Former NFL Cheerleader Saving Abused Farm Animals

By Lyndsay Brunstetter

Apache Way Farm Rescue, located in rural Plant City, was founded by Lori Matta, who provides a safe home for neglected and abused animals.


Matta started the sanctuary after moving from Boston in 2005. Being a former New England Patriots cheerleader sparked her interest in starting a cheerleading and dance studio for kids. However, after getting into a horrific car accident, and losing a part of her physical abilities, she decided to shift her focus on another passion of hers by saving animals full-time.

It all started when she got back home from college. She got a call about a horse that needed help. Five months later, she rescued six more. Matta has worked every day for hours on end for her animals to live a good life and help them trust again. She even stays with them during the night because she sees them as her babies.


Apache Way Farm distinguishes itself from other animal sanctuaries. The animals learn not to fear humans. They learn to associate strangers as new friends.

“The more I am around animals, the happier I am,” Matta said. “They aren’t depressed, they aren’t pulling you down, and if anything, they give you unconditional love.”

She believes that the problem in society is the “it’s not my problem” mentality. People would rather toss their problems on to someone else than deal with it themselves or at all. From experiences, she has seen people abandon their animals and give their horses to slaughterhouses. However, she knows people from Massachusetts who have come down to Florida to repurchase horses from slaughterhouses.

This organization houses about 40 animals on 10 acres of land. She believes that she was chosen to do this and has continued to do so for 30 years.

She hosts therapy programs for kids who have been bullied and adults with disabilities to find a horse to spend time with to feel better. She is a firm supporter of mental health and knows these animals do provide therapy to people.

She is passionate about supporting those who do not have a voice in our world, whether human or animal.


Matta keeps her stalls clean because some of these farm animals never got the chance to live in a barn, lay on clean shavings or have shelter.

I want them to feel the way we do when we get into a bed with clean sheets. “It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Matta.

One of Mattas’ horses was born in Florida. By the time the horse was six months old, she had lived in 12 different homes. When Matta got this horse, she said that this would be her last home, and now the horse is 28 years old.

After seeing a lot of these animals ripped away from their long-term friends and spiral into depression she could not take it. So, she decided to make a forever home sanctuary. She gives each animal a forever friend and a forever home.

She allows anyone who needs volunteer hours to come and meet the animals and clean their homes. The farm has expenses that need to be paid they are costly to maintain. Matta hopes she can get enough donations to help keep these animals happy and healthy.


Along with a caring heart, Matta has a sense of humor. She started naming her new rescues after her family as a joke-such as naming two goats Mikey and Gordy.

“No one will mishandle and abuse these animals ever again. They will have the best life possible here at Apache Way Farm,” Matta said.