By Beth Meyer
For people who love animals, and horses in particular, the idea that an innocent two week old colt could be dumped along a road and left alone to suffer, or possibly die, is unthinkable. In truth, such things do happen all across the country, including right here in New Mexico, more often than most of us know. Thankfully, Walkin N Circles Ranch (WNCR) directed by Charles Graham and staffed with over 100 dedicated volunteers, is literally a lifesaver for many of these animals.
Graham, who has directed the ranch for two years, says one of the main reasons that horses end up abused or neglected is financial. “Many people just don’t understand what it takes to care for a horse. Some can’t afford to buy hay, which is at the highest price in years, and vet bills can be prohibitive. Others think it would be fun to own a horse, but let it go hungry while they spend their money on large screen TVs and video games.”
Most of the horses that come to WNCR have been seized by the Livestock Board due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Others are found dumped along highways or on private or public land. In the last two years, WNCR has received five colts ranging in age from a few weeks to several months. Most of them were so small and weak they were unable to drink from a bottle. With the help of milk donations from a local goat dairy, volunteer ranch hands trained the young horses to drink from a pan by first dipping their hands into the milk and then encouraging the colts to lick the milk from their fingers.
In the last two years, the number of horses at WNCR increased from 45 to 86, which required a major transformation of the facilities. Graham, along with Steve Forester, ranch foreman, added 14 new paddocks, many within the last year. In addition, there are currently 12 horses in foster care, and over 30 adoptions have been completed this year. Out of the 86 horses that currently make WNCR their home, there are far too many tragic stories about why they came to be there. A horse named Charley arrived so weak that he couldn’t stand. He was extremely emaciated, and it was apparent he had been starved to near death. Ironically, he had new shoes and severe saddle sores, indicating that he had recently been ridden hard. Why the owner would spend money on new horseshoes instead of food to keep his horse alive is anybody’s guess. Fortunately for Charley, this abuse was reported, Charley was seized by the Livestock Board and was sent to WNCR, where he is now slowly recovering.
Volunteer numbers have increased from 25 to over 100 in just two years, and Graham welcomes anyone who would like to help, regardless of race, religion, or politics. “The volunteers here are passionate about rescuing and rehabilitating horses” says Graham. “The ranch couldn’t exist without them.” The volunteers, or Ranch Hands are divided into 16 work teams whose responsibilities range from paddock cleaning to grant writing, from horse training to administration. Those who choose to work directly with the horses begin with ground training, which includes grooming, leading, and imprinting or hands on training. For inexperienced riders who wish to learn, there are also riding classes.
A new and exciting project at WNCR is the Hydroponic System for growing fresh feed, which was developed by volunteers, Tom and Brendon Mead. 30 horses will be fed with the hydroponic feed by the end of November, and the goal is to eventually feed all of the horses at the ranch. According to Graham, the hydroponic barley grass is much fresher, contains more protein, and is more nutritious for the horses. The colts that have eaten this feed have shown a weight gain and improvement in overall health. The system should also cut costs substantially for the ranch. Graham projects that when the entire system is up and running, it should save as much as 60 % of their annual cost for feed.
All funding for WNCR comes from grants, donations, and fund raising events such as the annual Chuck Wagon Dinner. The Thrift Store, another source of funding, is staffed by team leader, Sue Marsh and a staff of dedicated volunteers. It is located just east of intersection 333 and 344 in Edgewood. This was the first year the ranch had a presence at the Balloon Fiesta and the State Fair, both wonderful opportunities to spread the word about their work. Another first will be the upcoming Trainer’s Challenge. Trainers were given a choice of horses from the ranch to train, and a public competition will be held at the State Fair Horse Arena on November 16.
“It is very important that these horses get a safe, forever home,” Graham continues. For people who would like to adopt a horse, there are a number of requirements that must be met. The purpose of the adoption process is to match a prospective owner with a horse that will be safe to ride and handle, as well as bring pleasure to a new family, so a lot of time is spent evaluating this match. After an application is completed, an inspection of each potential new owner’s facility is conducted. Then, he or she will work with a member of the adoption team to help identify the right horse for them. Depending on the adopter’s ability level, he or she may be asked to participate in a pre-adoption sponsorship, which involves riding and working with the horse to make sure they have chosen the right animal. “We don’t want to see any of the adopted horses coming back,” states Graham. “Thankfully, most adoptions are successful. The ultimate goal is to find suitable adopters and place the horses in a safe, comfortable environment where they will receive the care and attention they deserve.”
For more information call
286-0779 or visit the website at www.wncr.org.