Safe Haven Horse Rescue
Photo courtesy of Lesley Deutsch/Blue Fountain Photography

Safe Haven Horse Rescue is celebrating 20 years of helping horses in need – to date, their work has benefitted over 1,000 grateful equines!

His eyes told the story as he stood, nearly 500 pounds underweight, in an empty field. Safe Haven Horse Rescue had been called about the skeletal horse, situated in a town just south of their sanctuary in Cottonwood, California. Many passersby had called Animal Control about him, but the local agencies’ hands were tied since he did have hay and water. But it was obvious his owners wouldn’t or couldn’t take proper care of him, so Safe Haven agreed, not for the first time, to take on the job of caring for and loving an extremely emaciated horse who would become known as Buddy.

20 years of rescue

Linda Richards is the founder of Safe Haven. She launched the rescue in 1995 after attending a horse auction. She saw a huge need for helping horses find homes, and pledged her life to doing just that.

Safe Haven Horse Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that gives immediate shelter to horses in need. Each animal’s condition is assessed on arrival, and their medical, farrier, dental and nutritional needs addressed, along with their need for shelter, security and love. Volunteers rehabilitate the horses and try to find them lifelong, loving homes. The rescue is also a sanctuary where many of the horses live out their lives.

Some of the rescued horses come from situations of abuse, starvation or abandonment. Many are from Animal Control agencies up and down the west coast, while others arrive healthy and beautiful, ending up at the rescue only because their owners are struggling with health or financial problems. Safe Haven has also taken in and rehomed many horses rescued from kill pens. All have different backgrounds, breeds and ages, and each has his or her own story.

Safe Haven Buddy
Buddy, an older Arabian gelding, was hundreds of pounds underweight when he arrived at Safe Haven. With the proper care he has regained his zest for life!

How you can help

Safe Haven is run entirely by volunteers and supported by donations and fundraisers. The costs involved in running such a large facility for rescued horses are astronomical, and cannot be done without the financial support of caring people and businesses. The chores are endless, but at the end of the day, when the volunteers say goodnight, what they see in the horses’ eyes makes the long hours worth it. There is always a need for all types of volunteers at a rescue ranch like this – the work includes assessments, medical care, training, cleaning stalls, ranch and tractor work, grooming, fundraising, marketing, grant writing and more! And there are many future projects in the works, such as building barns and pastures, which require strong, capable volunteers!

Even if you can’t volunteer, you can help the horses at Safe Haven Horse Rescue in many other ways. The organization is always looking for good foster homes for one or more horses. They also rely greatly on donations (whether in the form of funds, supplies, or items they can auction off) in order to continue to do the work they are so passionate about.

Happy endings

And what happened to Buddy? Under the watchful eye of volunteers and local veterinarians, he blossomed after arriving at Safe Haven, gaining over 400 pounds during his full recovery! You can see in the photos with this article how being loved and cared for has breathed life back into those eyes. Buddy now runs and rolls in the arena, and enjoys all the attention he gets from the volunteers! He will live out his life in sanctuary at Safe Haven and will never face those frightening days again. People from all over the world have visited with Buddy to see with their own eyes the life and love he now has in his.

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Cori Madrigal became a volunteer at Safe Haven Horse Rescue after moving into the Cottonwood area in 2007. She had grown up with horses in Portola Valley, CA and always wanted to give her children the same wonderful memories that she had as a child. Cori became very passionate about the work that Safe Haven does and dug deeper into the organization, becoming a board member and fundraiser coordinator, writing newsletters, doing the marketing, office management and ultimately becoming the owner of three of Safe Haven's rescues horses!