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The kids in the Plumas County 4-H horse group pamper the filly they recently adopted, named Starlet. Horse Plus Humane Society rescued the foal from a dire situation in Fresno County, and the group adopted the filly in early December. The kids will be training and caring for the horse, and will show her in the Extreme Makeover Competition in Sacramento this summer. Photo courtesy Marie Anderson
The young girls in the Plumas County 4-H horse group have seen a different side of the horse world this winter. Beyond the ribbons and shows there are struggling, abused horses everywhere, and group leader Marie Anderson wanted her group to help in a big way.
Anderson and her 4-H group. whose members are ages 9 – 16 and come from all over the county, adopted a yearling foal from Horse Plus Humane Society in early December.
Starlet, a bay filly, came to HPHS in July from a large band of horses that were rescued from the Fresno area. More than 150 horses, including stallions, were roaming on 800 acres of land in Fresno County with sparse feed and no breeding control.
According to HPHS, the owner of the horses called them and asked for their help with his animals. He had gone through a sequence of unfortunate events health-wise and financially that made his circumstances too difficult to keep his horses healthy.
The humane society agreed to take 65 horses from him, and it was noted as one of the biggest rescues in California history.
According to HPHS only a portion of the herd had ever been trained. Since the summer, many of the horses have been adopted, but many more are still in need of training in order to be more marketable to potential adopters.
In an attempt to entice the help of experienced horse people, HPHS launched the Extreme Makeover Competition. The completion offers trainers a chance to train a rescue horse and show it in the grand finale next June at the Horse Expo in Sacramento for a chance to win $5,000.
Anderson said when she heard about the horses and the HPHS need for horse trainers, she wanted to know how her 4-H group could help.
“The girls needed a challenge,” Anderson said. “Part of 4-H is community service, and I have been looking for ways to bring that into the horse project.”
Starlet was the youngest of the entire herd. She was also an orphan. Anderson said she was quite small and the humane society worried not many people would want to adopt her because of her youth and her size.
“The kids really felt like they were saving this horse,” Anderson said.
Though Starlet is too young to be in the Extreme Makeover Competition, the girls will still show her at the expo.
“It is unclear if they will be eligible for the competition because of their ages and the fact that they can’t ride her,” said Anderson, “but they will at least be able to show her on the ground.”
The girls will be training Starlet on the ground, meaning they will be teaching her manners around people and preparing her to be saddled. The group will then start her under saddle when she turns 3.
It is the kids’ job to manage a budget for Starlet. All of the kids are on various fundraising committees and the parents and volunteers are working on grant programs.
“They are really excited,” Anderson said. “They are doing a lot of research on the problem of unwanted horses. They really feel like they’re doing something important.”
According to Anderson, the group has been writing letters to potential sponsors. They just heard back from Nutrena, who offered to sponsor a year’s worth of grain for the little horse. Local farrier Melody O’Brien also offered to trim her hooves for free.
The horse is currently living at Anderson’s house, and she said Starlet has really connected with the kids.
“She loves them. She’s very bonded with people; she seems so happy to be a part of the world,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said she feels a lot of support from the community for this project, but every horse comes with expenses.
“Horse costs are never-ending, and we appreciate any donations,” said Anderson.
For more information on the Extreme Makeover Competition, visit extremerescuemakerover.horsehumane.org. For more information on Starlet or how to make a donation, contact Marie Anderson at 283-6173.
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