VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WVEC-TV) -- Alicia Mahar is a life saver.
Her farm -- Circle A Home for Horses in Pungo -- is filled with horses she's rescued from kill auctions, where horses are sold to people looking to slaughter horses in order to sell their horsemeat.
"I can't relate to someone who makes money slaughtering these animals," Alicia said. "Disgusting."
Horsemeat is a delicacy overseas. Kill auctions are held in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina. Alicia has driven to those states to prevent kill buyers from purchasing horses. Instead, she buys them and brings them home where their future is much brighter.
"We bring them in, we love them, we rehabilitate them," Alicia said. "They fill our hearts."
Some of the horses are in bad shape when she first gets them, so her team at Circle A also spends a lot of time giving them the care they need to get back in the saddle again.
At Circle A, part of their new life is serving as therapy horses for people with problems.
For instance, take a horse named Georgia, who Alicia saved from slaughter and brought home to Circle A. Georgia became a therapy horse for a friend named Leigh, who was having a tough time coping after the death of a good friend.
"She's given me a reason for loving again, for trusting," Leigh said. "For realizing that yes, losing Kevin was really hard, but at the same time I can put my love elsewhere.....it was the start of learning to live again."
The horses that Alicia saves are also helping children.
"We have programs for at-risk children and depending on what the behavioral problem is or what type of abuse they've experienced, we partner them with courses to build their self-esteem, their self-confidence," Alicia said. "Some of the children who've been very emotionally wounded -- we'll pair them with a rescue horse that we have to rehabilitate. Very often, as the child rehabilitates the horse, the horse is actually rehabilitating the child."
Alicia says that's because: "They give unconditional love. They don't judge."
"They give back the love that you pour into them," Alicia said.
Leigh loves what Alicia is doing at Circle A.
"Oh my God, she's built a place a place of hope and love," Leigh said.
Seeing the horses enjoy another hey day at Circle A is what Alicia loves.
"Knowing where they were and watching them grow and reach their full potential is incredibly rewarding," she said.