Front Range Equine Rescue and Colorado Horse Rescue save abused and neglected horses, educate the equine-curious public and help owners find help for hay, health, overpopulation, training, death and disposal.
Hilary Wood, president and founder of FRER, said her organization helped roughly 600 horses last year, but quantifying education and assistance benefits is hard with so many horse owners who underestimate equine ownership costs.
“We’re helping, but we’re also taking away some excuses for not doing right by the horse,” she said. “Overbreeding is one of the biggest, ongoing issues in the horse industry. …Not every horse needs to be bred.”
So FRER started a program in 2002, called Stop the Backyard Breeder, to partially reimburse gelding (neutering a stallion) costs, she said. Horse breeding is entirely unregulated, she said, but a licensing fee on stallions to accompany existing state-mandated brand inspections (required to sell or transport livestock) could help.
“People putting down 100 horses a year, keeping five of them and tossing the rest to auctions for slaughter is just gross irresponsibility,” she said. “You’ve got to hit them in the pocket, that’s the bottom line. …There has to be some kind of penalty. At what point does it become neglect and abuse?”
It’s a monumental education and assistance project, she said. Marion Nagle, FRER’s education coordinator, teaches children about the care, handling and keeping of horses through games and cooperative learning.
“We figure these are the people that’ll have horses in the next 10 years,” she said.
So while FRER educates horse lovers in the southern Front Range, CHR does so up north, incorporating educators such as Temple Grandin into its Mane Event Sept. 24.
“In Colorado, 6,000 horses a year go unwanted,” said CHR executive director Judy Smetana. “Horse rescues throughout Colorado are only able to save about 1,600 of those.”
Even responsible horse owners struggle with disasters, natural or otherwise, so CHR keeps eight to 10 spaces in its 60-horse facility open for such emergencies, Smetana said.
Colorado’s Hay Bank and the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank offer temporary assistance to keep responsible horse owners from choosing between paying the mortgage and relinquishing, or worse yet, neglecting, healthy horses, Wood said. But hay could be a bigger problem this winter in Colorado due to droughts in Texas and Oklahoma, she said. She said horse owners should start stocking up now to avoid being cut short in late winter and early spring before the first hay cuttings.
Because FRER fundraises nation-wide online and with direct mailing, in addition to local fundraising efforts, it can and does use grant money to help responsible horse owners stay on top of proper horse care as well, she said. Wood said she looks at the rescue as a business and has a bigger business plan than she ever thought possible.
FRER’s assistance allows responsible owners a bit of a grace period if they’ve lost a job or had a hardship to either recover or responsibly rehome their horse, she said. This allows her organization to look for and reduce genuine cases of abuse and neglect.
To avoid end-of-life neglect, when injuries or sickness could go untreated, or older horses could be sent to slaughter in Canada or Mexico, the group’s Trail’s End program reimburses half of the cost of euthanasia as well as 50 percent of the cost of disposal for horse owners who can’t bury the horse on their property.