WMERR – taking care of horses when others don’t

Shannon Alexander, Executive Director of WMERR, with Indy, a rescued Missouri Fox Trotter in his mid-30s, who needs his food soaked for his three meals a day and will likely never be adopted due to the extra work he will it takes to feed him. So he became a permanent member of the family at WMERR. Photo by Victoria Howell.

by Victoria Howell

At a minimum, it costs around $1600 a year to own a horse in the Bitterroot. And this, if the horse is in good health and has no special needs. Unfortunately, people often underestimate their financial responsibility and find themselves unable to provide needed care.

This is just one of the scenarios in which a horse may end up in the care of Western Montana Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation (WMERR) east of Corvallis. The premier horse rescue operation in the valley, for the past 14 years, WMERR has rescued horses, cared for them, and (hopefully) rehabilitated them for possible adoption.

Shannon Alexander is the founder and executive director of WMERR, which became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2008.

Shannon grew up in Nevada. Shannon says her mother, an avid rider, told her, “You were riding before you were born. Shannon rode on her own when she was just three years old, and she took first place at the Reno Rodeo in the “Junior Working Cowgirl” category, riding a 16-hand quarter horse gelding while her mother followed on her own. horse.

The family eventually moved to the Bay Area where Shannon entered the world of horse shows, showing in both Western and English disciplines. She moved to Montana in 1985 and continued to show as an adult, as did two of her three children. She was a member of the mounted drill team Bitterroot Mountettes. She is a horse trainer, gives riding lessons and also runs a horse transport business. Horses have always been a big part of Shannon’s world.

Shannon Alexander, executive director of Western Montana Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation, with Mya, her personal horse she adopted from a rescue center in Idaho. Shannon makes time to ride every day. Photo by V. Howell.

But it was not until 2008 that she became aware of equestrian rescue and welcomed her first two horses. Eventually she started a volunteer board and they decided that their mission would be “to help horses that have nowhere to go”. According to their website, the objective is “to pursue the rehabilitation of neglected or mistreated equines, whether they are voluntarily surrendered or confiscated by the police from unsuitable homes. Some have become permanent residents of our sanctuary, while others have been and will be available for adoption. The goal of either is a second chance for a good quality of life. This facility will also be available to the community, organizations with special needs, offering instruction, therapy for some, and education, delivered by knowledgeable people and trainers.

“We work with owners who have been trying to find a home for their horse or sell it,” Shannon said. “These horses really have nowhere to go. Then we have to decide, do we have the finances to take the horse? »

Standard protocol is for the owner to turn the horse over to WMERR, granting them permission to take the horse. Shannon picks up the horse, takes him to the vet for an evaluation and rehabilitation recommendations.

“Most of the time there are serious issues,” Shannon said. “They are extremely thin, sick, lame or have major dental problems.” This first visit to the vet establishes a baseline and the vet’s recommendations are carefully followed.

Most of the horses rescued by WMERR are in Montana, with a few out-of-state exceptions. For example, some horses develop allergies living in the wet and buggy southeast part of the country and need to be moved out of that area. She has a horse at the moment that falls into this category. She said WMERR doesn’t pay for transportation for out-of-state rescues, but in Montana it would pick up rescue horses for free.

“Horse rescue takes a village,” Shannon said. “It’s just us. There are now three more horse rescues in the valley. I prefer to work together – we all have the same goal – to help horses in difficulty, but also to help horse owners who need help.

“Education is a big part of what we do,” Shannon said. This Saturday 15th October WMERR will hold their annual tack sale, their biggest fundraiser of the year, at 633 Warbler Lane, Corvallis. As well as a wide variety of horse and carriage supplies, they always try to have something educational included in the event, and this year Parsons Ponies will be there, teaching children about ponies. Tom Currier, DVM, of Ambrose Veterinary Clinic will also be on hand to talk about horse care. Tory Powell will demonstrate Liberty. Freedom is a form of working with a horse without a halter or rope of any kind. “She just works the horse with her hands and her body,” Shannon said. “It’s fascinating to watch. There are so many good people in the valley with lots of knowledge to share. It’s so important to be educated about what’s best for animals.

Shannon said people end up abandoning their horses for a variety of reasons, most often a change in their circumstances so they no longer have the money to look after the horse. “It could be a death or a move to a fixed income,” Shannon said. She said people sometimes don’t know how to feed effectively and horses decline quickly if they are not fed properly or their teeth are not taken care of.

“We get a lot of older horses,” Shannon said. “Usually they can be rehabilitated. Just because they’re 30 doesn’t mean they’re going to die soon.

Since its inception in 2008, WMERR has helped around 300 horses. Unfortunately, horses that have nowhere to go can often end up being auctioned off and sent to slaughter and this is the main thing WMERR tries to avoid. WMERR also helps horse owners with hay grants, euthanasia assistance, and education.

“Sometimes the owner doesn’t know what to do,” says Shannon, “or they don’t contact the vet because they’re afraid of the cost. Rescuers can reverse the situation for the animals.

After the rescue and rehabilitation process, when a horse is deemed ready for adoption, Shannon posts it to Facebook. Potential adopters go through a rigorous vetting process, references are checked and they complete a home visit. The minimum fee to adopt a rehabilitated horse from WMERR is $250.

“Nobody here gets paid and we don’t charge for transportation,” Shannon said. She said it costs WMERR $600 to $700 upfront just to take a horse due to the veterinary care and treatment required.

“But we, like all rescues, have many community members, friends, donors and sponsors,” Shannon said. Every penny collected is used to pay for veterinary bills and transportation services, as well as food and supplements.

And even with the best possible care, “not all horses can be saved,” Shannon said. “Sometimes the kindest thing is euthanasia. The last act of kindness.

Even that costs money, but she says, “It’s not about the money, it’s about doing the right thing.

She said the big sale on Saturday helps raise money to buy good quality hay that they always need, especially to get through the winter. (In fact, she says, she’s currently looking for someone with a flatbed trailer to pick up seven tons of donated hay in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, then unload and stack it.) She said anyone unable Anyone attending the sale can always call Cowpoke Ranch Supply in Corvallis to purchase bags of Haystack Special Blend, Purina Equine Senior or Purina Equine Strategy and Redman Salt Blocks for WMERR. Monetary donations can be sent to: WMERR, PO Box 1168, Corvallis MT 59828.

His advice to any potential horse owner: Build a relationship with your veterinarian. They have so much knowledge to impart and they are happy to share it. In fact, she says, it would be a better world if everyone shared what they know with others.

“More people need to help each other,” Shannon said. “Not everyone knows everything.”

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