Co Rd 235A, Alachua, FL 32615
Hours: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturdays only
Admission: 2 carrots per person
Pets: Mill Creek does not allow pets on the property, which includes inside vehicles.
Parking: Google maps will lead you right to the entrance gate of the property. From there, drive down the single lane road to the parking area. Signs will direct you to an overflow parking lot when the front area fills up.
Time: I would recommend setting aside a minimum of two hours to visit Mill Creek. This is an experience meant to enjoy, not rush through. Though it’s fun for people of all ages, children will especially get a kick out of feeding the horses and donkeys.
Gift Shop and Donations: According to their website, the cost of operating Mill Creek Retirement Home for Horses is about $400,000 per year. Please feel free to make a donation at the bucket at the entrance, or online at their website https://millcreekfarm.org/contributions/.
You can follow the links on the website if you’d like to sponsor a particular horse. Mill Creek Farm is a not-for-profit that does not receive any government funding. They also have t-shirts, bags, and other swag available at the gift shop at the entrance.
Have you visited Mill Creek Retirement Home for Horses before? Would you love to check out this amazing place? Drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!