Two week reflective thoughts
It's been a whirlwind two weeks as we've worked nearly non-stop trying to get the structure for our dream in place, as well as help a set of horses that were sort of dropped in our lap. Tonight, I want to reflect a bit on what I've learned. Humor me?
First, I've learned this is not an easy path. It's a lot of work, and a lot of emotional stress. I didn't expect it to be easy, but it is FAR harder when you add in other personalities, miscommunications and misunderstandings, and you suddenly find out your family now owns 10 more horses and the hauler reserved spots on a trailer based on a "potential home" ... that you now have to pay for ... well it becomes just that much more stressful. I'm the kind of person that struggles asking for help, so to have people step up and say "go ahead and send the horse to our rescue, we'll find homes and get them paid for" or whatever ... huge deal. It requires taking a leap of faith on our part - but that's what we're asking others to do, with being brand new and still trying to figure it out.
I'd personally been working on a business plan and tossing around my ideas of what I would like to do "someday" for a couple of years now, so luckily I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted to see this develop. The past two weeks has only served to help define that even more. I've learned that everything has to be in writing, no matter how well you think you know someone. I've spent hours developing forms and structure, organization, setting up the financial structure and records, hours on the phone with potential homes, hours sending emails and setting up the website and working to just get everything up and running, finding four more board members (because with three in the family, I wanted to make sure we didn't have a majority), talking with lawyers about the paperwork and requirements.
We've got a ways to go, we know that, but it's starting. Thankfully I have a broken finger right now so I don't feel quite so guilty about taking so much time away from my OWN horses.
In putting together our Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws today, and preparing the draft of the 501(c)(3) paperwork, one of our board members asked me "what's going to make GSH unique?" Well, I don't know about unique - but I know what I'd like to do different. Like many out there I struggle with putting money back into an actual kill buyer's pocket. While places like Camelot and the PA Broker Owned program are stopping horses from going to slaughter - I want to avoid the last minute, high stress, emotional struggle to get them all saved. I want to take a step further back - and avoid having the horses go to the auction to begin with. I hope to become a resource for owners, breeders, yes, even dealers, to turn to as an alternative to taking their horses to auction or listing them as "free to a good home" on craigslist or other similar sites. Our ultimate focus is to work more with the owners directly - but honestly, most of them hang on until they have no choice but to send them to auction or give them away. I'm trying to provide that alternate choice and education. And if it means working with a dealer who has no problems taking a horse to auction - then I will, to try and rehome before they do go to auction.
I strongly feel that education and outreach is the real way that anyone is going to make a widescale difference. Sure, we can help 10, 20, 100 horses find new homes ... but that does nothing for the long term problem. There is a large amount of ignorance regarding horse slaughter in the US. Most people have no idea that horses are still sent to slaughter, just sent to Canada or Mexico. Where I'm from, quite a few don't see it as a big deal. But more often than not, the response is one of shock or surprise.
I feel better knowing I'm doing *something* for the horses, and not still wishing and dreaming. Going forward - every day the goal and mission becomes more defined, our roles become more solid, and our ability to make a difference becomes even stronger. We've learned that putting the softest hearted person in charge of the communication with the dealer because she has the history with him - not the best move. Putting me, the analytical, organized, type a personality with a legal background that is anal retentive about procedures and getting things in writing in that role is a far wiser choice. Bear with us as we fill up the pages with our beliefs, goals, missions, legal forms, etc., and add more history and stories of our permanent residents, as well as start receiving more feedback from homes that have opened their doors to these horses.
And always keep in mind what is truly important here - helping horses, and helping the people who own them.
Thanks, and good night to all.