A brown and white patched horse blinks modestly at the three women approaching. The nameless mare recoils when volunteer Linda Conrad approaches. Mare Doe's reluctance is palpable and it takes significantly longer to harness her than the other 34 residents at Mustangs to the Rescue. Once rope-haltered, Mare Doe is expressive and full of equine character: satellite ears shifting, nibbling zippers, trying to nuzzle into Kate Beardsley, the director of MTTR.
Seeing these amazing creatures in action, it isn't hard to understand how a somewhat superhero nonprofit formed to rescue horses in need. MTTR has offered assistance to horses in need as a public entity for the past five years and privately for the last 15. During its tenure, MTTR has arranged approximately 100 adoptions and facilitated help for hundreds more horses—all from its headquarters at Western Sky Ranch in southeast Bend.
Help runs the gamut, from slaughter intervention to assistance when a horse is being under-cared for. Beardsley casually references a time this year when hundreds of untrained horses were rounded up in northeastern Oregon, headed for slaughter. By peaceably working with the kill buyer (the person selling horses for slaughter) and accessing the power of social media, Beardsley was able to negotiate the release of the yearlings in the bunch and dispatched individual rescue parties to drive to Walla Walla for the pickups.
On working with a kill buyer, Beardsley plainly stated, "I respect that those individuals are doing their job, but it isn't a job I would choose and I wish it were obsolete."
In more typical rescue scenarios, a neighbor or friend intervenes and encourages a horse owner to call MTTR because they are having difficulty, often financial, caring for a horse. "Behind every horse in need is at least one person in need," explains Beardsley. "No matter the reason, if a sheriff has seized a horse or a neighbor has talked a person into giving up a horse, I see relief consistently. Running the animal rescue is the way we choose to help our community."
Caring for horses involves much day-to-day labor, especially when the horses have been rescued, and even more so in winter. Beardsley has a dozen regular volunteer crew members who are hard-working, and coincidentally, 80 percent female.
When asked why equine care tends to be a female-dominated field, Beardsley reflected, "Women typically fill a nurturing role in our culture. ...We don't ignore animal cruelty anymore. Rescues are growing at a significant rate and animal rescue is a natural outgrowth of the challenges our society is facing.
Beardsley adds, "Crew members tend to all aspects of the horse rescue from administrative duties to shoveling manure." MTTR is always on the lookout for volunteers and apart from that it has a few other items on its wish list: A dump trailer, tractor and truck are the big-ticket requests.
On avoiding rescues, Beardsley adds, "Training is a horse's best insurance. It's very difficult to create adoptions, to keep horses out of the slaughter pipeline or even medically treat horses with no training. Training is for an animal's safety."
If you know of a horse in need, the first step is to contact the sheriff, Beardsley says. Documentation is important and there's no consequence for the owner if the situation checks out. Beardsley reminds us, "Animal abuse can grow into human abuse, so it's really important to report."