Meet Our Founder!

Pictured: Deborah (Debbie) Gillis with her personal horse Bucky

Debbie Gillis is the Founder and Owner of Leilani Mae Horse Rescue. Debbie’s first career was a U.S. Army Solider for 24 years. She was deployed several times during her 24 years and decided to retire here at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She also has multiple degrees ranging from associates to bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, Criminal Justice, and Nursing. In 2010, she started to rescue horses after noticing the amount of neglect here in North Carolina. She did it out of the compassion of her heart, but she never believed the rescue would become as huge as it did! She takes her time to learn what each horse needs mentally, physically, and emotionally. She ensures that she can help as many animals as she can as she has not only helped horses, but she has also taken in goats, cows, dogs, and cats then found them wonderful forever homes. Some of her characteristics are being courageous, sense of humor, generous, knowledgeable, and hardworking.

Where the Rescue’s Name Came From

Pictured: Leilani Mae Lindgren (Ms. Debbie’s Mom)

This rescue is named after my late Mother, Leilani Mae Lindgren; Animal Advocate July 6, 1943 – June 25, 2000. My mom never walked by animal abuse or neglect. she would take action, many times embarrassing me. She also loved horse. She rode a black Percheron (Ole Joe) to grade school 2-3 miles each day during Spring and Fall from the farm in East Grand Forks, MN in the early 50’s. My mother had a rough life growing up, physically and mentally, but always took care of the animals. She often spoke to Ole Joe; he must have helped her through her childhood. If she had the means she would have had a horse/animal rescue, that is for sure. She taught me compassion and respect for animals and nature. She passed away at 55 years old just 10 days before her 56th birthday from Non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She was half Chippewa Indian. Miss you and love you. – Deborah Gillis

The Horse Who Started It All!

Pictured: Oliver Finnegan “Oliver”

Oliver Finnegan also known as “Oliver” is a 25-year-old Appendix Gelding who stands at 16.2 hands. Oliver came here to the rescue in his late teens on April 4, 2013. Our Founder Ms. Debbie was sent a Craigslist ad from a person concerned about his condition. His ad had no pictures of him and very minimum information on it. She decided to go look, and upon arrival she found he was in worse shape than described. His owner at the time would not release him without a cash payment. She put a deposit on him and brought him to the rescue the next day. He was anemic, wormy, and in dire need of good refeed program. His back was completely covered in rain rot. The book Oliver Twist is where his name came from, he always picks up his feed pan when he finishes eating as if he is asking for more. Oliver has a stifle issue making him able to be ridden lightly around the farm. He is a permanent resident here since he has been here so long. He is an extremely sweet horse who loves to get attention as much as he can.