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Rescue, a 25-plus-year-old bay quarter horse, was found wandering with another horse in Tijeras this past October. Both animals were taken in by the Masleña Rescue Foundation in Tijeras after an exhaustive search failed to turn up the horses’ owners.
“Rescue has trouble eating and keeping his weight, so we have him on a special diet,” said Tori Ashley, who, along with Jeff Morewood, operates Masleña. “He has made new friends here.”
And now he is about to make a public appearance. Rescue is one of four horses Masleña is bringing to a Horse Show & Tell program from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the State Fair Equestrian Center at Expo New Mexico.
Ashley said Rescue had to be part of the show because his new friends, Pumpkin and Jasmine, a couple of 13-year-old mare thoroughbreds, will be in the program.
“Rescue, Pumpkin and Jasmine cannot be separated,” she said. “If I load up just two of those horses, the third one will go crazy.”
Presented by the New Mexico Equine Rescue Alliance on the first morning of this year’s State Fair, the Show & Tell program is intended to let the public know what New Mexico’s 10 registered equine rescue operations do.
Four of the 10 equine rescues – Masleña; Four Corners Equine Rescue of Aztec; New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin N Circles Ranch of Edgewood; and The Horse Shelter of Cerrillos – will be in attendance. So will more than a dozen horses.
This marks the first time NMERA, founded in 2012, has done the program.
“I don’t believe many other states have an organization like our alliance,” said Susan Hemmerle, co-chair of NMERA and executive director of The Horse Shelter. “We work together to get horses into rescue. We create a safety network because some of these horses could fall through the cracks.”
Masleña is a sanctuary operation, meaning all the animals brought there will live out their lives at Masleña. But Hemmerle said the other registered rescues are mixed operations, providing sanctuary for horses that because of age, illness or behavioral problems should not be adopted out and providing training and rehabilitation for those that can be.
“Some people think there are only old, decrepit horses at shelters, but we (The Horse Shelter) are bringing a couple of 4-year-olds (to Thursday’s program),” she said. “Equine rescues throughout New Mexico provide a valuable service to the state, its horses and citizens by rehabilitating these horses to be safe for the public to adopt.”
Some rehabilitated horses are suitable for riding and others to be companion animals that will not be ridden.
“Each rescue will assess horses to see if they are ridable,” Hemmerle said. “But training always starts with groundwork. Even if they are companion horses, they are 800-pound animals that need to be handled.”
A lot of hay
Horses cost more to care for than dogs and cats. That makes them more difficult to find homes for, but it also makes them more expensive to care for at rescue operations.
Hemmerle said there are more than 300 horses at rescue locations throughout New Mexico, and the 10 registered rescues admit more than 120 horses each year.
She said it takes $3,000 to provide each horse with basic needs each year, and that does not include training costs, facility overhead or more than the most routine medical procedures. She said The Horse Shelter spends at least $120,000 a year on hay.
Until very recently, horse rescue operations were funded almost exclusively by individual donations, grants and fundraising efforts. In the 2022 Legislative session, however, Hemmerle said lawmakers allocated $350,000 in recurring annual funds to the state’s Horse Shelter Rescue Fund. Taxpayers can also donate to the fund from their personal income tax return. Money from the fund is distributed to the state’s 10 registered equine rescues.
“This funding is a tremendous help to all rescues,” Hemmerle said. “We are very grateful.”
But she noted that the cost of caring for horses is such that even that amount will get stretched thin, so donations, grants and fundraising efforts are still vital.
“That’s why we want to show the public what we do, Hemmerle said. “We will be showing our riding horses and companion horses in the arena and talking about our rescue operations, adoption and volunteer programs.”
Ashley said there will be face painting, balloon animals and coloring books at the Masleña booth.
“We want to get kids involved with our animals at Masleña,” she said. “We want them to visit, to touch a horse. We want to change their lives, for them to be part of the animals, to know there is more out there than TV and computers. We want to be an educational outreach.”