Elaine Nash and the North American transportation network she launched to help at-risk horses have been recognized with a prestigious award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The Equine Welfare Award honors of the work of Nash, from Evans, Colorado, and her brainchild, Fleet of Angels.
Nash, a lifelong horse lover, noticed that while many people were interested in rescuing at-risk horses, they were often hindered by prohibitive commercial transportation costs and a lack of access to horse trailers.
Her solution was Fleet of Angels, which has grown into a network of thousands of trailer owners on-call to help transport at-risk equines from danger to safety.
Each year, thousands of horses are assisted by their life-saving work, some as far away as Alaska.
In 2016, Nash was asked to create and manage a large national effort to find homes for roughly 300 of
900 starving and neglected horses seized by authorities in South Dakota from a failing facility.
By mid-December, even in the midst of extreme weather conditions, Fleet of Angels met that goal, and is currently working to place the rest of the seized horses, after the other 600 were turned over to them last January.
The group also recently organized and managed a comprehensive network of equine rescuers providing
vital resources for owners of horses displaced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
For using inspiration, innovation, and collaboration to save the lives of hundreds of at-risk horses, Fleet of Angels is the recipient of the 2017 ASPCA Equine Welfare Award.
Nash’s aim is to get the group to 100,000 members.
“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 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 now managed by a small team of diligent volunteers. Those volunteers and those who offer transportation are crucial to its success.
Most Fleet of Angels missions involve one or two equines, but they have also been instrumental in the transporting and rehoming dozens at a time. In one, they helped move 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. It is currently operating as a Colorado not-for-profit corporation. She has plans for robust expansions of the organization’s services and hopes donors will step up to help make that possible.
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.