Published: May 31, 2008 01:09 PM
Modified: May 31, 2008 01:09 PM
Rescue group provides foster homes for horses
Tails of Two Cities
We can help.These three words took Peggy Mason's lifelong passion for horses to a new level.She and her husband, Johnny, live between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. They have four horses and are always looking for places to ride.She got word about a trail ride fundraiser the U.S. Equine Rescue League was holding. It sounded fun, so she and Johnny signed up and took part. The ride was enjoyable, and they were so impressed with the organization's mission of rescuing neglected horses that they signed on as volunteers.That was three years ago. Since then the couple has fostered and provided transportation for horses and helped with fundraising events."My philosophy is that God put me on this earth for a reason," said Peggy, who is a real estate agent at Realty Executives Triangle. "I think taking care of animals is that reason. Every dog I have is a rescue. I can only take so many horses in, but I can do my small part to save God's creatures."The league has active regions across North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana. Its mission statement says, "The United States Equine Rescue League (USERL) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the compassionate care of equines. Our mission is to save, protect, and rehabilitate equines in need. We rescue abused, neglected, or abandoned equines; provide them with care and rehabilitation; and finally find them a compatible, loving home. We believe that education is the long-term solution to improving the lives of equines."The handsome gelding in the photo accompanying this column is Vitara, a foster in the league program who is residing at the Mason's farm. See his story and those of the other horses in the program at www.userl.org. "Our core group live and breathe helping these horses," Mason said. "We work to give every single one we can a chance that they wouldn't have without us. The ones we can't save at least we feel like we have given them peace."Orange County is part of the League's Triangle Region. The Triangle Region is fostering 67 horses. These horses need foster homes for various reasons; some have been seized in property disputes or other litigation, some are in rehabilitation or training or are up for adoption. And in a poor economy and with hay prices skyrocketing, some owners are not able to properly care for their horses. Horses are not put up for adoption until they are healthy and have had some training."We are honest about what their faults are," said Jennifer Malpass, director and board chair of the Triangle Region. "In all fairness, this is their future."In 2007, the league took in 197 horses, almost double its annual average. Malpass said that more than 90 of those horses were here in North Carolina. "In this region we have great fosters and quarantine facilities, so we help areas east of us because they don't have a quarantine or rehab facility," she said.So far in 2008, 73 horses have come into the league's program through neglect and abuse investigations.The number of horses needing care is up. Due to the state of the overall economy, monetary donations are down. Malpass said the League is concerned."We need the general public's support," she said. "That money goes for hay, medical needs and feed. Our medical bill in the past year has been almost double. We've never had to deal with so many high-need medical issues as in the last year."The league recently took in a mare and her newborn foal. The emaciated mom was found down, unable to rise; it was clear that she had just foaled, but there was no baby in sight. Her rescuers searched and discovered that the foal had rolled into a nearby ditch."We didn't think either would survive, but both are doing well," Malpass said. "We got four more out of the same place in the following week. This is pretty typical of what we are seeing, not just in the past year with the drought and the economy." She believes that the numbers are up not only because hay prices have skyrocketed but also because people are over-breeding horses. "People have continued to breed even though they are not selling," Malpass said. "This has been occurring for the past four years."The league does a lot of fundraising, partly through having booths at public events throughout the Triangle, which bring in donations and also spread awareness of the league's needs. For details on getting involved, see the Triangle Region's Web site at www.userltraingle.org. There is information on the site about a fun event called the Barn Program. Each month volunteers go to the Triangle quarantine barns to clean stalls, brush horses, scrub buckets and hold horses for the farrier. The horses thrive on the attention. E-mail email@example.com for details.Susan Filley Worthy, a ceramic artist and horsewoman, has a farm in Chapel Hill. Last year she and her daughter Kelsey were looking for a companion horse. Her good friend Liz Stewart, a farrier, pointed her to the league."We fostered this great little mare, Christine, who was quite scared," Worthy said. "It was so nice to take care of a horse and have her in a safe environment where I could see her calm down and become friendly and flourish. We really appreciated having her. She got healthier and more and more perky-eyed. We had a great time with her, and I would consider fostering again."She raves about the people who volunteer with the league. "They are so dedicated you can't believe it," Worthy said. "... It is incredible what they do."
Deborah R. Meyer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 942-3252.
2008 The Chapel Hill News