When horses are rescued from neglect or abuse situations, oftentimes they’re relocated to a local or nearby equine rescue facility.
However, it’s not uncommon for rescue organizations to be burdened with limited staff and funding, or an influx of horses putting them over capacity. Such was the case for Holland’s Hustle, a 10-year-old Quarter Horse mare who arrived at Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, in the fall of 2018.
Not much is known about Holland’s past. The mare was initially part of a herd of more than 60 horses that had been seized by law enforcement and transported to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Texas. Like the SPCA, one of DEFHR’s key roles is assisting law enforcement with equine seizures.
When it was deemed that the Texas SPCA was over capacity on horses due to several large seizures in a short period of time, DEFHR staff agreed to take six horses from Holland’s herd into its training program. Funding was provided by a grant to cover the cost of transportation, and DEFHR’s Equine Program Director DeEtte Hillman and Head Trainer Sara Strauss worked closely with the SPCA’s equine department to determine which horses would be selected to enter DEFHR’s training program.
The frequency of this type of nationwide teamwork varies across organizations and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. According to Hillman, an increasing number of equine welfare organizations appear to be working more closely together through the network developed by the Homes for Horses Coalition—a national initiative dedicated to increasing collaboration across the equine rescue and protection community.
In DEFHR’s case, the organization offers its services as often as needed, providing it has the ability and capacity to adequately support the case at hand. Given that working equine interventions alongside law enforcement is core to its mission, DEFHR often gives priority to seizure cases that require ongoing legal support and horses needing rehabilitation and training. This collaboration between entities has paid off for horses in transition, like Holland.
Once horses in need are rehabilitated, professional training—whether in hand or under saddle—gives them the best possible shot at having a meaningful future in a new home. DEFHR’s two, full-time horse trainers are experts in evaluating and training rescue horses, says Hillman. Coupled with a network of off-site trainers, they make it possible for DEFHR to support like-minded groups.
“These resources make DEFHR well-equipped to assist fellow welfare organizations that may not have the opportunity to further a horse’s training before placing them up for adoption,” shared Hillman.
Once Holland and her five herdmates arrived at DEFHR, they were provided with veterinary care and staff ensured their basic needs were met in an effort to prepare the horses for training. This type of care included farrier and dental work, deworming, and vaccinations.
After eight months in DEFHR’s training program, Holland was adopted as a riding horse. However, when issues arose, she was evaluated, and it was determined that she had a mild case of kissing spines. With this in mind, DEFHR staff welcomed Holland back into its facility, retiring her as a groundwork and companion horse, and entering her back into training with Strauss, who helped expand the mare’s in-hand abilities.
Holland is now thriving and her personality has blossomed. “At first, she was pretty shut down and very wary of interaction with people,” said Strauss. “However, you could tell she wanted to enjoy the company and the attention, and she came around with time and patience from staff and volunteers.”
One volunteer in particular, Sandy Fain, played an integral role in the mare’s progress. As a volunteer trainer for DEFHR, Fain spent time working with her on the ground and even took her to an in-hand horse show where she remained composed and handled all the new sights in stride. Given all Holland has accomplished since returning to DEFHR, Strauss is hopeful that Holland will find her forever home soon.
“Holland has a great work ethic and I think she likes to have purpose each day,” said Strauss. “Though she can still be a little shy at first, she is very polite on the lunge line and has done a bit of long-lining as well. She is very fun to work with in-hand and would be a great fit for someone that is interested in expanding their knowledge and understanding of groundwork.”
Thanks to the willingness of rescue organizations and law enforcement to collaborate, horses like Holland are given a significant opportunity for a brighter future. “Working together helps ensure our horses receive the best chance at a purposeful life,” concluded Hillman.
If you are interested in adopting Holland, please visit: https://www.defhr.org/horse/holland/
For more than three decades, Days End Farm Horse Rescue has been renowned for working to not only prevent equine abuse and neglect, but also to educate the public about equine welfare and help their staff, volunteers, and members of the public become better horsemen and women. Learn more about DEFHR‘s adoptable horses as well as their numerous education and volunteer opportunities. Visit www.defhr.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.