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Jason Patrick and Colorado Horse Rescue team up at the RMHE

Tony Bruguiere Fort Collins, Colo.
Tony Bruguiere Jason Patrick and Dixie from the Colorado Horse Rescue. Dixie's linage is a little unusual, by an Appaloosa/Mustang cross and from a Belgian/Percheron cross, but she is gentle and a fast learner.

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The problem of unwanted horses has been with us for a number of years, but the downturn in the economy has brought about an alarming increase in the number of unwanted horses at rescue centers. Deborah Thomas, Barn Manager for the Colorado Horse Rescue in Longmont, Colo., said, “We get horses that have been surrendered to us by people who are in a hardship situation due to divorce, financial situation, or job loss. We also get horses from seizure, and it’s our job to rehabilitate them and find new homes for them.”

In 2009 the Unwanted Horse Coalition funded a survey that looked at the problem throughout the United States. While there are a number of causes, the No. 1 reason for unwanted horses was that the owner could no longer afford the horse.

Taking them to a shelter is a viable alternative to expensive euthanasia but the survey found that 63 percent of horse rescue facilities across the country were operating at near capacity. Thomas said of the Colorado Horse Rescue, “We are a private non-profit. We get government and private grants, but most of our money comes through donations. We have almost 50 horses on the property right now. We can provide for up to 60. We try to keep about 10 slots open all the time for seizures.”

All of the horses at the Colorado Horse Rescue are adoptable, but some have been at the center for a long time because they have never been trained. Horse trainer, Jason Patrick and his team from the Whispering Willows Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colo., has joined with horse rescue facilities in Denver and on the Western Slope to give some of the shelter horses basic training and respect for humans.

Jason Patrick summed up his philosophy of training as, “What we try to do as best as we can is let a horse achieve the best that they can. We try to get out of the way of the horse and let them have success, in the meantime shaping that success towards what we need.” Jason went on to say, “One of the greatest quotes of all time is ‘Most people aren’t willing to build themselves up to the horse’s level. They need to tear the horse down to their level.’ Our goal is to get better all the time, so that someday, we can raise ourselves to every horse’s level.”

In the survey taken by the Unwanted Horse Council, 81 percent said they could no longer afford the horse. While this can certainly mean that the respondent no longer had the money to care for the horse, it could also mean that because the horse was a pet and not a working horse, the horse no longer had value to them.

Jason Patrick said, “Some of the rescue horses are pretty spoiled, and it’s unfortunate. People don’t do it on purpose. We love horses and we want to be nice to them, but to be nice to them in the wrong way kind of destroys their confidence and respect for us.”

Jason went on to say, “The worst horses we ever work with are the backyard pets – the spoiled, eat out of your hand, step on you, stand on you, pets. That is the worst thing, in my mind, that you can do to a horse. They need to be a horse first and horses are much more comfortable in a situation of respect rather than a ‘buddy’ relationship.”

Jason and the expert team that he has assembled at Whispering Willows Ranch have a technique that works to the horses natural comfort level. Multiple horses are in the round pen with multiple trainers and also riders on trained horses. The object is to keep the horses being trained feeling comfortable and safe because they are in the ‘herd’ environment. Because the horse being trained feels safe and comfortable they are more open to the trainer. The horse trusts and respects the trainer and the whole process works into the genetic makeup of the horse which is by nature a social herd animal.

The system works. All the animals from the Colorado Horse Rescue were able to be ridden during the three-day event. Jason Patrick and the Whispering Willows Ranch team gave the five horses a big boost along the road to a successful adoption.

For more information about adoption or donating to the Colorado Horse Rescue, please call (720) 494-1414. Jason Patrick can be reached at (970) 879-9489.


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