Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to recognize an individual or organization doing good work in the horse industry. Today, we’re spotlighting Terry Figueroa and Arabian Rescue Mission.
Arabian Rescue Mission is a 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue with a farm based in New Jersey as well as a unique nation-wide mission to help facilitate the safe adoptions of large herds. Founder Terry Figueroa specializes in the Arabian breed having been a life-long enthusiast and owner. We spoke with Terry to learn more about the work that she does.
How did you get started with Arabian Rescue Mission?
I sought a way to give back to the Arabian horse. I was a very small-time breeder for many years — I’m talking 6 foals in 20 years, very small time. I showed my stallion and I had fun with him and just enjoyed the breed.
I started rescue by trying to help a mare named Pru. I found out as I worked to help her that it was her entire herd that was in need. That was in 2003 and I was privately funded at that point; it was just me. On my days off I would fundraise.
In 2006 I was able to purchase the farm, and in 2007 I went 501(c)(3). I still didn’t ask for any donations; I would do some fundraising to bail a horse from the pipeline but that was it.
In 2009 into 2010, I got involved with the rescue and placement of an entire herd. At that point I realized I had found my niche in working to help large groups of horses like that.
Describe that process of helping an entire herd or farm.
What I’m seeing happen in the Arabian horse world in particular is that the breeders are aging. Some of these lifelong breeders are in their 80s or 90s, their health is declining, their kids don’t want the farm and gradually they can’t care for their horses any longer. Care of the horses declines and then they’re in trouble.
I go to these farms in need when someone reaches out for help. I’ll fundraise at a local level within their community, get the word out to local media, start to advertise that the horses will be available for adoption and I don’t leave until the last horse is adopted. Typically we work right out of the farm in need, but sometimes in unique circumstances we move all of the horses to a local fairgrounds where they stay until they find homes.
What I’ve discovered in this process, however, is that people are less likely to donate their funds to help a herd in need. When 50-plus horses are still living relatively safe at home, there’s no sense of urgency.
But we make it work — when I come to town, I have local volunteers who help me out, processing adoption forms, communicating with our home office, doing farm visits and reference checks. I’m not just handing out horses to the first person who shows up with a trailer; it’s my responsibility to ensure that these horses are going to safe, caring homes. Every horse that gets adopted is sent with an individualized instruction sheet, helping the new owners make the correct choices for feeding the horse safely and bringing a poor body condition up to a better one.
The 2010 Ohio herd placement was so widely publicized that I began getting more and more calls to help with herds. I’ve gone all over the country. I’ve been able to build a network now in every state that I’ve been in, meeting people and bringing them together. I don’t always have to travel; sometimes I can process the applications and approve homes based on local volunteer support.
Do you maintain a more “typical” rescue at home too?
Yes. We have a few owner surrenders or slaughter auction rescues at home as well. I have a few horses there that will never leave the farm.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the work that you did, what would it be?
Facebook is a great tool and a great resource… but it also opens you up to a lot of crazy people. If you make one mistake, you live with that mistake for the rest of your life — and I’ve made mistakes. Social media is full of people making snap judgments on situations they’ve never been in.
It’s so easy to look at a photo of a thin horse and rail on the owner. No one intentionally wakes up and says “I think I’ll starve my horses today.” I’ve met these people — they are often sick, suffering from dementia, in over their heads and they need help, not judgment. One photo should not vilify a person for life. That said, sometimes prosecution is necessary.
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.