Monday, April 28, 2008

Wide Awake and Wondering

It is late at night as usual and I am awake as usual. Every day I see or hear about the horrific things done to horses and other animals and it makes it hard to fall asleep at night. I should have been asleep hours ago, I have to get up early in the morning to drive my kid to a new program, but here I sit watching Animal Planet and worrying about 3 young foals shot near Adobe Springs in Nevada. (Warning: there are VERY graphic photos on the previous link. Not recommended for children or sensitive folks.) I am also smoking, alot, I am trying to quit but days like this make that hard to do. I know, I have heard all the suggestions, don't read the emails before going to bed, don't watch Animal Planet... Honestly I read about the foals yesterday and the Animal Cops are happy stories, usually, about animals saved from the horrors they faced before their rescuers arrived. I know what people think I should do, but I am who I am and I need to know so I can fight for the right things. But it hits me, as it always does, about the time I try to go to sleep.

The poor animals on Animal Planet are there because they were throwaways. Often they are free to good home pets that when people get tired of them they throw them away. To some people if they are free they have no value. When your child gets the free toy from one of those fast food places, you don't care when it breaks, you throw it away. It has no value, ok those really don't have the value they once did, but I think you get my meaning. If for some reason you have puppies, kittens or a horse you no longer want don't give them away for free. If someone has to pay for them then they have more value. Better yet, make sure all your pets are spayed or neutered and donate your horse to a rescue or other program.

What does this have to do with the foals? I think that we all forget that these animals are our horses and our tax dollars go towards supporting them. They aren't some kind of pest causing problems for ranchers. They are worth MUCH more than the $125 (or sometimes less) "adoption" fee charged by BLM. These animals are history, they are living beings, they are beautiful and wonderful and invaluable. Just because the BLM has done a poor job of marketing and showing their value doesn't make them less valuable. In certain areas they are simply not aware of the value of these beautiful animals and something needs to be done about that.

However, these 3 foals that were shot were MY horses, your horses, this nation's horses and someone needs to pay for their deaths and suffering. Unfortunately, I doubt that will ever happen because the BLM just breathes a sign of relief that there are 3 less horses for them to deal with. The state of Nevada breathes a sign of relief because this is 3 less horses that they have to deal with. In a week nobody will remember these poor foals and that makes me sad. Because if we don't remember them and fight for them they will have died in vain.

Why am I so upset about these foals when there is so much horror in the treatment of horses? Because when a horse is abused there is a face and they can be prosecuted. Even if they get off without any significant punishment, there is still a stigma attached to being an abuser. If a puppy is abandoned in the back yard when a family moves, they at least TRY to find the people who did it. If nothing else, there is someone like the Animal Cops and their viewers who CARE and grieve for their passing. There will be no justice for these deaths. There won't even be an effort. So, I am grieving for these poor foals that lost their life simply because someone wanted that land to graze more cattle or because someone thought it would be fun to shoot some horses because their local government tells them those horses are pests. They didn't need to die and their deaths shouldn't be written off.

I've gotten that off my chest, so I am going to try to sleep. I am sure my dreams will be haunted by those foals and all the others that have lost their lives for no reason. I guess that is why I work so hard to save as many as I can, maybe one day no horses will haunt my dreams and I can finally get some rest.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How Can I Help Response

Thank you for your post about helping us in our work. It is a real validation when others think we are doing good work. We try.

There are lots of things that companies can do to help. You can become a member of AHDF, funds from membership helps us pay the bills and helps support the horses we have at our ranch in Texas. Companies can donate equine products that we can use for our horses, in your case a hoof stand and/or clippers . A really great thing would be a farrier in a box, but I am pretty sure that you don't carry things like that. ;-) We can always use horse products to care for the horses we take in or things we can sell. If you would like to be really generous hold a sale with proceeds to benefit the AHDF. You can also just send a donation. We are also looking to add advertising space to our website. At this time we do not have any ads at all on our site because we want to make sure that every ad is one from reputable companies, so we don't participate in Adwords or other advertising programs. So, in the future you could also advertise on the AHDF website.

We here at the AHDF appreciate any support we get. Like everyone else we have bills to pay and mouths to feed (read LOTS of horses) and they all eat like... well horses. All donations are tax deductible and a great benefit for corporations (and individuals).

Thanks again!

Monday, April 14, 2008

What is a Dream?

I am usually busy and can't go through my emails as quickly as I would like. The ones that suffer the most are those that go to my personal email account, I often don't read these for DAYS. That means if my adult kids want to get in touch with me they have to wait in line behind all the requests for info on opening a rescue, funding a rescue, finding a missing horse, reports of abuse and neglect or the hundreds of other emails I get. However, I do eventually get to those emails and today I read one I got last week that was called "What is a Dream". That title made me think, what is a dream?

Is a dream something that happens when you sleep? Is it a break you take when your mind wanders? I like to think that dreams are our way of seeing the world a better place. In our dreams we are in wonderful beautiful places (those that are in bad places aren't dreams, they are nightmares) and they have a soft glow. So, can a dream be a reality? I think so, otherwise nobody would ever say things like, it was like a dream or I am living my dream. When I was a little girl I would dream of owning my own horse and a few years later (I refuse to admit how many) I own my own horses. So, one could say I am living my dream. Is it perfect? Well no, I don't ever remember in my dreams having to clean stalls but I have my dream horse plus a few.
I like the saying if you dream it you can achieve it. That means we can pass bills to protect horses from slaughter, we can save our wild horses and horses can be saved from terrible owners who abuse and/or neglect them. I have dreamed it, as I know others have, we just need to make that dream a reality. We can't just sit around waiting for it to happen, nobody ever came up to me and handed me my horses. I worked for them and I have to keep working for them. Maria Schriver has quoted a Hopi prayer several times recently and it goes "Know your garden. It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for." We can't silently site back and wait for someone to lead the fight to do the right thing, we must be the leader and fight back the nightmares of abuse and neglect and horse slaughter.

If we all have the same dream of a safer place for horses, then we can make it happen. We must see S 311 and HR 507 pass this year and signed into law, that is the first step in achieving that dream. I will be going to Washington, DC the beginning of May to once again work towards that goal. I hope that everyone who reads this will call their Senators and Representative the week of May 5th (you could also join me in DC) and we can work toward making that dream come true.

Don't forget it also takes money to make those dreams come true too. Last year the AHDF placed 41 horses in homes where they are now living a dream with families that think their dreams have come true. All because we were able to save the lives of these wonderful animals. We still have 9 of these horses waiting for their dreams to come true, but there are thousands of horses who can live safer wonderful lives if we see our dreams fulfilled. All of that costs money, to put together packets for lobbying, for buying grain for all the other things that we do every day. Please consider donating to the AHDF, your donations are tax deductible and go toward making dreams come true on many levels.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Off to DC Again

Every year congress goes on break over the summer. How great a job is that where you get summers off like when you were a kid? Anyway, our last chance to lobby before the break will be in May. So, of course I will be heading off to lobby again in early May so that possibly we can see our bill brought out before the frantic rush of Appropriations when they return in the fall, which will overshadow our bill.

If anyone would like to join me, have me visit your Senator or Congressperson or take letters please let me know as soon as possible. I will be on the Hill May 5th, 6th and 7th. I will be visiting Senators the 6th and 7th and the House on the 5th. Please keep that in mind if you would like to schedule an appointment for me to visit your Senators or Representative. Keep in mind that if you want me to visit your Congressional folks you need to request the appointment and let them know that I, Shelley Sawhook, will be at the meeting. Then let me know the time and date so I don't schedule any other meetings at that time. If you have letters or material you would like hand delivered please mail it to me ASAP at AHDF PO Box 328 Covington, TN 38019 and I will happily deliver them. If you would like to join me let me know and I will help you try to find the least costly rooms. One possibility is the Key Bridge Holiday Inn, but there are lots of conferences planned around that time so if you would like to go you will need to make reservations early.

This is going to be the last push to get our bill heard before the break. Once Congress returns they will be focused on the budget and appropriations bills and elections, so the possibility of getting heard then is greatly lessened. If it doesn't pass this year we will be forced to start over from the beginning next year, as we did last year. We don't want to have to do that so please consider this the last big push.

As always there is something that those of you who cannot go to DC can do. You can mark that week and make calls. Let's let them know we haven't given up, that we haven't stopped watching and that we still care deeply. The folks who went in March did such great work, much thanks to Julie C (sorry Julie after all these years I still can't spell your last name), John Holland, Paula Bacon and all the others who did such an awesome job, but we need to keep up the pressure. Let's light up those phones and jam their fax machines! (Please I beg you all to keep it polite and professional, but be persistent.)

Let's give this bill one last big push to get it heard and passed this year. It has been pending for far too long. I know that there are a great deal of wonderful, passionate and determined folks out there and I know the horses can count on you for your support.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Great Book Coming Out

So often my day is filled with terrible things. I talk about horse slaughter, horse abuse and neglect, just suffering horses in general. That is why when I had the chance to pass along the information about the Soles for Souls program I jumped at it. A chance to do something positive. Well, today I got an interesting email about the pre-release of a positive book about horses. The name of the book is also uplifting, "The Soul of a Horse Life Lessons from the Herd".

The book is by the award winning author of the Benji books, Joe Camp. The book is about people who have absolutely NO experience with horses gaining the custody of a horse and their journey to learning not only how to care for a horse, but how to actually connect with one. The sample text is moving and does make you want to read the whole book.

Again, here I am shamelessly plugging a product that I am not paid to endorse. Since I do so willingly I am sure that is why I don't get paid. LOL (that's laugh out loud for those who don't know) Still, I think it sounds like a good uplifting book that everyone can enjoy and use to escape all the ugliness that surrounds equine welfare. The book goes on sale April 19th and you can pre-order it by going to their website. The book will be released in hardcover and e-book.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Most Common Question

In my position as president of the American Horse Defense Fund I get alot of emails asking questions. I try to answer them all as quickly as possible. However there are two that I get so many times a day that I am blown away. I try to answer every email personally and not use form emails because each one is from a wonderful caring individual and they each deserve an individual answer. someone has asked the question on my blog and rather than simply answering her personally I am going to answer it so it will be available to others too. Her question is...

Hello Shelly, I happened across your blog by accident one day and thought who better to ask this question than yourself. I am the happy owner of 2 QH geldings they are mine I love them unconditionally. BUT, in my family of horsey lovers there is a total of 11 horses, we have acquired through various ways. These lovely animals are cared for by my sister mother, niece, and myself. I really think we should be doing something in the way of the horse rescue as all of them came with issues, and have in our care grown healthy. Now of course we would like to find good loving homes for some of them but not all, and in our passing have run across more that we would like to help but this is an expensive helping business we are in and have been doing such for several years now just out of the love of the equine. Long story short, could you assist me in how to start a rescue?
thank you for reading this and any help is greatly appreciated.

Sherri Hanson

Starting a rescue is one of the hardest and most rewarding thing anyone can do, but it isn't for everyone. Even if you have been rescuing horses yourself for a while, rescuing full time is much different. It can be emotionally devastating, time consuming and financially draining.

We have an article on our website that talks about starting a rescue that I think is well written and informative. We also have information on the site that will help guide you through incorporation and filing for non-profit status as well.

Some people think that the articles are discouraging towards opening a rescue, but those are the folks that are just starting out. Those who have been in the rescue business say that it doesn't begin to tell how hard operating a rescue is. So, I think it is a good balance. If you are discouraged by reading the article then you definately should NOT open a rescue. We have had far too many rescues fail because they shouldn't have opened their doors to begin with. That leave the established rescues to clean up the mess and deal with the fall out with donors who are now jaded and horses that have suffered yet again, even if the intentions were great.

The second most asked question is how can I find funding for my rescue. Basically, there is no correct answer to this one. EVERY non-profit in the world stuggle with this one and if anyone finds the answer there are thousands of non-profits that would like to know the answer. There is NEVER enough funding for everything. There are some things that work better than others though and I don't have a problem with sharing those tips.

The best way to raise funds are to hold fund raising events. These can be done if you are private or if you hold your non-profit status. Open houses (especially if you invite the media), pancake breakfasts, taco or spaghetti dinners, golf tournaments... are all great ways to raise funds with little upfront expenses. Raffles work, but only if done locally, those run on the internet usually lose money (even if you have GREAT prizes). As a matter of fact, raising money online rarely if ever works because you are competing with every other rescue out there. You can also solicit your members and supporters for annual support, for living trusts and bequests. These tend to come easier after you have your non-profit, but it is possible to get them without your status or on a pending application. You can also lay out an initial investment on items to sell on your website or at local events. Some work out really well, while others never make back their money. If you are doing this you may want to have items that are not specific to horses as you would reach a wider buying market. You can also make your website work for you with a Goggle Ad-words account, or advertising on your site.

Once you receive your 501(c)3 there are a few more options. You can then begin to apply for grants. Remember that you will be competing with all the other rescues for theses, so you will have to have great grant writing skills. There are VERY few foundations that offer grants to equine rescues, so most rescues don't share information about who they get their grant funds from. You will need to do your own searches and research to find these. Your best bet is with local foundations and you can find these at the library. Most states and local communities publish a pamphlet annually that includes information about local foundations and what they fund. Don't limit yourself to your small local areas, also look at those in the nearest big cities.

A recent trend is to add a therapy program. If a group does add the therapy program your options open up a great deal. There are a large number of grants out there to support those doing therapy. Often organizations that provide dogs for the blind, or other handicap helpers have the information on where they get their funding on their websites because there is so much funding. You can also approach your local United Way, hospitals and other places where these children receive their treatment to see if they will support you. You will need to develop a relationship with them anyway to make your program a success and they may have funding to support programs started to assist their clients. Again, don't limit yourself to your small communities, check with nearby large cities. One thing they may require is that you become certified because of the liability and need for qualified programs. You may want to check out this page, they have some good information. It may also be a good idea to join some of these groups for support and because they tend to share with their members new funding sources and they also have lower costs for insurance.

At the end of the day though funding is tight for everyone. Do NOT expect that your rescue will be able to support itself for years, if ever. There are some well established rescues out there that don't require their founders or officers to dig in their own pockets. Fewer still are the rescues that can actually pay their staff for their more than full time dedication.

I do know there are some folks out there that are working on these questions and programs that will help people who are dedicated to helping our horses. Hopefully one of those programs will be available soon. Trust that when they are launched I will post about them as soon as I know something for sure. Until then I hope that my answers help others on their personal and organizational journey to help these animals who so desperately need our support.

Off Topic- Helping others

Today I got a press release from Ariat Boots that I found VERY interesting. If you don't know Ariat, they have a really interesting background and a very comfortable boot. Personally I own several pairs of them myself and LOVE how comfortable they are as well as the pretty styles. They can be a bit pricey, but if you watch for sales they can actually be one of the lesser expensive boots on the market. Frankly, in all my visits to DC, where you have to do alot of walking, the visits that I made in my Ariat boots were the best because at the end of the day my feet didn't hurt.

Anyway, enough of the unpaid promotion of Ariat. (Although if Ariat would like to pay me for my endorsement let me know and I will gladly accept payment. LOL) The press release follows as do my comments.

Ariat® International Donates to Soles4Souls

Union City, CA Ariat International, Inc. is proud to announce their donation of footwear to Soles4Souls as part of the company's charitable outreach program. Soles4Souls is a nonprofit organization that facilitates the donation of shoes to aid those affected by natural disasters worldwide such as Hurricane Katrina, the Peru earthquake and the tsunami in Southeast Asia.

Soles4Souls started with a tragic image that flashed across the television screen of Soles4Souls founder, Wayne Elsey - a single shoe lying on a desolate beach in the wake of the devastating Southeast Asian tsunami. This haunting vision prompted Elsey to ask, "What can I do to help?" With that one question, Soles4Soul was born with a simple mission: To impact as many lives as possible with the gift of shoes. Since January 2005, Soles4Souls has distributed more than three million pairs of shoes, in forty countries, on five continents.

"Ariat is proud to partner with Soles4Souls, an organization that significantly impacts the lives of those in need on an international level," said Beth Cross, President and CEO of Ariat International. "We hope that our support of Soles4Souls will motivate our colleagues in the footwear industry and more specifically the equestrian footwear industry, to join Soles4Souls in improving the lives of others 'one pair at a time'".

About Soles4Souls – "Changing the World, One Pair at a Time."

Nashville-based Soles4Soul facilitates the donations of shoes, which will be used to aid the hurting worldwide. Shoe companies, retailers, and individuals can donate footwear (both new and used). Soles4Souls is a 501(c)(3) recognized by the IRS; donating parties are eligible for tax advantages. Call (866) 521-SHOE for additional information or visit

About Ariat International, Inc.

Ariat International, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of innovative performance equestrian footwear, apparel, handbags and belts. Featuring a patented technology designed to deliver stability, durability and comfort, Ariat pioneered the application of advanced athletic shoe technology into English riding boots and authentic Western boots. Ariat products are sold in a network of retail outlets throughout the world. For more information about Ariat products or for the Ariat retailer nearest you, contact Ariat at 800.899.8141 or visit

I know that I have a ton of shoes in my closet that I bought and never wore or wore once or twice and never wore again. I think that I am not alone in having shoes laying around. (Please don't tell me that I am the only woman out there that has a thing for shoes.) I like the idea that they can go to others who desperately need footwear.

I recall the images after Katrina when people came out of the flood waters without shoes on, the same with other disasters. I wondered how they managed not to suffer severe cuts or other injuries. I mean I tend to go barefoot ALOT (people keep telling me I am crazy to be in the barn and working around the horses with no shoes on or outside in the winter barefoot) but there is still a time and a place for shoes.

Please support this wonderful charity.