Thursday, May 18, 2017 The Calvert County Times Calvert’s Freedom Hill Horse Rescue Feature Story 13 There’s a Horse Waiting to Meet You By Dave Spigler Feature Writer This coming Saturday, May 20 th , race horse enthusiasts across the nation will be focused on Maryland with the running of the 142nd Preakness Race at Pimlico in Baltimore. This second “jewel” in the Triple Crown of Racing is a fun-filled cel- ebration of the old majestic sport of Eu- ropean kings and queens. No doubt there will be great stories written of past win- ners and their millionaire owners and of all the money that is wagered on the out- come of the fastest two minutes in sports! You may be amazed to learn these beautiful animals are valued at several million dollars a piece and will live out their lives on fancy stud farms when their racing days are over. And you may think life as a horse ain’t so bad. One only has to drive through the pastures and fields in the central part of our state to see the grand farms where many former and fu- ture stars are living a life of luxury! But don’t be fooled… Unfortunately, not all of these won- derful creatures experience a lifetime of love and caring. According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there is a staggering number of more than 170,000 unwanted horses in the United States today. And, Southern Maryland is no different; there is a huge need for equine rescue in the tri- county area that has gone unnoticed for many years. The reasons for this situation for why so many horses and their foals are in need of attention include: Owner Surrender. Often, due to the poor health of an owner, he or she can no longer care for their animal or have the resources to locate a new home for these pets. They may resort to putting their horse up for auction or sell to a broker; either way the fate of the horse could be jeopardized and its future unknown. Seizure. Not all horse owners are suit- able caretakers and their animals may be abused or neglected. They may not be knowledgeable enough to care for these creatures and the horse may begin to suf- fer in many ways. Once these situations are discovered, local animal control agen- cies will become involved and the owners Photos by Mike Batson will be forced into surrendering the ani- mal which can lead to trauma and stress. Slaughter Industry. Horse meat is con- sidered a delicacy overseas which leads to thousands of horses being slaughtered in the United States for shipping to other countries. Many horses are sent across our borders to Canada and Mexico to meet a brutal end. The treatment of these animals in shipment and at the slaughter plants is often horrific. Nurse Mare Foals. Brood mares can be expensive therefore they are not per- mitted to nurse their own offspring to al- low the mare to be back in the show ring or back at the race track in minimal time. A nurse mare is brought in to nourish the foal and in order to keep the nurse mare nursing, she is continually kept pregnant for this service. Little is known about what becomes of her many foals, but it is feared many are cast aside to a questionable fate. Pregnant Mare Urine. The urine is used to provide hormones in the produc- tion of certain medications. The mares must be kept continuously pregnant leav- ing their foal to be cast off with no mother to look after them as well. To meet these growing needs for res- cue and sanctuary services in Southern Maryland, the Freedom Hill Horse Res- cue [FHHR] in Owings was founded in 2004 to rescue horses from neglect, abuse, abandonment, and slaughter. This all-vol- unteer, non-profit 501[c]3 organization is dedicated to improving the lives of horses by providing a safe haven for healing and rehabilitation. They also work with equine partners to educate, inspire and improve the lives of youth and their families. They develop educational and equine-assisted programs to pair up the rehabilitated horses and children in an effort to teach the philoso- phy, principles, and techniques of natural horsemanship. Their main goal is to help horses that have come from unfortunate circumstances to be “Free to Live Again” and to give these animals the best quality care while they are with us. To learn more about this organiza- tion, the County Times was invited by the folks at Freedom Hill Horse Rescue on ASPCA’s national “Help A Horse Day” celebration in late April to see their op- eration first hand. To make the day even more special, mem- bers of the “Days End Farm Horse Rescue,” a Maryland- wide advocacy group was visiting as part of their efforts to showcase 100 horses across the state that are currently available for adoption. They travel to horse rescues throughout Maryland to provide assis- tance and help place the right horse with the right person. They are involved with animal control agencies as well and offer legal assistance in court processes involv- ing litigation procedures. Interestingly, horses have been central to the ASCPA’s creation over 150 years ago when their founders caught a cart driver beating his horse and successfully had him arrested and prosecuted for mis- treatment of a horse! We met with Melissa Kuester, who en- thusiastically showed the farm, and their horses, and her staff of volunteers aged 10 through 60+. Several teenagers where there working with the horses, train- ing the newbies and genuinely enjoying their work, Melissa spoke of the horses as though they were her children, describ- ing their various personalities and differ- ing temperaments. Several of the rescued animals were being boarded there by their new owners and this arrangement provid- ed FHHR with needed operating funds. Three horses are currently available for adoption. There are strict procedures all pote ntial owners must go through before an adoption can take place. Considerable hands-on training is provid- ed to ensure a new horse owner has the ability and the passion for these animals. As with the volunteers, they learn proper horse psychology and behavior, learn how to feed, bathe, and groom the horses. They are taught how to lead these animals and to saddle them for a ride. At all times, an- other individual is present while a rider is on a horse. Several of the farm’s volunteers come over following class at the nearby North- ern High School. There are different shifts for feeding and walking. Older teenagers can be seen teaching the younger kids in the various ways of taking care of these large, lovable creatures. It was evident that happiness abounds with these young people who always seemed to be smiling! Not only are they learning good horse- manship, they are learning lessons in re- sponsibility, caring for others, and lead- ership in addition to the more mundane tasks such as stall cleanliness and barn maintenance. The good feelings this work provides appears to be infectious as every- one was there because they wanted to be and not because they had to be there! In the 13 years Freedom Hill has been in service, they have been successful in rescuing and re-homing 250 horses made possible by the generous contributions from individuals and corporate partners. In 2016, revenue was derived from six sources including grants, income from events, individual/corporate contribu- tions, and earned income from boarding, and education and clinic programs. They also receive funding from the federal gov- ernment’s Combined Federal Campaign [CFC]. Their CFC Code is 52449. Like most non-profits, they are con- stantly in need of help with direct horse care, feed shifts, grooming, barn mainte- nance, events such as the popular Prince Frederick Christmas Parade in December, training, marketing, social media, pho- tography, and so much more. And, you don’t need any horse experience, they will train you. If you may be considering adoption from FHHR, please know you will not only help a four-legged friend, you will also be freeing up space for giving another horse a second chance at life. They have a “Save Our Seniors” program that offers tax-deductible benefits. If you are unable to adopt one of these friendly animals, you might consider becoming a “Horse Angel” to help one horse on its journey to find a forever home by signing up for a monthly tax deductible contribution of $25 to $200 per month until “your” horse is adopted. Horses can be amazing teachers! The folks at FHHR develop individual and group activities with their horses to help facilitate self-identified needs in commu- nicating and goal setting. Plus, they offer several courses in horsemanship and many other equine related topics. Their motto is “People Helping Horses and Horses Help- ing People!” For more information about this ex- traordinary group of volunteers, call Melissa at 302-363- 3412 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a visit at their facility located at 7940 Flint Hill Road, Owings, MD 20736. Or you can learn more by going online at www. freedomhillhorserescue.com. Maybe when watching this year’s Preakness at Pimlico, you will give a thought for these other stars who were not as fortunate, but every bit as lovable as these race horses who lead a really pam- pered life!