By H. Craig Erskine III
Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna has lofty goals. Director Annette Fisher wants to construct a 65-foot by 115-foot covered arena adjacent to the stables in order to continue with equine rehab therapy throughout the cold winter months. The abused and neglected horses sometimes need to recover from leg and eye injuries and other medical procedures, and they need a dry, safe environment under cover from rain and snow – and the hot sun during the summer months – to do this in. It would also serve as an area where families could ride the animals, which are up for adoption, year round.
The Happy Trails fund-raising campaign is well under way. The Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust has offered a $12,000 grant toward the project if Fisher can raise the remainder of the $54,000 original cost to erect the pole-barn type structure. The Ravenna United Fund has donated $2,000 toward the goal.
But there is still a ways to go. Phase two of the capital campaign will fund new footing for the arena, the electricity to put the lighting in, the gutters and installing drainage tile around it. Fisher said she has faith that this will happen and said she is so certain that it will take place they have begun removing the old sand, riddled with stones, out of the area where the new arena will stand to make way for the new, safer footing.
Happy Trails has rescued more than 4,000 farm animals since 2000. One of the most hideous rescues Fisher has been on, recently occurred in Columbiana County. “You open the door to this old barn and you had to crawl over all the dead animals just to get to the live ones. There was a dead calf and a dead goat and a bunch of dead chickens. Out of the seven goats that were there, two of them died. It was just a horrible situation,” Fisher said.
The new covered arena will provide a place to turn-out the animals so they can get some exercise as opposed to remaining cooped up in their stalls during the cold winter months. For example, Fisher said they had a horse come back from Ohio State University: “He was at Ohio State for four months and he had to be on stall rest for another 12 weeks. But they said you could put him out in a small turn-out area. Well, he had a cast on his foot – it was raining, it was the middle of winter – where are we going to turn him out at? So for the next 12 weeks he pretty much had to stay in his stall or we could walk him down the center aisle and back and that was it. But now, with a covered arena, we can put him there and he can have more area so he doesn’t go stall-crazy. He can exercise and see things and move about. So it should help our rehab program quite a bit,” she added.
A covered arena can also be used for training. An example Fisher gave was of a black and white paint horse that came in earlier this summer and had not been out of its stall for 18 months. “He was a stallion – no manners – no nothing – he’d be more than happy to run you over and kick you in the head. If that horse would have come in now and everything’s muddy and soggy and it’s snowing and this freezing rain, there is no place to work with him to get him safe to work with again. So now we actually could use [an arena] for training to put him on a lunge line or to walk him and teach him manners and get him safe for not only our staff to work with, but it’s going to make him more adoptable in the long run,” Fisher said.
She said she also has a goal of using the new arena to become more self-sustainable. There has been some discussion within the nonprofit about educational clinics. And one of the staff members is a certified equine massage therapist. “We will have a big enough area in there that we can put chairs in there and have some animal care clinics, whether it’s 4H clubs or the Girl Scouts, and not be dependent on the weather. Now we can set up bleachers in one corner and have a class session area – we can bring the animals in and show the class how to care for them.”
There is a dedicated and caring staff running the sanctuary and most of the animals roam free during the day then are put away at night unless it gets terribly cold. Ashley Ehmann started out as an intern last fall and never left. She was a student at Ohio State University, studying animal sciences. “I was pre-vet but decided it wasn’t for me. Annette guest-lectured in one of my classes so that got my interest [in Happy Trails],” Ehmann said.
After graduation she started at the rescue full-time. “I took a semester off my senior year to do an internship and I just fell in love with it. So when I graduated I came back,” she said. Ehmann is now the animal care coordinator, and some of her duties include dealing with medical issues if there is a sick or injured animal. She takes care of nutrition and oversees the feeding staff and makes sure all of the animal caregivers are providing care to the animals.She meets with vets and takes animals to the hospital. She also does adoptions and goes on rescues.
“I love it,” Ehmann said, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m busy all the time, but it’s so much fun. And it’s especially nice going on the rescues and helping the animal then watching their recovery and then doing their adoption. So you get to see the full circle.” Ehmann said it is so rewarding, “You feel good knowing that you helped them, especially the pigs, since no one else is helping them.”
Ashley Kloes is another paid staff member and an intern who started in September and will end mid-December. She started out as a volunteer a little more than one year ago and works with tending the horses and the pig barn and the retired pig barn.
Sarah Kay is also an intern in a new program for this semester where the interns are assigned to different sections of the sanctuary and it is their responsibility for their time there. She has been interning since mid-August. Her areas are two huts with two sets of potbellies, two of which are Petunia and Candy who live in the little log cabin that was built originally for Janice, the little potbellied pig that got the sanctuary started in 1999. Kay also takes care of the goat barn, and the mini-horses. She keeps the enclosures clean and the animals well groomed and fed and checks them for “lumps and bumps.”
Kay said, “It’s wonderful, I love working with animals, it’s great.” Kay attends The University of Akron’s biology program but has always wanted to work with animals in a rescue and rehab capacity. “When this internship came up I was all over it. It’s a place to get hands on experience – it’s a whole new world for me,” she said.
Besides the covered arena fund-raising campaign, Happy Trails also has other ways you can help out. In addition to offering your volunteer services you can sponsor a “Horse Cave” for rescued horses. Stall sponsorships help pay for the care of rescued horses and provide healing and rehabilitation, second chances, warmth and comfort, vet care and medication, soft bedding, soft voices and gentle hands.
There are also wish lists of items that can be donated or purchased for the sanctuary ranging from office supplies and things to help the volunteers, to animal sponsorships and support for special projects. All donations are tax-deductible.
Happy Trails is located at 5623 New Milford Road, in Ravenna. Reach the organization by phone at (330) 296-5914. For more information visit: http://www.happytrailsfarm.org. or Facebook
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