An unfortunate consequence of the down turn in the economy has been the rise in the number of neglected or abandoned horses. To help combat this problem, The Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL) has opened the Harmony Equine Center in Franktown, Colo. The Equine Center was established with the generous cooperation of horse lovers John and Leslie Malone to provide a safe haven for Colorado horses, ponies, donkeys and mules that have suffered from abuse and neglect.
The Harmony Equine Center is a unique facility that is equipped to eventually be able to handle as many as 500 horses over the course of a year, and there are only a handful of similar operations in the country.
The main mission of the Denver Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center is to alleviate suffering. For over 100 years the Denver Dumb Friends League has been an adoption center for small animals such as dogs, cats, hamsters and even reptiles. The Harmony Equine Center is a new facility and a new program. They are trying to rehabilitate and find new homes for many of the horses that are impounded by government law enforcement.
All of the horses at the Harmony Equine Center receive top-quality daily care by a professional staff, and veterinarians are available on an on-call basis. The staff cares for as many as 100 horses at a time in the beautiful, new facility which opened in 2012 in Franktown, Colo. The spacious facility includes three large, well equipped barns and over 100 acres of lush pastures. The Center is not a sanctuary for unwanted animals. It is strictly for equines that have been removed from their owners by law enforcement agencies.
“In Colorado, there is a horse overpopulation problem, couple that with the drought and the rising price for hay and there are horses that are suffering out there,” said Chris Gallegos, Public Relations Director for the Denver Dumb Friends League. “A lot of times, law enforcement, especially in rural Colorado, they don’t have the resources to go in and make a final decision on removing horses, because once the horses are removed, where are they going to put them. And that’s usually the sticking point. So what we decided to do was to make sure that law enforcement had a facility where they can not only rely that those horses are going to be taken care of, but they can be assured that the horses are available in any sort of criminal case. Having the facility available will help them to make the decision to remove the horses should that be necessary.”
According to the Steamboat Springs, Colo., horse rescue group, Rescued to Ride, “Each year there are approximately 5,120 unwanted horses reported in the state of Colorado. Only 12 percent can be accommodated by horse rescues. One key reason horses are not readily considered for adoption is their lack of training, and inexperience under saddle. Due to limited resources, professional training is often not available to the majority of horses brought to a rescue, and therefore slows the turnover rate and the total number of horses helped at each facility. Rescue horses are often perceived as undesirable animals, limited in their potential and ability.”
The Denver Dumb Friends League and the Harmony Equine Center are solving this problem by acquiring the services of Scott Whinfrey. Whinfrey is a Colorado resident and lived recently in Steamboat Springs where he worked as a colt starter with Rescued to Ride and also with Jason Patrick and Whispering Willows. Scott Whinfrey is a top hand that has worked on ranches in Oregon, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Australia. Whinfrey has a broad range of colt starting and horse training experience, and competes in reined cow horse competitions.
Scott Whinfrey certainly does not think of the horses that come through the Harmony Equine Center as being undesirable or animals with limited ability. “One of the neat things about these horses is that they are just normal horses. You think of them as being abused, neglected or a rescue — but, there’s nothing wrong with them. The majority of them don’t have psychological problems,” said Whinfrey. “The majority just need some groceries, some good handling, and just normal horse training — it’s not rocket science or groundbreaking stuff — you’ve just got to touch them, feed them, be good to them, and it’s amazing that they turn out to be normal, happy healthy horses.”
“Mostly my work is starting and working with horses that come in that have been neglected or abused. They come in for various reasons. A lot of them are just malnourished, and the majority of them don’t know anything. They have been left to their own devices in the pasture,” said Whinfrey. “They come in all ages, all breeds, all different types and sizes and personality. They come in and we try to get them fit physically and then see what they know, if anything. If they don’t know anything, then we try to take them to a state where somebody would want to adopt them, whether that means groundwork, or actually being able to ride them, and the majority we can actually ride.”
Every horse that comes into the Harmony Equine Center is started by Scott Winfrey at ground zero — Scott assumes that the horses have never been ridden or even handled. The end goal is to get them up to an adoptable stage. The trainers at the Harmony facility determine the amount of training based on each individual horse and they try to pair horses with a specific training level to people that have a compatible skill level.
There is an adoption fee which ranges from $100 to $1,000, depending on the horse and its training level. Chris Gallegos said, “It takes a lot to feed a horse and a lot of the horses that we have coming in are with us for three, four, five, or six months before they go up for adoption. We are not recouping any costs whatsoever but our satisfaction is that we are placing these horses in good homes that are going to take care of them and getting them out of the situation that they were in.”
Chris Gallegos and the Denver Dumb Friends League would like to stress that, “If you’re having trouble taking care of your horse, whether it’s economic reasons, or any other reason, seek help as soon as possible. No horse should have to starve, or go without food or water for any length of time, and there are resources in Colorado that can help you.”
The Harmony Equine Center is currently open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The schedule changes, so call the Center at (303) 754-7190 before making the trip to Franktown. ❖