BY NOW OLYMPIC Peninsula Equine Network, or OPEN, runs like a well-oiled machine. But even a well-oiled machine needs more new oil to keep it up and running.
For years, even before they became OPEN, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, I watched founders Valerie Jackson and Diane Royall spend countless hours putting their whole hearts and souls — plus their own money — into helping horses in crisis. Their way of operating wasn’t sustainable, especially the part about using their own money. They needed help, and after they formed their non-profit and reached out to donors for help, the organization grew by leaps, providing a much-needed resource for both horses and their owners.
They’ve even been called upon numerous times by the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department to help take on cases of severe abuse or neglect.
I don’t know where they get their energy, or even the will to keep the doors of OPEN, pardon the pun, open. I applauded them then and now. The two have built up an entire network of people to help make their horse network a success. Their husbands are probably grateful they’re not the only ones helping out anymore, and things have gotten considerable easier now that Diane’s daughter and horse trainer Kate Tibbits moved back to Sequim. They’ve also got an active group of board members, farriers, horse practitioners and veterinarians, local business owners and more all providing a helping hand.
Success would not have come at all without the folks who donate to OPEN. Recently, however, Valerie’s finding herself a bit nervous because, “Moving out of the COVID pandemic we just haven’t seen the donations we’ve had in the past.” Yet, they’ve seen just as many horses, and their owners, in need of help.
“Unfortunately, over the year we’ve had supply chain problems, and, coupled with the inflation we’re all experiencing, we saw our costs considerably increase, and that put us in a deficit at the end of the year,” said Valerie. “In spite of that, we’ve managed to take in horses in need and care for them at the same level we always have.”
She credits OPEN’s many supporters who’ve helped fill in the gaps along the way.
Diane spends many hours on the phone volunteering her time to help owners through a crisis, or helping them to rehome a healthy horse the owner is no longer able to care for. And that’s why they included the words equine network in their name.
“Even though OPEN doesn’t get any money for helping to rehome a horse, like we would if we took the horse in and adopted it out,” said Diane, “we know we can only take so many on, and we just want to find a good outcome for both the horse and the owner.”
Valerie said, “We’ve helped so many people this year and last year. They come to us saying they love their horse, but they can’t afford the hay, or they can’t afford the vet bill, or farrier, so we do what we can to help.” Their worst fear is what will happen to the horse if they don’t, or can’t.
Their ability to help depends on the amount of donations coming in. It doesn’t have to be large, one-time donations either. Much of the work is financed thanks to those who donate regularly on a monthly basis, be it $10, $25 or $50 a month. Donors can set the amount and frequency by clicking the donate tab at Olympic Peninsula Equine Network (olypenequinenet.org). All donations are tax deductible.
Fundraising plans for 2023 include several tack sales at the store, a teeth floating clinic, and another OPEN the Trails event. They also hope to hold another dinner, dance and auction fundraising event this year, which they couldn’t do during the COVID pandemic shutdown.
“People told us how much they really enjoyed it, and, for us, it was a huge fundraising success,” said Valerie. She said it cost OPEN $5,000 to fill its barn with hay this summer, which is more than two times as much as they’ve paid in the past.
“Thankfully, our Save the Trails event funded our hay supply this year, but there is so much more involved in taking care of horses, especially because most come to us needing extra care and help to get them back to health.”
Kate is working on a personal project, which, when ready, “could end up helping a lot of other horses.” She told me she “wasn’t quite ready to share,” what her venture was, but I managed to pry some information out of her.
Bright boyHer project is Rupert, whom she calls a “very special guy.” He’s an 8-year-old, 13.2 hand, red sorrel Haflinger/Mustang cross with a flaxen mane and tail. He came to OPEN well-trained, and with no special needs or vices, by a woman who simply decided to get out of horses; who knew by donating him to OPEN his sale price could go a long way toward helping to further fund the rescue operation.
While not a beginner’s horse, simply because he responds better to a confident rider who can be his leader, he will make a good adult or capable child’s horse. Both the Haflinger and Mustang breeds, while often can be smaller in height, are known to be extremely strong and able to carry heavy loads.
During her time spent riding him, Kate’s been overjoyed to discover the many things Rupert already knows how to do. She’s also taken his training a step further by teaching him to lay down for someone to get on his back.
Her son Casper, 17, is working with Rupert to learn horse vaulting. In vaulting, riders perform acrobatic and dance maneuvers on horseback.
Casper, who goes to Sequim High School, is a baseball player and a natural athlete who has ridden “since a baby,” said his mom. She said he already has Rupert calmly accepting him vaulting over his back from one side to another, standing on his back and making other moves.
“He’s just a fantastic horse who’s going to be very special for someone,” said Kate.
For more information, and to learn about other horses available for adoption, visit the Facebook page ‘OPEN (Olympic Peninsula Equine Network) Community group’ or leave your name and number on its message line at 360-207-1688. OPEN is located at 251 Roupe Road in Sequim.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
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 call her at 360-460-6299.