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Working to care for horses during COVID-19

Over the past few months, COVID-19 affected so much of our daily lives. Everything from how we shop to how we meet friends (or not as the case may be) to how students go to school changed. One thing that has remained relatively normal has been operations at the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center. Let’s face it, with 168 acres social distancing is easier … so much easier!

Since the Harmony Equine Center opened in 2012, staff has cared for, trained, rehabilitated and adopted horses, ponies, donkeys and mules who have been removed by law enforcement authorities or surrendered by owners, giving every animal its best chance to find a forever home. And, that has not changed since the pandemic began.

While there has been little direct impact to the way Harmony operates – meaning, issues with food supplies, changes to investigations, shifts in adoptions process  – that doesn’t mean it has been business as usual.

One of the biggest challenges at Harmony was when the Safer at Home order went into effect, and volunteers throughout the League who were over the age of 65 were required to stay home. Some of our most dedicated volunteers fell within this group. To fill in the gap, staff from other parts of the League were reassigned to help with the care of horses and the facility’s maintenance, which is no small feat – especially when your equine knowledge is how shall we say it? Limited! More about that below.

Much to the disappointment of everyone at Harmony and throughout the greater equine community, the annual Harmony Horse Expo was cancelled. Traditionally, the event allows visitors to take guided tours of the facility, attend free horsemanship workshops and training demonstrations and meet adoptable horses. After such a well-received and successful event last year, the team is already thinking about next year’s Expo!

Outreach and training are vital to educating law enforcement officers about animal welfare and laws, and the Colorado Humane Society, a program of the Dumb Friends League, postponed several classes and training sessions at Harmony over the past few months. Starting in August, and with appropriate health and safety guidelines, training sessions are scheduled to resume (outside, of course) with a search and rescue program.

Looking at everything Harmony has accomplished since the Stay at Home Order went into effect continues to be impressive. A straight by the numbers look since March 25 includes:

  • 3 law enforcement cases taken in, including 18 donkeys and three stolen horses
  • 36 owner surrenders accepted
  • 7 births
  • 2 transfers received
  • 54 horses adopted

While it may not be exactly business as usual at the Harmony Equine Center, it is as close as it can be during these fluid times!

To learn more about adoptable horses at the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center, visit our adoptions page.

Q&A with Community Educator Kyle W.

By day in a regular world, you can find Kyle, one of the League’s community educators in our Humane Education department, in front of students or community members teaching people about various animal welfare topics. With schools and summer camps closing, the Humane Education team created virtual lessons and summer contests, and the small yet mighty team of three has also been helping with dog walking, welcoming transfers and, well, cleaning poop (because there’s nothing virtual about that).

Kyle has been working at the Harmony Equine Center, and let’s see what he has to say about the experience …

Q:  What are your responsibilities at Harmony?

A:  For the first one to two hours, I help shovel poop wherever horses or other equines are being kept. After that I could be doing a variety of things like mowing the grass and helping to keep the place looking sharp! I have also massaged a mini-horse, cleaned the gunk out of the animals’ water, unloaded hay into their feeders and helped fix a fence that the horses are always destroying.

Q:  How often do you go?

A:  I’m at Harmony two (full) mornings a week – from 7 a.m. to noon.

Q:  Did you have any experience working around horses before?

A:  Zero!

Q:  Has anything surprised you about the experience?

A:  I wouldn’t say anything has surprised me, but I have learned a lot about horses and equine care.

Q:  What have you liked most about the experience or what’s been the best part of the experience?

A:  I love being outside. It’s a beautiful property, and being out in the fresh air, even if it’s really hot, is a nice change of pace from what I usually do for the League. It’s fun having the horses and donkeys come up to you to socialize while you’re in their pen. They like getting rubs and scratches. It’s also rewarding when a horse that doesn’t normally seek out affection, lets you get close and pet them.

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