Friday Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding: Copper Horse Crusade

This week’s honoree: Copper Horse Crusade.

Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization that is doing good work in the horse world. This week we salute Copper Horse Crusade.


Copper Horse Crusade rescues, retrains and rehouses as many serviceable slaughter-bound horses as resources allow and is a registered non-profit.

The organization was nominated for this week’s Standing Ovation by HN reader Beth Behrens:

“I would like to nominate Julie and the barn staff at Copper Horse Crusade in Cambridge, Ohio. I found CHC and Julie when searching for my current horse two years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t silently thank her when I walk into the barn and see my horse; the thought of what his fate could have been that day if she had not been at the auction just makes me sick. He is my first ‘rescue’ horse.

Mo, owned by Beth Behrens and rescued from kill sale by Copper Horse Crusade.

Mo, owned by Beth Behrens and rescued from kill sale by Copper Horse Crusade.

Julie Copper, founder and primary driving force of Copper Horse Crusade, kindly answered our questions about how her rescue works. She emphasizes the critical importance of resource management in running her operation. “CHC believes in doing the most good for the greatest number of horses. That means using resources — time, funding, feed — to save the horses that are most likely to find good homes in a reasonable amount of time. Being involved with saving horses requires continuously making the decision on what horses to save and what horses to let go. This is never easy.”

Where are your horses coming from at CHC? What is your ultimate goal for these animals?
The vast majority of horses coming into CHC are coming from the kill sales. I might define CHC as a “halfway house for slaughter-bound horses.” When I see some of the decisions that rescues make in regards to what horses they save I have to wonder if perhaps I should consider myself more of a “halfway house”:  I am not a sanctuary as some rescues seem to be. Horses do not come here to stay. Neither am I a rescue in the traditional sense of “saving every horse.” My goal is to use the resources that are available to do the most good for the greatest number of horses. It might be fitting to say that I have an intervention program for “at-risk” horses. While horses are here they are getting training to help them lead productive lives and be contributing members to “equine society.”
From left to right: Cactus in the kill pen; Cactus with her little girl Jayla.

From left to right: Cactus in the kill pen; Cactus with her new little girl Jayla.

What is your rehabilitation and rehoming process?
Horses coming to CHC undergo a 30-day training and/or evaluation period. This allows us to ensure that they are sound and healthy before going on to their new homes. During that time they receive farrier care and are checked by a vet. Beyond vet and farrier care, spending 30 days with incoming horses allows me to get to know that horse: the horse’s disposition, past training, current training needs and what type of rider the horse will be best suited for. Potential owners visiting the barn are asked a variety of questions to determine the suitability of the horse they are considering. Making a good match between horse and rider is vital to the long term placement of the horse and a positive experience for all involved. I get the most joy out of seeing older, seasoned horses get saved and then go on to success with young riders.
I think most rescues have good motives and I’m always glad to see horses pulled out of auction situations. But I worry about the long term placement of the horses and how a suitable match can be made when so little information is available on the horse. The goal is not only saving the horse from the immediate danger of the sale but also securing long-term placement for the horse. A new adopter can be discouraged pretty quickly by a rescue horse that turns out to be untrained, unsound, or have behavioral issues that weren’t known at the time of adoption.
It takes time to thoroughly evaluate an auction horse, to put that horse in a variety of different situations in order to accurately gauge training level, disposition, and soundness. Auction horses sometimes come with baggage. It is the responsibility of the organization that pulls that horse to sort through the baggage and find an owner or adopter that is appropriate.

Left to right: Autumn at the auction; Autumn with her new owner Sarah. At the time of rescue, Autumn did not lead, load or tie; after receiving a basic education at CHC, Sarah has continued work to create a confident, promising mount.

 You describe CHC as a “sustainable” rescue. Can you elaborate on what that means?
Well-established charities (The Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.) understand the need for good management practices. To a point, an equine rescue or halfway house has to be run like a business. Time and resources have to be managed. Equipment and facilities have to be maintained in a way that reflects a degree of professionalism. This contributes to the long term stability and sustainability of the organization. The long term has to be kept in mind for any organization to continue to function well into the future.

Horse rescues are not exempt from the principles of resource management and sustainability. Feed, hay, time, money and space are all resources that have to be managed wisely in order to do the most good for the greatest number of horses. When the number of horses that a rescue takes in exceeds the amount of resources available, bad things happen. Saving horses takes more than good intentions. It takes sound business principles, responsible resource management and a lot of commitment and hard work.

Please describe your facility and your staff, including volunteers.
Prior to the barn we have now, CHC functioned out of a number of less-than-ideal situations and facilities. CHC moved into the barn where we are currently in 2012. This facility allows us to train and work with horses on a larger scale and in all types of weather. We have 15 stalls and additional room for horses outside. We typically house about 20 horses that are in various stages of training, receiving the care that they need or awaiting placement. It takes a significant amount of money and skilled labor to keep the barn, fence and arena in good shape. Friend and farrier Jesse Hammons has had a major part in CHC and working with the horses involved.
Left to right: Kizzi at the auction; Kizzi with her little girl Macey.

Left to right: Kizzi at the auction; Kizzi with her little girl Macey.

Where does your funding come from? Do you have any upcoming events or fundraisers you’d like to share?
There are some donations and fund raisers that benefit Copper Horse Crusade but part of the sustainability of the operation is generating a majority of the funds needed from the sale of viable horses. Funds are sometimes raised to save a horse through social media (see links below.)
With as many as 80 horses coming through the CHC barn in a year, we are often out of names. Instead of a hip tag number, a CHC follower can name a horse for a $25 donation. We call this the Name Game.
On Friday, March 27th Julie sustained a serious broken leg at Sugarcreek while evaluating a horse. The injury greatly reduced her ability to put training and riding time on pulled horses. CHC will continue to function, but it may be necessary to ask for assistance with some of the expenses associated with pulling and placing slaughter bound horses. Fans of CHC have put together a YouCaring fundraiser page to help Julie with barn expenses and recovery costs.

Closing thoughts from Julie:

An operation like this is a lot of hard work, requiring huge amounts of dedication and commitment. It’s really tough emotionally. Being involved with CHC allows one to see the best of people, coming together to save a horse, and also the worst of people, who have no regard for their horse. Maintaining balance and perspective is important. The work can seem overwhelming. We would really like to gain greater exposure for CHC, reaching more people to support our work and thus saving even more horses.

Monkey with a member of his new family (which has adopted two other CHC horses.)

Monkey with a member of his new family (which has also adopted two other CHC horses.)

We applaud Copper Horse Crusade for the good work that they do, and encourage our readers to learn more at the CHC website. Readers can also follow CHC on Facebook for updates.
Go riding!
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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