The Fallout from COVID-19

By Emily Daily/Jump Media

It’s no secret that the repercussions from COVID-19 have hit the equine industry hard. With show cancellations and training programs sidelined, many professionals have had to get creative under pressure to keep their businesses on track. One sector that is expecting to see a huge impact from the pandemic in the near future are equine rescue groups. 

Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, is one such facility. Well-known for their successful equine rehabilitation, adoption, and education programs, the nonprofit has weathered tough times throughout their 31-year history. Through careful fiscal management and strategic donor support programs, DEFHR was able to plan ahead for unexpected events. They were prepared to make calm, thoughtful decisions to adjust their protocols and keep their staff safe and ensure all horses at the farm are well cared for as soon as the challenges began to unfold (DEFHR on average shelters 150 horses annually). 

Sadly, many rescue groups are not in this situation. “The fallout we are witnessing from this pandemic is that fellow rescues do not have reserves built up or a healthy donor base and are having to close doors and redistribute horses in their care,” says DEFHR’s CEO Erin Clemm Ochoa. 

The facility primarily works directly with local law enforcement and animal control officials on neglect and abuse cases, but given the potential impact to horses in the aftermath of this pandemic, DEFHR is also looking into how they can assist and support other like-minded rescue organizations and members of the community should they have difficulty caring for their horses. “COVID-19 will not stand in the way of horses in need in our region,” says DeEtte Hillman, DEFHR’s Equine Programs Director. 

The organization isn’t government-funded, despite their services directly supporting government agencies, so it relies heavily on donors, fundraisers, and local supporters to stay in operation. “I have concerns throughout the next year to 18 months over the implications on us and other nonprofits because we don’t sell a product or service,” says Ochoa. “We’re reliant on the community supporting us.”  

How You Can Help

Though many of us are facing financial uncertainty ourselves, there are ways to make a difference in our own community that don’t require a huge monetary commitment. Do some research ahead of time and verify that the organization you are choosing to support is a legitimate 501c3 non-profit and has above average ratings on Charity Navigator and/or Guidestar. Best ways to help outside of a monetary gift:

  • Check out local animal welfare nonprofits and find out what their immediate needs are. Does their staff need supplies? Do they offer remote volunteer opportunities?
  • Sponsor a particular horse who’s in the care of a rescue. 
  • Find out if there are local hay and feed banks in your area. There might be some set up to help the people and rescue organizations that are going to fall on hard times.
  • Assist a local rescue with a future fundraiser or help them with some community outreach in your area. 
  • Keep an eye out for animals in trouble. “There are less eyes and ears on things right now,” advises Hillman. “Horses, depending on situation and age, can decline rapidly. If you see or witness anything that’s concerning, make the phone call to report it. Don’t wait. Don’t stop watching out for them.”

What you don’t want to do, warns Ochoa, is launch your own rescue organization. “We get calls all the time from people asking how they can start rescues,” she says. “We tell them to find a legitimate rescue in their area instead and support them. Seventy percent of rescues fail in the first three years. Partnering with a rescue in your area is a great way to take your desires and efforts and amplify them.” 

Financial donations of any size are always appreciated by nonprofits, and Ochoa encourages people to think of their monetary gifts as an investment. “You don’t want to see that lost,” she says. “You want to make sure that the organization stays around and is able to provide that valuable service. If you do have the means and you are still able to support them, that’s what’s going to get the nonprofit sector through this.”

Over the past three decades, Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, Maryland, has been renowned for working to not only prevent equine abuse and neglect, but also to educate the public about equine welfare and help their staff, volunteers, and members of the public become better horsemen and women. Learn more about DEFHR‘s adoptable horses as well as their numerous education and volunteer opportunities. Visit https://www.defhr.org or follow them on Facebook.