Rancho Santa Fe’s Laughing Pony looks to expand outreach

Celia Sciacca, pictured with one of two donkeys she takes care of on her ranch, hopes to draw more local support for the animals at Laughing Pony.
(Luke Harold)

Tucked away in a cul-de-sac on Via Del Charro in Rancho Santa Fe, the Laughing Pony Ranch has quietly rescued and treated thousands of horses that have been abused by their owners or faced other hardships. To continue its mission and expand its reach, the ranch’s leaders said they’re hoping to raise its profile in the local community.

“We do this so one less horse suffers,” said Celia Sciacca, the property’s owner, whose love of horses began when she was a 10-year-old riding a palomino mare named Hot Foot Honey in the New York City streets.

She’s been rescuing and rehabilitating horses and other farm animals for decades. The Laughing Pony, derived from her brother’s childhood nickname “Laughing Boy,” officially became a nonprofit about 10 years ago. The ranch is currently home to eight horses, two ponies and two donkeys. Many other animals are cared for in Texas and Washington, where the organization has volunteers.

The animals each cost about $500 per month to care for, in addition to any unexpected medical costs that arise during their rehab, Sciacca said. With a little more than $100,000 in contributions over each of the past few years, according to the organization’s financial disclosures, Laughing Pony is able to feed, provide veterinary care and meet the other costs of rehabilitating the animals at a subsistence level. Some of them will recover and find a new home, others will spend the rest of their lives with Laughing Pony.

Joe McCloskey, who has lived in San Diego for 15 years and founded the nonprofit Helping Women Help Themselves with his wife Debby, became involved with Laughing Pony four months ago. He has begun taking an active role in promoting the ranch to the local community.

“We’re making this more of a destination,” he said.

One of the first steps toward that goal is getting more of their Rancho Santa Fe neighbors to visit, which, they said, will hopefully lead to a larger donor base to better sustain Laughing Pony’s work. They are also looking for volunteers to help out during the mornings and afternoons, when most of the animal care takes place.

“Once they see what’s here, they’ll have a better appreciation for the stories of the animals we have here,” McCloskey said.

“I never turn down visitors,” Sciacca added.

The ranch is located at 7143 Via Del Charro in Rancho Santa Fe. For more information, visit