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Lora Handley with newborn, Scarlet, who was born at the Oakdale Equine Rescue and later adopted at age two. Photo courtesy of Oakdale Equine Rescue

around horses her entire life, she says she is always learning. “Each are totally different and come from different backgrounds. It can be difficult because horses that come from abusive backgrounds are shy and don’t want to be touched.” However, she has seen many come out of their shell, “As we work with them and form relationships, their personalities start to come out.” All horses receive training lessons, which helps them communicate and be comfortable around others. “We teach them how to follow so that they can lead,” Rutledge said. Each horse that comes to the OER stays an average of six months, said Rudledge, but some stay for years. The average annual cost per horse is approximately $2,100. Many of the horses that come are severely malnourished, require surgeries or medication, training and food. “Some horses come in with no handling, so we have our own trainers on site or send our horses down to Monty Roberts International Training Center at Flag is Up Farms in Solvang, California,” she said. Both Etheridge and Rutledge said that seeing these animals come in completely defeated is the worst. “The reward is putting the time 209MAGAZINE

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IF YOU GO GETTING THERE: The Oakdale Equine Rescue P.O. Box 1980 Oakdale, Ca 95361. FOR MORE INFORMATION: OakdaleEquineRescue.org

Dr. Buchanan at Sweet River Equine Clinic doing a health evaluation on Izarra, a severely malnourished Thoroughbred mare. Izara is now living with her adopted family and has made a healthy recovery. Photo courtesy of Oakdale Equine Rescue

and effort into these amazing horses to see the life come back into their eyes and be adopted by amazing families,” said Etheridge. For example, the Oakdale Police Department will soon start its own mounted patrol with two of the OER’s rescued horses. “The rescue horses will be out serving the public. That’s a good feeling and what keeps me going,” said Etheridge. “Rescue horses are truly a privilege to own. They learn to trust and love you, are the most forgiving horses, and are simply the best to own.” ■

APRIL/MAY 2015

PHOTOS COURTESY OF OAKDALE EQUINE RESCUE

Thanks to donations and fundraising efforts that include fireworks stands, and benefits, the OER continues to save lives while educating the public horse care and management. Horses come to the rescue in several different ways. The Foundation works with animal control officers from Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties to seize, adopt and foster horses. “We also help people that have fallen into hard times and need to place their horses. They trust us to find them perfect homes,” said Etheridge. The OER has a strict adoption process that requires a one-time fee donation, checkups, and no breed laws to ensure horses go to good, stable homes. “If we don’t feel like it is a good match, we won’t let you take a horse home,” added Etheridge, who has repossessed horses after several months with their new owner. Lorissa Rutledge, a trainer for the OER Foundation, helps to nurture the horses through basic training and by building trust so they can be handled safely. “Horses are my life,” she said. “I’ve been riding them since I could sit on a horse.” While Rutledge has been


209 Magazine - Issue 7