CHESTERFIELD Co., Va. - Brianna Merrill is well aware that there's more to horses than what meets the eye.
"I grew up with horses," Merrill said. "They were a huge part of my life so it didn't surprise me, the effect they had on me and my mental health."
Merrill and her husband Golden have five children with chronic illnesses. Brianna herself suffers from PTSD.
"There's a very therapeutic feeling to this place that our family feels and we felt like it was important to share it with others," Merrill said. "We decided to go from just focusing on families with chronically ill children our disabled children to saying anyone can come."
However, things at the peaceful escape would soon turn sour.
"Found one of our ranch horses had their tail wrapped around a tree and almost knotted," Merrill said.
The situation became so dire that they had to saw down the tree to get the horse's tail off.
Just one week later on the night of September 4, another disaster would enter their lives.
"Both gates had actually been tampered with, but this one had been fully removed off of its pins because we keep the chains padlocked. All eight horses that were currently on the property took off actually, down the trail."
It took hours to round up the horses.
"A lot of vet bills," Merrill said.
Three horses up ended up injured.
"Our horse that sustained the worst injuries is still on stall rest and it's honestly a miracle that he'll be able to ride again," Merrill said.
Nancy Agee, who boards her horse at Shoofly Farm, said that she's still in disbelief that someone would do something like this.
Luckily, her horse, which is blind in one eye, was in a different pasture when this happened.
"He could have poked himself in the eye again, lost his eye or run into anything and injure his legs," Agee said.
Chesterfield County Police helped the Merrills round up their horses. For now, the rescue horses being boarded at the farm are in one pasture for their protection and until more security can be put in place.
Anyone with information about who may have entered the property is asked to call Crime Solvers at (840) 748-0660.