Seattle Rescue Group Gives Unwanted Horses & Troubled Teens a Second Chance
Since 1997, the innovative program has been run by Vel Moore, a Los Angeles transplant and former philosophy professor who died on May 28 of breast cancer. "Losing Vel was hard," says Sara Losey, 21, the rescue association's
vice president. "She was the heart and soul of the organization. But we will keep it going as long as we can."
The volunteers – some two dozen work at the farm – are assigned from the Marysville Municipal Court and recruited from the community. The program also works with children with disabilities. "We teach discipline," says Losey about the chores, which include cleaning stalls, grooming and feeding while some of the more experienced staff give riding lessons. "Some kids come here scared of horses, but we provide structure and they learn they can hug a horse and hold on and it won't run away."
Losey was 11 when she first met Moore, whom she calls her mentor, purely as an enthusiastic adolescent who loved horses and enjoyed volunteering at the ranch. But then her parents split up and Losey moved away. She started hanging with a rough crowd and by age 15, Losey says she was a high-school dropout serving time in a youth facility for burglary.
That experience scared her straight and two years later she found herself back under Moore's guidance at the rescue, nursing Toby, a quarter horse she had bonded with years earlier. Though Toby eventually had to be put down, Losey stayed on at the horse ranch earning $100 per week job to care for the rescued horses, of which there are about 30 being stabled at any given time. "The last two years we find a lot of people giving up their horses because of the bad economy. We get them from all over the state," she says.
To support the program, the Equine Rescue Association is holding a June 28 fund-raiser in memory of Moore. There will be pony rides and a petting zoo for the kids, and a raffle and a tack sale of used rising gear. "We hope to raise some money to keep the rescue going," says Losey. "I want to keep giving the kids and the horses what Vel gave me – a second chance."
For more information about the Equine Rescue Association and the fund-raiser, go to ERA-horsehaven.org. And, click here to become friends with the group on PEOPLE Pets.
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