Drifter’s Hearts of Hope, in Franktown, is one of Colorado’s largest horse rescues. Founders Erich and Jean Kirshner helped create the nonprofit organization, not only to help rescue horses but also to give people of all ages with developmental disabilities a chance to be around animals and be able to help others. Their daughter Bella, 18, volunteers at the 350-plus acre ranch, which was donated to Drifter’s Hearts of Hope via a $1 a year lease by a fellow horse lover. Since its inception in 2014, the organization has saved more than 300 horses from slaughter.
“Folks like Bella are helped a lot, but there is little opportunity for them to help others,” said Jean Kirshner. “We’re not all horse people, but here she can help serve others.”
For more information visit http://www.driftersheartsofhope.org/
The little horse with no name and no history was headed for her last ride in the back of a trailer headed for Mexico or Canada, where she would be killed and used to make dog food.
Malnourished and sick with a severe bone infection in her jaw, the gentle 4-year-old sorrel mare with a curious nature had been given up on by her breeders, who decided her medical issues were not worth the investment, horse trainer Ben Grogan speculated. She waited in the kill pen at a Colorado horse auction last fall.
But then Jackie Avis, president of the Franktown nonprofit Drifter’s Hearts of Hope, looking specifically for horses to rescue, spotted her.
“I didn’t know for sure if she would even make it,” said Avis, who regularly scours kill pens at Colorado auctions and buys horses that the organization rehabilitates at its facility.
“But there was something about her, and she had good confirmation, meaning she was put together nice. I could see all of her bones — I had to bring her home.”
Avis said she often takes chances on horses that may not survive, and her life-long passion for horses helps her decide which ones to rescue. Once back at the ranch, the horses are cared for and rehabilitated by a group of staff and volunteers, many of which have developmental disabilities.
The newest addition to Drifter’s Hearts of Hope was given the name Enchantress — she soon captured the hearts of all her caregivers.
Bella Kirshner, 18, who has cerebral palsy, has been volunteering at Drifter’s Hearts of Hope for four years, and helps around the ranch and with the animals.
“I brushed Enchantress,” said Bella. “She really liked it.”
Enchantress began to thrive. Her once matted and shedding coat returned to a beautiful sorrel color, and her malnourished frame transformed into a powerful, muscular quarter horse stature.
The nonprofit had recently hired Ben Grogan as a horse trainer. And once Enchantress was healthy enough to ride, it was up to Grogan to teach her how to be a good horse for families and kids.
“Enchantress was unstarted, meaning she had never been ridden,” said Grogan. “She has such a good nature that training her actually took a little longer. All of her training was learning new things. It’s obvious that she was bred to be a performer. Her build and mentality are great.”
Enchantress turned out to be a natural at competing. Less than three months after the start of training, Grogan and Enchantress competed in the Equine Comeback Challenge in March, a competition for horses that have never been ridden. Trainers have 90 days to work with the horse before the competition. Grogan and Enchantress placed fourth.
Most horses rehabbed at the ranch sell for about $1,000, with proceeds going back into the nonprofit to help future horses. Because of Enchantress’ versatility, athleticism and temperament, she could eventually sell for close to $10,000, according to Erich Kirshner, board member and an original founder of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope.
“When we got Enchantress from the kill pen she was so sick we didn’t know if she’d make it,” said Kirshner. “With lots of love, vet care and some expert training from Ben, she’s now become an amazing horse.”
While Enchantress will be missed by everyone at the ranch, Grogan hopes she will be sold to someone who will allow her to live up to her full potential.
“I’d like to see her go to someone who would compete with her,” Grogan said. “She’s bred for it.”
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