By Laurie GordonNEWTON — Sleek, gentle and graceful animals, horses are near and dear to the people of Sussex County. Far too many horses don't have homes. That's where Rivers Edge Horse Rescue and Sanctuary steps in... or at least it did. This haven for horses will be forced to close unless money comes in pronto to cover the costs to operate the non-profit. It provides fields for horses to run and roam freely and barns where they can find shelter and food as well as medicine for sick equines. At Rivers Edge, horses get to live out their lives in a natural environment that allows them to socialize with each other. Most were slaughter house-bound and/or came from abusive or neglectful situations and have surely earned their retirement at the sanctuary.“Each year, thousands of horses are slaughtered,” said Diane Romano-Potocki, the woman who founded and operates the sanctuary. “The sanctuary is a place where we can save as many as we can and they can live out their lives in peace and tranquility. Many will not survive if a) we close or b) we try to adopt them out. This is their home, their safe haven. They are herd mates. Each one counts on the other. They are a family and breaking up a family is devastating. I have sacrificed my life for the lives of the Rivers Edge horses.”Romano-Potacki began rescuing horses in 2007. She realized the incredible need, and her love for these animals prompted her to start the non-profit rescue and sanctuary in 2010. She has been going to auctions, bidding on horses that, if not sold, are put on the slaughter truck. Rivers Edge also takes “owner surrenders” when someone has a horse but can no longer take care of it financially or for other reasons.Rivers Edge Horse Rescue and Sanctuary is a struggling 501(c)3 organization. Romano-Potocki is dedicated to the health and welfare of abused, abandoned, and unwanted slaughter-bound horses and provides them with a caring sanctuary where they can live out the remainder of their lives with dignity and peace. “Rivers Edge's goal is rescue, rehabilitation and re-home horses, but for some of these animals -- just like some people--they can be rehabilitated physically but not emotionally,” Romano-Potocki said. “Some of these animals have been through a lot, and if we can't rehabilitate them emotionally enough to be placed in a new home, they stay here at the sanctuary: this is a soft place for them to land.”She emphasized, “Most people don't know that hundreds of thousands of horses are killed each year. We are doing what we are able here to save as many as we can.”But saving comes with a price tag. Though the rescue and sanctuary has done some fundraisers, and Romano-Potocki and her husband fund what they can personally, much more is needed. “We want people to know that just because a horse winds up in the kill pen, it can be saved and that there are so many beautiful horses out there that people adopt and then realize they can't afford,” she said. “Owning a horse is a big responsibility and should be for the life of the horse.”Rivers Edge Horse Rescue & Sanctuary resides within the 4 Winds Horse Ranch just before the double, one-land bridges on Halsey Road in Newton. The grounds were badly damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical storm Lee in 2011 and again by Hurricane Sandy. If Romano-Potocki continues to struggle, and the needs of the sanctuary are not met, the sanctuary will have to shut down, forcing her to try to find another sanctuary willing to take the horses in or, sadly, to have many of them put down.The Sanctuary does all it can to cut costs. Even so, there are many. They use approximately 120 bales of hay per week and we especially need Winter Hay for the cold months. That is 3,360 bales of Winter Hay needed for 7 months at $3,120 per month, a total of $21,840. Grain for the horses costs approximately $420.00 a week. Rivers Edge cares for older horses, several of whom are on medication and need grain in their diets. Cost per year is $22,000. Medical supplies for our horses with special needs: approximately $4,800 for the year. Farrier care every six weeks for all of our rescues - $1,050 per visit, nearly $9,000 every year. Wormer for the horses is about $4,000 per year. Dental and general medical care, including vaccinations and physical exams runs $9,000. Phone, fuel and supplies to run the Sanctuary come to $3,000. “Anything you can do to help Rivers Edge to remain open would be greatly appreciated,” Romano-Potocki said. Rivers Edge is located at 104 Halsey Road in Newton. To learn more about Rivers Edge Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, visit: www.riversedgehorserescue.org. The web site has information about what the sanctuary does and profiles of its horses. You can also find them on Facebook or call 862-266-2140 or send e-mail to: RiversEdgeRescue@yahoo.com for information about visiting or making a donation.To make a donation to help save the sanctuary, please make check payable to Rivers Edge Horse Rescue and Sanctuary and mail to 104 Newton-Halsey Road, Newton, NJ 07860. The sanctuary is a non-profit, so donations are tax-deductible.