The Horse Shelter, Santa Fe NM

The Horse Shelter outside of Santa Fe New Mexico is a phenomenal example of an organization rehabilitating animals for a second chance at a home while also expanding the horizons of its volunteers.

I came to the Shelter to document the volunteers and seven trainers who were in the finals days of the Gimme Shelter Challenge, held July 20th at the Rodeo Grounds. This auction was the culmination of 100 days of each trainer working with their young horse (3-5 years old) going from quite green to ready for a new home. Although I only witnessed the last few days it was clear to see the intensive work and the amazing change these horses made.

Because of the high rate of poverty many sick horses, or owners who simply cannot afford the bills of a healthy horse, are released and become feral, not quite wild and not quite able to fend for themselves. And many of these horses, sick and scared, sometimes injured get a second chance for as long as it takes to whatever kind of home they need at the Shelter.

On Friday and Saturday during the Gimme Shelter Challenge the trainers and horses were put through extensive testing before professional judges to show how far they had come. It was such a beautiful thing to witness, concluding with the parade of past adoptees and the freestyle, which I can best describe as a musical performance by horse and rider as partners. At the completion all 7 horses were adopted and funds raised for the Shelter.

When people invest in animals, the animals invest in their people ten fold. And the Horse Shelter is unusual as the volunteers learn Natural Horsemanship skills and help start the horses, working on ground training to help each horse on their journey. But it is a two way street. As one of the past equine adoptees “said” through his owner during the parade, the horse shelter helps humans as much as it does horses. Anyone who has worked with animals in need knows this is absolute truth and horses are a barometer of how you show up, requiring patience and self awareness.