By Russell Hixson
GUTHRIE, Okla. —
Tullie, an 8-year-old palomino quarterhorse, chomps on some hay in the sunshine of a Guthrie pasture. Other horses mill about getting their fill.
Two years ago Tullie wasn’t so comfortable. Jagged, hairless scars on her hindquarters and back show it. Her previous owner tried to cure a skin condition with a homemade ointment of lime and transmission fluid which left the horse hairless, bloody and scorched.
After two years at Horse Feathers Equine Rescue in Guthrie, her weight is up and wounds are healing.
“We get the worst of the worst,” the rescue’s founder Cheri White Owl said.
When horses have nowhere else to go and everyone has given up on them, they go to Horse Feathers. The nonprofit is operating at capacity with 36 horses and constantly must turn down more.
There are many reasons a horse calls the rescue home. Some owners can’t afford to take care of their horse, some can’t handle the responsibility and some horses — like Tullie — need rehabilitation from brutal injuries.
White Owl said she started the rescue approximately 15 years ago.
She had been around horses all her life but it wasn’t until after a severe work injury that she really needed them. Working with horses helped her recover from her injuries. White Owl said it was her turn to help horses.
In addition to caring for the horses, White Owl uses them for therapy for war veterans, teens and accident victims. She said horses can sense those who are troubled, wounded and hurting and gravitate toward those individuals. Caring for a horse often helps them open up and begin talking. And those who see wounded horses who have come through rehab are encouraged to overcome their own physical or emotional struggles.
“To watch these guys heal is amazing,” White Owl said.
Keeping the rescue running is constant challenge. The recession has caused donations to dwindle for the past few years, which has slowed many of the rescue’s projects. On top of that, droughts and wildfires have hurt hay supplies and make feeding all the horses a challenge each month. Hay that previously cost $35 to $40 can sometimes fetch more than $100. Donations and a handful of grants help keep things afloat.
To help low income horse owners and seniors, Horse Feathers has its Hay for the Hungry program where owners can fill out an application and get hay. White Owl said some hay sellers have been taking advantage of the shortage by gouging their prices and selling low quality hay.
“It’s disgusting,” she said and advised horse owners not to pay in advance for their hay. “You have the right to refuse hay that does not meet your standards.”
There are many projects White Owl said the rescue would like to complete — building a winter shelter, getting at tractor and creating space for more horses. But funds and a need for volunteers make it difficult.
“We don’t give up hope. We move forward and keep doing what we can do,” White Owl Said.
White Owl said anyone wanting to help the rescue can visit http://www.horsefeathersequinerescue.org to see a list of needs.
Donors can purchase items, buy gift cards, sponsor horses, purchase candles and gifts or give tax deductible cash gifts.
Those wanting to volunteer can attend the rescue’s work days Oct. 27 and 28.