Fundraising fun runs are nothing new, as participants in events like Muckfest and “Tough Mudder” competitions can attest. Obstacle courses are designed to test runners' endurance and athleticism, usually involving a lot of dirt and sweat.
On April 22, the Colorado Horse Park will add a twist, challenging humans to take on obstacles, water jumps and terrain designed for horses.
“The idea is to get people of all ages out there to see the athleticism of horses, who have to traverse these obstacles, sometimes with a 150-pound person on their back,” said Andrea Mena, a volunteer with horse rescue Drifter's Hearts of Hope.
The nonprofit horse rescue in Franktown is sponsoring its first “Run to the Rescue” at the equine park, featuring Denver Broncos cheerleaders, door prizes, yoga classes, vendors and a 5K all-ages run on the park's equestrian racecourse.
The ranch began almost three years ago, when Parker resident Jean Kirshner brought her daughter to an Elbert County ranch to get to know Drifter, a horse rescued from a holding pen in Fort Collins by her friend Jacqui Avis. Drifter's next stop would have been a slaughterhouse in Mexico.
Kirshner's daughter Bella, who has cerebral palsy, began grooming and riding Drifter, mucking his stall and taking him to the veterinarian. She helped bring the horse back to health, and working with Drifter brought out a different side of her.
“This was the first time I saw Bella with a purpose,” Kirshner said.
Bella and her friends began baking horse treats and selling them to raise money for horse charities. Sitting in at one of the baking parties, Avis got the idea for her and the Kirshners to rescue horses on their own.
Three years later, Drifter's Hearts of Hope has expanded to the King of Hearts Ranch in Franktown, buying horses, most on their way to slaughter, and rehabilitating them for adoption. About 20 volunteers give their time at the ranch each week, watering, exercising and cleaning up after about 40 horses on any given day.
Avis estimates they adopted 80 horses last year — and it wasn't cheap.
“It's expensive to run this place,” Avis said. “Between feeding and vets and training, it adds up.”
Mena came up with the idea for the event as a way to compete for a $25,000 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Each year, the organization recognizes groups that generate community involvement for its annual “Help a Horse Day.”
Avis said she hopes turnout is good enough for the ASPCA to take notice — $25,000 buys a lot of hay. So far, Mena said response from the community has been positive and she's expecting a good turnout from the “horse hub” in the Parker area.
“The equine community in Parker is massive,” she said. “It's such a worthwhile cause, that's why I think people are responding.”
Avis and Mena are expecting between 150 to 200 people, most of whom will hopefully bring a change of clothes.
“People are going to get wet and dirty,” Avis said.