One of the biggest challenges that CHR and all horse rescues face is the daunting question of, how can we help more horses? Space is limited among facilities and ultimately we are all seeking to reduce the 160,000 horses nationwide that become “unwanted” each year. At CHR we use this term loosely. It has long been an industry standard, but in fact more accurate descriptions for these equines needing help are “disadvantaged”, “displaced”, or “at risk” of going to auction or ultimately slaughter. Many of the horse owners inadvertently contributing to this generic statistic have good intentions and are trying to do right by their beloved animals. They are responsible, upstanding members of the equine community who, given the re-sources, would fight the disadvantaged horse issue head on. So at CHR, we try to think outside of the box. What can we do short of physically re-homing horses to reduce the immense number of displaced horses in Colorado, and the US?
An obvious solution to us is, What if we could prevent some of these horses from becoming “unwanted” in the first place? Enter CHR’s Equine Crisis Assistance Program. This program provides financial aid to owners in temporary crisis. It helps keep horses in their loving homes, slowly but surely lowering that statistic of 160,000. We encourage any owner in short-term financial crisis to apply. For those situations deemed long-term or more permanent, re-homing a horse through our Surrender Program is also an option. Funds are paid directly to vendors such as vets, farriers, hay or feed suppliers, even euthanasia and disposal service providers. Success in this program is quantitatively measured through the number of horses that remain in their homes. Owners receive immense peace of mind and equine families are not torn apart.
Last year, we were contacted by a woman who had recently been diagnosed with, and BEATEN, stage 4 breast cancer. I’m drowning in medical bills, she said. Is there any way CHR could help pay for annual vaccinations on my horses so I can keep them happy and healthy? This is precisely the type of scenario with which we were thrilled to help. Providing basic medical care to this owner’s horses directly improved their qualities of life, while giving the owner some financial relief to focus on breaking even once again.
Similarly, we were contacted by a woman who owned a senior horse that required a mash diet. His teeth had seen better days years ago, and it was costing her several hundred dollars per month to feed him. Having recently gone through a divorce, the owner was faced with expenses she could not manage. Although everything had been finalized and she was living on her own, she was seriously struggling to feed her gelding. In this case, CHR was glad to cover the costs of this horse’s feed bill for a couple of months to get her back on her feet. After all, how many owners do we talk to who are willing to maintain an older non-rideable companion? Not many.
More recently, an older horse with severe health issues found herself in the midst of a legal battle. Her elderly owner was being evicted, and did not have the mental or physical capacity to care for or re-home her. To the landlord’s credit, he didn’t want anything bad to happen to this horse. He would hate to see her go to auction or slaughter, for she had done nothing to deserve that fate. Through the legal process he was able to gain ownership of the mare. Not made of money himself, he then reached out to CHR for aid. Ultimately, a veterinary evaluation deemed that she had been neglected for too long, and had too many irreparable health issues to constitute a good quality of life. Euthanasia was this horse’s last and most fair option. Although this story demonstrates the sadder reality of equine rescue work, CHR fronted the funds to give this little mare a peaceful end of life. So many landlords would have sent that horse to auction, not caring for her fate. Reducing suffering through euthanasia can be a difficult decision for us as animal lovers to make, but it is ultimately a gift we can grant.
And so we ask you, as caring members of the equine community, to spread the word about this program. If you know of someone who is struggling to make ends meet, let them know that CHR is here to help. After all, we are in this fight together. Let’s reduce the number of disadvantaged horses one human, and one home at a time.