Recently in a conversation with my friend and horse trimmer, I mentioned wanting to get a companion for our 20-year-old (young) mare, Morgan. She recommended I contact 13 Hands Equine Rescue, a farm located in Clinton Corners, Dutchess Co., NY, to see if they might have a suitable companion.
We discussed the options: another small horse or pony, a donkey or a goat, as Morgan had two goats as stablemates for many years. I mentioned that at this point in our lives we were really not interested in another full-sized horse, but my friend recommended a mini-horse, explaining that Morgan really needed another horse as a companion rather than a goat or donkey.
We visited 13 Hands Equine Rescue, a nonprofit organization, on a Sunday afternoon. Located on 113 rolling acres, the view was breathtaking – the farm is nestled among the foothills of the mountains along beautiful Tuscan Way – and provided a calming sense of peace and tranquility.
The farm is a well-run organization that offers support for both horses and humans alike. In addition to a peaceful animal sanctuary, there are assisted therapy and learning sessions for veterans and their families, as well as programs for others suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and autism spectrum disorder.
13 Hands Equine Rescue was founded in November 2015 by Marylou Tortorello. She began by offering to help out another rescue organization in Vermont by adopting two horses. Her passion and commitment to the animals and their care enabled her to save more horses that were abused, abandoned or suffering from poor living conditions.
As word spread and time went by, more land was needed as the number of horses they rescued began to grow. Finally, a suitable location was found in Clinton Corners and, thanks to a generous donation by the husband and wife who owned the property, house and barn (and a lot of hard work building fencing, run-in sheds and other infrastructure), today 13 Hands Equine Rescue houses more than 200 equines.
All rescued horses are sent to a quarantine facility for 30 days in order to rest and begin to regain their health and strength. After being examined and approved by a licensed veterinarian, they are welcomed at the farm to begin their recuperation and their new lives.
Some horses will be adopted to homes providing loving care; some will participate in the farm’s Equine Assisted Therapy program for veterans and children; others will remain at the sanctuary as full-time residents where they will peacefully live out the rest of their days.
Our visit was very satisfying. We enjoyed watching the horses – some were running and playing, others peacefully grazing or eating their hay. There were horses of different sizes and many beautiful colors in field after field that appeared to be happy and well-cared for. There were many different paddocks, each with their own turnout sheds and shelters, each containing their own “herd.”
Everyone we met, from Marylou (the founder and president) to Ann (intern) and Angela (volunteer), knew the names of all the horses, their nature and disposition and which paddock each was located in. (The horses have their own personalities and special buddies they get along with best, and are grouped accordingly.) They were able to look up their ages and histories from a glance at their cell phone.
After asking and answering a number of questions and visiting with about a dozen horses and ponies, we were able to find a couple of likely prospects as a possible companion horse for our mare. Marylou and her staff are well-versed in figuring out which horse might be suitable for which new home (or not, as the case may be). They are thoughtful in suggesting horses that might work well.
Care is taken to find good, suitable homes for these rescue horses, with the caveat that if the horse doesn’t work out or isn’t happy in its new home, it returns to the farm. A detailed three-page adoption form is required for anyone who wishes to adopt a horse. The form provides space for three references along with questions about the adopter’s horse experience and a description of the farm or facility where the horse will be kept.
The farm has a staff of eight to 10, some of whom perform outside work, caring for the animals, maintaining the property and infrastructure, along with office staff and additional volunteers. The six-member board includes Andrew O’Grady, of Mental Health America Dutchess County, who provides support to the Equine Assisted Therapy program for veterans and brings with him 30 years of service to those affected by mental illness and addiction, as well as Glenn Albright. Glenn is a licensed clinical psychologist who received his Ph.D. from City University of New York in the area of experimental cognition and applied clinical psychophysiology.
The farm states what could be described as their goal and vision on their website: “13 Hands Equine is committed to help humans and horses alike, and we believe in the powerful effect of mutual healing through the human-horse relationship. This scientifically proven therapy model is based on the unique qualities of the horse to sense and react to human emotions …Their natural instincts as prey and herd animals, combined with their long history of being around humans, let them accurately read our emotions. The horses’ way of reacting to our emotions and body language is always immediate, honest, non-judgmental and benevolent.
“Through the therapeutic work with the horses, humans can be empowered to take control and bring about positive changes in their lives, even after experiencing the debilitating effects of traumatic events.”
The farm is open year-round seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to about 6 or 7 p.m. Volunteers are welcomed, but potential candidates must be at least 18 years of age and are asked to fill out a volunteer application and make a commitment of at least four days per month (once a week) as a minimum amount of volunteer time. Previous horse experience is highly recommended, and everyone, regardless of experience, must attend an orientation session. The session includes a full tour of the facility, a chance to meet the horses and learn about the day-to-day chores.
The equine rescue is directly supported by sponsors of the horses and donors. There are many horses in need of support while on the farm, whether they’re awaiting adoption into a new home or they will be staying at the sanctuary for the remainder of their lives. Financial support helps in providing hay, grain, veterinary care and dental and farrier services.
For additional information, and for those who wish to help, either by donating, volunteering, sponsoring or adopting a horse, visit 13handsequine.org or call 845.266.0096 or 914.325.4941. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a donation to 13 Hands Equine Rescue Inc. 50 Tuscan Way, Clinton Corners, NY 12514.