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UWRF professor volunteers at horse rescue farm

November 19, 2009

A Refuge Farm for horse rescue and sanctuary is located in Spring Valley, Wis., only 19 miles from River Falls where UW-River Falls Professor Tracy O’Connell volunteers with the farm regularly.

“I’ve been volunteering there since about 2005,” O’Connell said. “They rescue horses and they have a couple different missions.”

The “sanctuary herd” is the group of horses that live on the farm, all rescued and taken care of, and can be found on the farm’s Web site: http://www.refugefarms.org

The sanctuary herd visits various groups in the community, including retirement homes and camps, to spread the message of the farm, O’Connell said. The farm also has designated times in which the public can visit the horses.

The refuge farm’s mission is to provide a home for mistreated, or unwanted horses, who will no longer face hunger, inhumane treatment, or be forced to move and re-adjust anymore, according to the Web site.

The farm is receiving more and more attention with an increase in horses needing homes, O’Connell said.

“[This is an] extremely vital necessity in our environment. Lots of people have lost their jobs, their farms,” O’Connell said.

There is no market for horses, O’Connell said. They are being sold at auctions in Canon Falls, Wis., for $10, when they were sold for $100 a year ago.

“When they’re purchased at that price, it’s because they’re being fattened for slaughter and shipped to Canada or Mexico,” O’Connell said.

The refuge farm has rescued 240 horses, according to O’Connell.

“As the worsening of the situation you get this desperate feeling of needing to help the horses when you know that they’re starving, that they’re suffering,” O’Connell said.

Volunteers are welcome at the refuge farm, she said.

“[There is] no paid staff, they’re all volunteers. Everything is based on donations and fundraising events.” O’Connell said.

The farm raises funds with various events it plans throughout the year. Recently, on Saturday its annual “Fall Gala and Auction” was held at the University of Minnesota’s Equine Center, and had guest speaker Don Hoglund, a
published veterinarian who spoke about the rescue of wild horses.

Upcoming fundraising events include cheesecake sales and a breakfast hosted at Applebees in Menomonie, Wis.

In the summertime the farm sends volunteers to Country Jam, an event where different non-profit groups can sign up to work.

“We had probably 12 students last summer from here working Country Jam,” O’Connell said.

The students each worked for four hours, and had the rest of the day free to explore, she added.

“We have so many jobs. If students or faculty [are interested] we have a lot of opportunities: taking care of horses, writing grants, [and] serving breakfasts,” O’Connell said. “They don’t have to know anything about horses.”

Anybody interested in volunteering for the refuge farm may contact the farm or O’Connell directly.