Imagine arriving to work at 6:45 a.m., coffee in hand, not quite awake after snoozing on the bus. There is a letter on your desk. You look quickly at the return address and see “Foundation” among other words, so figured it was that $1,000 check you were waiting for. You turn on the computer, swap out walking shoes for heels (remember, I work in DC), and open the envelope. Yep, it was $1,000. But, wait.
I’m in my forties and my eyesight is starting to remind me of that fact. It was only March of this year that I finally broke down and bought reading glasses. Blurry vision stinks. So, blame it on that or the fact that it was still before 7 a.m., but I thought I saw too many zeros. I looked closer and there were, in fact, five zeros, a decimal point, and two more zeros. My head cocked to the left like when my dog sees a hummingbird or something that piques his interest. I looked at the accompanying letter. Again, the same number of zeros. I double checked to be sure my name was on the letter.
Then, I took a deep breath and smiled the most satisfying smile ever. I didn’t know that smiles could be satisfying.
Fundraising can be difficult; anyone in non-profit work knows that. Raising resources to care for rescue horses is exceptionally challenging, and rehabbing neglected horses doesn’t come cheap. The UHC has always wanted to take a more proactive approach to addressing the issue of unwanted horses and started Operation Gelding back in 2010. Just this past June, three months into starting work at the UHC, the members decided to expand the program, offering more guidance, more financial assistance, and a voucher program for owners who are unable to transport their horses. I had suggested a goal to raise $50,000 for 2017, lofty indeed as the UHC never had a significant fundraising effort in the past.
Ask and you shall receive. I have to believe that when we work for a noble purpose that good things come our way.
I am so extremely grateful that the donors recognize the multiple benefits of gelding horses and chose to play a huge role in the effort to make it happen! The results will be significant, not only for the horses themselves, their owners, and the equine-community, but think about the cost savings to rescues that might have to care for the unwanted foals that 1000 stallions could potentially produce. Those dollars can go to helping other horses in need.
Just because the UHC received this very generous contribution, it doesn’t mean that we stop fundraising for the cause. I’m looking ahead to 2018 because there will be more stallions to geld!
But, I can truly smile knowing the huge impact this gift will have on preventing unwanted horses in the first place. I hope the donors are smiling too.
Let’s get gelding!
P.S. We’ll reveal the name of the Foundation in a press release and on our website very soon.
UPDATE: September 27, 2016 - I'm thrilled to share the news! Donor advisers to the DeWitt Fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County made the fabulous gift to Operation Gelding to help reduce the number of unwanted horses. I wish I could thank each donor personally. For now, THANK YOU from the top, bottom, and all sides of my heart! Now, it's time to start gelding!
I’m an educator at heart and by training. So, when I read about the Take the Reins program in last week’s Lexington Herald Leader, I was intrigued. Meg Leavitt rescued a 10-year-old Belgian she named Mercy and brought the mare to her home at Walnut Hall Stock Farm. After restorative farrier care and some groceries, Mercy is now ready to be a rescue ambassador to students at Julius Marks Elementary School. I’ve heard of minis being used in school presentations, but a draft horse? This will be grand! No doubt Mercy’s sheer size will get the kids’ attention.
The purpose of this program is even bigger. Take the Reins has two goals: 1) to teach youth about the horse industry, proper horse care, and “compassionate service,” and 2) to raise funds for the Kentucky Equine Humane Center (KyEHC), for which Leavitt sits on the Board of Directors. The KyEHC is one of the largest all breed horse rescues in central Kentucky, handling 100 to 120 horses per year. They take horses that are abused, abandoned, and neglected, or whose owners can no longer care for them, and once rehabilitated, horses receive training with the ultimate goal of adoption. You can learn more at www.kyehc.org.
Programs like Take the Reins happen with a lot of ingenuity, but also community and corporate support. The program organizers are grateful to Alltech for supporting Julius Marks in this innovative effort. So, what exactly will students do and learn?
They will not only meet Mercy, but the students will foster Patrick’s Bullseye (pictured above), an orphaned 5-month-old colt at KYEHC, by raising money for his care. In addition, they will write stories about him in English classes, calculate how much hay he should eat and how much it will cost, plus grow carrots for him in the school garden. Experiential learning at its best. As learners, we often retain little from simply reading a book or watching a demonstration, but by creating relevant tasks to a meaningful story and a bit of external motivation – like feeding carrots to the school’s foster horse – and you might have the recipe for success. I will eagerly await to see the results of this project.
A school-based education program for youth is just one example of how organizations related to the horse industry are working to reduce the number of unwanted horses. Many successful programs and events already exist. Organizations small and large have hosted charity horse shows, donated advertising space, given time and money to non-profit re-training or re-homing facilities, hosted training challenges, or built tracking databases and full circle programs to name a few.
Just last week, the UHC published an online resource listing model programs and hopes to become a clearinghouse where people interested in helping unwanted horses can take a look at what others are doing. Take a peek at http://www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org/join-the-effort/.
Sure, it is difficult to say if any one program is better than another, but the beauty in having such breadth of ideas is that 1) we don’t have to recreate the wheel, and 2) there is a model that can fit the human and financial resources of ANY group or organization with an interest in helping horses.
My hope is to identify and share as many programs as possible, and surely one will inspire you to Join the Effort!