Always Begging for Hay

Horses eat like a horse. They’re designed to graze most of the day. I think horses worry about their next meal when they are eating the current one. It’s their natural instinct. And they have a depressingly frail digestive system. Young horses need calories to grow. When horses get older, they need better nutrition, just about the time they can’t be ridden anymore. When we care for them, we need to hold to that standard; to keep them in a way as close to nature that we can and that means free feeding hay.

It’s been a rough hay year in Colorado. It’s true in many places and here on the high desert prairie, there’s never enough to graze. This year there’s a shortage and prices are going up fast. It’s a stretch for small farms but the Colorado Horse Rescue Network has a greater challenge. With a large herd, we go through semi-loads of hay quickly.

Doesn’t it seem like every post on Facebook is asking for something? Everybody wants your money. It’s turning cold outside and animals need help. You might feel burnt out or complacent or immune to the constant ask, but it’s what we do, that’s kind of what being a 501(C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION means.

To be clear, that’s what I’m doing now. Begging for hay.

If it matters, rescues hate to ask for money. We know hundreds of groups fund this way, we know people are overwhelmed with the need. I can’t romanticize this work but I’m also not going to post gruesome photos of starving horses. Hollow eyes aren’t inspiring; we don’t need to be reminded.

But that’s what I’m doing now. Reminding you.

I’m on the board of directors Colorado Horse Rescue Network. It isn’t an honorary position. We are a state-wide rescue and I’m proud of our work even if some of it’s challenging. We have an amazing buy-out program but also go to local auctions, bringing home skinny old campaigners and rope donkeys and pregnant mares. All get health care and a chance. Some find perfect new homes. Some don’t but we do our best for each one.

Want a lift? Take a look at success stories on this CHRN page, #Ageisnoexcuse

Sometimes the board votes on a large intake from a failed would-be rescue, someone with sympathy and poor math skills when it comes to the cost of horse care. Now their herd of rescue horses need rescue again and the financial challenge is huge. It takes a larger rescue to step up. Our directors donate part of their ranches and a fair amount of money. Each board member gives their all and then some. We are the good guys.

We hope to re-home rescues in six months, but we’ve had some horses much longer while we try to buy them time to heal. We aren’t a sanctuary; we must take the long view and watch the bottom line. Did I mention that hay prices are skyrocketing?

In the fall, we make hard decisions. It’s cold on the high prairie and some horses are just too old or frail or not improving no matter what we try. We have a Rainbow Fund because, in kindness, we must let some horses go.  When necessary, the board members all sign off on euthanasia. It doesn’t make it any easier for the ones holding the rope, but we all bear responsibility for the call.

Doing rescue might look like a Disney movie for some but not us.

Now I’ll try to tug your heartstrings. Perhaps you had a heart horse, the horse that carried you the farthest, the horse who breathed into your lungs and made you a better person. The one who makes your throat close a bit when you think of him, even now.

My Grandfather Horse had the best run in the barn for his creaky old bones. I honor his ghost by holding that warm spot for someone in his name. A couple of donkeys have enjoyed that special place and tomorrow another elder horse will take up residence. I have no idea who he is, but I can’t wait to meet him.

The rescue can help with foster costs or you can donate them. I know it’ll be inconvenient; he might need senior care, and probably some extra scratches, too. It might mean emergency calls when I’m away giving clinics, but I’m haunted by a herd of ghost horses who were generous beyond all reason. I try to measure up.

Horses are heartbreakers. 

Fostering is a gift. The horse eats your hay and in return, you find a kind of sanctuary yourself. People ask how we can take in horses that might not live long. They say they love horses too much; that the pain wouldn’t be bearable. Do I have to show you the pictures? A little extra manure is a small price to pay for one less grisly photo tattooed on the brain. Is it possible that it’s time to redefine what’s bearable?

Perhaps you ride in an English saddle. Sure, CHRN is mostly a western group but those of us without saddle horns absolutely do have spare stalls and ghost horses, too. And hearts still stretched all out of shape from our first horse. Please consider fostering or adopting a rescue horse. Consider donating feed or hay or money.

What’s the conversation that comes up when rescue folks come together? How much we hate begging for money. Yes, the work is hard, we can’t save them all, but every day, it comes down to cash. We apply for grants, we work deals. We sponsor events and try any other thing we can think of. No one likes this part, but here goes…

For the cost of a lousy cup of over-priced coffee that your horse will knock over anyway, please consider a cold weather donation, do it in the name of a ghost horse. Or honor his memory by making a monthly donation to your local rescue, or if you like this blog, perhaps to my local rescue, The Colorado Horse Rescue Network.

We appreciate your thoughts and prayers. Please, could you spare five dollars, too? It’s constant: The horses need hay. We need money to buy it.

(Donate Here.)

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Clinician, Equine Pro
Planning our 2019 clinic schedule now. Email me at ambfarm@gmail.com for details or to be added to the email list.

36 comments

  1. Well said….. our hay stash is disappearing with the colder weather requiring extra food to keep the (mostly very elderly) Sanctuary horses warm! One of hardest things for me has always been asking for help……. but, it’s for the precious horses here. I can do it! Thanks for this blog this morning, HUGS

  2. Ah Anna, I so wish it were possible to magically transport to share the lovely hay we have here in Michigan. Despite this summer’s “drought” – I quote, because I remember MAYBE 4 years in my almost 60 years in which the summer had a dry enough few weeks to make the fields more gold than green – our own horses are blessed that we have exceptional hay from our own farm.

    I already donate $$ to a few rescues, and also give gifts in people’s name when I know someone has everything and would appreciate the gesture.

    As crazed as it sounds, I’m pleased to hear someone speak about letting animals go when it is their time. I seem to hear so many stories about ultra-heroic measures to save or prolong an animal’s life, frequently without consideration of quality of life. Helping some of them along is the ultimate kindness we can bestow upon them.

    I so wish I’d won even a small portion of that lottery this week! I had such GRAND plans for animal sanctuaries all across the country.

  3. I sent a message in reply to them looking for fosters for the winter. I asked for more info but have not heard back. I just lost my last horse. I have not been horseless on 30 years. Have any pull?

    Barb Cohen Friend of Betty Fey

    >

  4. I have donated regularly to my local rescue, Days End Farm Horse Rescue, in Lisbon, MD, since adopting my boys 22 years ago. Can’t not do it! So in your honor, Anna, today I will trot over to your rescue and donate. You have given me so much food for thought in the past few years that I have been reading your blogs. Seems only fair that your rescue gets some food back from me!

  5. Bear and Cash have made a small donation to your rescue… as a thanks for helping me be a better communicator with them .. .. They, and I , appreciate you , Anna Blake !

  6. The main two rescues I donate to (Chilly Pepper) (Horse Plus Humane) both are working harder this year – both do the right thing for each animal no matter what! Will send a little to your rescue – partially in appreciation to you & this blog – bringing back MY memories of what I miss so much. Thanks, Anna

  7. Anna, I attended your clinic on the Olympic Peninsula last summer. I’ve got 2 mammoths, 2 mini donkeys, and a mule, all rescued. My wife is the Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator at the animal shelter on Whidbey.

    This one rings so incredibly true, and not just for horses.

    Nearly 50 years ago I buried my first dog. It was the first time I saw my father cry. A couple of days later, a hunting buddy of my dads stopped by. I couldn’t talk about my dog without crying.

    Harry wrapped his big arm across my shoulders and said something I’ve never forgotten. “Son, there’s one really shitty day in having a dog. It’s a pretty goddamn good trade.”

    I’ve buried a lot of dogs, a few cats, a couple of horses, and a donkey in the years since. Harry was right – it’s a really shitty day. He was right twice – it’s a pretty damn good trade.

    For those that say they “can’t bear it,” all I can say is this. I can’t bear the idea of not having those souls in my life. It’s a tough day, no question. But the other days. Oh, the other days. Those more than make up for it!

    Peace, Mark

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Hi Mark, I certainly remember you… and I kind of love Harry. He’s just right. And I agree with you, thanks for sharing this with us. Hello to the longears, too.

  8. My contribution to my local equine rescue is sweat equity – I shovel poop, water and feed every Monday. But in honor of you Anna and your blog (which I look forward to reading every Friday) I have written a check and will put it in tomorrow’s mail. I have never owned a horse and have learned so much from your blog. Thanks for helping me communicate better with those rescue horses! – – And your lead-in comment about the rescue horses eating like a horse is right on. It’s hard to believe how quickly a flake of hay in a rescue horse stall will disappear!

    • Thankyou so much, Blue Eagle. We appreciate you, and I love your sweat equity… there were a few years after I left home that I couldn’t own a horse and that’s just what I did. Best wishes to your local rescue, as well. They are lucky to have you.

  9. Dear Anna,

    I love your way with words and share your love of horses, dogs, llamas, goats and donkeys. I am happy to donate to the hungry horse fund. Keep up the awesome example of how best to treat our four legged friends. With love from Texas, Peace Beverly, Itchie❤, Apache, Navajo, Bingo, Poco, Trigger, Gill, Silky, Dancer and Flaxie

  10. I have donated to your organization because I am a follower of your beautiful blog and want to support your work. In memory of all the horses I love/have loved and cared for.

  11. Done.

    I love Harry’s wisdom as we experience the latter days of our old dog’s life. A wonderful trade indeed. The herd from Alaska sends a warm hello and best wishes for happy nickers and barns full of hay.

  12. Donation sent. It’s ok to remind us to dig a little deeper once in a while to help these dearly needed equine rescues. =-)

  13. Hi Anna, I haven’t commented in a very long time, but I have continued to read and follow when I can get a spare moment. Devastating hail storms, sick elder horse, and a spouse needing emergency heart bypass surgery have kept me in a state of constant motion. To top it off, just before life turned down this bumpy path, I brought home 2 rescues who were picked up by a field rescue at an auction. I have always had horses who were someone’s throwaways, but these 2 guys gave me an opportunity to help out in a broader scope. They were featured in a fund raising video for our local Colorado Horse Rescue, and helped to raise funds towards saving 50 more horses. Horses just keep on giving!!!

    • Sounds like a bumpy road you’ve been on, hope your spouse is mending well and things level out for awhile… and so glad the horses are with you. Thanks for being part of something bigger…

  14. I tried to donate. it would not accept my postal code. tried several ways. I am in Ontario canada. I don’t want you to miss out on any donations because the system is messed up.anne harr Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

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