At Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR), a rescue horse’s new lease on life begins the moment they set foot in the Woodbine, Maryland-based facility.

DEFHR’s new arrivals first enter a rehabilitation program that provides them with veterinarian, farrier, and dental treatment for any issues that were brought on as a result of mistreatment or neglect. Once horses are fully rehabilitated, they enter an individualized training program with DEFHR’s trainers to ensure they become the best possible equine citizens in preparation for eventual adoption.

Beyond training, DEFHR horses also build stronger socialization skills through interactions with kind-hearted and patient volunteers and visitors who offer their time on the farm. One program in particular helps foster a deeper horse-human connection, which undoubtedly builds confidence in the sometimes-wary rescue equine.

The Equidopt Grooming Program is a DEFHR sponsorship opportunity that allows about 35 participants each year the time and space to build a special bond with an assigned rescue horse through weekly grooming and pampering sessions. Frequently, Equidopters start out as DEFHR volunteers that wish to spend more time with one particular horse. Such is the case with Nancy Johns.

Having been part of the program since October 2019, Nancy has witnessed tremendous transformations in several of DEFHR’s horses. We spoke with her to learn more about why the initiative is so near and dear to her heart.

What drew you to DEFHR?

Nancy: When I retired about seven years ago, I wanted to volunteer with animals. I didn’t think I could handle an animal shelter because I’d want to take all of the dogs and cats home. I’m pretty sure my three cats wouldn’t approve!

DEFHR was the ideal solution since I’ve always loved horses and knew I couldn’t take them home. I’ve ridden only occasionally throughout my life and have never owned a horse, but I’ve learned a lot about horses from DEFHR staff and trainers.

Why did you decide to join the Equidopt Program?

Nancy: I was already volunteering at DEFHR doing barn chores, grooming, and making feed. I especially loved grooming the horses and I knew that the Equidopt Program would give me the chance to spend an hour per week with a particular horse.

When I’m with my Equidopt horse, I try to make them feel good as they’re being groomed. I want every horse at the farm to feel special and loved before they get adopted. I also tend to tell them how wonderful they are—yep, I talk to the horses even though I know it’s not necessary!

What is your favorite part about being an Equidopter and how has the program made a positive impact on your life?

Nancy: I love spending time with each unique, always-special horse. In addition to my weekly visits, I’ve participated in groundwork clinics and lessons that DEFHR offers to Equidopt participants. Those have been the best experiences. I’ve learned so much, and it enabled me to connect with the horses on a deeper level.

Overall, I enjoy watching my Equidopt horses gain confidence. I’m always thrilled when they see me entering the field and wander over to join me. The ability to communicate with a horse gives me great joy.

I’ve learned so much from the horses and have gotten to know them better thanks to the extra one-on-one time that Equidopt allows. I’m smiling as I think back over each one from the funny, mischievous younger ones to the polite, anxious, or eager-to-please older ones. Most of all, they enrich my life and give me a practical way to express my love for them.

Is there any DEFHR horse you’ve especially bonded with through the Equidopt Program?

Nancy: They have all been wonderful. If I had to pick just one, it might be Colton. He is a lovely chestnut, not very big, a little anxious, and not dominant in the field. I believe he came to trust and like me. I certainly felt trust and love for him. He was smart and very willing to learn, whether it was getting acquainted with obstacles or turning on the forehand. He was the first horse who willingly followed me around when at liberty in the round pen. Spending time with Colton always made my heart swell with joy!

How do you think you’ve positively impacted a horse through the Equidopt Program?

Nancy: My goal as a participant in the Equidopt Program is to help set up each horse for success before they embark on a new journey with an adopter. I believe that some horses I’ve spent time with have become more confident and trusting of humans. It’s great to see these horses looking forward to an outing with me rather than becoming anxious because I’m taking them out of their fields. I believe that horses can became more “adoptable” when they learn a few more skills or simply develop better manners.

Anything else we should know about your experience with DEFHR, its horses, or the Equidopt?

Nancy: The staff members at DEFHR are fabulous at everything from rehabilitating the horses to evaluating and training them. The horses are surprisingly willing to give humans another chance. Some horses are not sound enough to ride, but many of the companion horses can do groundwork and seem to enjoy it. They are smart, like a challenge, and know that they are performing well. I never thought groundwork would be as much fun as riding, but in some ways, it is much more satisfying. For anyone interested in adopting a rescue horse, I’d encourage them to consider a companion horse.

Learn about Equidopt

Equidopt Grooming Program sponsors play a vitally important role in the lives of DEFHR’s rescue horses. In addition to weekly visits, Equidopters receive a DEFHR-branded grooming kit, seasonal gifts, plus opportunities to participate in quarterly ground clinics and an annual event at DEFHR. If you’re interested in learning more about the program, please visit: