This week I passed another milestone on the highway of life. To celebrate, let’s turn off the path for a bit, sit down under this old oak tree and talk – not only to look back, but to look forward. The years are adding up, yet there is so much to do and I fear that I’m running out of time.
Fifteen years ago, I started Habitat for Horses with the hope of having a positive effect on man’s relationship with horses. Pete was the first, an eight-month old bought off the slaughter truck at the auction. Little did I realize that the organization would grow as it did. In fifteen years, 5,400 horses, donkeys and mules have passed through the gate, most of them stopping only long enough to regain their weight and renew their faith in humans.
A few of them never made it. Those are the horses over whom I shed tears, and I’ve shed a lot in the past few years.
Then there are the forever horses, the very special cases that have physical problems which make them unadoptable. It might be a bad back, fallen fetlocks, weak legs, no teeth, the reason is as variable as the personality of the horses, but each one is as precious as the highly trained thoroughbred that 10 people are trying to adopt. This is the unfinished part, the part I worry about the most. What will be their future? Most of them are not old but ended up physically injured because of the way they were treated.
On a rare occasion we’ll have a very special person come to adopt a few horses, not to ride, but just to have. They truly enjoy cleaning stalls, grooming, picking hooves and feeding, and in turn the horses give them pure love. To misquote Kennedy, it isn’t about what the horses can do for them, it’s about what they can do for the horses. Sadly, there aren’t enough folks like that and the unadoptable horses pass another day without their special person.
Looking forward – somewhere close are hundreds of acres, filled with tall grass and flowing water; a sanctuary, the place of safety, home. It’s closer than it ever has been, just on the border of becoming reality. Before my next milestone, I want to make it real.
We’ll always have the ranch with the hospital and all the emergency response equipment. This area depends on our response, the vets are close and that’s the best place for sick or injured horses.
But dream with me a moment – a six year old horse that’s seen the worst of mankind, that lived most of its life in a junkyard, traded from one person to another, screamed at, beaten, punished by denying food and hay, ridden until he dropped, then kicked because he wouldn’t get up – that’s the history of one horse we picked up not too long ago.
Three days in the Anderson Sling to get his strength back, another three months until he stopped looking like a skeleton with hairy skin sprayed on him, throw in a few carrots, add a lot of love and the sparkle in his eyes became like those of a newborn colt.
He’s been given a new life, except he can never be ridden again. Two 150 pound kids riding him at a full gallop down a paved street did too much damage to his legs.
Some folks would say, “Put him down. He’s no good to anybody.” Except that’s not what we do here. He didn’t deserve the life he was given, nor did he have a choice. He tried to do what humans wanted. For that he will suffer for the remainder of his days. He deserves a sanctuary, as do so many others.
But the price is high. Buying hundreds of acres, no matter how big the dream, still costs real dollars, and the only source for those dollars comes from you.
It’s a big step for all of us, but a step that will change the lives of countless horses – and people. The possibilities are endless: a true sanctuary, a therapy center for the disabled, equine assisted psychotherapy, a training center, a true equine education center, a place for kids with cancer and burn victims to be “Cowboys and Cowgirls” for a day, bringing people and horses together to benefit one another.
That’s our future, if we reach for it, and we are. In order to do it, we need the financial help from each and every one of you. That’s the only way we can succeed – by having a dedicated core of supporters committed to the concept. It isn’t “mission impossible” when enough people gather together and open their wallets and purses along with their hearts.
Will you help? Can the horses count on you? Please, click HERE and add your support to our goal.
It’s time to start walking again – time to reach out to a few more horses. Will you walk with me awhile?
Jerry Finch – Habitat for Horses