BEN WHEELER, TX (KLTV) - Allyson and Mike DeCanio have a passion for horses. Mike, a pilot for Southwest Airlines, and Allyson, an attorney, have been married for three years, and in that short time, have significantly refocused their lives, devoting much of their time to saving abused or neglected horses. They call it the Pegasus Project.
If you spend any time at all with Allyson and Mike, it is quickly apparent that the horses and their rehabilitation are their career now. Allyson says that her law practice used to be a 60-80 hour a week endeavor, but now she takes fewer cases and spends 60-80 hours a week on the ranch with the horses. She also uses her legal skills to assist authorities when there are other abused, abandoned or neglected animals to be rescued.
Mike continues to work a full schedule as a commercial pilot, but he is also significantly involved in and busy with the Pegasus Project and the animals there. In fact, Mike put up nearly all of the fencing around the 95 acres that the DeCanios own. Everyone who lives or works at the ranch helps do all the chores that are so important in caring for and rehabilitating the animals; they all feed, they all shovel poop, they all groom, and they all ride those horses who have been strengthened enough to learn how.
The goal of the whole project is not for the DeCanios to keep all the horses there in Ben Wheeler on their land, which would technically make them a sanctuary for the animals; instead, they actually rehabilitate the animals, train them when they're physically able, and then when they are ready, they adopt them out to carefully screened families.
The Pegasus Project is funded in two ways. First, the DeCanios themselves bought the acreage for the haven for horses. They built the small, comfortable cabin and office building they live in and work from on the land, and they refurbished an existing barn. They bought the supplies for the fencing, as well as other equipment necessary for daily work at the ranch. None of that came from donor funding.
And indeed, funding comes from donors. A horse trailer was donated to the cause by a local family who no longer needed it. A golf cart for easy transport of people and supplies across the ranch was donated by a relative. Some time is donated by a few volunteers who are very experienced with horses and their care. But when asked what is the greatest need of the Pegasus Project, the DeCanios said, "Money! Money for food and medical care for the horses."
"What makes this work is money. Training is a huge expense, even at a reduced cost. Feed. Vet bills, hay and training. These are the things that donor money is 100% used for. Our bread and butter is the person who goes to our website and says, "I'll donate $25 a month."
"That's what keeps our head above water," Mike added.
There are two significant fundraisers each year for the project, as well. Join the DeCanios on their Facebook page to keep up with all the horses who are currently there (they share a lot of pictures!), fundraiser information, and more, or call 903-484-2255.