By MICHELLE BEAHM
OLALLA — Pony Up Rescue is a farm dedicated to rescuing and re-homing horses.
Owned and operated by Rosemary Collins, former president of the Lower Puget Sound Dressage Club, Pony Up Rescue has been a rescue center for horses since 2009.
Collins, who grew up with horses, has been privately rescuing those in need since she was about 12 years old.
“My parents instilled in me a great value in taking care of your animals and livestock so that they had proper food, water, shelter, etc.," Collins said. "So it has been a burden on my heart to see horses that are starving or … just plain not cared for."
Because of the expense of taking care of horses, Collins opted to turn her rescue center into a tax exempt 501(c)(3) farm, which means it is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to prevention against cruelty to animals.
One of the most recent additions to the 14-horse farm is a filly, about 7 months old, named Zoey, who Collins and a group of volunteers rescued from an auction for slaughter-bound horses in Enumclaw.
Zoey, 5 months old at the time, was so young that she hadn't been weaned off of her mother's milk, so the owners brought the mother with her to the auction to get her into the pen, where, according to Collins, they shut the gate behind her and took the mother away.
“Weaning is traumatic anyway, but in a situation like that, where the place is just dirty, filthy, there's all kinds of noises … to bring her in and shut her in a pen and take the mother away was criminal,” Collins said. “She was soaking wet, didn't know how to eat, screaming and probably would have died."
Collins said that even though Pony Up Rescue had been full at the time, they bought Zoey and brought her home, where they had to "feed her every two hours, as well as give her medicine, because she was ill.” Now, Zoey is “paired up” with a miniature horse who is her “surrogate mother.”
Pony up Rescue, which has helped anywhere between 60-75 horses since it opened in 2009, gets horses from auctions, from owner-relinquishes and from the Humane Society when they can't find a new home for horses.
"We rehab and re-home horses who for some reason or another find themselves without a home," said Collins.
At Pony Up Rescue, the health of the horses they take in is always a first priority. Collins said that the first thing they do is evaluate a horse to figure out what medical, dental and other health-related needs they have.
"When we bring a starved horse in, the first thing that we want to give them is food, but you can't get carried away," Collins said. "You can only give them a little bit at a time, or you can actually kill them with kindness."
In the case of starved horses, the top priority is getting the horse's weight up to where it needs to be. After that, they would address any other needs the horse has that weren't as emergent.
When all of that is taken care of, the next step in re-homing the horse is figuring out what sort of training a horse has had, if any.
"We take them to a professional trainer and have them assessed, because we don't want anyone hurt or surprised," Collins said. She added that with the professional trainer, they can also determine any lameness or disability issues, and how a horse will react in different situations and stress levels.
The trainer usually used by Pony Up Rescue is Cam Reeves, in Renton.
"I trust him to be kind, gentle and consistent with those horses," Collins said.
After that, they start the process of finding the horse a new home "that is suited to that horse's needs," according to Collins. The adoption process with Pony Up Rescue involves an application, available on their website, calls to the references provided to make sure the family is a good one for a horse and a home visit. The adoption fee is $500.
Because Pony Up Rescue is a not-for-profit organization, the majority of the help comes from volunteers and fundraising. Volunteers help with the day-to-day tasks of caring for the horses as well as farm chores such as weeding, putting up and moving fences, bringing hay into the barn, etc. Volunteers also help maintain the websites and answer phones, as well as help plan and organize fundraising events.
"We have our yearly fundraiser, which is held in the fall," Collins said. She went on to say that the "Dinner Auction" is their main fundraiser of the year, and proceeds go toward feeding horses throughout the winter and into the spring.
"We generally have hundreds of items," said Collins, of the silent and live auctions at the fundraiser. In recent years, the items auctioned off have included an airplane trip to the San Juan Islands for lunch and a three-day stay in an ocean condo.
"People donate a lot of things to us," she said. "So it's not just necessarily horse things, but things that are of interest to all walks of people."
For more information about Pony Up Rescue, the fundraisers or how to volunteer, visit the website at www.ponyuprescue.com or their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/PonyUpRescue.