It’s only appropriate that the 50th horse saved by Drifter’s Hearts of Hope is so full of life.
On a recent rainy day on a ranch near the Douglas-Elbert county line, Milagra sprinted alongside her mother, Cabo, the 38th horse rescued from slaughter by the nonprofit.
Milagra, a 3-week-old filly with boundless energy, watched intently as her mom rolled around in the dirt and strode proudly around the perimeter of her corral. Minutes later, the foal was enveloped in hugs from volunteers who simply couldn’t help themselves.
The loving scenes would have never taken place without the intervention of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope.
Just over a year ago, in July 2014, Parker resident Jean Kirshner, her daughter, Bella, and close friend Jacqui Avis attended their first horse auction in Fort Collins. Bids were based on weight, and acquisitions would soon be sent either to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. For $1,500, the trio bought three horses to save.
To date, the nonprofit has rescued 54 horses and adopted out 29 of them. It wasn’t until Cabo — suffering from placentitis among other ailments — tried to abort her foal that Drifter’s Hearts helpers realized they’d actually saved two horses when they bought malnourished Cabo.
The baby equine was dubbed “Milagra,” a more feminine version of the Spanish word for “miracle.”
“She escaped death before she was born — twice,” Jean Kirshner said.
Lots of love
The aforementioned hugs were bestowed by Bella Kirshner, Sande Nokes and Kari Rippy, who began volunteering for the nonprofit organization after seeing a post on the group’s Facebook page.
Bella Kirshner, who has special needs, is thrilled to be part of the operation, and her mother says helping Drifter’s Hearts of Hope succeed has given her daughter purpose and instilled “a sense that she’s needed.”
“I like to get the horses. I like them to be alive,” Bella Kirshner said. “My favorite thing about the horse is grooming them to be beautiful.”
She also touts her stall-mucking skills, and she and other young adults with special needs routinely congregate to make oat-filled horse cookies. The cookies are sold and proceeds used to rescue more horses. The special needs crew also receives regular updates on the horses they have saved. And the nonprofit entered its first show with the rescues, with the group winning ribbons for its hard work in getting the equines show-ready.
“They’re using these horses that were on the truck to go,” Jean Kirshner said. “It’s so exhilarating for them, because they’re competing against peers (without special needs) and winning.”
A good problem to have
The sight of a new horse discovering its fleet-footedness never seems to get old. Avis and Jean Kirshner laugh as Milagra tries to keep up with mom, then kicks her legs in the air in a fit of joy.
“Milagra was No. 50, but we’ve rescued (four) more since she was born,” Jean Kirshner said. “Jacqui can’t stop.”
Smiling, Avis chimed in: “Yeah, I have problems.”
But the “problems” have opened doors for youths who have had the chance to acquire skills, have fun and, best of all, save the lives of grateful, gentle giants.
Drifter’s Hearts is aiming for a larger space within the next year or two. It is currently at capacity and is keeping some horses on neighboring ranches. Despite some attachment to the rescues, the organization’s goal is to not keep them for a long time. They nurse the horses back to health before finding a “forever home,” whether through Facebook or word-of-mouth, Jean Kirshner said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.driftersheartsofhope.org or its Facebook page.