In the wake of the social media scrabble between NTWO and iCareiHelp, many people have expressed concerns on who they can trust when they make donations toward the care and housing of Thoroughbreds while they are rehabilitated or prepped for new homes. The following information is the process that I go through when I decide on whom I am sending money to as a show of my support. However, before I start this article, I will say that (unfortunately) this isn’t the first or last time that a situation like this has arisen. If you feel like you’ve been “scammed” out of funds, please do not let this deter you from contributing again in the future. This article will hopefully give you a starting point to find an organization that you trust or can volunteer at in your area.
That out of the way, this also needs to be said: thank you for sharing some of your hard-earned money with a horse that needed it. We need good people in the world that are willing to donate their hearts, time, and funds to helping the industry rehome their athletes that didn’t make it on the track. It’s not popular to admit, but the industry cannot do it alone or without you guys, so thank you once again! ❤
To start, I first make a general search here, on the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance website. This will help you find any farms in your area that you could go out and visit before making your decision to donate. There are also locations on the page that will allow you to send general donations and sign-up to volunteer. If you’re administrative savvy, you can offer to help maintain their page and post new information. If you’re a lifelong horse person, you can volunteer to be an inspector or work special events. You can take a look through their page and get an idea on how best you can contribute.
The website provides a detailed guide on what standards a farm must meet and maintain in order to get accepted. If there are TAA approved locations near you, then you can feel safe donating to them. They have passed the inspections that are reviewed and approved by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the American Humane Association. It’s not easy going from there either, as they must maintain this standard every year or risk losing their accreditation. To put it bluntly, it’s in their best interests to bend over backwards for their horses, but most of these locations were doing that to begin with, so it’s only a formalized requirement that they were already meeting.
If there aren’t any TAA accredited locations near you (like for our friends in Big Sky country, or in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana for example) it’s important to do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions before you send monetary contributions. I like to do some intense social media research like: do they post “candid” photos of the farm? Are they trying to get their 501c3 status approved? Do they allow volunteers onto the farm?
When I volunteered with SHERR-NC (Safe Haven Equine Rescue and Retirement of North Carolina), we would have visitors all the time and they were encouraged to stop by during normal hours to see their favorite rescues. They could see everything: the riding ring, the feed/tack room, the pastures, the barn, all of it. Donations of physical items like tack, horse care items, or feed were proudly posted on social channels for everyone to see; along with a lovely note from the director herself, thanking the individual for their generosity. If an organization only ever asks for money or doesn’t accept donations of physical items, that was always a red flag for me. A rescue appreciates anything they can get because it means that it was one less item they had to purchase themselves and could focus funds on quality care of their horses or rescuing one they could reasonably take in.
If you would like to see SHERR, you can follow this link to their Facebook page. Take a look around, look at the pictures, and eventually go visit them or volunteer. If you do make it out to their farm, give Gus a hug for me. I miss my old man. They also are not paying me to talk about them, I’m just gushing about one of my favorite rescues. They’ve taken in Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds before, so they’ve also helped our industry in some way. I encourage you guys to check them out, and come to your own conclusions.
Of course, while I talk about Thoroughbreds in this post, there are many organizations that do amazing work for other members of the equine family. As mentioned above, do your homework and make sure that the organization is actually who they say they are. Ask to tour their farm, about volunteering opportunities, and take as many pamphlets or brochures as you can on your way out. If you’re still worried about the organization (it’s new, it’s young, the person you spoke with was a bit nervous, etc.) ask around or on social media to see if you can find anyone that has experience with them. Word of mouth isn’t the greatest thing to rely on, but if you’ve done your homework and just want to see the public opinion of that rescue online, then it’s a good way to dispel or confirm your fears.
As always, don’t be afraid to say no and report any concerning behaviors or practices to your local humane society or animal services branch of the police department. Scare tactics are not how rescues raise funds for their animals and everything they do is recorded in picture or video formatting. If you’re not allowed to do either of the two while there, then something is most likely wrong. Do not let them strongarm you into monetary donations via threats of equine lives being in peril. Call the police on that behavior and they’ll send someone out to aid that rescue if they feel that horses are so immediately in danger.
If you have any methods that work for you when you scope out potential donation or volunteer worthy rescues, let me know in the comments! Anything helps, especially if it gets money, inventory, etc. out to organizations that need them. If you know an individual group that does great things, but aren’t charity status yet, encourage them to do so. If they rescue OTTBs, send them to the TAA website (linked in the article for your convenience) to get accredited.
Thank you to everyone who rescues, rehabilitates, and rehomes horses of any kind. The world is a better place with you guys in it!
(Edited 10/5/18 @ 9:16pm to include the poll results!)