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To Lori*, her horses were family, not just an expensive hobby or sport. In fact few, if any of her 5 horses were actually ridden. Two were aged mares that she had cared for once her mother had become unable to. The horses were long past their riding prime or the age anyone else would want to pay to take care of them, but they were treasured members of the family.
Another was an older mare with an enlarged knee from an injury ten years ago, while she got along fine on the pasture, she would never be considered suitable for riding.
Of the two she could ride (when she actually got the time away from working to try to pay the bills), one had so many quirks it was unlikely anyone else would want him for a pleasure horse, and the other, an arab, wasn’t a popular breed in the area at the time.
Unfortunately, when Lori got laid off from her job of twelve years when the company downsized, selling the horses wasn’t really an option. Scraping together just like anyone else would do for their family, she placed hay for the horses at the top of her necessity list, while she tried to find alternate work and start her own business to rebuild her income.
The problem was, hay prices had doubled since the last year due to the drought, and work was not as easy to find as she had expected. It wasn’t until after Lori’s financial situation became so dire that she had to declare bankruptcy, that she finally realized she had to put aside her pride and ask for help from the Western Slope Hay Bank.
Lori and “horse families” like hers, are the reason that the Western Slope Hay Bank exists. It was formed three years ago to help struggling horse owners keep their horses through difficult economic times.
“The people we help are often very hardworking individuals who don’t step forward to ask for assistance until it is their very last option,” says Kathy Hamm, director of Dream Catcher Therapy Center and End of the Trail Horse Rescue, which operates the Hay Bank. “These people don’t have any other options, and if we don’t step forward to help them, they are placed in a situation where they have to choose between feeding themselves and feeding their horses.”
The mission of the Hay Bank is to help keep horses with their families, so they don’t end up getting sold at auctions; where, realistically, the majority of them are going to go to slaughter. For people like Lori, who recognize their horses’ value as extending far beyond their pedigree, which would be an unimaginable option.
“We were receiving many calls of responsible horse owners wanting to relinquish their horses to our sanctuary because they felt they had no other option,” Hamm continued. “Creating the Hay Bank allows us to offer people another option, and extends our outreach far beyond what the room in our sanctuary could provide.”
In the past year alone, The Western Slope Hay Bank has helped over 1,000 horses by providing hay along with education to owners who are struggling. The Hay Bank is continuing to expand and plans to help even more horses in the upcoming years.
“The need has been especially high this year,” Hamm says, “because of the drought and the prices of hay which were double what they were last year. We have been fortunate enough to have grant money available to purchase good hay for the Hay Bank when it has been available. Our goal is to continue to expand our funding to make sure that we can provide for the need of the horses in our area.”
We would like to thank the ASPCA for partnering with us to help horses and their owners though this most difficult time. The Hay Bank is supplied completely through grants, donations, and community support.
If you would like to offer support to the Western Slope Hay Bank in the form of hay or cash donations, please contact Dream Catcher Therapy Center, Inc. 970-323-5400.
All donations are tax deductible.
*name changed due to confidentiality
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