Tyler, TX - October 16, 2008 - The Dallas Harvest Horse Show, which will be held November 5-9, 2008, is more than an AA rated, hospitality-focused event. What sets the show apart from others is the opportunity to give back to an equine organization. Habitat for Horses will receive proceeds stemming from several fundraising events over the course of the show.
Habitat for Horses was established in 1998 by Jerry Finch, President of the organization. Through Finch's dedication, many programs and goals have been put in place and are the stepping stones of Habitat. His goals include promoting and protecting abused horses and offering ways to educate people on the proper care, training, emotional and physical well-being of the animals. The land that makes up Habitat's main location is a 27-acre ranch in Galveston County, TX, that was donated by a retired law enforcement officer.
Habitat for Horses is an equine protection organization that has dedicated itself to the protection and equality of horses. Habitat is a non-profit organization that offers rescue services to law enforcement, educational programs, and adoption services for horses that come into their care.
While Habitat does not have the authority to go on to a property and seize a horse, they do work closely with law enforcement and abide by the city, county and state laws. The first step for Habitat when confronted with a case is to document any abuse and have law enforcement file charges through the court. Once an order to seize the animal(s) has been given, Habitat then removes the animal(s) from the property. Each court case and removal is done on an individual basis. Texas law declares a hearing must be held within 10 days and a Judge can give the horse(s) to Habitat. Depending on the case, Habitat can then recommend criminal charges be filed against the owner.
"We do as much as we can to educate," said Finch. "Most people simply don't know about horses. They get a horse and think it is like having a dog. They don't know how much taking care of a horse is actually going to cost both financially and time-wise. They know nothing about vaccinating, dental work, farrier schedule, over-feeding and under-feeding. A lot of what we do is simply going out and educating people. The people who don't want our help are the ones we go to court over."
While many adoptable horses find themselves in the temporary care of Habitat until the organization is able to find them suitable homes, Habitat is also a sanctuary. For the horses that have reached retirement and are not suitable for adoption, they have found a permanent, loving home at Habitat. These horses will spend the rest of their days happily enjoying the Texas sunshine at the ranch or at one of the many foster homes in Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Florida.
Finch believes that we are collectively responsible for horses. His goal is to take care of horses in need, which he does quite successfully. He has a driving passion to make sure Habitat horses have the opportunity to recover from their abuse and have a second chance at life.
"This is the most rewarding thing that I have ever done," said Finch. "Even more than any accolade or pat on the back, my greatest reward comes from working with a horse for so long and watching him or her get adopted and leave the facility in a trailer, on to a new beginning and a happy home. Too many times I have stood there with happy tears in my eyes watching them go on to a new life."
This non-profit horse protection organization has attracted the support some of the world's most elite country singers who are horse lovers themselves. Toby Keith, an Advisory Board member, and Willie Nelson, a Board of Directors member, have been involved with the organization. Willie Nelson has adopted over 50 horses from Habitat that are now retired on his ranch.
"Willie has adopted a total of 53 horses. His original goal was to be a foster home. The first time we came to get a foster horse, he said no more. He couldn't stand to have the horses taken away from him," said Finch. "Once he had them at his farm, he wanted them to stay forever. He is extremely attached to his horses. He can name every single one. That is how he relaxes. He goes out and sits in the pasture and talks and sings to them."
There are many programs available at Habitat. The Basic Horsemanship class is held at the ranch as long as there are no extenuating circumstances. The class educates interested volunteers, horse owners, people interested in purchasing a horse, children, and inquiring minds. Habitat teaches basic skills needed to keep a horse safe and healthy. It covers topics such as nutrition, hoof care, dental care, safety, cleaning stalls, grooming, training and much more.
A large part of the education horse outreach programs they offer involve going to schools to talk to children. This opportunity allows them to teach kids about the responsibility of owning and taking care of a horse; but it can also be as much about the kids as it is about the animals.
"We take a lot of horses to grade schools and junior high schools. This is the really exciting part of it. We will take a strong healthy horse, and we will take a skinny horse from a recent seizure," said Finch. "We show them the difference between what good care and bad care is."
Finch continues, "At the schools, we also talk about abuse, starvation, things like that. We are very careful to listen to the kids because the kids are sometimes going through the same thing and come from an abusive home. We listen to the type of questions they ask and look at their reaction when we talk about the abuse situation. It is a good indicator to tip us off about what is going on in their home. The kids will also sometimes start crying. It can get pretty emotional at times."
Habitat has an extremely successful turnover rate. They adopt out almost as many horses that come in. On average, Habitat saves about 300 horses per year. The average cost per month for keeping a horse at Habitat is $150-$200.
Habitat's dedicated, hardworking people could not do their job without the support and donations received from individuals and organizations. Donations and volunteers help keep Habitat running. Sponsors include Purina, DuPont, Back In The Saddle, Nuzzle Perfume, and MissionFish with eBay.
"Over the last 10 years, 90 cents of every dollar goes towards our programs. This is opposed to other organizations that, on the average, 60 cents of every dollar go towards their programs," said Finch.
For Finch, goals for the future include the continued education and fighting of horse slaughter.
"Our number one goal is fighting the slaughter of horses," said Finch. "We want to see that come to an end. We want to provide everyone that wants a horse or has a horse an education so that they know they are giving the best possible care to their animal. People need to know that these are not low-maintenance animals. It takes a lot and people need to realize that horses are not pets; they are expensive animals to own. We want to affect the law in such a way so that the anti-cruelty laws are very enforcement-based."
Finch finished by sharing a small tidbit about Habitat that many people may not know.
"People should know that except for the few employees of the ranch and a few people at the office, we are an all volunteer organization. We have a whole lot of members, over 3,000 members across the United States and in foreign countries, who support us," he said. "I think membership in our organization is very, very important. A pat on the back is nice, but it doesn't feed the horses. Any organization, whether it is horses, dogs, cats, whatever, needs financial support."
Future fundraising events will be held at the Dallas Harvest Horse Show, which will run November 5-9, 2008. All proceeds raised from the fundraiser events will directly benefit Habitat for Horses.
A "From the Judge's Perspective" USHJA Judges Clinic will be held free of charge for exhibitors, a silent auction, a Hunter Derby Reception sponsored by Tyler Plastic Surgery, a "Team" Calcutta Exhibition Dinner, and a Sunday Grand Prix Brunch are also on the schedule. Classes include the $25,000 Dallas Harvest Grand Prix benefiting Habitat for Horses, the $15,000 ASG Software Solutions/USHJA International Hunter Derby with local sponsor, the Texas Rose Horse Park, the $5,000 Jumper Classic, the $3,000 Welcome Stake sponsored by Nordic Lights Farm & The Bruheim Family, and the $2,500 Children's/Adult Jumper Classic.
For more information on Habitat for Horses and to view adoptable animals, visit http://www.habitatforhorses.org/
For more information on the Dallas Harvest Horse Show and to view the prize list, please visit http://www.southboundshows.com
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/habitat-horses-dallas-harvest-10-08.html">Habitat for Horses and Dallas Harvest Horse Show Work Together to Protect Horses</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com