It’s hard to tell by the look of her current situation, but Lori Matta is a dancer through and through. Just ask her horse, Indy.

“Come on!” she urged the massive brown animal just a few feet from her walker. “You won’t get a cookie unless you dance.”

On this day, not even the promise of a crunchy snack could get Indy to budge. He normally sways in unison with the woman who helped save him.

The daily dance parties have been uplifting escapes from the reality of Matta’s broken body. She needed surgery on January 5 to help relieve her knee pain. Her dancer’s frame has never been the same since a September 2014 car accident that could have killed her.

“I cannot tell a lie,” she said as she gingerly maneuvered the uneven ground outside the stable. “I’d much rather be on that tractor hauling manure.”

Matta started the Apache Way Farm animal rescue after moving to Plant City from Boston in 2005. The former New England Patriots cheerleader brought a love of dance with her to sunny Florida. She began a dance company and taught children the art of beautiful movement. Her business stalled after her car accident.

It also stalled the financial flow that her four dozen animals require to survive.

“Pigs and a llama and a massive cow and horses. She’s got a slew of them. It’s a zoo!” joked close friend Stephanie Shuff. “Some of them they come, and they’re just skin and bones. She nurtures them. She feeds them.”

The animals rely on Matta. She takes what she calls, “the worst of the worst” abuse cases. Many of the animals she takes in would have been euthanized by veterinarians or caretakers. One horse came to her with cigar burns all over its body. Another came in weighing just 250 pounds. Within a year, she had it up over 1,000.

“She’s a lady with a lot of passion,” said Shuff.

The future of the farm is in question with the finances becoming more of a stressor. The horses, pigs, and other animals are expensive to take care of. Matta hopes she can generate enough funding through her Pay Pal account and community donations to keep the animals from being taken or put down.

“I give them a forever friend with a forever home and that’s why my vet says they live as long as they do,” said Matta, who has slept in the stalls with sick animals just to help get them through the night. “That first rescue changed me and I said, ‘There’s many, many more out there’.”

Lori was nominated as an ‘Everyday Hero’ by a neighbor in her community for her work with animals. If you’d like to help keep her Apache Way Farm animal rescue going strong, you may donate to her Pay Pal account.

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