Horse Rescues Get Creative to Combat Donation Recession

In a stubbornly stagnant economy and with winter fast approaching, equine rescue operators are finding creative ways to attract financial support from beyond their traditional contributor bases.

Equine welfare agencies began to feel the financial pinch two years ago when extreme weather conditions and high fuel prices conspired to raise the cost of feed and other horse-care essentials. As owners struggled to cope, equine neglect cases spiked, challenging rescues to care for more horses just as the recession diminished donors' ability to contribute to their support. Less solvent rescues folded under the financial burden.

This year, with no leveling of feed prices in sight, and fewer rescues to help horses in need during the hard winter ahead, some rescue operators believe their resources will be strained even further this year.


" Donations are down; I can�t deny that. But the good news is that people are still generous. We�ve been seeing that all along."
�Mona Jerome

"The key fact is that all the rescues are very full. And with the arrival of the cold weather, we're probably going to see more horses in bad situations come to light," said Fran Burns, marketing and fundraising director for Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue Inc. in Glenville, Pa. "We have to try to come up with creative ways to reach out to people who are not horse owners."

Burns believes a raffle aimed at football fans is one way to do it. A $20 donation to Angel Acres, offers a chance to win two 50 yard-line seats to watch the Baltimore Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers in an upcoming game.

"It's the biggest rivalry game around here, so we think it will do well," Burns said.

Beyond its immediate fund raising potential, Angel Acres' raffle is designed to transform people who have no equine connections into long-term donors, Burns said.

Another rescue operator hopes appealing to women's affinity for horses will yield a similar result.

The Women and Horses program at the Ever After Mustang Education and Training Center in Biddeford, Maine, provides women ages 15 through 90 with little or no equine experience a chance to become acquainted with the BLM mustangs in residence there. For a $10 per person, per session fee, center operator Mona Jerome pairs each woman with a mustang and teaches grooming, leading, and basic groundwork with the horses.

"Networking is very important to us," Jerome said. "The program is not only helping to boost our revenue but it also makes people outside the equestrian community aware of what we do here."

The Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT) also recently used mustangs to reach out to dog lovers.

Strained by the cost of caring for more than 200 horses seized by law enforcement authorities, the agency welcomed an invitation from the Extreme Mustang Makeover, a competition designed to showcase the talents and promote adoptions of BLM horses. Founder Patti Colbert asked HSNT to create a similar event to demonstrate shelter dogs' training and performance potential.

The resulting Extreme Mutt Makeover paired 10 dogs with 10 professional trainers for six weeks. Trainers and their dogs showed off their skills during the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, Texas, last month. All 10 trainers earned a share of the $1,500 cash prize offered specifically for the event and HSNT earned the attention of a new pool of potential supporters.

"It was a wonderful way to bring both (horse and dog enthusiasts) together, and to show the horse people that we help dogs too," said HSNT Lead Investigator Tammy Roberts.

As the recession grinds on, rescue operators say they'll continue to brainstorm unique ways to reach potential new donors. In the mean time, they credit longtime supporters for their loyalty during the tough economic times.

"Donations are down; I can't deny that," said Jerome. "But the good news is that people are still generous. We've been seeing that all along."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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