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Oakdale Equine Rescue - Dedication, Love For Horses Motivate Local Group
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Jeannine Etheridge’s daughter Nicole as she works in the arena with Nutella, a young female bay quarterhorse with a sweet disposition and a kind heart. Nutella is available for adoption. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader
Jeannine Etheridge and Lora Handley are proof that you don’t have to start out as hardcore horsewomen to find your calling as a stanch advocate.
Etheridge and Handley, both with Oakdale Equine Rescue, got involved with horses when their daughters expressed an interest in showing horses within 4-H but their recent all-consuming passion for rescuing horses that have been abandoned, abused or surrendered, has given them a crash course.
Etheridge, the secretary/treasurer and Handley, the horse manager, along with Ramie Shumate, president, officially began operating as a 501(3)c Nov. 8, 2010 and currently have 11 horses in their care.
“We have all our paperwork available for anyone who wants to see it,” Etheridge said. “All donations are safe and tax deductible.”
Etheridge wants people to know that Oakdale Equine Rescue operates with complete transparency, which is why she tackles the elephant in the room with total candor.
To sum up, Etheridge was once involved with Zen Equine but due to legalities stemming from fraudulent activity on the part of another person associated with Zen, Etheridge and Handley took it upon themselves to ensure that the horses were cared for, which is how Oakdale Equine was born. First and foremost, their concern was for the horses.
She explains, “Zen Equine is gone. The accounts are closed and it is open in name only because of an asset that is owned and hasn’t been returned. We want people to feel safe in the knowledge that we’re a completely different operation.”
Since then, Oakdale Equine has been working tirelessly to pay debts incurred by Zen for veterinarian care as well as ensure that the original seven owned by Zen were either adopted to good, loving homes or otherwise taken care of.
And amidst all that work, a dedication for horses took root and now they admit they’re helplessly and hopelessly in love with the giant beasts that have run the gamut in personalities and temperament but nonetheless get Oakdale Equine’s full resources until a home can be found.
“All but one of Zen’s horses have been placed in good, loving forever homes,” Etheridge said. “It feels good knowing they’re with families who will love and take care of them.”
And one thing they’ve found, “Every horse has a different personality but every horse responds to kindness,” Handley said.
Oakdale Equine cares about each of their rescue horses and, as such, is also very selective about who they allow to adopt from their stock.
“It’s a rigorous adoption process,” Etheridge admits. “There’s no breeding. The males are fixed but the females aren’t. However, it states in the contract that they won’t be bred for the first year. After a year the adoption becomes permanent and they can do what they choose but we advocate against breeding because there are already too many horses out there that need good homes.”
Typically, the adoption process is stretched out between several visits so Oakdale Equine can get a sense of the people trying to adopt. Plus, even after the adoption has been finalized, Oakdale Equine wants to know how they’re doing.
“I want to see pictures and hear how they’re doing,” Etheridge said.
 “We’ve turned people down,” Handley said. “We want them to have a home until they die. Horses live up to 30 years and it’s a long commitment.”
Etheridge nodded, saying, “We had someone come to us looking to adopt one of our minis and they’d never owned a horse in their life but had wanted to purchase a pony for their daughter for Christmas. We didn’t think that was a good idea and ultimately, turned them down.”
What some people don’t realize when buying a horse is how expensive a purchase it will be in the long run — and that’s not including the purchase price.
“There’s grain and hay, vet costs, not including the cost of if something goes wrong, but ordinary maintenance for their teeth and hooves,” Etheridge said. “It adds up quickly.”
And because horses are an expensive luxury for most, many of the rescues are from people who loved their horses but lost their homes to foreclosure and had nowhere to put them.”
“It’s not always the abused or neglected horses that we see. The majority are from people who are losing their homes,” Etheridge said.
One woman, an avid horsewoman who’d recently hit hard times, tearfully surrendered her horse but donates each month toward the cost of room and board until it’s adopted.
“We’re not just helping horses, we’re helping people, too,” Handley said, sharing the story of a woman who had six horses and then lost her job. They’ve managed to adopt three of the six so far. These were well-cared for, well-loved horses that were caught in the unfortunate crossfire of an economic meltdown. “We have some beautiful horses. They aren’t junk horses. Sometimes when you hear ‘rescue’ you think these might not be quality horses but that’s not the case.”
Before surrendering her horses, the woman had been going without food so she could buy feed her animals, Handley said.
“This wasn’t a case of a woman who was neglecting or abusing her animals. It’s really sad,” Handley said.
They’ve traveled far and wide to pick up horses, recently traveling to Brentwood to pick up a horse. They also offer courtesy listings for people needing to find homes for their horses but can still board them at their original location.
The stories, along with the horses, are varied from heart-warming to heart-breaking but some stand out more than others.
For Etheridge, her soft spot is clearly with a thoroughbred gelding named Kootenia Kid, otherwise known affectionately as “Kooter.”
“He’s definitely come the farthest,” Etheridge said, her voice warm. “He was doomed to die but we wouldn’t give up on him.”
Kooter was bred to be a racehorse and comes from $50,000 racing stock but he was kicked by another horse and suffered an injury that affected his spine. He had walking issues and had fallen repeatedly, which may have created neurological issues. His owner was going to put him down but Etheridge and Handley convinced him to surrender Kooter and donate to Oakdale Equine what it would’ve cost for a vet to euthanize.
And now Kooter is a beautiful example of what love and patience can do for an animal.
“He’s touched so many hearts,” Etheridge said. “He’s unbelievable with kids. We’re going to have a hard time letting him go because he’s so sweet.”
At two years old, Kooter was a baby when he came to Oakdale Equine Rescue now he’s up for adoption with conditions.
“He’s a special needs horse and anyone interested in adopting him would need to be aware of his needs and limitations.”
They’re unsure if Kooter will ever be able to tolerate a rider due to his injury but he’s a wonderful pasture pet and his temperament is very mellow.
In fact, he loves people.
“He’s a pocket horse,” Handley laughed. “He wants to be right in your pocket.”
As big as their hearts are, Etheridge and Handley admit their pocketbooks aren’t though they’ve both written checks out of their family budget to feed and care for the horses, which is why donations are so important for the rescue.
“The vet bills are the hardest. They add up,” Handley said. “There are donation cans all through town and everyone who has donated or worked with us are appreciated.”
Presently, the rescue needs hay donations.
“Hay prices went sky high because there’s a shortage,” Handley said.
Oakdale Equine is also appreciative of any and all donations, from hay to tack, to money and veterinary support.
Anyone looking to donate or adopt can go to their website at