donating · mustangs · rescue

For Your Consideration: #GivingTuesday at Ever After Mustang Rescue

I’ve written before about Tristan’s rescue, mostly here and here. It remains a place near and dear to my heart because it gave me my best friend, and because it is a place where good people do good work.

Today is Giving Tuesday, as those of us in the nonprofit world know well. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the busiest time of the year for fundraising. People are feeling more generous around the holidays and the more practical among them are looking at their impending tax filings.

So, on this Tuesday after the shopping and spending orgy that was the long weekend, many are considering giving back to their communities.

I will be making a donation to Ever After Mustang Rescue to support their work in rescuing and retraining mustangs.

Here’s my twist.

Please comment on this post today with a horse-related nonprofit that you support. Even better, tell me that you’ve donated to that organization.

For each comment, I will donate an additional $5 to Ever After Mustang Rescue. (Up to a reasonable amount, I do still have a horse.)

So: let me know where you will be supporting with your donations today, or where you have supported in the past. (Last year, I did a roundup of horse-related charities; you can find it here.)

(I did think about making additional donations to the organizations you all support but the logistics started to scramble my brain. Maybe next year.)


Giving Tuesday: Horse-Related Causes to Consider

Giving Tuesday started a few years ago as an alternative to the commercialism of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It’s a day set aside for donations to worthy causes. End of the year giving is a major push for nonprofits, as people look at their overall giving through the year and start to calculate their tax deductions. There are some statistics that suggest that budgets are balanced on the donations of the next four weeks.

With that in mind, here are a few horse-related worthy causes that are near and dear to my heart that I hope you consider during this holiday season.

Ever After Mustang Rescue

I adopted Tristan from this rescue almost ten years ago. Located in Southern Maine, they taken in unwanted mustangs from across the northeast. They specialize in BLM-gathered horses that have fallen on bad times. Some of them come in off the range and go into unsuitable homes, despite precautions, and it’s a swift downhill slide from there. The summer I spent working there taught me more about horses than every moment I’d spent around horses before that summer.

They do extraordinary work, and they’re in the midst of a capital campaign now to refurbish the outdated barn and provide real facilities to intake badly neglected horses and retrain them.

Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistant Group

As I’m sure you know from reading this blog, Tristan was diagnosed with Cushing’s this past fall. This group, headed by Dr. Elaine Kellon, has been instrumental in helping me learn about the disease, and their commitment to scientific research, dissemination of information, and finding solutions have been instrumental in developing new therapies and making effective therapies more widely available. Even ten years ago, Tristan’s prognosis would have been very serious, but he’s doing great now at least in part to the work of this group. So check them out and consider donating!

United States Eventing Association Equine Cardiovascular Research Study

I love eventing, and it breaks my heart that so many horses are dying while doing it. This study has good people doing good work to help figure out the problems, and help make eventing safer for everyone. The link is to the main USEA donation page, but you can earmark your donation for the study by using the check boxes provided.

mustangs · rescue

Rescuing Wild Mustangs in Maine

Ten years ago, I graduated from college and moved to southern Maine to live with family for the summer. Lacking in funds but in need of horse time, I followed my aunt’s recommendation and called up Ever After Mustang Rescue and offered myself as a volunteer. I had some rescue experience, and a decent amount of horse experience.

I met Mona Jerome on the first day and quickly learned that she was one of the most dedicated, intuitive horsewomen I had ever seen. She had an eye and a quietness about her that was truly extraordinary. Any ground handling and training skills I have today are due to the summer I spent under her tutelage.

Midway through that summer, I was given a horse nicknamed “Big Red” as a training project. I taught him to stand to be groomed, pick up his feet, accept a saddle, and gave him half a dozen rides under saddle. When I left Maine for my job in Vermont that fall, I missed him desperately.

The rest, as they say, is history. Mona and her husband Brad hauled my new horse – renamed Tristan – to me on January 2 and my adventure began.

I tell you this because I recently came across a wonderful article about Mona and her work, and I wanted to share a little bit of my background with her.

Enjoy the article: Rescuing Wild Mustangs in Maine

blog hop · mustangs · rescue

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Interested Parties

What made you interested in your current horse that led you to buying them in the first place?

Fun question! With a semi-interesting answer for me.

The summer after I graduated from college, I moved down to Maine to live with family for the summer to do something different. I had a job as a cashier at a convenience store on the beach for the summer season, which did not pay nearly enough to continue riding lessons.

So I asked around and found a nearby horse rescue and began volunteering my time: Ever After Mustang Rescue.

I started mucking stalls and doing general cleaning, and moved on to handling horses. We rode some of the older non-mustang, completely-broke horses when we had time, but mostly it was ground work boot camp: how many of these horses can we teach to stay calm while brushed, lead like good citizens, pick up their feet, and in general be civilized domestic ponies? The mustangs there ranged from just in from the wild to some who had been living domestically for years but still had zero training to show for it.
Midway through the summer, a rich woman visited and decided she was going to adopt about a half dozen mustangs and bring them to her land so she could look at them out the window and, I don’t know, get a sense of ‘Murica and freedom or something. She had staff come and look at horses and choose the ones she wanted.
One of those was a red roan gelding that everyone called “Big Red” because at 15 hands with good bone, he was one of the largest horses on the property. (Mustangs run small!) He was very flashy and had a cute face, which fit the lady’s criteria for what she wanted to look at every day.
So I was assigned Red, who could not be handled in any way shape or form: could not be touched, could not be groomed, was moved from place to place (like several other horses) by the expediency of closing off some doors & gates, opening others, and herding him.
Many, many hours and weeks later, I had a nice little horse with pretty decent manners. I started him under saddle, and right about that time the rich lady changed her mind. Red was going to stay at the rescue. I did about five rides with him in a sidepull and old saddle, including one in the open, and at the end of the summer kissed his nose and headed off to the job I had lined up for September back in Vermont.
Except, I had fallen in love with him. And the horse I’d been leasing for years went finally, irreversibly, unsound. And I started number-crunching and pondering Ramen noodles.
So I made the call, and after a $150 donation to the rescue, Red – now named Tristan – came to me on January 2, in the dead of winter, and became mine.
In large part, I lucked out. I did not have nearly as much experience in evaluating a horse to have gotten the horse I did on skill. I knew that he was essentially good-natured, very smart, decently athletic, and very handsome. I knew how we worked together, and that his basic ground manners were good. I had the confidence from my summer at the rescue to continue to develop his ground work.
I would go about choosing a horse very, VERY differently these days, but I do not regret the way Tristan came to me.
rescue · soapbox

Soapbox Moment: Train Your Horses!

Lauren at She Moved to Texas wrote a really excellent post about the glut of free horses on the market – and on the people looking for those free horses. Spoiler alert: unrealistic expectations abound.

I’ve worked at several different horse rescues over the years. The last one I was most involved in was the place where I got Tristan. He wasn’t really a free horses – but he is pretty darn close. I paid a discounted $150 adoption fee for him after working there for 3.5 months. He was no picnic – but he was a far more straightforward case than many horses at the rescue.

Here’s what I have to say. *pulls up soapbox*

The #1 best thing you can do for your horse, to ensure his longterm success and happiness, is to train him.

I don’t necessarily mean every horse should be a steady eddy packer cleaning up the ribbons. I do mean that every horse should have basic manners, basic skills, and a decent outlook and disposition. They should consent to be handled by a variety of people, and they should be accepting of bridle, saddle, and basic aids.

Will your horse go better for you, or for a talented rider? Sure. Almost certainly. But can you put a middling rider up on them and have them at least go okay? Can you hand his lead rope off to someone with minimal horse experience and trust that he will more or less behave?

Horses end up in bad situations for an endless, depressing, variety of reasons. Horses get out¬†of bad situations, often, because they are good citizens. If you’re looking at the rank, untrained 20 year old horse lined up next to the relatively chill 20 year old who’s had basic training…guess which horse is going to get adopted? pulled out of the feed lot? spoken up for by someone trying to place them?

So take your time. Take the extra 5 minutes when handling your horse to make sure that they have the basics down. Ask a friend to handle or ride your horse just to make sure he will be okay with it. Try him out in a lesson or two with a stranger. The more you can expand his mind and add to his experiences, the better off he’ll be in case something happens to you.

(soapbox corollary: have a plan for your animals if something happens to you! but that is the subject of another blog post entirely.)