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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Horses Doing Community Service?

Horses Doing Community Service? You Bet!


A lot of folks know about the Saratoga WarHorse Program (SWH). It's a wonderful program that has a program to try to help vets from all over the country who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress.

Do you all know that most of their programs are held right here in Aiken? The facilities and special rescue horses are provided to SWH, free of charge by Equine Rescue of Aiken.

For 3 days the vets are here on our 80 acre facility, with our Aiken "War Horses." If you haven't been here, it's a beautiful, peaceful place. Artists come to paint the scenery, volunteers come to help with the horses and Vets come to heal.

We pick special horses that will make a connection to a vet. Their job is to be themselves, spend 3 days with that vet mirroring their emotions and empathizing with them. For many it's a cathartic experience. For some, we hope, it's the start of a road to recovery.

Aiken War Horse

My Dad made it through 4 European invasions in WWII and lived not to tell about it. I wish he had a Saratoga WarHorse Program to help him when he made it back, a changed man from the one who left our quiet seaside town.

Helping these Vets is a pretty big undertaking for the horses and the Rescue. We will help these beautiful animals find homes and a new job when they are ready to move on from the rigors of the program.

But the Community Service doesn’t stop with helping Veterans. The Rescue is heavily involved in the Pre Trial Intervention System (PTI) and the Juvenile Justice Program.

These folks come to the Rescue to do an assigned and supervised task. The horses are always here as part of the scenery. It’s peaceful and it gives them a chance to think while doing anything from mucking out a stall, filling water buckets for the horses or helping with the landscaping.

Jim Rhodes, the Managing Director and lifeblood of the Rescue, is always there, encouraging the participants in the program, talking and listening to them. He often becomes a father or big brother figure to some of these people, telling them like it is and what life expects of them. He doesn’t paint it pretty, but talks in terms they understand.

He can be the ultimate "Southern Gentlemen" for them to look up to and hope to embody someday.

He can also go to a level of reality with folks that need a serious talking to and figurative “slap up side the head” as if to say “Why on earth are you wasting your life acting this way or doing these things”?

I know it takes a personal toll on Jim. Just another of the burdens he bares in caring for human as well as equine lives as if it’s a matter of life and death, which sometimes it is. 

But the horses are always here, helping everyone in all of the programs, including Jim and the many other volunteers, who come to this place of beauty and leave, hopefully a little changed for the better.

It’s true what Winston Churchill said:
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Meanwhile we must care for all of the horses at the Rescue, including the ones in the SWH Program. Feed them twice a day, have their feet done every few weeks have them checked by the Vet and given bi-annual standard inoculations, have their teeth done once a year and care for them if they are sick.

Running the rescue and paying for all of this for every horse is not a forgone conclusion. We don’t have tons of money sitting in a big account we can rely on to pay the bills. Sometimes it’s a day to day worry. Yes, the physical land is here at the generosity of the original donor who set up the Rescue. However, the annual cost to support the horses is up to the Equine Rescue of Aiken to raise.

That’s where Jim Rhodes comes in, with every event, bucket for you to drop dollars into, one on one requests, pleas for help from facebook and twitter. It’s a full time job, along with caring for and managing the rescue, the broken water pipe, the fence needing fixing, applying for grants, all at no cost to the rescue. He’s an employee now and a  volunteer in his "spare time" like any volunteer who does it out of pure love for what he is doing, regardless of the stress that comes with everyday begging for money.

The other volunteers help where they can, come daily to do chores or come to work at events. But without public support, the Equine Rescue wouldn’t be here and a horse wouldn’t be here to help that Vet suffering from PTSD or that kid who took a wrong turn in his life and needed to be brought back on track and given something to do to fill his spare time and keep him out of trouble.

I know what I’m talking about. As a business person forced to retire early due to a sudden lifelong disability, the Rescue has helped give me a purpose and meaning to my life. It helps me know that I still have skills and am appreciated for the quality of my work and my work ethic. Its one thing to prepare for retirement. It’s another entirely to have the work that was your life’s passion pulled from you long before you were ready.

I can help in the background on my computer, show up for some events and take your entry ticket or help you pay with a credit card. I can share information about the rescue on my facebook page. I've even hosted a potluck dinner at my house and put a bucket out for cash for the Rescue. However I don’t personally have the money to give it what it needs to exist one more day or year.

That's where all of you come in.

The Rescue has sent out mailings to remind folks about our slogan: Horses Helping People. Return envelopes were included to make it easy to donate. You can donate even if you didn't get a mailing from us!


In the Holiday Season time of giving, or anytime of year, please send a check to Equine Rescue of Aiken or go to our website at www.aikenequinerescue.org Click on Donate for the option to donate with paypal or a credit card.   

If you run into Jim, think about the Rescue and all of the good done there. Let it be a reminder to put a check in the mail when you get home. You are guaranteed to get a good feeling and a thanks in the hearts of everyone who is part of the Rescue, especially the horses!

Submitted by Volunteer, Linda Vola, 12/4/2016

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