The Parelli Foundation Helps Solve the Horse Rescue Puzzle.
by Marilee Donovan
When Cheryl Flanagan started rescuing racehorses who were not winning on the Florida tracks, little did she know how many puzzle pieces would eventually make up the picture years later in Georgia. On any given day, Save the Horses in Cumming, Georgia, is home to over 100 rescued equines. Cheryl has a strong belief in matching horses and humans so that as many horses as possible find happy forever homes. When she first started rescuing racehorses, she was involved in 4-H and Pony Club. Many of the youth involved were using her horses because their families could not afford to buy a horse. When one of the children developed enough savvy to meet Cheryl’s standard for horse ownership, she gave the child (with the parents’ support) one of the rescued horses. Over the years, matching horses and humans has become a persistent piece in the puzzle. Decades later, after a move to Georgia, volunteers at Save the Horses continue the transformation from knowing little about horses; to becoming knowledgeable caretakers; to bonding with a certain horse; to adopting an equine partner, as they share Cheryl’s passion for creating a better life for horses, mules, donkeys, and minis.
The Georgia herd is far more diverse than the racehorses of Florida. In addition to abused, abandoned, injured, or donated horses, it includes horses with disabilities who have found a sanctuary for life. The disabled horses include Trudy, who was blinded in one eye by the severe abuse leading to her rescue. It took many years and a join-up with Monty Roberts for Trudy to trust humans enough to be touched. When, at age 30, she had to have the eye with sight removed because of cancer, one would have expected that she would be terrified. Not so! Over the years, Trudy learned that the humans at Save the Horses could be trusted. Despite her blindness, she is eager for the attention of the many volunteers and youth who love her. It is amazing to watch her explore the farm on line or at liberty with Roger, a volunteer who says of Trudy, “Once she let me into her world, she became my teacher and restored meaning to my life.” Trudy’s trust is a testament to the philosophy in action at this farm – another piece of the puzzle. (https://savethehorses.org/trudys-eyes.html)
So where does the Parelli Foundation come in? Well, in 2013, Roger approached the Parelli Foundation (at that time the Parelli Education Institute) booth at the Perry, Georgia Tour Stop and began exploring how we could help Save the Horses become even better. When visiting family in Georgia in the summer of 2014, the author visited the farm to see how we might work together. When the Barn Buddy program was conceived a few months later, the opportunity to provide some valuable support presented itself. The Foundation had just become the custodian of some Lovingly Used natural horsemanship equipment, and sent this with educational materials to Save the Horses to get the Barn Buddy started as a natural horsemanship program. In the Barn Buddy Program, horses whose health issues reduce the likelihood of adoption find a job being a buddy to children whose lives have been disrupted in foster care, adoption, or other family crises. The horse teaches the child non-verbal communication, appropriate boundaries, awareness, integrity, and respect. The Barn Buddy Program continues to develop under the supervision of natural horsemanship student Jorge Gonzales and a dedicated group of Barn Buddy savvy volunteers who lead this equine-assisted experience. As Cheryl says, “You almost can’t make a mistake. The horses just DO IT.”
Cheryl is a master at finding and putting the puzzle pieces together to create a better outcome. She has mobilized corporations and individuals throughout the local community and the greater Atlanta area to help the horses, kids, and volunteers have a better life. Though Cheryl has always been natural with horses, the Parelli Foundation donations are making it easier to assure that all volunteers, staff, and children learn to communicate with the horses more naturally. Natural horsemanship students Vickie Nee and her daughter, Kira DeRosa, assist with an active rehabilitation and adoption program. Kira teaches natural horsemanship to volunteers, Barn Buddy youth and staff, summer campers, and other groups and individuals. One of Kira’s passions is to help her students learn to “read” the horses and identify and understand their individual Horsenalities, thus promoting greater safety and enjoyment for both horses and humans. Kira hopes to eventually complete the requirements to become a Licensed Parelli Professional. Another puzzle piece added is Robin Harris, a 2-Star Parelli Professional. She visits from Alabama every three to four months to advance the horsemanship of the key equine support staff (Jorge, Kira, Vickie, and others); the volunteers and staff of Save the Horses Rescue; the Barn Buddy Youth Program; Victory’s Gait; and nearby Angels on Horseback Therapeutic Riding Center. Through the combined efforts of these programs and their staff, hundreds of horses, volunteers, and individuals have found a better life. The Parelli Foundation is happy that our small donation has been put to use by the founder and staff of Save the Horses, to help make it a better world for so many horses and the humans who love them.
Has the Parelli Foundation touched your life in a meaningful and inspiring way? We would like to hear about it. If you have a story to tell, and the Foundation has helped in some way, write it down in 1000 words or less and send it our contact us form, along with three photos to illustrate your story. We may use your story at our web site or in other ways.