Bethel Township, PA -  An old Amish buggy horse named Mandy has avoided going to auction, thanks to a sudden outpouring of support from her social media friends.

From their home in Bethel Township, Jennifer Mitchell and her husband, Nick Puff, recently noticed a new horse pulling their neighbors' buggy. They asked the family what had happened to Mandy and were told she had reached retirement age, though her future remained uncertain.

The family couldn't afford to keep a horse around that wasn't working. If they didn't find an alternative home for Mandy, they probably would have to send her to auction, which for an older buggy horse could lead to slaughter.

Mitchell decided to write a Facebook post about Mandy's situation asking people for help, but she wasn't sure what kind of response she would receive.

Within a few days, over 3,000 people had shared her post and donated about $600 - enough to buy Mandy from her current owners for roughly the amount they would have received at auction. Most importantly, someone sent a message offering Mandy a new home in West Virginia, where she could spend her retirement.

Mitchell said she was overwhelmed at the response her post received.

Her husband posted a photo of Mandy afterward and wrote a thank you message: "This is what hitting the jackpot looks like We did it today, we saved this horse."

Mandy made the trip to her new home a few weeks ago and has settled in happily.

Having ridden horses for most of her life, Mitchell said people sometimes have trouble understanding that for Amish families horses are a key form of transportation.

"For us, it's similar to when a car breaks down," she said. "They're not pets, they're workhorses - they have a job to do. But I feel like there's something special about an animal that has spent its whole life serving a family, and I think they deserve to be taken care of."

The Amish typically use standardbred or saddlebred gaited horses to pull buggies because of their stamina and energy.

In areas such as southeastern Pennsylvania with large Amish communities, Mitchell said the number of horses often surpasses the number of homes available for them, especially once they reach retirement age. An organization called the American Saddlebred Legacy Foundation helped share Mandy's story and works to find homes for horses that could otherwise enter the "auction pipeline."

The overwhelming support Mandy received bodes well for other horses facing a similar future, Mitchell said.

Contact Lea Skene: 610-371-5032 or lskene@readingeagle.com.