Rescuing horses and educating owners.
Motivated by rescuing Frannie, a neglected donkey with an eight-week-old foal by her side and another on the way, Billie Douglas formed the Colorado Horse Education & Equine Rescue (C.H.E.E.R.) in January 2016 with a mission to help horses and educate the public. We interviewed Douglas and co-founder/treasurer Deb Deitchel, to learn about C.H.E.E.R’s mission.
Horse Nation: What does C.H.E.E.R. do? You’re a rescue but emphasize education?
Deitchel: C.H.E.E.R’s priority is the animal’s well-being, meaning when we get a call from someone who can no longer afford caring for their equine, we work with them, whether by educating them on proper care or helping provide feed or veterinary care. If an owner’s situation [e.g. moving, serious health issues, financial trouble] precludes them from keeping the animal, we’ll step in and they can surrender the animal. When the animal arrives, we evaluate hooves, teeth, temperament, training, and any health or special needs they have; each is treated on an individual basis. We work with trainers and other rescues to help these equines and also use foster homes sometimes. Potential adopters and potential foster homes alike are subject to background checks before placing an equine.
Deitchel: The education part takes many forms: Our volunteers include several children who share our love of equines. They learn to clean stalls, groom, feed, and pick up hooves; it isn’t all work, they’ll saddle and ride one of the horses, too, we have a senior mare who loves children and lets them love on her to their heart’s content! We work with people who need to complete community service hours. In April, we’re having a Girl Scout troop over to learn about the equines, one girl is working on her equine badge and we’ll help her complete it.
We hold classes at our events, including demonstrations by a Reiki practitioner and a chiropractor. We offer one-on-one education for first-time owners or those have trouble caring for their equines. One facet of education is euthanasia; we occasionally see owners who don’t have the heart to put their animal down, and we’ve done interventions convincing them it’s the right thing to do. Our biggest push is educating people about the benefits of gelding.
Deitchel: We offer disaster-preparation pamphlets online: this came about after Hurricane Hugo hit Texas – Billie [Douglas] and I belong to an organization providing disaster relief resources for equines. After Hugo, we [Douglas and Deitchel] collected veterinary supplies, feed, etc. delivered them to Texas, and set up a distribution center away from flooding. When we returned to Colorado, it occurred to me that disasters happen here, and it’d be great if C.H.E.E.R. could educate people about preparation. I contacted the Office of Emergency Planning in Denver and asked if they had anything; they supplied the pamphlets you see online, and C.H.E.E.R offers them at every fundraiser and event.
Finally, we find many believe all they need to do is purchase an equine, buy feed, and the rest is easy. They don’t realize equines need their feet done every six to eight weeks, teeth floated annually, vaccinations, de-worming, plus feed and hay; it takes responsibility on the owner’s part. We post information at our events discussing the cost from purchase to vet, feed, farrier, etc. We want it to be a win-win for equine and owner, we want people to succeed and enjoy owning an equine.
Horse Nation: How does C.H.E.E.R. function? It sounds like you’re a network of several rescue organizations throughout Colorado?
Deitchel: I don’t believe any rescue can function without help from others. Our rescue is very close to other rescues throughout Colorado and neighboring states. This relationship is a win-win; we learn from each other, whether it’s “what’s the best feed,” or learning about the experience someone’s had with a potential adopter. When one rescue gets a call from an owner surrendering an equine and that rescue is full, the others jump in and find a landing for that equine. When an equine must be transported it’s not unheard of for nearby rescues to offer help. There’s no competition between us, sadly, there are enough equines in need to keep everyone going. As non-profits, we depend on each other’s and our supporters’ generosity. There’s power in numbers and everyone strives to be the voice for abused or neglected equines, to that end, we’ll pull together to ensure a better life and forever home for these amazing animals.
C.H.E.E.R. considers “all adoptions to be success stories,” said Deitchel, “we have some adoptees working as therapy animals, others giving riding lessons.” Frannie and her foals are among the most noteworthy success stories because they were the inspiration to start C.H.E.E.R. Frannie was adopted by a wonderful family, and, per Deitchel, “it was a match made in heaven.” Frannie’s younger foal, Cheerio, was adopted by some neighbors of Frannie’s family, and the two horses are boarded together. Another recent success story is Denali, who placed third in her division at the Battle on the Rockies and has since been adopted. To get involved with C.H.E.E.R. visit them online at www.coloradoequinerescue.org or follow them on Facebook. For further information, email them at [email protected].
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.