Two of our trainers recently embarked on a whirlwind roadtrip to meet with rescues in Maryland and W. Virginia. Our mission was two-fold: to learn as much as we could from the folks running these well-established organizations, and also to discuss the possibility of future collaboration.
Behind each rescue, we found a dedicated woman (and supportive, long-suffering husbands!) with a commitment and passion for rehabilitating and rehoming horses. We were impressed by the number of horses that pass through these rescues, with one having placed over 50 already in 2015. It was great to learn from these women who have years of experience in the field, and also to see how different rescues operate. We gained a lot of insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ of New Holland auction and learned about pulling horses directly from kill pens, as these women do regularly. We came away with a deep appreciation for these organizations and for everything they do to help as many animals as possible.
Two of the rescues, Lilly Pond Foal Rescue and Whispering Woods Farm take a similar approach to ours, in that they choose ‘at risk’ (of going to slaughter) horses who still have potential to become riding horses. These programs were overseen by an owner or board members but rely on volunteers to keep everything running smoothly. Each aims to have a fairly quick turn-over, with horses staying on average about six months before being adopted out. Unlike us, these rescues also take in many pregnant mares and foals which they adopt out once the foals are old enough. Horses are evaluated for riding and typically receive one month’s training as a baseline, before being adopted out to qualified homes where most will be used for trailriding. Like us, each rescue puts a big emphasis on the physical needs of these horses and will make sure they receive any and all necessary care. Finally, they also put a lot of time into checking out a potential adopter and evaluating them as an appropriate match before finalizing any adoption.
The third rescue, Birch Hill Farm, began strictly as a sanctuary for animals with no place else to go. The organization began adopting out suitable horses, minis and donkeys in an effort to open up more space, and now adopts out around 35 per year. This rescue provides a safety net for horses regardless of any future riding potential; for example, several of the horses are in their late twenties and blind. At this remote farm in the West Virginia hills, a herd of horses gets turned out loose to graze through the night. Dogs, cats, kittens, turkeys, chickens, and several old horses and minis wander freely through the dooryard, and donkeys, more minis, llamas, alpacas, and even pigs occupy various paddocks. It felt very peaceful despite the wide variety of inhabitants, and we left feeling thankful that these types of places exist for animals in desperate need.
We hope to perhaps collaborate with these rescues in the future, by taking in select horses from their programs to train. In this way, we could offer these horses more training time before adopting them out, thereby increasing their value and their chances of finding a permanent home. At the same time, we would help to open up more space at these rescues, thereby allowing them to save more horses. We love the idea of joining a network of like-minded, passionate people who are dedicated to saving horses, and after meeting with these organizations we feel renewed inspiration for the cause.