Organization works to rehab horses to find them forever homes

Connie Hendrix spent a short period of her childhood on a farm where she had a horse, a horse she loved. While still very young, Connie’s family moved from the farm and her beloved steed was gone.

“Life just went on. I got married, had kids and raised my family,” Connie said.

Although “life just went on,” for Connie, she never forgot her love of her first horse. Once she and her late husband Bob moved to their rural Camden County, Mo., farm near Linn Creek, Connie rekindled her love for horses.

“I worked at an animal shelter and we got calls all the time about horses, and nobody did anything; there just wasn’t anything around here,” Connie said. “I said then that when I got out to the country, I was going to take in one or two horses.”

One or two horses turned into several. In 2010, Connie got a call from law enforcement in Camden County, Mo., about four horses, two of which were down. She and three friends sat out on a rescue mission.

“They were young horses, but two were starved and couldn’t get up,” Connie recalled. “There were two mares, a young colt and a colt that was a yearling, maybe a 2-year-old… We took the two that were standing and got them out right away. We got a flat-bed trailer for the two that were down and lifted them on the trailer. The two mares… we did all we could do.”

Rescuing the mares and colts that night made Connie and her friend, Donna Ogle, realized they could do more for horses, as well as mules and donkeys, but Connie couldn’t financially do it alone, so the not-for-profit organization Missouri Forget-Me-Not Horse Rescue and Sanctuary was born, earning accreditation in 2011. The organization began with a five-member board, including Connie and Donna, and thanks to donations; the organization has been able to send more than 230 horses to new homes. A volunteer staff of about two dozen horse lovers rotates daily to help with feeding, treatments and other needs.

“We just love horses. We don’t care what breed they are or how old they are,” Connie said. “Sometimes it’s a horse that someone has had for 20 years, and they’ve never even been broke to lead; we try to work with everyone.”

When animals come to the rescue, their health is evaluated by a veterinarian, and the prognosis is not always good.

“We’ll take in horses that are down and out. Sometimes they are too far gone and we have to put them down,” Connie said. “At least they’re dying with some kind of dignity. We will spend as much money as it takes to bring them back, if they can be brought back, and we’ve done that with a lot of them. Our main objective is to get them in, fix them and get them out. We don’t give horses away because we want a person who wants the horses and who can take care of them.”

There are about 140 horses at the sanctuary facility and at foster farms. The majority of horses are adoptable from Missouri Forget-Me-Not. Those that can be ridden are sent to a trainer for rehabilitation.

“When we adopt out a horse, we make sure all the vet work is done and they are healthy to go to a new home,” Connie explained. “What we want to do is get horses into a position where they can go from us and be a productive animal.”

Horses that are unable to be ridden are adopted as pets, and the sanctuary has a reasonable amount of success finding those horses their perfect fit.

“I had someone who called me the other day who is going to take four, non-rideable horses,” Connie said. “He’s an older guy and use to ride, but can’t anymore; he just wants to look out the window and see horses and be around them. Those are the ones that touch our hearts.”

Some horses, however, will never leave. They are considered permanent residents and will live the remainder of their natural life with Missouri Forget-Me-Not.

The sanctuary has many success stories, including an American Saddlebred horse named Shadow. Shadow was part of a large group of horses that came to the sanctuary several years ago. He was a young colt when he arrived, but he was adopted and has since a become a champion in Equine Trail Sports in a Midwest buckle series. Another horse, Jake, from the same group was adopted by the same person and is training for a career in endurance competition. Jake was only 3 days old when he came to the sanctuary.

Costs to operate the sanctuary and care for all of the horses’ needs vary from month to month, depending on how many animals need veterinary care or other special treatment, and how much hay is needed to support the herd, which includes several Thoroughbreds, ponies, mix-breed and draft horses. In all, about a ton of feed is fed weekly and all hay is purchased from a local producer. At the sanctuary, horses roam 83 acres of pasture.

Since donations are the only means of support for the sanctuary, fundraising is ongoing, and there are several events in the Camden County area for the organization, including an annual golf tournament, a 5K/10K run and yard sale. As the result of the organization’s first-ever Jamboree Horse Show, 40 horses found new homes. Civic and youth organizations also raise funds for the organization, and a recent promotion called Ponies at the Pump at Kelly’s Port Marina helped sponsor two horses, as well as a potbelly pig named Jimmy Dean who lives at the sanctuary. In addition to raising funds, Connie said the events also raise awareness about the organization and it’s mission.

The only compensation Connie and the volunteers receive for their work is the satisfaction in knowing a good horse has found a good home, or an animal’s suffering came to an end with dignity.

“It breaks my heart,” Connie said. “I’m supposed to be toughened up after all these years, but it’s not happening. The reward is knowing that we have the horses we have and that they are being taken care of. We just want to give them a better life than what they may have had and to find them homes.”


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