Since 2007, the Clark County Executive Horse Council (CCEHC) has given horses a second chance through its Adopt-A-Horse program. The project was originally devised by Lori Harris, Pat Brown and Georgia Huston in 2004, and became part of the council’s offerings in 2007.
“They started the program because horses in Clark County were in dire need of care and there were no programs in existence to help them,” said program Director Lynn Jenkins. “These horses were in situations that would boggle anyone’s mind. So the three of them (who were members of the CCEHC) brought it in front of the board and said ‘We need to do something to help horses since there’s no existing programs,’ and the CCEHC agreed.”
Jenkins said the Adopt-A-Horse program is unique because it’s not a sanctuary and doesn’t own any facilities, but instead the program relies on foster care from people throughout the county. Over the years, the CCEHC has built a network of foster homes who voluntarily take the horses in and nurse them back to health. Some examples of the animals the program have helped include a horse that was missing teeth and located in a stall with manure four feet deep, while others have been to the point of starvation that drove the animals to eat the wood in their stalls.
“We want to find, what I call, a horse’s ‘happily ever after,’” Jenkins said. “So we adopt them out to a family who can give them a permanent home.”
To find the right family, the volunteers in the nonprofit Adopt-A-Horse program put applicants through an extensive application process, which includes veterinary references and a home visit. The homes need to meet a standard of good equine care, with sturdy fences and a shelter, while those who foster are required to understand how to properly care for a horse. Having other horses on the property is a good indicator, because it shows the potential owner has experience. If an owner’s personality ends up not being the right fit for the horse or they end up not receiving the proper care, the Adopt-A-Horse team will take the horse back to find the animal a better placement.
Jenkins said people should call animal control if they suspect a horse is being abused, since CCEHC does not have the authority to observe someone’s property and seize horses. She recalled a time where instead of calling animal control, Jenkins instead offered to help the owner and checked back multiple times. The problem with that, Jenkins said, is that if the incident isn’t reported, there is no record of abuse, which could lead to consequences for the horse that could have been avoided if a complaint is filed sooner.
Volunteers are what make the program as strong as it is, said Jenkins.
“Without our volunteers, we’re nothing,” Jenkins said. “We got people with hearts as big as the Grand Canyon, helping in different ways such as fostering horses, transporting them in their trailer, or people who help organize fundraisers. Sometimes we just need people for manual labor, and they’ll take time out of their day to help us.”
She added that local businesses like Pioneer Feed Co. in Ridgefield have contributed by providing discounts to the program. The Adopt-A-Horse program pays for the expenses like food and vet bills while volunteers foster the equines.
Aside from Adopt-A-Horse, CCEHC also runs Ripley’s Horse Aid, which is a neglect prevention program. Ripley’s focuses on helping owners who need extra support in caring for horses, like those who have lost their job or are financially strained. The program serves as a temporary fix to prevent a horse’s health from turning into a situation that would lead to neglect and require the involvement of the Adopt-A-Horse program.
Jenkins said people can apply for vouchers from Ripley’s, which can be used at a feed store to pick up food. In other circumstances, some owners may have ailing health and could be unable to go out to the barn and care for the horse. A call to Ripley’s could make all the difference.
Those interested in adopting a horse can email Lynn Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
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