“Last year over 170,000 horses were abandoned in the U.S. and this year it seems more and more horses have met that same fate. Even our wild horses and burros are being rounded up by the BLM only to be held in holding pens or sent to slaughter.”
– Annie Oden, President, Horse Protection League
The more I learn about the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance (CUHA) and one of the rescue organizations, the Horse Protection League (HPL), the more I admire, and am in awe of the people who have dedicated their lives to helping the “unwanted horse”. CUHA’s statement is “Horses are a cherished symbol of our Western heritage and an important part of our culture and economy. Today, Colorado’s horses are facing a new threat due to the tightening economy, over breeding, loss of farmland to development, and increased costs of feed and care.
The American Horse Council defines unwanted horses as those whose current owners no longer want them because they are old, injured, sick, or unmanageable, or fail to meet the owners’ expectations. The CUHA added a further component: an owner’s inability or unwillingness to continue to own and care for a horse.”
The CUHA is a not-for-profit corporation which works to reduce the number of Colorado’s unwanted horses and to promote public and private collaboration and education concerning their welfare, ownership, and disposition. Some of the CUHA’s programs are Equidopt, Grants, Research and Tax Write Off. You can learn more about these programs at counwantedhorse.org.
Through the CUHA I met Annie, president of the Horse Protection League (HPL) in Arvada, Colorado. I also met many amazing horses at HPL: some who are waiting for adoption, and other horses who have been adopted but who live at HPL. Most of them are horses looking for a lifelong loving home. I found HPL to be efficiently run by an all-volunteer group. HPL is a respected organization that has great rapport with the City of Arvada, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
The Horse Protection League was formed in 1994, and is a non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules in the greater Rocky Mountain Region. In 1998 the City of Arvada and the HPL formed a union on the historic Churches Ranch: a win-win situation for both. Churches Ranch has 43 acres and used to be on the stagecoach line.
Annie stated “We can never predict what horses we’ll have available at any one time as we constantly receive new ones. We accept horses, ponies, donkeys and mules. Some of our animals are donated to us, some we purchase at auction, and some are “impounds” (by the State Veterinarian or animal control officers) from abusive situations. We may have everything from animals with physical problems that make them suitable only as companion animals, to horses that can do light work, and others that can serve as high performance animals.”
The HPL reaches out to the community. Scout troops, school children, at risk youth from the Devereaux Program, and other organizations visit the ranch. Princess, the HPL ambassador miniature horse, participates in parades, visits schools, nursing homes and private parties. There is a new program for veterans and their families to work with the horses.
The HPL’s goal is to bring horses back to good health and get them adopted in loving homes where the horse and adopters will thrive. If people can’t adopt but want to support the HPL they can donate or sponsor a horse. Sponsorships are an important source of funding for the HPL. The organization is supported solely through contributions and fundraising events, and accepts donations of supplies, feed and equipment. You can also support the HPL by becoming a member, either by mailing a check or online. Donations are tax-deductible.
It was emotional for me to meet the horses, learning their heart breaking stories of how they got to the HPL, and seeing how well cared for and healthy they are now. I can only write about a few horses and they were selected randomly, with the exception of Annie’s adopted horse, Lucy, who is considered the “Miracle Horse”. Lucy was one of many who was in the last operating slaughter house in the U.S. when it was shut down. There were truckloads of horses hauled away to Canada and Mexico. When someone went to the empty barn where the horses were previously slaughtered much to their surprise they heard a whinny and Lucy was discovered.
With a lot of arbitration the Humane Society of the United States got involved along with kill buyers, the owner, veterinarians, and the attorney, Nancy Perry (who filmed the event). The horses were then trucked to a stockyard in Wyoming where they would either face another long truck ride to Mexico, or because of the new law, the gift of life. Thanks to Nancy Perry three of the horses, including Lucy came to the HPL around Easter 2007. Annie adopted Lucy in 2008.
Spirit, an eight year old Palomino paint, came from Wyoming in June of 2011 through the Humane Society of the United States with a foal at her side. She was pulled along with 100 starving horses and was very underweight. She has been started under saddle and they are working with rebuilding her trust issues. Some of the horses have humans in their lives for the first time.
Glory is a beautiful pinto Arabian who came to the HPL through an authorized seizure of 21 horses from a breeder in Colorado in 2011. She was very underweight with a foal at her side. Glory was first adopted but came back in the summer of 2012. She is going to the trainer, Tucker Black, as I write this, to be restarted. She is rideable but has trust issues. She is a beautiful mover, and came right up to me in the pasture.
Hope is in the pen with Princess and they are very cute together. She is 18 years old and has a melanoma on her shoulder. Because of the melanoma she is ridden bareback which suits her just fine. She is very smart and loving. When she stood at the gate next to her name it just said it all for me, for her and the other horses at the HPL.
The HPL is so much more than this short article. To learn more about what they do please visit thehorseprotectionleague.com, or call to make an appointment to visit the ranch at 303-216-0141. Ask for Emie, the Barn Manager or Annie, president of the Horse Protection League.