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Phillips has a heart for rescued horses

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 02/19/2013 1:44 PM

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WINSTED, Minn. — Candy Phillips is excited to see the progress horses, ponies and mules are making after being rescued from a Fillmore County operation late November.

Phillips acted as point person for rescue of the 55 animals. She arranged transportation to the University of Minnesota for the most seriously affected and a trip to the county fairgrounds for the rest. The animals were eventually taken in by horse rescue ranches in the state including Phillips' Truhaven Ranch near Winsted.

Phillips brought 27 of the Fillmore County animals to the ranch she operates with her son and granddaughter. For more than a week, the horses stood at the hay feeder eating their fill, she said. Now they are gaining weight and becoming more agile.

Some of the horses have gone to foster farms and are awaiting adoption, she said. Most, however, were untrained. Phillips and an assistant have split the horses into workable groups and are training them for either lead or riding.

Unfortunately she's seen other horses in similar shape. She lists several reasons for the number of neglected and unwanted horses. While many blame the economy, Phillips says lack of owner's horse care knowledge is key for many abandoned horses.

"Some have wanted a horse all their life and, when they buy an acreage or small farm, they figure now is the time to fulfill that dream," she said. "They might start with a foal since foals are cute, but they also grow up to be big horses. Then they get a rude awakening when they have to pay for the care and feed of the horse. Add the economy and the lack of a slaughter market and you have a problem."

Now she's on a mission to educate people about horses. Phillips is talking to groups, organizations and clubs about her rescue ranch and horse care and costs. If people want to buy a horse, first rent stable space at an operation like hers for three months, she said. During that time, they can consider the care and feed costs.

"It's a big eye-opener," she said. "Just because you have five acres and a big yard, doesn't mean you are prepared to care for a horse."

Phillips enthusiasm for horses got its start on the family's Atwater hobby farm. Her father and uncle were horse jockeys and Phillips brought home many horses to train and eventually sell.

She says she's been a horse trainer "forever." She left the business briefly when she took a college bookkeeping course and worked for a few years.

"I got out of the horse business because of the people,' she said. "And I got back into it because of the horses."

She found the Winsted farm in 2009 and started the non-profit rescue operation a year later.

Phillips works with the ranch's board of directors on rescues. When the 27 horses first arrived to the ranch, board members helped with the equine care and stable cleaning.

The ranch has space for 50 horses — 40 for rescue horses and 10 owned by Phillips and her family.

Its mission has expanded to include a program for disadvantaged and at-risk youth. As the ranch's webpage states, Truhaven Ranch is "committed to helping equines and horses, 4 hooves and 2 heels at a time."

To help cover some of the costs, Phillips has been training horses for other owners.

The costs can be scary at times, she said.

"I plan for the hay needs and costs going into the winter and I do have sources I get it from," she said. "But it has increased in price so much."

The ranch did receive some money from the University of Minnesota's new hay bank and she thanks those who've volunteered bales from their own farms.

For more information on the horse rescue and on Truhaven Ranch check the website www.truhavenranch.org. The ranch is also on facebook.