By Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
Stephens Media Hawaii
Inside the Hawaii Island Humane Society’s Hawaii Horse Expo program are photos of 14 horses in lush green pastures or fenced areas. The animals appear healthy and strong. Their sleek bodies shine golden or brown in the sunshine.
These horses are transitioning from a life of abandonment, malnutrition, abuse, neglect and hardship. They are now thriving, though some still require extensive rehabilitation. Their stories are as heart wrenching as they are heart warming.
Their recovery is owed to the humane society, local veterinarians, foster families, volunteers and supporters of the Horse Rescue Fund. All have contributed generously to bringing these unwanted horses back from a precipice.
Still, there is more work to be done, including saving more horses, as well as keeping up with the financial costs of boarding, feeding and treating these animals, said Donna Whitaker, the humane society’s executive director.
The care of all the horses is costly and time-consuming. Whitaker estimated it costs about $250 a month to feed a horse. A vet examines all rescued horses from head to hoof, and the animals get basic medical care, such as getting vaccinated and dewormed. If a horse has any physical or physiological problems, thousands of dollars may be required, she added.
Fundraisers, such as this weekend’s Hawaii Horse Expo in Waimea, raise money for the humane society’s Horse Rescue Fund. The fund helps abused and abandoned horses on the island. The Hawaii Horse Expo raised more than $20,000 last year, said Nancy Jones, the event’s producer.
She and Mary Buckley started the event six years ago because they saw a need to help horses — “wonderful horses, through no fault of their own, are abandoned and unwanted because of human indifference and ignorance.”
Most of the rescued horses were found wandering. The reasons for their abandonment are unknown, but could include the state of the economy. Because of financial difficulties, overwhelmed owners possibly could no longer take proper care of their horses, Whitaker said.
Over the past six years, Aina Hou Animal Hospital in Waimea has fostered more than 15 rescued horses for the humane society and given the organization discounted services, said Dr. Brady Bergin, the hospital’s owner. The horses tend to be older, malnourished, frightened and depressed. It’s not unusual for them to also have permanent eye injuries, hoof problems or dental issues.
Bergin said he and his staff appreciate the opportunity to help and care for these horses. He thinks it’s very rewarding seeing a malnourished, neglected or depressed horse transform into a healthy horse — one that’s stronger and more robust. He has bonds and fond memories with all the horses.
Jones agrees that the best part is seeing the progress and comeback of the horses.
So far, the majority of the saved horses have been successfully adopted, Whitaker said. Some horses are still in rehabilitation, which can take months or years depending on the case.
Besides raising money and awareness for a good cause, the Hawaii Horse Expo provides valuable education and resources. Experts from Hawaii and the mainland, who represent various equine health and training disciplines, give clinics. Topics include common horse diseases in Hawaii, the art of barrel racing, geriatric horse care, horse behaviors and customizing horse trailers.
The information is useful whether one is thinking about owning a horse, is a new horse owner or is a seasoned horse owner, Whitaker said. She hoped all the attendees took away at least one new thing that they could apply to their horse ownership or training.
Oahu resident Destiny Hanohano attended the expo Saturday to support the rehabilitation of rescued horses and to gain useful knowledge that she could apply to pa’u riding.
Hanohano said she just started riding last year and loves the connection between the rider and the horse. She likened that bond to a secret, one that’s pure and unconditional. She was passionate about not only learning better horsemanship skills, but also deepening her understanding about horses.
Jones believes that with knowledge comes a better relationship with the horse. She called the featured experts incredible — a trait that applies not just to their knowledge and skills, but also because of “the goodness of their hearts to support this cause.”
The expo kicked off Saturday at the Paniolo Heritage Center at Pukalani Stables, where it continues today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to the clinics today, a special flag presentation and blessing begins at 9:30 a.m. There will also be the presentation of the Mana Award to residents Edwin Nobriga and Wallie Kimura-Nobriga. They’re being honored at 12:30 p.m. for their efforts to support youth through the Hawaii High School Rodeo Association.
The Paniolo Preservation Society Museum is open to expo attendees. There are vendors offering services, medical and nutritional information, food, saddle making, and crafts.
Tickets, costing $30, are available at the gate. For more information, visit www.hawaiihorseexpo.com.
Email Carolyn Lucas-Zenk at email@example.com.