HN Blogger Contest finalist Leah Braman takes a moment to introduce us to Horses’ Haven, a rescue that’s “on a mission to rescue, rehabilitate, retrain, and rehome at-risk equines.”
Our finalists in the 2022 HN Blogger Contest are back with their Round Two submissions! For this round, we asked each of our finalists to highlight a business, entity, or organization doing good in the horse world. We’ll be sharing their responses this week — and we want to know what you think as a reader! Share your thoughts in the Facebook comments section.
Renowned horseman Tom Roberts wrote, “Perhaps the greatest kindness you can do any horse is to educate him well,” a saying clearly reflected in the peaceful setting of Horses’ Haven in Howell, Michigan.
Founded in 1995 by Barbara Baker, Horses’ Haven quickly grew as a sanctuary for horses in need. The rescue’s impact grew even more in the last eight years as the focus shifted from offering sanctuary to providing rehabilitation and retraining to help horses become adoption candidates. From young, rideable horses to elders in need of a soft landing, each horse is assessed and taught basic handling skills to become a good equine citizen and, when appropriate, receives saddle training to prepare for any future job. In 2021, 115 horses arrived at Horses’ Haven, and thanks to the rehabilitation and training program, 76 went on to find their forever homes.
Running a rescue of this magnitude isn’t easy, but through a board of directors, four staff, 132 volunteers, and community partnerships, the work gets done. Volunteer members of the Groom Team are paired with horses, and each groom becomes responsible for teaching his or her horse basic handling skills, culminating in an in-hand obstacle course. Staff rehabilitation team members are assigned to work with horses that are rideable to prepare them for future adopters. Certified equine nutritionists Joann Fairall and Kristine Dvonch ensure each horse receives the nutrition needed to bloom. Partnerships with the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Michigan pre-veterinary club help veterinary students gain valuable skills such as administering vaccines alongside working veterinarians in the field. It’s a true family atmosphere with everyone working together to help the horses.
In 2018, Horses’ Haven partnered with the ASPCA’s Right Horse Initiative, which seeks to reduce barriers to and increase adoptions of horses in need. The program has given Horses’ Haven more opportunities to access trainers, resources, and collected information from professionals in the rescue industry to massively increase equine adoptions. Horses’ Haven Operations Manager Kristine Dvonch will even have the opportunity to sit on a panel at the ASPCA’s upcoming national conference to discuss the best practices of adoption, giving her the chance to share the good work that Horses’ Haven is doing with other groups seeking to boost adoption success.
In 2021, Horses’ Haven hosted their first ever Animal Control Clinic. The event was a success and was offered again in 2022. Law enforcement officers received training on how to educate owners about horse welfare, identify crisis situations, and work with horses in need and were able to apply their training on horses at the farm. This program enabled officers who may not have much horse experience to become more confident in their work with our large, sometimes scary companions.
With such strong partnerships and outreach, Horses’ Haven is making a difference for the whole community, but the biggest impact remains on the individual horses and people involved with the organization. From providing at-home assistance to horses owners with veterinary care and feed during COVID through the Keeping Horses Healthy at Home program to the one-on-one attention each resident horse receives, Horses’ Haven offers hope to horses who most need it. One such resident was Shiraz, a once-champion Arabian stallion who arrived at Horses’ Haven in dire need of medical attention and groceries. Through nursing, lots of laughter, and training, Shiraz’s joyful personality re-emerged, and he became a wonderful addition to his new home.
It’s not just the horses finding hope and peace at Horses’ Haven–it’s the people, too. Dvonch observed that while every volunteer joins Horses’ Haven for their own reason, each finds growth and purpose through the work of caring for the horses. Volunteers learn how to work with the horses, but they also experience the unique presence of our beloved equines. Volunteer Anna shared that she joined Horses’ Haven to share her love with more horses than just her own, but that the peace of the farm has a deep and lasting impact on everyone. Walking along the paddock fences, it’s not hard to see why. Horses that were once shy, even afraid, of people perk their ears and meander over to visit, eager to investigate strangers and known volunteers alike. There is a softness in their eyes and a gentleness in their touch that speaks of love received and love given–a true haven for all.
Want to support the work of Horses’ Haven? Visit horseshaven.org to learn more!
About Leah Bramam:
I’m Leah Braman, a 30-some-year-old mom, teacher, and lover of all things horse. I grew up with horses, learned the basics of riding from my horse-crazy mom, taught myself how to show with help from 4-H, and worked my way up to showing at Tennessee Walking Horse breed shows (sound, flat shod shows only). I am currently horse-mom to 4 critters: Snappy, my 19-year-old heart horse whom I have had since he was 5 months; Raven, a sassy 5-year-old who is helping me rediscover how to teach and learn from horses; Emma, a late teens rescue mare who has taught me more than I can ever put into words about being present and the power of forgiveness; and Cricket, who is really my daughter’s [sometimes naughty] one-eyed pony of unknown origin. [What feels like] long ago, I was focused on showing to win, but these days, I’m all about the relationship with my horses. I would love to show the world that putting the relationship first doesn’t mean you can’t be a success in the show pen, but mostly, I’m just a woman trying to balance her home, work, and horse life successfully.