Over the last three years, I have been integral in helping operate a 501C3 Horse Rescue. The Rescues saves abused, neglected, and endangered horses while rehabilitating them to the best of its ability. This included manual labor, managing, training, and caring for the Rescue. The manual labor consists of fence building, barn building, cleaning, hay moving, watering, and feeding for 30-40 horses depending on the time. I began my freshman year and plan on continuing through senior year. Over the time, I have accumulated more than 2000 Community Service hours and have found myself changed in my views towards life.
Five years ago, my family and I were involved at another horse rescue, where we played an integral part. However, we noticed the rescue was more focused on moving the horses than rehabilitating them and ensuring the same problems wouldn't occur again. So, we decided to start up our own rescue. My parents asked my siblings and I if we wanted to commit to this and we agreed. About three and a half years ago, we moved from Lakewood to Castle Rock, a move of thirty miles, in order to operate the facility. We moved onsite so as to allow for maximum ability to care for the rescues. As I have matured, my responsibilities have gone up. Originally I was mainly manual labor. Now I am involved in helping make important decisions regarding our capacity to care. In addition, I have still done an hour of manual labor each day.
This project has had profound effects, both on the community and me. The horses have most obviously benefited, as we have placed well over 70 of the horses into caring and loving families, where they will be safe from being neglected again. Another ten have been placed into sanctuaries where they can live their lives. The other effect has been on the people in the community. Several DUI service volunteers have come back after their terms just to help out. More have been affected by the rescue and found a passion in the horses and helping them.
The first time I started on a horse rescue(a different one), I walked into a pen and the next thing I knew I was pinned up against the fence by six yearlings all wanting me to give them attention. I can still my boyish smile and just feeling absolutely ecstatic. Over the next two months, I began learning how to train them and soon had helped to placed all of them with families with kids. I was excitable with glee and spent the next year and a half doing the same with other yearlings. When my parents began to express their discontent with the older horses that started being moved too quickly, I was right behind them. They asked if I wanted to start our own rescue and I agreed. Somewhat to my dismay, I realized that we would be focusing more on older horses than babies. However, as time progressed, I matured and realized that this was the perfect environment for me. These horses were about the same level as me at the time and I began to connect with many of them. For some of the most troubled horses, the fact I was a kid put them at ease with me and all owed me to train them to where others could take over. I felt connected with these horses, as I was the first human that they had trusted in a long time, and although I was too young to realize what that meant for them, I was inspired to do this for more horses. The effect I've had on these forces has kept me going. Many times I've stayed up late or skipped a day of school in order to help the horses. Oddly enough, these days seemed to be on test days, and on year, a final day. So my grades suffered from helping out these horses. Quite frankly, I feel it was a good trade off.
At the rescue, I have been involved in many different activities. I have put up many different fences, built barns, and helped create runoff streams. I cleaned the horse pens, watered the horses, fed them, and moved hay (near 150,000 pounds a year). In the winter, I take sole responsibility for the running of the ranch, simply because of my physical aptitude. I will usually be out most of the time from sun up to sun down and have even awoken in the middle of the night, at the coldest, to feed and check on the horses. In addition, I have helped farriers and vets operate with our horses, and one many occasions stayed up late on school nights to help sick and injured horses. The majority of the work that I have done and still do is solo. Whenever we have outside help, they are required for some pressing project, so I've had to take responsibility to get my assigned jobs done. I have had to skip hanging out with friends in order to come home and take care of the horses.
One of the biggest and hardest things that I have had to face, as the nature of the rescue is, was death. Several horses came in sick, and others had accidents. This was the first time I had to face death, and I can still remember each horse. Many times, we have had to call the vet out, hear that we must euthanize the horse, and I would usually be the one taking care of the horse while the vet did so. After a while, unfortunately or fortunately, I became used to dealing with horses dying. This, however, did allow me to keep a level head in emergency situations while being detached emotionally. Heartless as this sounds, this has saved a few horses lives because I have not panicked, and in one case, stop a horses suffering from enduring. I've had to overcome this and thanks to it, I've appreciated my work even more, knowing only a few of the ones we rescue might die, well otherwise, all of them would, and much more violently.
The biggest impact that this activity has accomplished is for the horses it has saved. Many of them were destined for slaughter because of the inadequacies or inabilities of their owners. We gave them a second chance to prove their worth, found their strengths and for well over 70 found them loving homes, many with kids to pamper them. For the ones we determined we could not rehabilitate and who had suffered too much, we were able to find them a horse sanctuary where they could live their lives out without human contact and abuse.
The second group that benefited was the community itself. We've provided an outlet for court ordered community service sentences to be fulfilled. Many of these volunteers, although forced to start, came back after their sentences. They desired to continue help the rescue because they loved what it did. Several times, they brought their families out and later, adopted a horse from us. In addition, one of our key members has benefited tremendously. A First Gulf War vet, he has suffered from PTSD and could rarely get a full night sleep. However, once he began volunteering out here, he changed completely. His love for the rescue allowed him to overcome some of his own obstacles. He now is out almost every day and is one of the most important parts of the rescue, both in manual labor and executive decisions. The rescue has helped him to recover, as much as he can, from his experiences during the war.
For myself, I have been completely transformed by this activity. At the time I started I was 12 and so relatively young. I didn't really know much, growing up in the suburbs about either horses, or construction. Once I started with the rescue I learned much. The first summer I spent learning fences, the different types, the basics of horse care, and tools. That fall, I began to learn how to effectively balance both a high rigor education and high labor ranch job. That winter, I discovered many ways of dealing with snow, concerning both how to run a ranch in a blizzard and how to keep vehicles effective. The following summer, I helped built a large barn to accommodate horses over the next winter. Here I learned every part of building, from the concrete foundations, to the main supports, to the walls, to the roof and roofing material. This would be the first of 4 barns that I would contribute in the construction of. As I grew older, I became a very good rider. My mother ended up suffering 3 concussions from riding in 6 months, so I became our main starting rider. I learned how to start a horse, first by accustoming it to the saddle, and next by being the first human to ride them. I did so with about 15 horses, and over time developed my own method of getting them to learn the basics, while allowing other riders to fine tune them. Here I learned something of efficiency, as to have one rider follow all the way through with the same horse can cause the horse to become too accustomed to that rider, and the rider would have to train many different points well. In place of this, I was used to start horses and teach them their basic commands very well. Next a new rider would be able to train the horse more advance commands while I focused on the next horse to be started.
I've had several times I've felt great about volunteering. The first of these is when I see a horse leave for a new home, usually accompanied by a small child smiling. It is indescribable how you feel when you know that a horse that almost died has a second chance and will have a good life, helping brighten many others. Second, we have had many births at the rescue. I myself can still remember waking up in the morning and seeing a new baby in the field. Every time I see this I remember why I do what I do and feel like I have accomplished something great over the last 3 years.