Founder and CEO of Pony Tales Refuge & Rehab Cindy Prince is pictured astride Aileen, a Belgian draft mare rescued from a September slaughter auction. The mare was recently adopted from the Colfax horse rescue. Willing to accept more horses, the rescue is holding a special month-long surrender event during November.

Throughout November, Pony Tales Refuge & Rehab, Inc. is providing struggling horse owners with a low-cost surrender option.

Cindy Prince, founder and CEO of the horse rescue in Colfax, says her organization is holding the special surrender event for the full month of November.

This is the first year Pony Tales Refuge & Rehab is holding a month-long surrender event, Prince said. In the past, the surrender event has been held in late October/early November, but it was a one day event.

The low-cost event helps those horses whose owners cannot afford the normal fee of $395.

“The lower fee of $150 will not buy enough hay, even for one horse, to make it through the winter,” Prince said. “We can take that burden off of them as well and get the horse through the winter, and hopefully, into a new home that can provide for them for the rest of their lives.”

The rescue held a week-long surrender event in May to help horse owners struggling to pay for their horses’ care because of the pandemic. Twenty-four horses were surrendered during the spring event.

The regular fall surrender is held because winter conditions make horse keeping more difficult and expensive, causing horse owners without the means to care for their horses to conclude they need to let their horses go.

“But selling to a private buyer the owner does not know is very scary for many people,” Prince said. “Others will take them to auctions where 80 percent of the horses are bought for slaughter. Others seek out rescues to take their horse, but more often than not, they are told rescues are full. As an open-door full-circle-of-life shelter, that is never the case here. However, in order to always be able to take in any horse at any time for any reason, we do charge a surrender fee to help cover our initial costs of bringing the horse into our shelter.”

Prince says no horse will be refused, no matter its condition and without question. In addition to financial difficulties, other reasons horse owners will surrender their animals are because of their own medical problems or injuries, making them unable to physically care for their horses.

“We do not make them tell us why they are surrendering as we are an open-door shelter and will take in any horse at any time for any reason, but they often tell us anyway,” Prince said. “Sometimes the horse is just not a good fit for their home. Some end up with horses from family members who have passed away and they don’t know what to do with them. Some of the horses have expensive maintenance needs for chronic illness, injury, etc. and the expense/care is above and beyond what the owner can handle/afford. And often, the owner knows the horse is suffering and needs the last act of kindness, but they cannot afford to do it or cannot bring themselves to do it.”

The rescue’s mission has three objectives: to prevent horses from ending up in the slaughter pipeline, help adoptable horses find loving homes and prevent needless suffering of horses that need the last act of kindness but their owners cannot afford the high cost of euthanasia.

Prince recognizes the normal surrender fee might still be a substantial amount for some horse owners, but she says most see it as “buying peace of mind” that the horse will not end up going to slaughter. The fee is also often lower than the cost of euthanasia and disposal and saves the owner from “personally making the decision and going through the heartbreaking procedure.”

“If our vet and training evaluations determine that euthanasia is what is best for the horse, we will do that, which lifts a huge burden off of the owner’s shoulders,” Prince said.

Surrendered horses undergo quarantine and are provided the needed medical care and tests. The horse is also assessed by the organization’s trainers to determine its training level and areas that need to be addressed to prepare them for adoption.

“This all takes a lot of time and money, so we ask for a surrender fee to help cover those costs,” Prince said. “If you’re unable to pay the surrender fee, we can put you on a waiting list, and we can accept horses off the waiting list as funds allow.”

Along with evaluating the horse, potential adopters are also interviewed and assessed as to their knowledge and the amount of horse handling and riding experience they have.

“Our staff spends a great deal of time trying to get to know every little thing about every horse,” Prince said. “We then spend a great deal of time talking with the potential adopter to determine if a particular horse is a good fit for them. Should something happen down the road where the adopter feels the horse is not a good fit for whatever reason, the horse is always welcome back here, and they can see if another horse is perhaps a better fit at no additional charge. And that does happen from time to time. In 2020 alone, we have adopted out 111 horses, so far with only about six of them coming back.”

The horse rescue has a Facebook page, and its website can be found at ponytalesrefuge.org. To contact the organization to schedule an appointment, send an email to info@ponytalesrefuge.org.