Today’s honoree: Friends of Ferdinand.
Friends of Ferdinand is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Indiana with its training center based in Ohio. We spoke with FFI president Sarah Busbice to learn more about this rescue’s story.
Horse Nation: How did Friends of Ferdinand get started?
Sarah Busbice: That’s actually kind of a funny story… back in 2005, there were a couple of guys — they were gamblers, they weren’t horsemen — and they went to the track for the races and had a conversation with a breeder who told them that a lot of injured or slow horses typically wound up shipping for slaughter. These two guys hadn’t known that, and they decided that they had to do something about it.
So at end of season sale that year, these two guys come through the track and they buy a few at-risk horses. I was there as a volunteer at the time, helping facilitate the purchases and coordinating the loading of horses and so on — I went up to the guys and congratulated them on their purchase, and offered to help them load their horses. They responded, “What do you mean, a trailer? We thought we had a few weeks to figure that part out.” “No,” I told them, “the track is closing today… you need to have these horses out today!”
I stepped in to help these guys at this point, and coordinated temporary homes for these horses at boarding barns all over the area, and a year later, the two founding guys stepped out to work on their next project and I took over from there. We started with those four horses and grew, one horse at a time.
HN: What’s the process for horses moving through your rescue?
SB: We work very hard to make sure we take our time and treat each horse individually. We do a very thorough assessment of their injuries and temperament, and do quite a lot to get them sound. When a horse is vet-cleared to go into work, they start under saddle in Ohio with our professional trainer Lori Miller, who keeps a block of stalls in her barn open for FFI. We assess if they stay sound in work and then what kind of work they might be best suited to.
When they’re ready for adoption — we adopt most of ours to amateur riders — we’ll start accepting applications for that particular horse. We don’t do any sight-unseen adoptions: an interested adopter needs to come to the barn, take a lesson on the horse with Lori and make sure it’s going to be a good match. Lori is very good at matching horses and riders. If the match is right, the horse can go home on a 30-day trial, and we turn over all of his vet records. We’re all about total transparency in the process.
HN: Do you focus specifically on rehabilitating injured horses as a rescue?
SB: Not necessarily; after all, all horses have something wrong with them somewhere. But the horses who come off the track sound move faster through our process than the injured horse, and those horses help pay the way for the ones that need more time. We don’t do sanctuary here — everything is adoptable, and we don’t take anything on that is not rideable.
HN: Describe for us your facility arrangement.
SB: We don’t have a central facility; in Indiana, we operate through foster homes. They’re all mostly in central Indiana, so they can be close to our favorite vets. The foster homes allow one-on-one individual care for the horse, and we have several fosters for horses depending on their individual need: I have one lady who loves to do stall rest, bless her, so a horse who needs stall rest will go to her until he’s ready. Then he might move to another farm which has great small paddocks for first turnout, and then on from there. We’re really flexible in our facility usage.
And Lori is based in Ohio, so our horses ready for training will all go to her. Having Lori handle all of our training and adoption pairing means that there’s a lot of consistency in our adoption.
HN: What’s one thing you wish people knew about the specific work that you do?
SB: We’re a little bit different from a lot of placement groups: we ride them. We want you to come and ride them. We take our time: we only have 15 to 18 horses in the program at any one time and they do not move forward until they’re absolute ready. We have that 30-day trial — if it doesn’t work, bring it back, and we’ll try to match you with a different one. We understand that life happens and sometimes you’re not able to keep a horse… if that happens, we will always take one of our horses back.
We recently got involved in a rescue case because one of our horses got caught up in it: an adopter ran into some changing life circumstances and gave the FFI horse to a friend, which is against our adoption policy. The friend recently had ten horses seized from her property with a body score of one. We made the original commitment to that horse, so we stepped again now to continue to honor that commitment. We’re fundraising for bedding and grass hay, and covering the vet bills for four of the horses. Other placement groups have stepped in because some of their horses were caught up in this too — while it’s been a bad situation, it’s also been a great example of various rescues and networks coming together to do what is right.
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.