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I'm a believer that horses can feel, think and have emotions; they have emotional attachments.
And we humans are their caretakers, which is why I find the idea of throwaway horses so upsetting.
“My horse is lame and unrideable; I need to get rid of him,” I've heard people say.
“My horse is old,” “No one's riding anymore,” “He's costing me money” or “I'm moving” are also used as reasons to get rid of the animal.
Granted, there is nothing wrong with finding a new home for your horse, but how hard are you working to find it a good home, one where its physical and emotional needs will be met?
The reality is that far too many people say they just don't want the horse anymore and don't care what happens to it.
“For lots of people, their circumstances change. They might have lost a job, or someone in the family got sick and they fell on hard times,” says Eyes That Smile's Diane Royall, vice president in charge of education and training.
“Lots of people hang on to the horse as long as they can, but when the horse ends up starving and neglected, an intervention is needed.”
For those owners, she says, she “tries to play both the horse's and humanity card and try to be there for both.”
For the past several years, Diane, who spends “hours on the phone networking with animal control, other rescue operations and horse owners,” and her friend Valerie Jackson have worked countless hours and spent much of their own hard-earned money helping rescue, rehabilitate and rehome those unwanted horses.
It's a huge undertaking.
Thankfully, others stepped in to help — non-horse owners, even — and that's how Port Angeles' Eyes That Smile, a legal equine rescue at 518 S. Liberty St., got established in 2012.
Its goals are to make a positive difference in the lives of both people and horses by providing equine rescue, rehabilitation and placement when possible for abandoned, surrendered or neglected horses, and to help counsel, educate and assist horse owners in the proper care and management of their horse.
“It's not our position to take a horse from an owner. That's up to the sheriff's department animal control officer,” says Diane. “We go to the people, give our phone number and then offer tips and help, recommendations, anything we can to be a source of knowledge and encouragement.”
Helping owners try to care for — and possibly find a new home for — their horse is sometimes all the organization can do to help since it lacks a permanent facility to house those horses.
Currently, it can provide care for up to 25 horses, and between Diane's and Valerie's property and with the help of foster homes, they are usually full up.
“We've had some owners on our waiting lists for months because they want us to take their horses, but we have no place to put them,” Diane says.
“In the meantime, we try to help them out as best we can. We've helped hundreds of horses just by talking to their owners, either online or on the phone.”
She says some can't wait to make arrangements and take their horse to auction; others try to take the horses to Sequim's Olympic Game Farm to kill and feed the meat to their carnivores, but the game farm can't — and won't — take every horse offered. It won't kill a young or healthy horse.
How can you help? Eyes That Smile's most pressing need is for money to pay for hay and feed.
“We really need a permanent home base to work from so we don't have to be driving all over town to care, feed and show prospective adoptees a horse,” Diane says.
“As a legal nonprofit, any money spent help caring for these horses is all tax-deductible,” says Valerie.
She says to look at their Facebook page for upcoming events, such as the open house and tack sale April 19.
Thinking about getting a horse? Fostering is a good way to get to know horse a bit and get to understand what's involved in horse ownership. Not only feeding, the horse has got to be trained, vet and ongoing hoof care.
For more information, contact Diane at 360-582-9455 or www.eyesthatsmile.org.
■ Noon Sunday — Cowmanship class at Freedom Farm, 493 Spring Road, Agnew. Confirm with Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897 or email@example.com.
■ 6 p.m. Monday, March 24 — Back Country Horsemen Peninsula chapter's general meeting at the Clallam County Courthouse, 432 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles. Popcorn and drinks available.
■ Noon Sunday, March 30 — Adult horsemanship class at Freedom Farm. Confirm with Gallagher.
■ 9 a.m. Sunday, March 30 — Baker Stable Schooling School, 164 Four Winds in Port Angeles. Phone 360-460-7832.
■ Tuesday-Thursday, April 1-3 — Spring break horse camp at Freedom Farm for ages 5-9. Horses provided. Riding, basic horse care and fun. Contact Gallagher.
■ 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 5 — BCH tune-up clinic at Olympic View Stables, 136 Finn Hall Road in Agnew. Phone Carol Madden at 360-912-4005 or 360-670-7739. Morning presentations/lunch/evening ride for fun and trail course competition.
■ Saturday-Sunday, April 12-13 — BCH Buckhorn Range Bill Richey de-spooking clinic. Hosted by Stephany Handland (360-830-4877).
■ 9 a.m. Saturday, April 12 — Olympic National Park Mule Barn Day at the Elwha Mule Barn, located off Whiskey Bend Road past the Elwha Ranger Station.
■ Saturday, April 19 — Eyes That Smile tack sale. Donations needed.
■ 9 a.m. Saturday, April 26 — BCH Peninsula chapter's Salt Creek Spaghetti Ride. Phone Linda Mosley at 360-928-3715. Directions: Take U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles and turn onto state Highway 112 at the junction. Go 7.2 miles, turn north (right) on Camp Hayden Road and continue for 3.5 miles. Turn right into the Salt Creek campgrounds entrance, with parking at east.
Bring your favorite spaghetti sauce with or without meat and a favorite side dish.
Trails go from easy to advance with steep areas. Shoes or boots are recommended.
Karen Griffiths' column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.