A nonprofit group which runs a network to enable at-risk horses to be moved affordably across North America has been nominated for a prestigious award.
Fleet of Angels is in the running for the Equine Industry Vision Award, which is given by the American Horse Publications organization. The award is given annually in recognition of outstanding leadership, creativity and meritorious contribution toward positive changes in the equine industry.
Past recipients include industry notables such as Olympic equestrian gold medal winner David O’Connor, Intercollegiate Horse Show Association founder Robert Cacchione, and the past director of the Mustang Heritage Foundation, Patti Colbert.
Fleet of Angels was nominated by Dr Ann Marini, a scientist whose research into potential horse-meat toxicity arising from drug residues is widely known.
The organization is the brainchild of Elaine Nash. The network she established more than three years ago has benefited thousands of equines across the US and Canada.
“We have several thousand members, but I want 100,000,” Nash told Horsetalk.
“If we can get to the point where there’s a transporter within 25 miles of every at-risk horse, we can increase our current success rate even more,” she says.
Nash spends most of her time working to help horses, including over weekends and holidays.
She grew up on a ranch in New Mexico. By the age of six she was riding her galloping horse while standing on his back, and by 15 was training horses for neighbors.
She worked her way through college by operating her own training stable.
After college, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and opened a busy public relations firm in the entertainment industry, but still managed to spend time with horses every day.
She returned west after 20 years to raise her family, where horses could play a larger role in their lives.
Nash opened a large facility in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where she applied natural horsemanship techniques to train, show, and care for her own champion show horses, family riding horses, many rescue horses, and the horses of others.
A horse-related accident in 2006 almost took her life and left her with many permanent injuries, meaning she could no longer ride.
In 2012, Nash decided to find the reason that so many US horses went from sellers to slaughter instead of into safe homes.
She found that horses often missed chances to be purchased or adopted because many potential rescuers did not own trailers or could not afford professional transportation.
She theorized that most horse owners who owned trailers would be happy to help horses in their local areas get to new homes if it saved their lives. She also presumed that commercial and regional transporters would be happy to offer reduced rates to rescue horses on long-distance trips if there were a convenient way to connect those transporters with the rescuers who needed help.
Nash built the Fleet of Angels website that explained her idea and, with the help of a volunteer who knew the basics of database building, created a directory to collect the names, locations, and contact information of people across the US who were willing to become “Angels”.
People with trailers, layover facilities, or other services to offer started to register by the dozens, and soon the directory offered hundreds of members across the US. It quickly expanded to cover Canada.
“All we ask is that each provider charge the least they can, to make this part of the equine rescue process as affordable as possible,” says Nash. “That’s the key to saving lives.”
Although there are thousands of registered members who are contacted if and when needed, the daily administration is managed by a small team of diligent volunteers. “Without Kim Klotz, who assists with social media and trip networking, and ‘Foxie’ our database manager, ‘the fleet’ couldn’t fly,” says Nash of her team.
Most Fleet of Angels missions involve one or two equines, but they have also been instrumental in the transporting and rehoming of more than 200 wild burros to homes all over the US in one campaign, and other cases involving large numbers of equines.
Nash says a side benefit of Fleet of Angels is that it has created a bridge between those who oppose horse slaughter outright, and those who feel it is a necessary evil.
“Since almost everyone agrees that slaughter is best avoided when possible, people on both sides of that issue work together without judgment, through Fleet of Angels to get as many ‘unwanted’ horses into homes as possible.
“Fleet of Angels exists only because of the participation of horse lovers across the US and Canada,” she says.
“By being willing to register with us and pitch in when needed, our members have helped facilitate the saving of thousands of at-risk equines – and we’re just getting started! It’s easy to become an FOA Angel. Anyone with a trailer or a spare stall or pen- for layovers, is welcome.”
Nash has financed almost all of Fleet of Angels’ costs out of her own pocket. Last year it was granted nonprofit, tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. She has plans for robust expansions of the organization’s services and hopes donors will step up to help make that possible.
The winner of the award will be announced in June in Florida at American Horse Publications’ annual meeting.
Online forms are available for both registering and for asking for assistance. Anyone interested in learning more about Fleet of Angels is encouraged to visit its website at www.fleetofangels.org.