Gentle Spirit Horses is temporarily closed for intakes. We aren't even maintaining a waiting list right now due to the amount of horses we have and the ones in foster. But what does that mean?
Officially, that means right now we are at a higher capacity than we'd like to be - we have more horses to care for then we'd like. Our limits are in place to protect the horses we have and give them every chance at a good life, and takes into account financial support, physical space, and what we realistically can provide as far as attention, care, and handling given the volunteer base that we have. In winter, it also factors in that we try to leave some room for severely emaciated horses.
But what it really means is we have to say no. At least three times a week we receive a request for intakes, and we have to say no. People are trying to do right by their horses by reaching out to rescues to try to find homes, only to be met over and over again with "sorry, we're full". Unfortunately, many of those horses ultimately end up in auction pens, or their care slips and they lose weight, or in the worst case scenario end up getting to the point they are unsaveable. Not all, some families are able to rally and pull through and do what it takes to keep their horses, but most are only reaching out because they are at their wits end.
We try to offer safety net programs to help. Thanks to an ASPCA grant, we have limited funds to help provide hay this winter and we've already given out a few hay grants this year. We offer to network and share, and sometimes we are able to make a match without the horse even coming in, such as the recent story of Prince.
But normally, unfortunately, we just have to say no. And often, we never hear anything again, while we think about the horses we couldn't help and pray they found a good end. For people who live to help, it can be a very emotionally draining and stressful time.
If I could change one thing for the rescue, this would be it. But as long as we lease property, as long as we do not have an indoor facility to keep training during winter, as long as we are outdoors in the winter in South Dakota, and honestly, as long as we are responsible, we will have to have limits.
But, there is hope. There are ways to get us back to the point of being "open for intakes". With your help, we can say "yes" again.
Be an adoption ambassador. Check out our available horses at http://gentlespirithorses.org/horses, pick one or two, and network the heck out of that horse. Share when we post on Facebook to all your groups and friends. Adopt, if you can. Truly, adoption is what's going to open up intakes again. Horses need to find good, solid homes, to make room for others that need our safe landing.
Live near Sioux Falls or Humboldt? Volunteer. Yes, it's cold work right now. Yes, it's a drive and sometimes it's snowy. Yes, this time of year is tough for actual volunteer orientations and training - it's kind of a quick process depending on what you need. But if you are available in the mornings, or evenings, or weekends, we can figure something out. Very few volunteers make it through the winter with us and we understand why. It's cold, hard, thankless work ... except when you realize that the horses are the thanks. Seeing the senior horses fat and eating their feed twice a day is a reward unto itself. Finding the itchy spots under blankets and in their heavy winter coats and seeing the rapture on their faces when you hit that spot is a wonderful feeling. Does it fully counter balance the frozen toes, the achy joints and muscles, and the hour you spend wrapped up in blankets when you get home? Or the frustration of dealing with frozen water tanks, broken pipes, or blowing snow. Maybe not fully ... but watching Comet go around and lock everyone into their stalls, or seeing the baby faces pop up over the gate when you come in, kind of makes it worth it. Kind of.
And if you can, sponsor a horse. At the end of the day the most important thing is making sure we have the finances to keep going. To pay the lease on the farm every month; to buy the 25-30 bags of senior feed we go through every month; to pay the farrier for the 15-20 horses that are trimmed every month; to cover tractor repairs and maintenance around the farm; to pay for the use of the skid loader when the tractor is down to keep hay in front of the horses; to purchase blankets to keep them warm and other equipment as needed; the costs add up and up. Monthly sponsors provide the rescue a backbone to ensure that the base costs are covered, and help reduce the amount of fundraising and asking we have to do. Check out our sponsor page for options: http://gentlespirithorses.org/support/sponsor
2018 could be a very big year. We hope to find our permanent home this year, though that will require a lot of funding. We want to have a trainer's challenge for all the youngsters in the rescue but would gladly cancel the trainer's challenge if they all found homes. We'd love to be able to do a one-day open-door surrender day this fall, but again, need the openings.
"Closed for Intakes" does not mean closed ... it just means we can only help so many horses. "Responsible Rescue" means knowing your limits and knowing you can't save every horse, while giving the best life to those you can.
So let's make it a goal to find homes!