The rescue ranch makes up the cost through donations, horse sponsorships, riding lessons and adoptions.
Costs can be steeper for horse owners who don’t have their own land and need to pay monthly stable fees.
“Cutino just has his heart in this,” said Davie Mayor Judy Paul, who attended the ranch’s grand opening earlier this year. “It’s a great operation. They’re doing their part to keep Davie an equestrian, green community.”
Cutino works in jeans, a T-shirt, and cowboy boots that bear a light coating of stable dust in the best weather and a rim of mud in the worst.
Two rescued pot-bellied pigs, Pumba and Pebbles, snore beneath his bedroom window every night, and a rooster roams his back yard.
Some of the horses Cutino rescues are afraid of people, he said, and can’t be ridden when they arrive.
They cower in the far end of their stalls or trot to the opposite side of a pasture when anyone walks toward them.
“Rehabilitation is difficult with an abused horse,” said Peaceful Ridge volunteer Karen Baldwin, 73. “Some have been beaten and burned with cigarettes. You have to gain their trust.”
Baldwin spent most of her adult life working with horses.
She’d loved them ever since she was a little girl, and when she couldn’t have one, she put reins on her bicycle and pretended.
At Peaceful Ridge, she mends fences, cleans stables and, sometimes, teaches a horse that’s terrified of human touch to love it.
It’s a painstaking process.
Baldwin sits near the horse for hours until it is used to a human presence.
She does it every day, sometimes for more than two weeks.
It doesn’t always work, she said.
Some horses never recover, but Peaceful Ridge keeps them anyway.
Late one afternoon, Cutino went to check up on a thoroughbred named Adele.
She was very wary, he said. When he got her in mid-January, she fled every time he tried to get near her.
But Baldwin and other volunteers have been working with her.
Now when Cutino walks up to her paddock, Adele, a chestnut with a white stripe down her muzzle, walks toward him and puts her nose over the gate.
“I couldn’t do this before,” Cutino said, as he touched the side of her face.
Cutino stroked the horse for a minute, and patted her on the side.
Leaving the barn, he checked the time.
It was evening, and tomorrow would begin at first light with the smell of horses and hay.