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Brent Glover has taken in abandoned, neglected and abused horses for 36 years. This past year, he says, was the worst he’s seen. Glover, a graying, lean, enthusiastic man who has taken in over 3,000 horses and adopted out some 2,500 to new homes over the years, had to turn down over 200 requests for sanctuary in 2010 because he was out of room and resources at his ranch in Viola, Idaho. He runs Orphan Acres, the oldest and largest nonprofit rescue facility in Idaho. “We rely entirely on donations, grants, and volunteer labor,” says Glover, who has had as many as 138 horses in residence at one time. “These days, because we are so crowded and strapped for cash, I can take only real emergencies, but those still include all comers. Even with our severe limitations, we take the young and old, injured and sick, as well as healthy, trained horses.” Among the horses in permanent residence at Orphan Acres are the white mount Graham Greene rode in Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves”, almost starved to death by his subsequent owner who bought him as a trophy; the 10-year-old grandson of the famous race horse, Seattle Slew, originally purchased for $10,000 but abandoned by his owner with crippling bone chips in both knees; and countless other grade horses from miniatures to draft horses who, one way or the other, were given to or taken in by Glover because their owners didn’t want to care for them -- or simply couldn’t.

A Hard Year For Horses At An Idaho Nonprofit

Brent Glover has taken in abandoned, neglected and abused horses for 36 years. This past year, he says, was the worst he’s seen.

Glover, a graying, lean, enthusiastic man who has taken in over 3,000 horses and adopted out some 2,500 to new homes over the years, had to turn down over 200 requests for sanctuary in 2010 because he was out of room and resources at his ranch in Viola, Idaho. He runs Orphan Acres, the oldest and largest nonprofit rescue facility in Idaho.

“We rely entirely on donations, grants, and volunteer labor,” says Glover, who has had as many as 138 horses in residence at one time. “These days, because we are so crowded and strapped for cash, I can take only real emergencies, but those still include all comers. Even with our severe limitations, we take the young and old, injured and sick, as well as healthy, trained horses.”

Among the horses in permanent residence at Orphan Acres are the white mount Graham Greene rode in Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves”, almost starved to death by his subsequent owner who bought him as a trophy; the 10-year-old grandson of the famous race horse, Seattle Slew, originally purchased for $10,000 but abandoned by his owner with crippling bone chips in both knees; and countless other grade horses from miniatures to draft horses who, one way or the other, were given to or taken in by Glover because their owners didn’t want to care for them — or simply couldn’t.

Increasingly, horses are being given up or abandoned because their owners are struggling to make ends meet. The Unwanted Horse Coalition estimates the cost of providing basic care for a horse at $1,800 to $2,400 annually. That can knock a sizable hole in anybody’s budget these days — particularly when you own more than one, as many of us do.

As a result, here in Idaho and across the country, more horses are being turned loose to fend for themselves than ever before. The Unwanted Horse Coalition says well over 100,000 per year are being abandoned in the U.S. because of the continuing economic downturn, recent closures of domestic horse slaughter facilities, the high cost of euthanasia and severe overcrowding of private horse rescue facilities like Glover’s.

In the grand scheme of things, “saving” American horses is a complex, contentious subject. There are those, including a lot of veterinarians, who want to reinstitute horse slaughter in the United States on what they consider to be humanitarian grounds as the best solution to a growing problem, rather than sending them to Canada or Mexico to be killed and shipped overseas for human consumption. Opponents of this view support an amendment to the federal Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 which would effectively continue the ban on horse slaughter in the United States and make it illegal to export American horses elsewhere for this purpose.

And others think the Bureau of Land Management’s so-called wild horse herds (these are not all Spanish Mustangs, but a mixed bag of old cavalry mounts and abandoned domestic horses) ought to be culled down to size, regardless of the 1971 federal Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act that currently protects them and, in doing so, increases their numbers exponentially every few years.

But on a smaller scale, it probably comes down to how you personally feel about horses who have served us in work, pleasure and war for countless centuries. Sure, owning horses is an expensive, money-losing proposition right up there with owning sailboats. But, unlike boats, horses are living, breathing creatures that get in your blood, lay claim to your heart and, before you know it, become an integral part of your life.

***

Falling in love or becoming a “horse person” can happen to anybody regardless of their economic station in life, ranging from my friend, Archie Bouttier, the Polish Arabian breeder who maintains a herd of 60 on his “Drinkers of The Wind” ranch in Bellevue, Idaho (and kept his first polo pony until he died at age 38), to folks of modest means like us, to those of no means at all like the friend of the friend we let run a herd of flashy two-year olds on our ranch one summer several years ago.

We called the two-year-old horses “the wild bunch” but, of course, they were not wild at all — just a friendly, frisky little group who hung around the house, eager to join our herd. Naturally we gave them all names. There was Black Beauty, a glossy colt with white boots who stole my wife’s straw cowboy hat right off her head; Big Cal, their leader, a high-stepping dappled grey named after the previous owner of the place, the flamboyant California car dealer Cal Worthington (“Go See Cal”); and my personal favorite, “Little Red Riding Hood,” a clever roan filly who learned how to open our slide pole gate all by herself.

By summer’s end, we had begun to think of them as “our horses” which, of course, they weren’t, but nevertheless, we were shocked to learn their owner planned to auction them off because he couldn’t afford to keep them. We knew what fate awaited untrained, unpapered horses in this market. They would be bought for a pittance by bottom feeders who skulk around watching and waiting for a chance to pick up cheap horses for slaughter in Mexico or Canada.

So, because we happen to agree wholeheartedly with a quote attributed to T. Boone Pickens (whose wealthy wife, Madeleine, is a wild horse advocate trying to create a huge sanctuary in Nevada) that “this is America, we don’t eat the family dog here,” we offered to try to sell our tenant’s horses for $125 each, but he turned us down cold.

He said he could get $500 a head at auction. We didn’t attend, but we heard he got under $50 a horse from an out of state guy looking for slaughter horses. We were heartbroken and haunted by the thought of our terrorized little herd being jammed into cattle trucks and shipped off to die a horrible death.

***

Sobered by this experience, and aware that our ex-tenant was not alone in his propensity to get over his head financially by indiscriminately breeding horses, I began to wonder what other options a person might have for an unwanted horse, or horses, in Idaho. Several months later, after a lot of research and dead ends, I came up with only one name that looked like the real deal, Brent Glover of Orphan Acres. So I went up to see him, the first of many visits over the past four years.

Mr. Glover was the real deal all right, and then some. His rambling ranch house was a chaos of saddles, tack and horse blankets. A profane parrot (also a rescue) had the run of the house. There was a genuine suit of dusty armor in one corner, and out every window, there was a horse looking in.

When I talked to him a few weeks ago, he put his muddy cowboy boots on the table and said 2010 had been a very hard year for horses. “There just not a lot of places that will take them at the moment. Every nonprofit like us is suffering because of the downturn.

“I’d like to double the size of this place so I could take more rescue horses, but that’s tough to do right now when everybody’s so short of money. Ideally, we’d like to find good homes for every horse that needs one in Idaho; that’s the goal. Every single one deserves a second, or even a third chance at life.”

Although he’s managed to place many horses with problems during his long tenure, including several blind ones, some never get that coveted second chance. “Let’s face it, not all of them can, in good conscience, be put back out there, even under the best of circumstances. They’re too badly hurt and can’t be fully rehabilitated, or they’re just too damn old. So if we have them here, we make them as comfortable as we can and let them live out their lives in dignity. Our oldest horse at the moment is 42, believe it or not.”

This kind of treatment, of course, takes a lot of time, effort, money, hay and specialized mashes and grain. Glover, handicapped by a construction accident in his younger days (he lives off his disability pension), has the advantage of being close to one of the top vet schools in the country at Washington State University and a distinguished agricultural school at the nearby University of Idaho. He cuts his own hay on contract, but still has to beg and borrow equipment and labor and be on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including bitterly cold winters in this rich, rolling Palouse country.

“Orphan Acres is not like running a Kentucky horse farm. It hasn’t been an easy life, but it’s been a very satisfying one,” he says while conducting a tour of his barn where blind horses count on him to bring them apples every morning. “And until the men in the little white truck come out here and put me in a strait jacket,” he says with wry humor, “this is where I’ll be, doing my very best for horses.”

Tax-Free Donations to Orphan Acres may be sent to: Orphan Acres, Inc., 1183 Rothfork Road, Viola, Idaho 83873. Contact: 208-882-9293 or {encode=”orphanacres@hotmail.com” title=”orphanacres@hotmail.com”}.

Dennis Higman is a freelance journalist and writer. He and his artist wife, Lee, own a small horse ranch in the mountains near Mackay, Idaho.

About Dennis Higman

Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    Thanks for this article Dennis. Gotta be somewhat of an embarrassement for all those people out there that continue to breed their horses while giving absolutely no thought to the future. Especially when those cute little babies, bouncing around the pasture, no longer bring the expected profit AND, can no longer be dumped, as in the past, on the market as “canners” when they don’t sell.

  2. GAC says:

    The Army only utilized geldings. No stallions, no mares. History is very specific on that and buyers for the frontier remount service kept to the standard. The exception would be the civil war where demand quickly outstripped supply and anything ridable was pressed into service. Post war buyers went back to the standard of geldings only, for service mounts. There are no “wild” horses anywhere with any lineage whatsoever tied to the Army.

  3. Nancy says:

    Seriously GAC?

    +No wild horses anywhere with any lineage whatsoever tied to the Army? + And that means what? Many of the mounts for war were gathered loose on the range, in western states.

  4. GAC says:

    Sorry Nancy— The records are very clear on that. Frontier military mounts came from the remount service purchases back east; there were no western ranches selling to the Army until the end of the frontier period and into WW1 & 2. Other than the fact that today’s wild horses are horses and the fact that cavalry remounts were horses, that’s it. Loose Army gelded horses do not equate with today’s wild horses for the most obvious reason.

  5. Patia says:

    Heartbreaking. I wish so badly that I could help.

  6. Sunshyn says:

    How about all of the readers/commenters who spend their days on here belittling/challenging/baiting each other do something worthwhile with their time and send this guy $50? Mine is going in the mail, but you all know who you are….

  7. Debbie Richmond says:

    Please contact ISDA for public records regarding animal neglect and cruelty concerns at Orphan Acres since June 2006. Factual documentation about many animal welfare issues and concerns are available by requesting public records. I urge EVERYONE to research this organization thoroughly and obtaining factual evidence. Specific cases are AC07-0018, AC08-0039, and AC09-0220. Get the facts. They are available.

  8. Debbie Richmond says:

    I also wish to remark, regarding the first comment by Nancy, that Orphan Acres actively breeds, there were at least 10 stallions at Orphan Acres during the 2006 ISDA investigation, and as many during the 2009 investigation. Approx. half of Orphan Acres’ “rescued” horses are likely Orphan Acres Arabian breeding stock. This can be confirmed by public records of ISDA inventories and descriptions.

    That is why I ask everyone not to believe what they read. Not one word. See the documentation, visit the facility for a minimum of several days to see the truth. If in fact you will be allowed on site.

    Why Orphan Acres has not been shut down for fraud and animal neglect is a mystery to many.

  9. Debbie Richmond says:

    Sorry, Dennis, but your article is a completely and utterly inaccurate depiction of Orphan Acres.

    Blind horses do not get “placed,” unless you mean they may get placed in the ground with the help of a bullet;

    Try to locate information on OA adoptions on the Internet or anywhere, for that matter, you won’t find any: it appears Mr. Glover is a hoarder or perhaps a feedlot for university research operating as a rescue “front op?”

    They do not get apples in the morning. I would be amazed if the horses even have salt blocks and are not standing in 2 feet of mud as you wrote this article. In fact, I believe hardly any of the horses at OA even have shelter, even a tree. They didn’t 2 years ago, and there were 92 horses at OA at that time.

    I request truthful journalism, Mr. Higman.

  10. jubo says:

    I am not concerned with what happened oh so long ago in the army, but I am concerned with what is happening now. This guy is getting federal funding, and there is proof positive that he was (and probably is again, now that the investigation is over) starving horses. If they are old, they go on the starve list. He rescued several (20+) from another rescue, and several of those same horses that I saw up at the other rescue, in good body conditon were being starved thru winter @ ORPHAN ACRES. It was pitiful.. ISDA did an investigation, full of holes, incomplete, and gave the dude 6 months to start feeding and properly caring for horses. Basically they did nothing, therefore empowering OA to continue this behavior. Please be careful if you are looking to send your beloved friend to OA..everything looks peachy on the outside, but the real deal is not as it appears. Do your homework.

  11. celticangel64 says:

    Why have there been no follow ups regarding this place….if one has time to comment on it, one has also has time to file a complaint/inquiry of of follow-up. If it’s already been investigated, it’s actually easier to register a concern complaint. Yes…it takes process, but also persistence on all parts. If someone has not done the job correctly, there’s always a superior above that investigation that needs a prod…and so on…and so on..don’t be afraid to climb that “ladder” it means results and not a waste of time on everyone’s parts. If this person is a hoarder or is out of “right” thinking, there are other agencies that can also be notified to help these horses AND the person. It IS a disease. It also gives more than one agency leverage to get the job done ALOT FASTER AND EFFICIENT. Please DO realize….it is a disease and there are lots of angels authorities can use, but it takes “people of concern” to open those doors to get the ball rolling. If your going to “attack” do it kindly and for the right reasons. Positive always out ways the negative. …just sometimes in different ways:o). Food for thought….”Get r Done”.

  12. Debbie says:

    According to the Secretary of State of Idaho, Orphan Acres filed for its fictitious business license on March 29, 2000. According to the Orphan Acres website, Orphan Acres was established in 1975.

    Panhandle Equine Rescue in Kootenai County, Idaho, is the oldest established legitimate and humane equine rescue organization, founded by Cheryl Rhodes in the 1970′s. This can be confirmed by contacting the current administration at PER at (208) 687-5333, or checking with the Secretary of State of Idaho.

    Again, I respectfully request that NewWest.net remove this article immediately.

  13. Debbie says:

    Please take a look at the Orphan Acres website photos and story of Blue Magoo:

    http://community.palouse.net/orphanacres/blue.html

    And his photo during the June 2009 ISDA inspection:

    http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2906386200105351271bKtgfn

    Mr. Higman, with all due respect I think somebody is really pulling your leg, and you may need to brush up on your knowledge of horses and do some factual research.

  14. Debbie says:

    Documentation of the 2,500 horses purportedly adopted out? Does Orphan Acres have records, because it appears the Idaho Brand Office does not have any records to substantiate this claim….

    Let’s discuss the stallions at Orphan Acres, shall we? According to 2009 ISDA inventory available via PRR, there were:

    Pen 3:

    “Chock,” A gray Arab stallion
    “Kubrew,” a bay stallion with a star
    “Heart Chocolate,” a 5 year old chestnut crypt stallion
    “Baby Bruce,” a 3 year old colt
    “Oops,” a bay stallion with a star
    “Handsome,” a black bay stallion
    “Cinnamon,” a 26 year old gray Arab stallion
    “Gray Lord,” a 30 year old gray stallion
    “Dream,” an 8 year old gray stallion
    “Sir,” a gray Arab stallion
    “Telegraph,” a gray Arab stallion

    There are a WHOLE BUNCH of Arabs listed on that inventory.

    How many horses at OA are actually rescues? I will guess about half. The rest appear to be private breeding stock.

  15. Debbie says:

    In a document obtained by public records request to ISDA, in a letter received by ISDA Sept. 28, 2006, from a private cancer research company (name withheld), below is a partial quote:

    “…Mr. Glover has been willing to work with the University of Idaho and also our company for research purposes. Stallions housed at Orphan Acres have been generously provided for semen collection to study reproductive parameters….”

    Reproductive parameters for what? Animals? Humans?

    Orphan Acres is not listed as a D20 as most animal welfare organizations are categorized and coded on Guidestar. OA is listed as a P20:

    http://www2.guidestar.org/SearchResults.aspx

    So my question is, as a potential donor I would want this kind of information about a nonprofit business entity in order to make an informed decision.

    Wouldn’t you?

  16. Debbie says:

    Referencing your comment, Mr. Higman:

    “…There are those, including a lot of veterinarians, who want to reinstitute horse slaughter in the United States on what they consider to be humanitarian grounds as the best solution to a growing problem, rather than sending them to Canada or Mexico to be killed and shipped overseas for human consumption. Opponents of this view support an amendment to the federal Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 which would effectively continue the ban on horse slaughter in the United States and make it illegal to export American horses elsewhere for this purpose….”

    This statement in my opinion is leading and infers that the majority of veterinary professionals are supportive of horse slaughter, when in fact you have no evidence whatsoever to support this statement.

    Opponents of horse slaughter in fact include many veterinary professionals, such as this organization as just one example:

    http://www.vetsforequinewelfare.org/

    These are veterinarians who actually live by their oath to do no harm.

  17. Virginia Rankin says:

    Thank you Dennis Higman for the great article on Orphan Acres. I have volunteered there for seven years and have been impressed over and over by the care and compassion that Brent Glover has for the horses. He is, as you stated, “the real deal” – a person who has devoted his whole life to the abused and neglected horses that arrive at his sanctuary. Those of us who volunteer see on a daily or weekly basis, first hand, Brent’s dedication and respect for the horses in his care as well as for the volunteers who make time to go out and feed, muck stalls, do paper work or walk or brush the horses. Thank you, Brent Glover and thank you Dennis for a fine article.

  18. Love horses4 ever says:

    I have to agree based on facts and documentations with Debbie. Too much overwhelming facts about OA. Poor Blue Magoo if Kevin Costner got to see him by then. He should had been rescued along with the rest. I would be very careful in donating to a rescue that has stallions for breeding purposes. I always thought rescues are against breeding, at least real ones. Facts is what counts and we have plenty here on this case, not friendship or sentiments with a person. I really hope that some kind of follow up had been done and is still in process with this rescue. I wouldn’t trust one that had serious issues and red flags screaming out. Hopefully the agencies involved will act of good faith in behalf of the horses not the pockets of people.

    MR.Higman, based on all the facts shown in the investigation and brought in here, truth is what should prevail not wishful thinking.

  19. Brev says:

    Seems Debbie is the only one who thinks Orphan Acres isn’t reputable. Could it be because of a personal vendetta?

  20. Love horses4 ever says:

    Personal vendetta? How about the facts she is presenting and the investigation that was held, skinny horses, horses dead, is that a personal vendetta? The more I read the more I believe in her.

  21. imhorsey says:

    It seems that Debbie is accomplished with smoke and mirrors, even as she is not accomplished at running a sanctuary. How many hundreds of hours has she spent just to get one guy who has accomplished what she did not. If she’s so concerned, she could have spent all that time productively by helping to work with the horses.

  22. Ruby says:

    It’s pretty obvious that a rescue that does not advertise horses available for adoption locally or on petfinder is not doing it’s job properly. Particularly from an organization under scrutiny. Sadly such horrible rescues are not that rare as I am aware of two similar pet rescues in Washington. The best we can do is avoid patronizing them and warn others to check all the facts before donating.