by Sarah Melton
HUNTERSVILLE – One meeting two years ago with neglected horse Willie Bit O’ Luck changed Greg McCormack’s life.
The American Saddlebred was living with a few other horses that did not want to share their food. Willie, who was too kind to fight them for it, began losing large amounts of weight until dropping to 600 pounds and was on the verge of death. And his owner didn’t do anything to help the ailing horse.
“I didn’t want to leave him there, knowing I could help him,” McCormack said. “He had too good of an attitude. He looked at you like, ‘I’m really sorry I look this way, but I’m not a bad guy. I’m sorry you have to look at me like this. It’s not really my fault.’”
McCormack took ownership of Willie, had him checked out by a veterinarian and hauled him to a boarding facility to recover.
“When I met Willie and felt his energy, I knew he had hope,” McCormack said. “He had a great attitude. All he needed was somebody to give him a chance.”
Rescuing Willie inspired McCormack and his wife, Toni Sagrilla, to start Bit O’Luck Horse Rescue, which received nonprofit status last month. McCormack contacted Willie’s last three owners and learned that his original name was Bit O’Luck.
Tim Baxter, a member of the organization’s board of directors, allows McCormack to use 5 acres of his land in Huntersville for the horse-and-dog-rescue operation at no cost.
Willie, now 21, is about 1,100 pounds, and shares space with two other horses, Quinn, a Saddlebred mare, and Fight Talk, a 25-year-old thoroughbred that competed in 33 races. Quinn and Fight Talk, both rescues, are up for adoption and get along very well with Willie and McCormack’s many dogs.
“Will is the founding horse, and he sets the tone,” McCormack said. “We need a horse like that in this domain, and the girls respect that.”
McCormack started incorporating dog rescue into Bit O’Luck after rescuing three puppies that had been left outside in frigid temperatures and headed to the pound. McCormack found the puppies homes and knew he wanted to help more dogs in need.
“I like the foster concept because the dogs are balanced, family-oriented, usually housetrained, and you know you are getting a good dog if you get one that has been fostered and most of the hard work and training is done,” McCormack said.
McCormack now has three foster dogs, Sweetie, Duke and Vinnie, up for adoption. Duke and Vinnie are brothers and would be good in a home together, he said. However, Duke recently went blind and treatment could cost up to $7,000. McCormack wants to start a special fund to raise money for Duke’s treatment.
“With the horses and dogs, I enjoy getting to know them and getting to know their spirits,” he said. “It’s amazing how each one of them has got a personality like a human. If you treat them right, they will treat you right.”
Bit O’Luck will host its first fundraiser Sept. 17 at Havana Social Club in Cornelius, but the group has plans to do more events in the future. McCormack wants to acquire more land near the current property in Huntersville and buy kennels. Volunteers are always needed to help groom, feed and exercise the horses.
“Don’t turn down the opportunity to help an animal or adopt one,” McCormack said. “Bring them into your life, and they will change your life. They will make you a happier person.”