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Harmony program stands on three legs

Deb Marsh, volunteer writer

The Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center is crafting a unique admissions policy to make the best use of its world-class facility and trainers. While it will always make room for law enforcement seizure cases, Harmony currently serves two other Colorado equine populations: rescue transfers and owner surrenders. This month, we put a face on each program.

Law enforcement seizure

Arminius

Harmony’s first priority remains law enforcement seizure cases. Neglected and/or abused animals like Izzy are removed from their owners and come to intake where they find shelter, clean water and quality hay. Harmony staff monitored Izzy’s weight by training her to stand on a scale. The little palomino gradually filled out as she began to trust people enough to allow a halter to be placed on her head and learned to lead. Four months passed, and with ownership turned over to Harmony and a clean bill of health, staff decided the two-year old was ready to start under saddle. After only four training sessions, the easy-going filly found a home with a woman who originally expected to adopt a more experienced horse. Izzy’s small stature, good looks and get-along-with-everyone personality won the woman over. Her new owner will continue training to take the former Harmony resident from barely knowing what a saddle feels like to becoming comfortable with riding.

Rescue transfer

Rabbit

Every volunteer knows Rabbit, the short-eared, gray gelding who arrived in June from a horse rescue through Harmony’s innovative transfer program that allows Colorado rescues to place animals that need further training with Harmony to improve their odds of getting adopted. Little Rabbit arrived halter broke, but without any skills under saddle. Trainers quickly learned that Rabbit had his own ideas about how training sessions would go, and he took extra time and effort to communicate. Rabbit was part of a group of Harmony animals sent to Colorado State University to be trained as therapy horses for people with disabilities or PTSD, but he was returned for failing to get along with other animals. Currently, Rabbit continues in Harmony’s training program where he learns more with every ride. And about those ears? Staff isn’t sure. They may have been frozen but because they’re so symmetrical, it’s possible they were cropped. Like many rescued equines, Rabbit likely came from a sale barn, so we’ll never know exactly what happened. What we can be sure of is that his future looks brighter than his past.

Owner surrender

Arminius

Here today and gone tomorrow. Arminius, a big warmblood gelding who came to Harmony with two other horses as part of an owner surrender, was adopted almost immediately. Harmony’s newest program, owner surrender, allows people who can no longer care for an animal to turn it over to Harmony to find a new home, as long as the horse meets certain criteria. Maybe the child who rode it has gone to college, or more frequently, the cost of hay has reached a point that the owner can’t afford to keep the animal. It costs an average of $2,500 to $3,000 to maintain a horse for just one year. Arminius arrived with a lot going for him. At 14, he was in his prime, in good health and had an extensive riding background. The big guy had a pedigree to turn heads; warmbloods (a group of tall, imported breeds that usually are ridden English style and make excellent dressage horses and jumpers) often command high prices, and his handsome good looks attracted the attention of potential adopters. After only a couple of weeks at Harmony, he has moved on to a home where he’ll continue to lead a good life.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Harmony horses will be on display at the next Rocky Mountain Horse Expo on March 1-3 in downtown Denver at the National Western complex. New this year are a trio of classes for horses that were adopted, either from Harmony or a horse rescue. Each animal and rider will compete in a trail class to see how they handle common obstacles like a bridge or going through a gate without dismounting. They’ll also perform patterns in a ranch riding contest, much like the old compulsory figures in Olympic ice skating. Contestants will be split into three groups according to the rider: Youth 13 and Under, Non-Professional, and Professional. Volunteers can cheer on current Harmony four-legged residents in a trail competition and ranch riding class open only to adoptable horses.

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