Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse industry. Today, we recognize Strawberry Mountain Mustangs of Oregon.
Strawberry Mountain Mustangs is an Oregon-based equine rescue and recognized non-profit. Darla Clark of Strawberry Mountain Mustangs kindly answered our questions about how the rescue operates.
HN: What is Strawberry Mountain Mustangs’ charity status and mission statement?
DC: Strawberry Mountain is a recognized 501c3 non profit organization. Our mission is to provide to long and short term care, rehab and sanctuary to all breeds of equine, and to provide assistance to needy owners via feed, vet care, castration or euthanasia assistance etc. We also work to educate the public and law enforcement about proper care, training and housing.
HN: How did SMM get started?
DC: SMM started when we were introduced to the wild horses living on the Sheldon National Antelope Refuge in Northern Nevada. These amazing horses were old cavalry stock, but because they were not on BLM designated lands, they had no federal protection and were going to slaughter by the truck load. As we worked to gentle and place these horses, we became overwhelmed with the calls from law enforcement and animal control agencies asking for our help with animals they had seized who needed a place to go. Although wild horses are still a passion, it quickly became apparent that the niche we needed to fill was working with law enforcement to empower them to do extremely difficult jobs. We have since become known for our ability to do amazing rehabilitation work.
HN: Please describe your facility and volunteers.
DC: SMM is based on a 110 acre ranch located in southwest Oregon. The rescue founders and director live on site. The majority of our animals have access to 20+ acre pastures which we rotate through, all of which have run in shelters. Our main barn area is composed of 7 stalls with 6 foot heavy steel panels suitable for moving wild horses or housing stallions. We have isolation areas for quarantine and a chute system for emergency handling needs. Once the animals are through a QT period and are healthy and able to be introduced to a herd, we start socializing as soon as possible with suitable companions.
SMM volunteers are a fiercely loyal and hard working group of folks who jump in to haul hay, clear pasture land, foster horses, run tack sales, or schedule coverage for weekend duties so we can occasionally get off site! Without them, we would have surely lost our sanity long ago! SMM has NO paid staff and is 100% volunteer run.
HN: How do you acquire equines at the rescue?
DC: SMM works primarily with law enforcement and other equine professionals such as veterinarians or farriers. Law enforcement budgets state wide have taken massive hits in recent years, leaving some counties with NO designated animal control. When these agencies must act to save a life, we want to make sure we have space and funding set aside to assist them immediately. We do not buy horses.
We have also worked to provide funding and training for sheriff’s departments and the Oregon Animal Control Council so that officers have the training and equipment to recognize body scores and other neglect issues, and then act appropriately.
Once our horses have been fully rehabilitated, vetted and assessed for training, they become available for adoption. Potential adopters are screened and are required to visit, meet the horse and spend time to see if the animal they are interested in is a suitable match. Adoption requirements cover a no breeding clause, adequate housing, a return policy if they can no longer keep the animal, and lastly, a site visit and delivery.
HN: How are you funded? Any upcoming fundraisers we can share?
DC: SMM is funded solely through public donations and the occasional grant. We get NO federal, state or local funding, which is a big misconception because we do work with county and state agencies. We do not charge those agencies for our services, we do not want to take from their budgets.
We run a couple of tack sales every summer and fall which are our two biggest fund raisers. We have a volunteer currently setting up an online auction of jewelry, crafts, and so on: Anyone interested can search for “Auction for Strawberry Mountain Mustang Rescue” on Facebook. The auction is set to begin September 1st.
HN: What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about running a horse rescue?
DC: I wish I could think of something witty or funny to say to answer this question. Instead, after doing this for over a decade, all I can think to say is that it’s an all-consuming, heart breaking, frustrating job that less and less people want to do. There seem to be less rehab based rescue groups who truly focus on quality over quantity, and even less support for law enforcement. We find ourselves rescuing animals who have already been “rescued” from the auction or feedlot, only to end up in a spin cycle of neglect due to poor placement. Many times we feel like we’re chasing our tail. As more people donate to save from kill pens, paying the kill buyers, organizations like ours who step in during neglect cases are seeing a dramatic drop in funding. Sadly, the day will come when an officer is on scene, calling for help, and we will have to say no due to funding restrictions.
Donors, please visit your local equine rescue. Ask for references from local law enforcement. Is the rescue near them a help or a hindrance? Do they have the support of local veterinarians? Non profits are struggling, but always being in crisis mode with minimal feed and no long term plan for the animals in their care is a huge red flag.
Want to help? Even if you can’t help financially, get creative. We’ve had folks do car washes, bottle drives, help with tack sales, or like our upcoming on line auction. Foster homes are priceless gems in the scheme of rescue, so if you have a fear of commitment, try fostering. There are always ways you can help!
For more updates on Strawberry Mountain Mustangs, follow the group via Facebook.
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.