Three retired horses from Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Clark arrived last week at Longmont’s Colorado Horse Rescue.
On the nonprofit’s 51 acres, Grizz, a 25-year-old quarter horse; Henry, a 26-year-old quarter horse, and Delilah, a 21-year-old Clydesdale mare, will be cared for until they are adopted and taken to a new home. If not for the Colorado Horse Rescue’s partnership with The Annie Project, the horses’ fates might have been markedly different. Retired dude and guest ranch horses often are sold at market auctions, where they are purchased by horse traders and routed into the slaughter pipeline.
The horses are the first arrivals to be saved through the Longmont horse rescue’s partnership with The Annie Project. Founded by Drifter’s Hearts of Hope horse rescue in Franktown, The Annie Project works to re-home retired dude and guest ranch horses.
Rachel Corbman, operations manager for the Colorado Horse Rescue, 10386 N. 65th St., said the new partnership began Aug. 15 after Drifter’s Hearts of Hope reached out to Colorado Horse Rescue to ask the nonprofit whether it wanted to be involved in the project.
“We said, ‘Of course we do.’ The horses that come through the program are very adoptable. They’re trained and quiet, and they really are desirable in the horse community,” Corbman said. “It’s a really nice way to give horses that have given so much to the community a way to transition to a home, so they can still be ridden just not quite at the intensity level of what they would be expected to do at the guest ranch.”
Horses, which live an average of 30 years, are brought to the rescue primarily from private owners who aren’t able to care for them anymore. The rescue also takes abused and neglected horses. New arrivals first spend two weeks in quarantine to adapt to their environment and receive veterinary care. The rescue then works to train them, before they will be ready for adoption.
The Annie Project partnership builds on the Longmont nonprofit’s efforts to promote awareness about the slaughter of horses. Already, Colorado Horse Rescue attends auctions roughly once a month to bid against “kill buyers.” Corbman said the horse rescue will still attend auctions when it has the space and resources to do so. The nonprofit typically rescues three horses during every auction trip.
The Colorado Horse Rescue reports that an average of 10 horses a week are sold to kill buyers in Fort Collins. Between 2015 and 2019, the Colorado Horse Rescue said that 355,821 horses were exported from the U.S. to Mexico for slaughter and that another 92,992 were exported in the same years from the U.S. to Canada for slaughter.
Jacqui Avis, president and founder of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope horse rescue, created The Annie Project in 2017 through a partnership with Granby’s C Lazy U Ranch, one of Colorado’s biggest dude ranches and the Colorado Dude Ranch and Guest Association, a hospitality service based in Shawnee.
The Annie Project has rescued 111 horses so far this year.
The project’s namesake comes from the rescue of a horse named Annie, who was being sold at the Centennial Livestock Auction in Fort Collins in 2017. The retired C Lazy U Ranch horse was described as well-mannered and sweet, but was no longer able to handle carrying people up steep terrain, so she was put on the auction circuit. Drifter’s Hearts of Hope bid for Annie against a horse trader, otherwise known as a “kill buyer,” according to the nonprofit. Drifter’s Hearts of Hope won the horse for $702.
Drifter’s Hearts of Hope estimates that roughly 20% of horses in statewide livestock auctions are rescued, while the other 80% are slaughtered. Horse traders then ship the animals for meat production, Avis and Corbman said.
Drifter’s Hearts of Hope has a capacity for 50 horses. The Franktown nonprofit has partnered with two other horse rescues, including the Colorado Horse Rescue and the Terolyn Horse Rescue in Elizabeth to help to re-home horses through The Annie Project. The new partnership with Colorado Horse Rescue will help save more horses.
“With 15 ranches, we can’t possibly take every single one of those horses,” Avis said. “We are just not big enough. We are always at capacity. With a few partners… we can disperse them. (The new partnership) helps to take some pressure off of us and at the same time, we can find horses new homes.”
The Colorado Livestock Auction, which auctions horses in Fort Collins, did not respond to requests for comment.
After purchasing Annie, Avis said nonprofit leaders talked with C Lazy U Ranch to come up with a program for retiring the horses.
Dude and guest ranches voluntarily turn the horses over to the The Annie Project free of charge, an element that Avis said has been one challenge in growing the partnership because some ranches want money for the horses.
“Our job is to try to encourage them to do better by their horses and let a rescue take them,” Avis said.
Avis hopes to see the program grow its partnerships so more horses can have a second chance at finding a place to call home. Since its 2017 inception, The Annie Project has partnered with 14 ranches in Colorado and one Wyoming ranch to obtain horses.
Colorado Horse Rescue, which gets its funding through private donations, grants and fundraising, has a capacity for 60 horses and is currently at capacity. In 2019, the nonprofit found homes for 58 horses. This year, 40 horses are expected to find homes, a number reduced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Corbman looks forward to seeing the nonprofit’s newest residents find their next home.
“They seem very kind and very quiet,” Corbman said.
This content was originally published here.