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It goes without saying that the greatest way to help a rescue organization is to adopt a horse, if you can’t adopt then foster, if you can’t foster then please donate. The greatest need for horse rescue organizations is public support. On the average, we spend between $1,500 and $2,000 on every horse that enters our gates before it is ready to adopt. Some horses may remain with us for a year or two while going through physical and emotional rehabilitation.
Ten Reasons To Donate
1. Veterinary care
1. Veterinary care
When you add it all up at the end of the year, veterinary care is our biggest expense. Virtually every horse we save is in trouble and needs veterinary care, often over a long period of time. Even if they’re relatively healthy they need to be wormed, vaccinated and have a current Coggins. Every stallion has to be gelded and some rescued mares are in foal. We often save horses from auctions where they have been exposed to all kinds of contagious diseases including various forms of strep including the notorious strep equi (strangles) which can take several months to run its course. Sometimes they have chronic conditions that aren’t easily diagnosed when we first rescue them, and despite all our efforts some have to be humanely euthanized. On top of regular farrier care which is a necessary part of maintaining a sound horse, we have horses with hoof problems and lameness issues that require our vet and farrier to work as a team to correct the problem. Think horses don’t need specialty care from time to time? Think again. We’ve had horses who received care from chiropractors, massage therapists, specialty dentists, and others. We try to give them the best care we can afford because without it they won’t make it through the rehabilitative process. A sound horse is an adoptable horse and we do everything we can to give each and every horse the best chance at finding a good home. We have a great network of veterinarians, and some who have gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to taking care of these poor horses, but they can’t work for free. Nothing we do will help save a horse without a foundation of good health, and that’s where our vets come in. They’re the best!
2. Food and Supplements
The second reason to donate to Mississippi Horses is to help us purchase food and supplements for our rescued equines. Most of our rescues suffer from malnutrition, so the first and most important thing we do is improve their nutrition so they can put on weight and get to a healthy state. This involves small but increasing amounts of expensive, high protein feed – Nutrena Pro-choice Senior, Nutrena Alfalfa Pellets and Nutrena Safe Choice are our preferred products – given as often as four times a day since too much food in one sitting can cause other problems. We have learned that better quality feed puts weight on them quicker and safer than cheaper brands. Many need supplements as well, whether U-Guard to help with gastrointestinal issues or just a scoop of dry alfalfa or shot of soybean oil to add calories. Hydration is also important, so some receive supplemental electrolytes to make sure they’re drinking enough water. Rehabilitating the emaciated horse is a long and slow process, beginning with weight gain. After 3 to 4 months, sometimes longer depending on the horse, they begin round pen work to strengthen their muscles. Some will take over a year to recover – look at the Clinton 10, most of them are under the age of 5 and their bodies are stunted and they have been in survival mode their entire lives. Some may never completely recover from the affect of long term malnutrition. All of this has to happen before they can be fully evaluated and trained in order to find a suitable home. It is so rewarding to see the difference in the horses from when they enter the rescue system until the day they are adopted. We share their stories so you too can appreciate where they came from to where they are today!
Many of the horses that we rescue are untrained with some never having been handled. Worse still, many have been unintentionally abused through rough training methods, causing them to have trust issues. Many of our horses can usually be settled down during their rehabilitation phase, but a thorough assessment and additional training is a must to insure the happiness and safety of the adoptive family. We have a large network of trainers that use similar Natural Horsemanship techniques that allow our volunteers to prepare the horses for training and can mentor new adopters so they too will be able to have a safe and rewarding horse experience. Our adoption program works hard to match the right horse with the right owner by providing lessons to the new owner to help them establish a true partnership with their horse before taking it home. Many of our volunteers have been with us so long that they can re-train many of our horses, but there are still horses that can be dangerous and these horses are turned over to professional trainers. Re-training an abused horse takes much longer than training a horse that has never been handled – many of our trainers keep these horses for months, even years. Trainers, like our vets, can not work for free. If we had more money we could devote to professional trainers we could move even more horses freeing up space to save others. We can’t do it without them, though, and every dollar spent on them is a dollar well spent.
4. Capital investment
Capital investment, which involves improvements and maintenance such as the ongoing need for dirt work, fence repairs, laying new water pipe and electrical work. It’s finally dawned on us the wear and tear on your property after having 600 horses come through your barn doors. Many of the horses are wild, have kicked stall walls, broken through fences (no matter how secure you think they are) and the wearing down and erosion of dirt is so significant that it’s exposed concrete creating a dangerous situation for horses being led in and out of the barn. In rescue it’s a constant revolving door with new horses coming in and healthy rehabilitated horses leaving for their new homes. We need lots of individual paddocks with shelter, quarantine areas and places to keep stallions and pregnant mares. The social order of horses is very important and those in a weakened state of health are too vulnerable to be placed with the main herd. We try to put as few horses together in a pasture that we can to avoid the constant battle over pecking order. All of these things are important for any rescue operation. Thankfully we have all the land we’ll ever need but to maintain and keep it safe for large number of horses is an ongoing challenge and expense, and keeping our facilities safe and up to date is a constant challenge.
5. Daily Operating Expenses
Many people don’t think about the daily operating expenses but there is so much to keeping two horse farms running. Fuel for our farm vehicles, utility bills, insurance, even the annual fee for registration of our domain name – all are expenses that we have no matter how many horses are present. Light bulbs have to be replaced, hoses and water troughs wear out and get holes in them. The fly spray system requires maintenance and hoses are constantly needing to be replaced. Shampoo, fly spray, basic meds such as Wonder Dust and vetericyn, Listerine, brushes, lead ropes, halters, bridles, feed buckets…can you imagine taking care of horses without basic horse stuff to use every day? Lawn mowers, fans, electric drills and weed eaters, lots of other small implements and tools that are necessary to keep the barn running in tip top shape. The expense of these items are small when looked at separately but quickly add up.
6. Pasture Management
Horses graze year round, and they need hay when they can’t get enough grass in the winter months. This requires lots of time and money to make sure they’re getting the nutrition they need from their forage. It’s easier and cheaper when you can rotate your horses on and off the different pastures, but that’s impossible when there are too many horses to keep one pasture at a time out of service. Even if you have plenty of land, often it’s difficult to put too many horses in the same pasture due to personality issues and safety concerns. Weed killer, lime and fertilizer are all needed. We have tractors, sprayers and bush hogs but we are so busy and hands on with the horses that it’s hard to carve out the necessary time to get it done. And then there’s always tractor maintenance and repairs. Our tractors are ancient. Old Blue at Muleshoe is pretty trust worthy until its not. Then there’s Big Red at Twelve Oaks that needs the hydraulic cylinders rebuilt. In the meantime, we just keep adding hydraulic fluid because it’s needed to put out hay and is in constant use. It’s now spring and it’s time to spray for weeds and put out lime. These are things that can’t be done by hand. And then the chore of bush hogging begins. As soon as we get all the pastures cut, it’s time to start over. We rely a lot on our volunteers to help with these chores and they help us keep the costs down but there’s just not enough hours in the day and we have to hire the work done.
7. Emergency fund
Being able to handle emergencies is a very important part of our mission, because we seldom get a call that 18 horses need to be rescued a month from now. When law enforcement calls us it is usually a life or death situation that has to be acted upon immediately. We have to be able to move fast to do the kind of work we do, and it’s vital to have money available in situations that require fast action. From large volume seizures to simple euthanasia for a suffering horse, there are some things that can’t wait until we have a fundraising drive. It’s impossible to predict how much you’ll need in a given situation, but it’s never bad to have a little surplus you can use for emergencies.
8. Unexpected Expenses
You can budget all you want and be careful with every penny and still have unexpected expenses. Most are one time – the wind blew the roof off one of your feed sheds, for example – but it happens often enough that you need some extra money in the budget for miscellaneous expenses. Although these problems sometimes need a quick fix, they don’t necessarily have to be emergencies. You don’t ever plan for the tractor battery being replaced or a tire being torn up. It’s hard to set aside enough money for the extra shavings you have to buy when the rainstorm floods the stalls or there’s an extra-long winter. Sadly, our ability to fund these expenses through our personal bank account has slowly but surely diminished over the last twelve years or so, and we no longer can count on being able to write a check to the rescue every time it’s needed.
Many people don’t realize that we depend solely on public donations. Money raised through a fund raising plea on Facebook or through our monthly donors is crucial in order to supplement adoption fees that very rarely cover the expense incurred by that horse. We have amazing volunteers who not only donate their time, but are our biggest contributors. There are many ways that you can make a donation! Our biggest fundraiser is the Annual Safe Horse Auction which has been put on hold during the pandemic. While I wish we had more time to raise funds, because the more funds we have, the more horses we can save, our volunteers are working 9 to 12 hour days caring for horses, working on adoption applications, training/riding/getting the horses ready for adoption, bathing, tending to a swollen leg, sunburns, rain rot, you name it, maintaining pastures, equipment, web site and all the other previous reasons we mentioned earlier. We receive no funding except from you, our supporters. We have never ending expenses and our job at the barn is never done with very little time to devote to fund raising. So any help in this department is always greatly appreciated.
We saved the best for last, because no rescue with our size and scope can survive without help. Volunteers are great and ours are the best we could hope to have, but they can only do so much. Paid employees are the lifeblood of any service organization, and the more you have, the more service you can provide. While we accomplish a lot with volunteers, it’s our paid staff who oversees the care of the horses on a daily basis. They are the ones that feed, clean stalls, meet potential adopters, transport horses to the vet, meet with farriers, bush hog the pastures, and the hundreds of other things that have to be done on a daily basis. We are blessed with loyal employees who have our horses’ best interest at heart. It’s a hard job, emotionally and physically and it’s not a job as much as it’s a labor of love.
One more thing…no one in the Billingsley family has ever taken a dime from Mississippi Horses. We don’t consider ourselves employees of the rescue organization despite the seven days a week schedule that we work. We have been blessed to be in a position to donate our time and finances to an organization that has turned into far more than we ever expected. If you’ve read this far, thank you for caring. We understand that some can’t spare a few dollars or give to another charity of choice, but everyone can share our posts and tell other horse lovers about our mission. Thank you!