Born and raised in Lancaster, I always had a love of horses. I leased my first horse when I was in 8th grade and the love only grew from there. I was asked to find a home for a horse that was slaughter bound, and this experience opened my eyes to the auction world and how many horses are sent to slaughter every year. I couldn't turn a blind eye. I immediately became immersed in the world of auction and began to rescue horses at-risk for slaughter. I knew I needed a local barn to help me if I wanted to expand my work and save more horses. Herd of Hope Horse Rescue has become my life's passion. These beautiful animals are my family, and I will continue to find them the homes and love they deserve.
Aileen Stevens, founder of Herd of Hope, was born and raised in Lancaster County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2002 from West Chester University. After graduation, Aileen worked in a number of different fields, focusing primarily on the development of her business management skills. In 2005, she and her husband, Dr. Shea Stevens, opened a dental practice. Aileen was instrumental in developing the office’s infrastructure, while her husband began providing comprehensive dental care to patients. Aileen and Shae now run two practices; Aileen provides oversight, managing budgetary, human resource, and administrative issues.
As the Stevens continued to grow their practices, Aileen embraced opportunities for community service, volunteering with organizations ranging from the SPCA to her children’s local schools. All the while, her love of horses—which began in her childhood—continued to grow. Two years ago, Aileen found a way to combine her passions. Building on her years of business experience, Aileen founded an equine rescue, rescuing over 150 horses. Aileen’s vision has always included helping humans and people by allowing them to connect and heal each other. The therapeutic and camp programs offered through Herd of Hope bring this vision to life, providing services to diverse community members.
In addition to first-hand, lifelong experience with horses, Aileen continues to enhance her horsemanship skills by attending various trainings, including a Natural Horsemanship Clinic in 2019 and a Parelli Equine Mental Health and Learning Specialist Training in 2020.
Aileen is fierce advocate for the humane treatment of all animals, and it is her mission to find every horse a loving, forever home. Aileen worked freelance, carefully following local auctions to identify horses that were targeted for meat production. She “bailed” these horses and used her connections to find them homes. In the first month or so, Aileen sent six rescues to a barn she trusted in New Hampshire, Hidden Pond, owned and operated by Aileen’s friend, Phyllis. Fortune and Shelly were the first two, purchased for 100 dollars more than the owner would have gotten had the horses been sold for meat. Fortune and Shelly were quarantined together and became inseparable. Both horses had pneumonia and were extremely underweight; Aileen did some fundraising to cover medical costs so that both horses could receive treatment. A friend of Hidden Ponds adopted Fortune and Shelly. Today, they are pasture pets, happily living their best lives! Aileen’s next four rescues were horses that had not been sold by the end of an auction; they were slated for the meat wagon. Aileen called Phyllis at Hidden Pond and the two women worked together to place all four horses in forever homes.