by Mel Fenson
Colorado Horse Rescue has been rescuing horses and adopting them out to new caring owners for over 20 years, since it was founded in 1986 by Sharon Jackson and Jill Pratt. Colorado Horse Rescue’s mission is to save the lives of horses and other animals. A nonprofit organization, it is dedicated to providing shelter, emergency relief, care, rehabilitation, and adoption services for abused, abandoned, neglected and unwanted horses and legally impounded horses. The past 12 months have been a record year for CHR - with 13 horses being adopted out. CHR also provides community resources through equine education, counseling, information and referral services. The organization is funded through individual donations, grants, bequests and corporate sponsorships.
Horses come to Colorado Horse Rescue from many different sources, including owner surrenders, which are turned over by owners who can no longer care for their horses. CHR also receives impounded horses from Animal Control for rehabilitation and adoption. An example of this type rescue occurred in September 2006 when Colorado Horse Rescue assisted the Boulder County Sheriff's department in the seizure of 13 animals . The rescued animals included 11 horses, a miniature donkey, a pony, and a pygmy goat. All the animals were safely transported to Colorado Horse Rescue’s facility in Longmont for care and adoption. Some of the horses that come to Colorado Horse Rescue are in need of special care, such as vet and farrier care, medicine, supplements, or just time to recover and rehabilitate. Some horses take far longer to adopt because they are no longer rideable - which unfortunately is the main reason some people want to surrender their horse.
CHR has four staff members - Hildy Armour, who is the acting Executive Director; a barn manager, Jenny Logan, who is in charge of overall horse operations which include feeding, vet care and farrier care; assistant barn manger, Kristy Moore, who is also in charge of handling adoption appointments; and Stacey Couch, who is office manager and volunteer coordinator. There is a staff person on the premises every day. In addition, there are up to 50 volunteers every week who help with barn chores. They handle feedings twice a day at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. The office manager lives on site. Some volunteers also help with fund raising - an important activity for CHR. Hildy Armour noted, “Our organization absolutely depends on donations.”
Hildy further added, “Some of our funding comes from foundations and some is received through grant applications, but most of our funding comes from individual donors and bequests from people’s estates. We have no debt and we own our 50 acres."
Donors find out about CHR through
its website, word of mouth, newspaper stories, and from being part of the
Boulder County Horse community. CHR receives funding from both local and out-of-state
CHR’s website is promoted through all its publications, on T-shirts and baseball caps and it can be found by web searches for the keyword - "horse rescue."
Horses are quarantined for at least two weeks when they first arrive at CHR. They are vaccinated and de-wormed and blood tests are run to find out if they are carrying any infectious diseases and to ascertain what condition they are in and to find out whether they can be safely integrated into a herd or whether they need to be kept alone and receive further medical treatment . “We are really strict about that,” Jenny Logan commented. “In a herd this large, you don’t want one sick horse to make others sick. CHR’s horses are some of the healthiest in Boulder County," she added. "We keep close tabs on the health of our horses and the vet comes out every week to check them. Some horse facilities, however, do not have such a quarantine process,” she said.
When new horses enter a pasture, according to Jenny, “they are very curious and are looking around and horses from the other pastures come over and check them out. We had a new horse arrival yesterday that got off the trailer, looked around, wanted some food and was just fine right away.” Hildy said, “Some horses we rescue are just too sick or too hungry to care. Then they realize that there is food here and they start feeling better and begin to relax. But some never get adjusted because of past trauma they may have been subjected to. One example is Lily, a mini, who had to compete with chickens for food and was starving when she arrived. She never got over the abuse.”
After the initial two week quarantine and after they are cleared by the vet, horses are integrated into one of CHR’s pastures based on their personality and their sex. A gelding, for example, will go to one of the gelding pastures with other males.
Jenny described what happens between the horses when there is a new arrival. “When a new horse arrives, the herd leader lets it know who is in charge, but that it is welcome to come in. They will fuss around with each other for a while and there is some kicking and some squealing - all just basic getting to know each other horse stuff and within a couple of days they are usually all friendly.” Hildy commented that, “Horses are extremely hierarchical and any change in a herd is a big deal for a horse and it can be a dangerous time, although I haven’t seen it here."
At CHR, there are three pastures, each with 10 horses in them, and a fourth pasture with 13 horses. The horses always remain in their assigned pastures and the only contact with horses in other pastures is what they can see over the fences. All the pastures have sight access and the horses do communicate with one another. Their communication can be very subtle. Communications might be a twitch of the ear or of a tail. If mares are in season, some of the male horses will be very attentive. If you bring a horse out of a pasture that would rather be left in the pasture with the other horses, it will squeal and get upset about being taken away from the herd. That’s what we call getting herd-bound. When a horse is adopted it has to go into a new herd situation. We will not adopt horses to someone who has no other horses because horses need to be in a herd. They have to have at least one other horse.”
CHR currently has 43 horses in its herd which averages 40-60 horses. 60 horses is the maximum number CHR can presently accommodate. The number of new intakes depends on the turnover, which varies. “Last year 20 horses were taken in from September 2006 through September 2007 and 13 were adopted out,” Jenny noted, “and we currently have 43 horses in our stables. A number of those horses were on a ‘Court Hold’ so they could not be adopted out.” CHR has a pro bono attorney, who helps with legal matters. The average age of horses rescued by CHR is 15 to 18 years old. “We have horses here at CHR ranging from two years old to 35 years old, plus a young filly."
“If horses are not adopted out, they can live here at CHR indefinitely,” Hildy said, “The faster horses are adopted out, the more horses we can take in and we are always working on that. We turn down a number of horses each week because we just don’t have room for them, but we try to refer them to other places and we encourage the people to look for low cost boarding facilities. It just breaks our hearts when we can’t accept a horse.” After horses are adopted out, CHR expects them to be returned, if the horses can no longer be kept by the adopting owner, rather than be sent somewhere else.
Sometimes there are other horse rescue facilities that can take a horse, if it is adopted out of Boulder County. “We had a horse in Durango for which we found a horse rescue there who could take it, rather than stress it out with an 8-hour trip back here." One of CHR’s long term plans is to try to either expand its Boulder County capacity or establish satellite sites in other parts of the state. There is no national horse rescue organization, but CHR is working with the American Humane Society to compile a roster to keep track of horses in rescue facilities in Colorado.
CHR’s adoption process is very strict. Its staff makes home visits before a horse is allowed to be adopted. If the adoption is from out of town, CHR might use a local vet to check out the situation for them, however, most of their adoptions are in state. “We try to find the best homes for our horses to be adopted into,” Hildy said. Adoptions typically take a week to a month to be completed. The potential adopter is required to fill out an application. “We make sure the adopter’s horse ability matches the horse’s needs. For example, if someone is adopting a rideable horse, they must prove that they can actually ride a horse by coming out twice to demonstrate their riding ability. Then a home visit is made to assure that it will be a good home for the horse." Two follow-ups visits are made over six months following an adoption. “Adopters must have previous experience with horses or they will not be able to adopt one of our horses,” Jenny pointed out. If the adopters pass the six month site inspection, they are then given legal ownership to the horse. In Colorado this is brand inspection, or proof of ownership. The courts uphold those brand inspections.
The cost of maintaining a horse depends on its breed. A thoroughbred, for example, is more costly to maintain than some other breeds because they are more prone to health problems. A conservative estimate of the cost per day to own a horse is $10 per day, but depending on the type horse and other factors, the cost can be much more.
CHR currently has about five different breeds of horses - quarter horses, Arabs, Thoroughbreds, Minis, Mustangs, a Paso Fino, and Grade horses, which are a mixed breed. They also have an Appendix, which is a registered breed that is a cross between a Thoroughbred and a Quarter horse.
CHR is funded by members who pay annual dues and sometimes make extra donations. There are also people who pay monthly to help a particular horse and visit their horses periodically. Sponsorships are also a big factor in helping to support the facility. CHR has over one hundred sponsors. The Sponsorship Program was just initiated last year. Some people like to give sponsorships for birthday and Christmas presents. CHR also has over 300 members. "All of this generous support has helped keep CHR in the black," Hildy acknowledged.
Hildy explained that, “One of the factors in the horse world that is causing an increase in the number of horses that need to be rescued is the loss of land ownership - people don’t have 'the back 40 acres' anymore to put a retired or a lame horse on. Colorado State University estimates that from 1997 to 2003, about a million acres of farm land have been lost in Colorado, alone. A lot of those horses have ended up at horse rescues. Another issue is the ban of horse slaughter in this country. Historically, 100,000 horses a year have been slaughtered. Where do they go if they are not slaughtered?” Hildy believes the federal government should fund horse rescues to help take care of those horses.
How to Report Animal Abuse
Colorado Horse Rescue has no legal authority to investigate or intervene in animal abuse cases. They recommend people who wish to report neglect or abuse contact the animal control authority or sheriff’s department in the county in which the horse is stabled. The Colorado State Veterinarian’s Office may also be contacted in Lakewood at: 303-239-4163.
more information, visit Colorado Horse Rescue’s website at:
or contact the organization
10386 North 65th Street
Longmont, CO 80503