Wishbone Ranch takes in retired horses, offers beginner experiencesNancy Turner knows the effect horses can have on people. Personal boundaries fade away, barriers that separate people – language, for example – become irrelevant. “The empathy (the horses) have is amazing,” she said.
By: Katrina Styx, The Farmington Independent
Nancy Turner knows the effect horses can have on people. Personal boundaries fade away, barriers that separate people – language, for example – become irrelevant.
“The empathy (the horses) have is amazing,” she said.
It’s part of the reason she launched a new non-profit organization, This Old Horse, and Wishbone Ranch, located just west of Vermillion.
Turner and her fiancée, Thomas Rhode, had been taking in retired therapy horses at their farm near Afton, but ran out of room. The horses, too old to work full-time, needed a place to go, or else many would be put down.
“These horses are so talented, they just can’t work full-time,” Turner said.
One horse especially showed her the potential older horses still have. Turner’s mother, at 82 years old, was terrified of horses. She wouldn’t even get near them, and would simply watch her daughter ride from a distance. There was one horse, though, that changed all that. His name was Levi. As Turner’s mother watched, Levi started watching her. And Turner’s mother started watching him. Little by little, over several visits to the farm, the two edged closer to each other. Eventually, Turner’s mother leaned forward and reached out toward Levi and patted him. The association grew closer after that. Turner’s mother started grooming Levi, and eventually agreed to ride him. Now at age 84, she’s taking riding lessons at Wishbone Ranch.
“She has been transformed,” Turner said.
Her mother’s story was part of the reason Turner started to see how well old horses could work with beginner riders. They would be ideal for those who want to get involved with horses but maybe don’t want to be involved in top-level riding. So she pitched the idea to a non-profit.
“And I got shot right down,” she said.
Proposal after proposal got rejected, until Turner’s sister suggested she start the organization herself. Once the idea was planted, the pieces fell into place. While driving home from McCloud Stables, where she takes lessons, Turner saw an old horse farm for sale. She took a look, and while the buildings needed some work, the bones were good, she said. Still, she figured there would be too many other obstacles. But the bank approved the loan, Mikayla Fischer, who also worked with McCloud Stables, volunteered to work for Turner. Volunteers started coming out of the woodwork to help give the old farm a new face. And then the horses started coming.
“People started donating spectacular horses,” Turner said.
The first two came to Wishbone Ranch on April 26, donated by Jim and Karen Fox. Today, Wishbone Ranch is at capacity, with 16 horses in the program, and it’s just barely getting started.
To support the effort, Wishbone Ranch offers beginner riding lessons, ground work training (working with horses without riding) and boarding facilities.
“We want to earn our way,” Turner said.
Their prices are market-driven, but those who take lessons or board horses at Wishbone Ranch know that the fees they pay are supporting the cause of This Old Horse, Turner said.
As a non-profit, any profits made at the stable will get put right back into the horses, she said. Although she could have launched Wishbone Ranch as a business, the non-profit route seemed the best way to go.
“This to me felt like a community,” she said.
Wishbone Ranch is the home of the This Old Horse organization. Horses that are donated live out their lives there, either as part-time lesson horses or in full retirement. Once they get to Wishbone Ranch, they’ll never go anywhere else, Turner said.
For more about the farm and the project, go to www.thisoldhorse.org or www.wishboneranch.org.