Nonprofit rehabilitates animals, providing renewed purpose & loving homes
By Autumn Gray
Sky’s the Limit will celebrate his 35th birthday this year surrounded by people and animals who love him. That doesn’t sound like big news, but for a horse, the age places him well into the senior category, past the average equine lifespan. The fact that he has a family to honor and care for him in his elder years – now, that’s a longer (ahem) tail.
Just five years ago Sky was starving, his body shutting down, his eyes lifeless, and any personality had been seemingly lost to whatever circumstances had dragged him to that point. Sky needed 24-hour medical care and frequent feedings if he had any chance of survival. New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin in Circles Ranch gave him that chance when he came through their not-so-pearly East Mountain gates in 2017. Sky had been brought to the nonprofit for rehabilitation, and within months of rigorous attention and care, he was transformed. Today, ranch hands say that despite his age, there is no limit to Sky’s potential.
Sky is just one of 500 horses that the 30-acre ranch in Stanley (9 miles north of Edgewood) has provided with fresh starts, hopeful futures, and productive lives since its beginning 20 years ago this month.
“We don’t want a horse to just spend the rest of its life alone,” said the rescue’s board president, Lauri Michael. “A productive life could mean being a trail horse for an older person. It might mean becoming a show horse for a younger kid. Or, we have a lot of horses who simply are companion horses, meaning that they can’t be ridden because of an injury or because of age, but they can certainly provide companionship to another horse or a human.
“That’s being productive. You know, having a purpose.”
The rescue cares for an average of 50 horses annually. In 2021, 37 horses were rehabilitated and retrained; 28 were placed in forever homes; and 40 are awaiting adoption today.
The majority of horses that arrive at the ranch have been seized by the New Mexico Livestock Board due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment; others are surrendered by individuals who can no longer care for their horse(s).
The ranch operates regularly at capacity, with 100-plus volunteers, a board of directors that oversees day-to-day operations with the assistance of an onsite ranch manager, and an annual budget of $450,000 that includes zero government funding. All income is from donors, sponsors, legacy gifts, endowments, trusts, grants, and the Walkin N Circles Ranch Thrift Store in Edgewood.
In recognition of the nonprofit’s 20th anniversary, the New Mexico Horse Rescue has a goal of raising $20,000 by the end of the year to ensure it can continue helping as many horses as possible.
“Our biggest need right now is truly maintaining our hay budget,” Michael said. “Because of the drought, hay has become extremely expensive.”
The ranch also is in continuous need of fosters and volunteers. No horse experience is needed to volunteer – just a love for animals. All skills sets are welcome, from answering telephones, to feeding/watering, maintaining the grounds, and driving a tractor.
“Volunteering with us provides a reason to be outside. It’s a reason to be with animals, … and it forces you to sort of live in the moment and learn patience and just learn to be calm and have that nonverbal communication with an animal,” said Michael, who began with the ranch as a volunteer in 2017. Not long after, she and her husband adopted a horse named Charlotte, and then fate drew her to lead the organization. She also works full-time as director of brand management for a local health care provider.
Though Michael came to the rescue with some youthful 4H experience showing horses, most volunteers don’t have any horse know-how, she said. Most are also retirees.
“Retirees come to the ranch a little less stressed, a bit more in the moment, and the horses are intuitive. They can tell that, and so they respond well to our older volunteers,” Michael said.
If ranch work isn’t your thing but you want to help horses in another way, the thrift store has opportunities to greet customers, arrange displays, sort donations, and more.
The New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin in Circles Ranch is one of 10 horse rescues in the state that is licensed, regulated, and inspected annually by the New Mexico Livestock Board. It is also accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and uses University of California, Davis Best Practices for Horse Rescues and natural horsemanship to guide its work.
“As a licensed horse rescue, we have first rights to bid on these horses, and so that’s how they end up here instead of at a slaughterhouse,” Michael said.
“Sky’s the Limit is a great example of the more tragic stories having a happy ending.”
To read more horse success stories and to donate to the rescue, visit https://www.wncr.org/.
To help the New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin in Circles Ranch celebrate its 20th anniversary, the public is also invited to these special events:
- June 11: Drive-In Movie Night Fundraiser at Wildlife West Nature Park, 87 N. Frontage Road, Edgewood. For tickets: www.wncr.org/drivein-movie
- August 20: Adopt-a-Thon and Festival at the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Posse Arena, 10308 2nd St. NW, Albuquerque. Information: wncr.org/2022-adoptathon
- October 22: Halloween Fun Open Horse Show at the Stanley Cyclone Center, 22 W. Kinsell Ave, Stanley. Information: www.wncr.org/2022-halloween-horse-show