One afternoon in early April, Diann Hitchcox and Evelyn Tennyson showed up on my computer screen for a Zoom interview.
The subject: LASSO Horse Rescue & Equine Therapy, an organization that is now based in two locations – La Salle, Colorado, a small community south of Greeley, Colorado – and Ignacio, a small community southwest of Pagosa Springs.
Here is Ms. Hitchcox introducing the organization:
“A few years ago – around the year 2000 – we founded in Pagosa Springs because someone had to take in unwanted horses. There were many unwanted horses; and part of it had, I believe, to do with that [Southern Ute] Reserve nearby so there were lots of wild horses taming people and then getting nowhere. In 2002 we became a nonprofit 501c3, and when people knew we were there they came in droves. In 2007 we looked after 15 horses – many of them were disabled in some way and had injuries from which they will not recover.
We are trying to rehabilitate them and make them back home, but it became clear that we probably had one [long-term] Sanctuary. And in 2008 Evelyn Tennyson came into our ‘world’ and secured our future, taking in horses and being able to look after them very well. “
Surveys of equine veterinarians suggest that there are more than 150,000 abandoned, unwanted horses in the United States in need of a home … US.
LASSO volunteers dedicate themselves to the safe and first-class care of the returned and rescued horses. Once a horse is in LASSO’s care, it has time to relax and adjust to the new environment. The animal is then rated for its best path forward. Some are put up for adoption; some are placed in training; and some find a place in LASSO’s therapy program. Some happy horses who cannot be adopted due to their age or permanent injury find their home forever in the LASSO horse family.
The therapy horses can provide horse-assisted assistance to children, intellectual and developmentally disabled people (IDD) and others in the community. But there are challenges in providing horses as therapy animals.
“Many of the ‘children’ we work with – and they are not ‘children’, but adults – but many of them are grown up and no longer go to school. And we had contact with the school district to get those workshops going … we contacted the parents and let them know that LASSO would like to do some Special Olympics or just a workshop and we kind of lost that contact. She either moved or retired.
“So at the moment we don’t have anyone here in Pagosa who is closely involved to help us get the children out of the schools involved. And that was a real challenge.
“We also tried to put programs together with veterans. We would like to try to do something with you … “
LASSO volunteers are currently looking after thirty horses at any one time, but some services are provided by professionals. Horses feet, for example, are trimmed every eight weeks at a cost – for 30 horses – about $ 11,000 a year. Veterinary services typically cost around $ 9,000 per year. Unexpected injury or illness can cost thousands of additional dollars in professional care.
“We also support a ‘hay bank’ … which provides horse owners who, for whatever reason, cannot afford hay at short notice. You can go to that hay bank and get enough hay to keep your horses going. The hay bench has made a significant contribution to reducing the abandonment of horses.
“We support humane euthanasia, so we have made funds available to enable people not to worry about their horse’s humane euthanasia. You can come to us for help and we can offer euthanasia. “
Part of what makes the American West so welcoming is our culture’s longstanding fascination with horses. But the demands on the house horse are extensive – and expensive. Horses need a lot of space and plenty of food and clean water. Because pasture life is not always available, the average horse needs around 7,200 pounds of hay annually, and recent droughts in the west have seen hay prices skyrocket. An average small bale of hay can cost $ 12. The average horse eats 12 bales a month and costs $ 150.00.
Providing hay to thirty horses annually can cost $ 54,000. In addition, older and rehabilitating horses require additional supplements, grains, winter blankets, and additional grooming. Protection from the elements, enema stalls, and a barn for extensive treatments are must-have.
“Our operating budget – looking after 30 horses – is over $ 100,000 a year. That’s the vet and the food, the farrier and so on … “
“Evelyn doesn’t know yet, but I’ve just budgeted for next year and it’s over $ 120,000. But who counts? “
If any of our Daily Post readers are counting you can visit https://www.lassohorserescue.org and learn about the horses available for adoption and some of the “lucky” horses that are likely to spend their lives with the LASSO volunteers.
A recognized 501c3 non-profit organization since 2002, LASSO has worked tirelessly for the Horses of Colorado in Archuleta, LaPlata, Montezuma, Hinsdale, Weld and Larimar counties. Through grants and the generosity of dedicated individuals, LASSO has provided homes to hundreds of unwanted horses for over twenty years.
If you are so moved, consider making a donation to support the carefully cared for lives of abandoned horses.
The LASSO website provides links to adoptable horses, the hay bench, educational material, organizational events and of course information on volunteers.
Bill Hudson began sharing his opinion on the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 and cannot break that habit. He claims that Pagosa Springs opinions are like pickup trucks: everyone has one.