The call came to us in August. August is when we generally concentrate on training and finding great homes for the rehabilitated horses that came in the previous winter, not bringing in more. The call was from a law enforcement agency wanting to know if we could take 8 of 17 horses from a possible neglect situation. That was a problem. Our foster system & budget were already stretched to capacity and couldn’t handle 8 more at that time. But, if we could not help, this local agency would not be able to help these horses. What should we do? We spent that night with little or no sleep, thinking about what would happen to these kind eyed horses if we could not help.
One of the amazing things about S.E.O. is the depth of the generosity and capability of local horsemen that make up our network. After putting out the call for help, within a day we had found all of the horse’s good homes, sight unseen. Neglected babies, here we come. S.E.O. volunteers scrambled to rearrange schedules, leave work, hook up trailers and hit the road.
It was a good 2 hour drive to the residence. When we finally turned onto the long driveway leading toward the house we gasped collectively at the sight of a lone mare. Her emaciated, tired looking body stood perfectly motionless as we drove past her. Her head drooped low to the ground. We were prepared, but you can never be truly prepared to see animals you love in such poor condition.
The agency was not there to take all of the horses, they allowed the owners to choose 6 horses to keep. They felt 6 was a manageable number for them to properly care for if they did a little clean up on the property making it safer for the animals. We had no doubt that these people truly loved their horses. Sometimes things outside of our control take over our lives and we cope by overlooking or becoming blind to the basic needs of living creatures under our care.
The husband walked us to the barn and showed us the horses they had chosen to keep. As we first walked into the barn, we saw three stallions occupying stalls that obviously had not been cleaned in months. The manure was piled so high it was pushing out the bottom corner of one of the stall doors. The stallion’s manes and tails were in dreadlocks. Apparently the husband was the only one providing any care to the horses and after two of the stallions got into a fight, he was too afraid to turn them out anymore, so there they stayed.
The majority of the horses were in one large group behind the barn. With limited food and water and lack of cross fencing to separate them, their survival herd instincts had kicked in. The top and middle of the herd faired ok but not so true for the horses at the bottom. We walked out to the old mare we saw as we drove in. The sides of her body were covered with kick wounds, probably from her attempts to come in close to try to get food and water. She was not stuck in the fence. She had simply found the furthest spot away from her tormentors and without food or water was too weak to move. It took SEO members 30 minutes get her to baby step forward into a separated corral where we could protect her. When offered fresh food and water she did not even look at it. Her eyes had already checked out, the small walk had been taxing on her. We went on to the other horses hoping that she would show interest in the water but she never did. The decision was made before we left to humanly euthanize her instead of making her go through a long haul with only a minimal chance of survival. We were too late to save this one.
The other low man on the horse totem pole was “Penny”. The super thin chestnut mare was pacing along a fence line that as down in several spots. Other horses came and went but she for some reason respected it and then would stress at being left alone. When we entered and stood still, she trotted over. We offered her alfalfa but she was only half interested in it. She preferred the human affection and security over the food. Her once beautiful long mane and tail were matted and dreadlocked beyond anything we have ever seen.
When the door to the massive 2 year old stallions’ stall door was opened (remembering, he had not been out for months) he bolted with Stacey Riggs, one of the trainers that volunteers with SEO, stubbornly holding on and skidding down the barn aisle in tow.
Fortunately Stacey had come with us because it was a long evening of loading horses that had probably never been loaded before. She worked her magic and considerable skill and took the time to load each one without any bad experiences. It took all the skills of everyone who responded to this seizure with us to handle these neglected and skittish animals.
As we pulled out of the driveway with our precious cargo, we knew we still had a lot of work ahead of us. Not only that night, getting everyone unloaded and settled in for the evening, but in the weeks and months to come getting them recuperated to their former healthy selves.
As I write this now, the horses are turning out to be very sweet, smart and willing while thriving in their new homes. We are grateful they were found and rescued before winter as we imagine the situation would have been much worse for them as the weather worsened. The county is keeping a watchful eye on the remaining horses to make sure their care and condition are acceptable. We are simply thankful that once again we were able to help these noble creatures.
Despite the damp conditions following a night of heavy rain, riders at the June 23rd fundraiser enjoyed nearly perfect weather of partly sunny skies, puffy clouds, and only a sprinkle of rain. Sound Equine Options (SEO) hosted the benefit trail ride, lunch, and silent auction to raise operating funds and increase community awareness to the all-volunteer organization. Willamette Mission State Park offers miles of equestrian trails, horse camping, and large spaces for group events. Park ranger, Bonnie Cunningham, guided SEO through the requirements the of holding a large permitted function at an Oregon State Park.
Kelly Burke and Kathryn Donahue, event coordinators , worked for months prior to the event gathering donations for auction from generous community members, advertising, arranging for food, and scheduling volunteers and committees. “This was the first annual benefit ride for SEO. Putting together all the details for a large equine event proved to be very manageable, with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers.” says Burke. In the final hours, committee members were dodging showers , assembling a series of pop up tents to prepare the event area, in response to the rainy weather.
Nearly 60 registered trail riders headed out to the fertile valley ride, mid-morning. Upon return, horses were invited to become acquainted with an obstacle course featuring some very scary objects; umbrellas, balloons, animal pelts, and more. Professional trainers from Burnt Spur Ranch volunteered their time and expertise to assist riders and horses to become comfortable with the interesting obstacles.
A beautiful lunch was available for purchase, always a welcome treat after a few hours in the saddle. Robin White from White’s Meats donated food items and set up an entire kitchen to serve the riders. Under the tents were dozens of appealing silent auction items, all generously donated. A few hours of friendly bid raising, brought in a much needed of revenue to SEO. So far, in 2012, SEO has helped over 200 horses, many of which require costly vet care, training tune ups and plenty of quality feed.
SEO is a unique horse rescue organization as it is veterinarian based, founded in 2009 by Dr. Scott Hansen. SEO is attempting to strengthen local horse community safety net and communicate that there are helpful options for people and their horses. A wide variety of services are offered through SEO including foster care, rehabilitation, and re-homing of neglected or seized horses. Assistance with emergencies, euthanasia, feed, castrations, and transportation are handled case by case. Another branch provides rain blankets for winter weather to horses in need. At the annual 4H tack sale held in March and October at the Clackamas fairgrounds, SEO has a large presence, advertising adoptable horses, and selling a wide variety of tack and horse supplies to raise funds.
SEO is seeking support in a variety of areas including good foster homes, trainers, volunteers to haul horses or hay, donations of feed, cash, hay etc. See their website to learn more about how to become involved. www.soundequineoptions.org.
SPRING 2012 NEWS
Letter from the President
Thanksgiving will never be the same for me. It was always a time for family, friends, food and counting my many blessings. Now it has another meaning, the start of the winter horse rescue season. Two years ago I received a call from Officer Pierce of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department. He had two horses that were dumped on PGE land in Estacada and he needed somewhere to put them. In the middle of making a Pumpkin Pie, I grabbed the phone and started dialing.
My fifth call was the answer I was looking for. Stacey Riggs of Full Circle Equine could put them in a pasture with a shelter and food until a vet could evaluate them. This last year was the same; Thanksgiving brought five horses in need of assistance that could not wait.I have learned two absolutes in horse rescue.
First, no matter the circumstances when the call comes in it needs to be handled soon, preferably that day. Some reasons we can all relate to, loss of job, family medical circumstances, death and some are more difficult to understand, hoarding, neglect, abuse, starvation.
Second, the horse rescue answer is found in caring, compassionate volunteers working within a network system. Sound Equine Options is a network of passionate volunteers. I have found that people can accomplish amazing results when given a task that they believe in. We believe in helping horses and horse owners to the best of our abilities.My personal hero is Mother Theresa of Calcutta, India. She saw so many souls - lost, abandoned, starving but who gets her help? Her answer was “If you cannot help one hundred, than help just one.” She knew that the most important part of aid is taking that first step, answering the call of the One. It is the most difficult for people to achieve. But once you step into the problem you start to see possibilities.
So, I challenge you to join us. We are a proactive group that have saved not one, but hundreds. There are many ways of helping that can fit everyone’s lifestyles and finances. My hope is that by taking this first step with this newsletter we will find more people that can make a difference one horse at a time - well sometimes they come in groups.Next Thanksgiving I hope you are a part of the solution. We would appreciate the help, join Sound Equine Options.~ Debby Radakovich
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