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How You Can Help

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

When you add it all up at the end of the year, veterinary care is our biggest expense. It wasn’t always. Back when we started we rescued some horses that were in good health and only needed to be rehomed. Unfortunately the economy has turned against us, and we rarely have room for easy rescues. 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 and vaccinated and get a current Coggins. Every stallion has to be gelded, some rescued mares are in foal, and we still occasionally rescue orphaned foals - like little Smokey from the Louisville tornado – that need special care. Many rescues are injured or injure themselves while in our care no matter how diligently we work to keep them safe. 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 get 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

Food and supplements. 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 Safe Choice Senior and Nutrena Mare and Foal 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 much 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 corn oil to add calories. Hydration is also important, so some receive supplemental electrolytes to make sure they’re drinking enough water. It’s a long and slow process, beginning with weight gain then after 3 to 4 months, sometimes longer depending on the horse, they begin round pen work to strengthen their muscles. 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!

3. Training

Many of the horses that we rescue are wild and untrained, and some have never 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 been able to train a number of horses for adoption but there are horses that without additional training can be dangerous to the average horse owner, and these horses have to be 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. We allow our trainers to keep the adoption fee in order to reimburse them for their time and expenses but these fees rarely cover the cost to the trainers. 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 investments involve improvements and maintenance such as the ongoing need for dirt work, building new hay storage, feed sheds, laying new water pipe and electrical work. As soon as we think we have enough storage we realize we need to put up more hay next year or we need a second feed shed in the back pasture. 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. Remember the best way to help a rescue is to adopt, if you can't adopt then foster, if you can't foster then donate. Whether you donate to us or your local animal shelter, please realize that every bit counts, even $5 a month goes a long way in helping us to provide for animals in need.

5. Daily Operating Expenses

Okay, you have the land, barns and other capital items, veterinary care, training and food covered – what else could you possibly need? Well, there a lot of daily operating expenses that we all have that don’t fall into any of these categories. Fuel for our farm vehicles, utility bills, even the annual fee for registration of our domain name - all are expenses that we have no matter how many horses are present. Things break and a plumber might need to be called one day and a mechanic the next, fence posts and boards have to be bought, hoses and water troughs and hay racks are needed. Fly spray, basic meds such as Fura-zone and veterycin, Ivory soap, 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 and weed eaters, lots of other small implements and tools have to be bought for daily maintenance year round, and that’s if you have a husband or a volunteer who will do the work for free. Don’t ever believe anyone who says he rescues horses and all he ever does is feed them.

6. Pasture and Hay 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 proving to be impossible at Twelve Oaks where 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, sometimes more than once a year, and you don’t just bust open a bag and spread it by hand. Tractors have to be bought or rented, spreaders, sprayers and bush hogs either have to be used or hired out. Same with those like us lucky enough to be able to grow their own hay – the mowing, raking, baling and hauling have to be done by someone, and the maintenance on all the equipment has to be regular and complete to keep them going. Or we can buy hay for four or five dollars a bale – seven if it’s scarce and at the end of the season – and the two thousand bales we go through a year would be VERY expensive if we didn’t produce our own.

7. Emergency fund

This enables us to carry out 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’s 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. The rain is coming and you need to hire more hay haulers and another truck to get the bales into the barn before they’re ruined. There’s always something you didn’t anticipate, and a little extra in the miscellaneous account helps get you through.

9. Fundraising

It’s hard to explain why you need to have a fundraiser so you can have a fundraiser, but the old adage is true even in horse rescue – it takes money to make money. Fundraising is difficult. We know, because our inability to do it has landed us in this situation. There are people and organizations that do it well – grant writers, crowd funding sites, professional fundraisers, etc. - and needed money can be raised by asking for their help. They, like so many others, don’t work for free. Some require money up front – we avoid those – but all keep a percentage of what they raise. However, a percentage of something beats all of nothing, right? Other types of fundraising require money up front. If you want to sell t-shirts you have to buy them first. If you want to send out a regular mail piece to try and generate donations you have to pay the printing and postage costs ahead of time, not after the money comes in. If you want to host an event you have to pay for the food and other up front expenses. All of these things might result in a net gain to the rescue, but without the money up front none of them can be accomplished. People give us lots of great ideas but keep in mind we are working 9 to 12 hour days 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 were very grateful for the recent Ford’s Well Trail ride that netted over $2,000 but just our vet bills totaled over $3,000 since February. So, you get the picture. We have never ending expenses and our job at the barn is never done.

People give us lots of great ideas but keep in mind we are working 9 to 12 hour days 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.

10. Employees

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. Employees are the lifeblood of any service organization, and the more you have, the more service you can provide. We have one employee who helps in regular horse care and initial training and riding, and a part timer who cleans and spreads manure for us in the mornings. We operate our sanctuary at Muleshoe Ranch in Carroll County with volunteers who help keep the seven horses and one donkey fed, but not much else. We have room for more Sanctuary horses, but we can’t pay for an employee to care for them and our volunteers can’t give us any more time. At Twelve Oaks we can only move a horse through rehabilitation and initial training as fast as we can get to them, so our capacity for additional rescue is limited until we can get a horse ready to move to professional training. Additional employees will allow us to expand our rescue and sanctuary capacity in Carroll County, and will enable us to achieve a quicker turnover rate from our Twelve Oaks by simply allowing us to work more horses every day.

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. Anyone who thinks we’re in this for a profit has never rescued a horse.

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Send checks or Adoption Applications to:
Mississippi Horses
569 North Old Canton Road
Madison, MS 39110

call or text
Stephanie 601-201-8522

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No donation is too small and truly makes a difference. You can make a one time donation in honor or in memory of a loved one, sponsor a particular horse or give monthly. Thank you!

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