Jennifer Lorenz and Karen Bayerl decided to team up and each take on the role of co-President for the Wisconsin Horse Alliance in January of 2019 at the Annual Meeting. We thank past Presidents, Betsy Halat and Rachelle LeJeune, for the fantastic job they have done in leading the WHA over the past few years!
The WHA started as an idea back in 2015 and once a group of dedicated and passionate individuals got together with their ideas to put it together, it became a reality by the end of 2016. In those three short years, the WHA has been able to accomplish so much already and we look forward to the years to come and to continue building on the great foundation that has already been laid.
Jennifer is excited and honored to be the new co-president of the Wisconsin Horse Alliance. She has been a part of this organization for several years and is proud of what has been accomplished and excited to help lead us into the next chapter. Karen came on board in 2018 and is equally excited and honored to be a part of this wonderful organization and thrilled for all of the great things that WHA has already done and the great things in the future for Wisconsin.
We’d like to take a moment to review the WHA Mission Statement and what WHA has accomplished so far as well as where we hope to go from here.
Even though it was only about 3 years ago, it seems like a lifetime ago when we sat down and took a whole meeting to come up with our mission statement of...”Working to ensure the safety and well-being of Wisconsin’s horses through empowering owners, coordinating resources, and educating the community”. Our belief was, and still is, that if we can help people, we can help the horses. With the focus of empowering owners, coordinating resources and educating the community, here are some of our accomplishments over the past 4 years along with the goals we have for the future.
First things first, we started with our web page. Dedicated volunteers spent countless hours developing a web page full of information for horse owners, the general public and law enforcement. We continue to develop and expand the web page to best help people get the information they are looking for.
The WHA has hosted Rescue Round Tables, inviting Wisconsin horse rescues to these several times a year to learn about various topics as well as network with other rescues to help foster a network of equine rescues in the state to ensure horses are finding homes and the rescues can sustain over time. There have been numerous topics discussed with a variety of presentations brought to the table, ranging from presentations by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, veterinarians and other professionals. Topics for rescues included presentations on equine record keeping, emergency disaster planning, using the tools of succession planning, long-term strategic and financial plans, building a successful volunteer program, grant writing fundamentals, maximizing the impact of an organization’s website and Facebook pages, managing a successful adoption program, intake procedures, the importance of proper quarantine procedures, assessing special needs horses and their adoptability, capacity for care, compassion fatigue, and more! The WHA has gotten great feedback from participants and it has been very gratifying to see relationships forming through these events. Our goal is to continue these events not only for the rescues but expand into Rescue Round Table discussions for all horse owners on various topics of interest that can help any horse owner. Education empowers everyone.
The WHA has started a virtual hay bank. This is a “virtual” hay bank, meaning that there is not hay stored somewhere, but an account to keep funds for emergencies that may arise for horse owners. We understand that sometimes life happens and horse owners may need help. We wanted to provide resources to horse owners who may need a hand up during a difficult time. Our hay bank has been modest so far, but it was a great help to have the silent auction set up at the Midwest Rescue Horse Trainers Challenge designated for the virtual hay bank. Recipients of donations that were needed for hay have been extremely grateful that they have had somewhere to turn. Our hope is to continue to grow funds for the virtual hay bank and spread the word that there are resources available to owners who may find themselves in a difficult situation.
Part of the safety of horses is informing and helping to educate law enforcement. In addition to attending a law enforcement conference, we have been able to provide law enforcement with a basic horse information booklet to help them understand things such as body conditions scores, horse terms and contacts for help in neglect or abuse cases. A long term goal we still have is to be able to provide specific equine training to law enforcement and will continue to work on that.
We would say our most visible accomplishment to date has been the Midwest Rescue Horse Trainers Challenge. In 2018 we pulled of our very first Trainers Challenge and we were so inspired and honored that we are doing it again with our goals to keep it growing. We started the Trainers Challenge as a way to help rescues to find trainers, help trainers market their skills, educate the public that horses in rescue are amazing horses, and importantly, help these horses get the boost they needed with training to find a great home. In many surveys done for rescues across the country, one of the most important things that rescues note that they need help with is training for the horses that come into their care. Along with training that makes horses more adoptable, good training also helps keep horses in their homes. In 2018, twelve horses found homes as a direct result of the Challenge, and we are excited to watch this number grow. Some great connections were made between the rescues and trainers and the horses got an absolutely great foundation of training that will follow with them for the rest of their lives. We included “Midwest” in the title of the Challenge because we believe that a healthy horse industry is not exclusive to Wisconsin and by helping neighboring rescues, we are helping Wisconsin horses. So many volunteers poured in their time, money, sweat and tears to make the first Trainer’s Challenge a success, and we hope with a few less tears and maybe a little more sweat, our second challenge is even more successful than our first.
There have been many more accomplishments and we are proud of what the WHA has done so far in such a short period of time, and look forward to the future and more great things to come. Please join us in our mission to help the horses of Wisconsin!