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Open horse shelter in Calhan gives owners humane option

By: Chhun Sun
June 18, 2017 Updated: June 19, 2017 at 10:01 am
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Melissa Reali (left) and Kristen Breakfield take a surrendered horse from a trailer to the pens at the Horse Plus Humane Society's One-Day Open Door Shelter Sunday, June 18, 2017, at the El Paso County Fairgrounds in Calhan. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette

They arrived hungry, tired and broken.

And in some cases, they were fine.

No matter their condition, the horses brought in during Sunday's One Day Open Door Shelter event at the El Paso County Fairgrounds in Calhan were accepted without judgment or cost. In all, 35 horses were surrendered by owners who no longer wished to take care of the animals.

Some owners can't pay for medical treatment while others believed owning a horse crowded their other life responsibilities, said Tawnee Preisner, president of Hohenwald, Tenn.-based Horse Plus Humane Society, which hosted the event.

The organization takes the surrendered horses and evaluates them to see if they can be adopted later. And if a horse is in grave condition, free euthanasia and disposal are offered.

"They want to do what's right," Preisner said, referring to putting down a horse, "but they don't have the money, so we'll do that free of charge."

Calhan was the sixth stop this year by the organization to collect horses. It received a $156,000 grant through The Right Horse Initiative to conduct a 13-state tour this year.

The organization's most successful open-door shelter event this year took place in California, where 102 horses were surrendered. On Sunday, the organization offered an incentive that other states didn't get - the first 30 owners received $100 for dropping off their horses.

On a warm day, a 50-member event staff happily accepted the horses that arrived in trailers and trucks. Once surrendered, they were evaluated by trainers and veterinarians to see where their level of training and health stood.

Throughout the eight-hour event, the horses were given water and hay and closely watched by caretakers.

Dr. Alyssa King, who has a practice in Yoder and volunteered at Sunday's event, said the horses were not neglected nor overly thin. Most of them were used for trail riding.

Gina Manke with the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted surveys with the owners, who, she said, had looks of relief on their faces after surrendering the horses.

No one was turned away.

"Whether they moved or had a hip replacement" and didn't have time to take care of the horses, said Manke, "the owners realize those changes will prevent them from giving the horses the best quality of life they can. The horse owners were relieved to have a safe option and give the horses another chance."

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