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Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Horse Haven

Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse industry. Today, we’re recognizing Horse Haven of Tennessee.

Not everyone is qualified to own a horse. Yes, this is an inflammatory statement but one that we horse lovers know all too well to be true. Much like raising a child, it takes dedication, knowledge and adequate finances to properly provide for a horse. When someone unqualified decides to own a horse the end result can often be very sad. The horses end up living in poor conditions and their health is so bad that they have to fight for their lives.

Fortunately, in Tennessee, there is a superhero that saves abused and neglected horses. Horse Haven of Tennessee (HHT) is that superhero. HHT rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes horses that Animal Control has confiscated due to abuse and/or neglect.

Horse Haven was founded by a group of concerned citizens in 1999 who initially turned their own farm into a rescue for abused or neglected horses and rehabilitation facility. Horse Haven has since moved to a leased property in Knoxville, Tennessee and has rehabilitated and rehomed over 900 horses in the past 17 years. It is the largest and longest-running equine rescue and rehabilitation center in the state.

HHT is a grassroots, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, supported solely by donations and a small amount of grant money from private organizations. Volunteers provide the majority of the care for the horses as the organization only employees four full-time staff members. Over 80% of the charitable donations are used to cover the cost of care and rehabilitation for the horses. By rehoming horses, Horse Haven provides horse enthusiasts with the opportunity to obtain a horse if they can provide a good home and a small adoption fee. For the horse enthusiast this offers an affordable way of purchasing a horse and that now has a new life and a lifelong equine companion for the owner. In some cases new owner is not allowed to resell the adopted horse.

Isaac at point of rescue. Photo courtesy of Horse Haven, used with permission.

Isaac at point of rescue. Photo courtesy of Horse Haven, used with permission.

One particular success story is Isaac, a horse who had been abused, used in Satanic rituals and who looked like a skeleton with a sheet draped over his body. Through refeeding and care, followed by adoption from Horse Haven, Isaac is now a dressage show horse with many wins under his belt.

This type of success story spurs Horse Haven devotees to encourage new support for the organization. One way that Horse Haven gains new supporters is through its main fundraising event, Dancing for the Horses. The event is modeled after the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars, and pairs well-known locals with professional dancers who compete in a dance and fundraising competition. This event allows Horse Haven to provide an evening of fun and entertainment for its supporters while obtaining much-needed funds. Having previously only raised about $10,000 per event in past years, last year’s competition raised $50,000. This was huge for Horse Haven as the organization spent over 80% of its annual operating budget last year on horse care alone.

Isaac in his new life. Photo by Joanna Jodko.

Isaac in his new life. Photo by Joanna Jodko.

This year’s event is May 21st and features a variety of Knoxville celebrities, from news anchors to a popular salon owner to the University of Tennessee’s equestrian team coach. Since summer is a slow time for donations, Dancing for the Horses provides the money that sustains the organization until the holiday giving season arrives. Not only does Horse Haven need money for operating costs, but the organization also hopes to eventually raise enough money to purchase a permanent location. Leasing a property is too unstable, as they are always unsure if the farm owners may end the lease one day with little notice. Furthermore, they need a high-tech facility to better suit the needs of the horses.

Jacqui Pearl, Vice President of Horse Haven’s Board, says that Horse Haven is important to her because, “as a general animal lover, who has no real connection to horses, really, going out and visiting the facility and seeing the condition that some of these animals come to us in just really kind of pulled at my heart. And, I think it’s unique that I didn’t grow up with horses and I still feel a really strong pull to do what I can to help make their lives better after they come to us.”

Horse Haven is always open to people who want to help horses. They welcome volunteers, visitors by appointment, individuals willing to haul hay, help repair fences, help maintain fields, and any kind of monetary donation. If you would like to help Horse Haven by making a donation, click here to open the organization’s website.

Ashley Farrington is a former hunter/jumper lesson and show barn owner and professional rider and trainer who is now a mom, amateur rider, graduate school student and substitute teacher. Ashley learned to ride under the tutelage of esteemed riders such as New Zealand Olympic veteran Sharn Wordley. She used to spend every other week traveling across the nation to compete in hunter/jumper shows but now spends most of her time chasing after an adorable little boy.

Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

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