March 6, 2018
Today is a special day at White Bird. Fifteen years ago today, on March 6, 2003, we received our nonprofit designation as an equine rescue. The average lifespan of an equine rescue in this country is only three years, so this is a pretty big deal for us.
Our awakening to the need for equine rescues began with a pair of senior Appaloosas that came from Danville, VA in 2002. Their owner had died and they had nowhere else to go. The family was desperate to find them a safe haven.
“What? No one wants these beautiful animals?” We were simply astounded that there were no takers for this gentle, brother and sister pair..
They arrived on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. They strolled off the trailer like the proud professionals they were, and we marveled that people weren’t standing in line for them. They were beautiful, red leopards. The fact that one had a squamous cell cancer, was arthritic and blind in one eye, and one had Cushing’s syndrome did not seem all that important. They just needed a little care and they were glad to be here. But we had a lot to learn.
Since that time, we have seen every conceivable situation a horse could arrive from, and they have shown up in every possible condition. And for fifteen years, the network of caring created by our volunteers and donors, our grantors, sponsors and supporters, has been there to provide a soft landing and a new start. Your generosity has kept our doors open to the old, the blind, the feral, the lame and the sick, as well as the healthy horses who simply had unfortunate owners. You’ve allowed us to love them and then send them on to new homes, full of promise for better tomorrows than yesterdays. You have given them back their futures.
But this birthday is also bittersweet. We cannot help but look to the next fifteen years with concern about the challenges that lie ahead. We are operating in a very different climate than the one we started in. With the online “kill pen” business in full swing, local horses and community “bricks and mortar” operations are being passed by. The buyers of these horses just don’t get the same dopamine hit from rescuing a horse in their own neighborhood, no matter how grave the situation. We are combating both shrewd marketing and chemistry. And ultimately, we are re-rescuing these horses from the inexperienced.
So here’s what we are hoping for in the next fifteen years:
1. We hope that people will look around them. Is that old fella’ in the barn in the woods still ok? Does your neighbor with the bad back need a hand? A walk around your community in the fresh air, helping out your neighbors, trumps all those hours of Facebook time and could save an animal’s life. The fact is, we can all be rescuers in real life, if we choose to be so.
2. We hope that people will ask for help. It’s no crime to be going through a rough patch. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives. Please reach out to your friends and family if you find that you can no longer care for your equine loved ones. If they can’t help, please contact your local rescue organization. Then rest easy, knowing that you have done the right thing for those you care about.
3. We hope for increased support for local rescue organizations. The fact is, if your local organizations are not vibrant and healthy, the horses in your own backyard cannot be kept safe. None of us know when we will need help. If you haven’t visited your local rescue group, show up! Strong backs and compassionate minds are always welcome. It may be that someday, you will be the one needing help (we hope not, but you know…).
4. We hope you are an angel and want to donate to help needy horses! Please research your group. If they are certified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries or belong to the Homes for Horses Coalition, they have been visited by an independent third party that is knowledgeable about horse care. If you want your donations to be tax exempt and transparent as to their use, make sure the group has nonprofit status with IRS. If your group isn’t any of these things, go visit them. Many orgs just getting started are doing a good job and could use some help. If the farm looks clean, the horses are well-cared for, and their vet recommends them, you are probably on solid ground. Bu if a quick Google search causes you concern, you should probably look elsewhere.
5. We hope to hear from you if you have horse experience, a barn, and the desire to make the world a better place. You are a wonderful human being! Please consider fostering homeless horses or adopting them. What? You are “too old to ride,” you say. Well, so are they. Perfect.
Here is what we hope for most of all: We hope to be put out of business. We hope that one day, there will be so few horses needing us that we can simply close our doors. But until that day arrives, we will celebrate our birthdays by thanking every single one of our supporters, for being the real heroes who have saved these horses. Happy Fifteenth Birthday!