To the rescue: How the gift of a new barn will drastically help Mountain Valley Horse Rescue
Local rescue, and its mission, has grown exponentially since its founding in 2004
There’s no horsing around when it comes to the gift that Mountain Valley Horse Rescue received to build a new barn and indoor arena.
The Rhea Bigelow Charitable Trust approached the rescue in McCoy for the construction of the new Rhea Bigelow Charitable Trust Legacy Barn. The space will consist of an indoor arena and barn, with an office and storage on the second floor. It will also include five stalls to stage horses, a viewing area and multi-use facility.
Excavation of the site began March 22 and construction of the building should begin in late June or early July with hopes of using the million-dollar facility by fall. Morton Buildings is the company constructing the barn, a nationally known barn builder with a building location in Hayden.
Marleen Bosch, director of resources with the rescue, said the new barn will help make things easier and more convenient without all the bells and whistles.
“We’re making it smart and we are making it affordable, we are still a nonprofit,” she said.
Bosch used to be the previous treasurer on the nonprofit’s board, but with increased need, the board felt it needed to add a new position, which she began April 1. She credits the whole board for its vision and hands-on approach to furthering the mission of the rescue.
“We’ve always said make sure we do it smart,” Bosch said. “We’ve definitely worked hard to get here.”
With the new building will come new opportunities, both for horses and humans.
“This barn and indoor arena … is going to allow us to do rehabilitation and training year-round,” said Cookie Murphy-Pettee, president of the board for the rescue.
The new facility will allow more care and training for the horses in winter months when weather can pose a problem by allowing training and socialization that leads to successful adoptions to occur year-round. It will also help facilitate more programing for the horse rescue.
Before, horse training would largely stop during the winter months or horses would have to be brought down from McCoy to the Eagle County Fairgrounds facility to train indoors, which costs time and money, Murphy-Pettee said.
“It’s a game-changer for us,” said Shana Devins, the executive director of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue. “We are so flattered by the opportunity to build her legacy … to do justice and change hundreds of horses lives.”
Devins said Bigelow’s family approached the rescue in December and offered the money then. Taken aback and flattered, Devins said the gift shows the work that the rescue is doing is paying off.
The Rhea Bigelow Charitable Trust, which is located in the Steamboat Springs area, wanted to remain out of the public eye but said the donation will help a good cause. Donating the funds to build “Robin’s Nest,” as it will be known, will help horses for generations to come.
The Rhea Bigelow Charitable Trust is a private family foundation established in 2017 to honor the memory and life’s work of Robin Rhea Bigelow. It honors Robin’s memory through grants to the activities and causes she cared most about in life. Its giving is focused on the environment and stewardship, arts, animals, education and family.
Head trainer Joel Aguilar, who lives on the property and helps tend and care for the horses said he’s beyond excited to be able to train horses year-round. He says it will provide a more controlled environment, a classroom of sorts for teaching the animals. Being able to teach indoors out of the elements will not only help him but also means fewer distractions for the horses, he said.
Aguilar uses his own style of horsemanship he only picked up by practicing. He started rescuing horses in college at kill-buy auctions in Grand Junction and started learning training techniques on his own.
“The horses taught me everything I know,” he said. “I never learned from anybody.”
He said building a bond with a horse is essential as most have distrust in humans based on their history of experiences with them. By becoming a partner in their social structure, he can work with them to give them a new lease on life.
“I like the bond I’m able to create with them,” Aguilar said. “You can’t approach them like a human since most problems they have are because of humans … I need them to know in their thought process that I’ll be their friend.”
One thing the horses have a lot of at the rescue is friends. The organization relies heavily on volunteer help. Whether it’s a group of students, someone with spare time or somebody curious about learning more on horses, the mission wouldn’t be possible without volunteers.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of making everything work here,” Murphy-Pettee said. “The more we’ve brought in people, the more we have been able to get folks to get folks to understand what the issue is.”
All about programming
The programing the rescue offers also helps advocate for the horses, and it will also be able to be expanded with the new facility and the year-round training opportunities it will create.
“It’s going to be a really neat addition to what we have going,” said Kensie Redden, program coordinator. “So many other things we can add in to the new space we are getting.”
Redden said the programs are designed to build bonding and communication experiences between children and horses.
“It’s a cool way to challenge these horses,” she said “To relearn how to negotiate different people telling them different things.”
That goes for both horses and the children working with them.
Because most of the horses were abused or neglected, either on purpose or because of lack of knowledge from the previous owner, it’s the mission of the rescue to educate youth on the responsibilities of a horse and how they are useful their whole life.
“We want to help kids and adults understand how to read a horse and hopefully help that horse one way or another but also to understand just because they are no longer rideable they aren’t junk,” Redden said. “It’s such a unique connection between a person and horse, and they have so much else to offer beyond riding.”
How it’s grown
The rescue has grown exponentially since its founding in 2004. The property in McCoy was purchased five years ago and has helped create a permanent location to help more horses.
“That was a big step for us,” Bosch said. “It was the first real commitment to getting this organization to the next level.”
With seven horses and about $35,000 in operating budget the first year, the organization has grown to around 30 horses and a $375,000 operating budget. It is one of the only horse rescue organizations on the Western Slope.
Donations are essential as there is no federal money for horse rescues since they are considered livestock.