By Vicki Christensen
Melissa Hedtke wasn’t looking to own another horse. Having grown up with horses and with years of competitive eventing under her belt, she was just settling into her new life with the different kind of freedom that comes with not owning horses. But as fate would have it, that’s when Melissa met Island’s Angel, a Thoroughbred mare who was saved from death’s doorstep.
A Fateful Symbol
About a year prior to Melissa and Island meeting, fate had intervened for the mare, who was sent to an auction frequented by kill buyers. When Jacqui Avis, co-founder of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope (DHOH), a Colorado horse rescue with members who are passionate about saving horses from slaughter, first saw Island’s Angel she knew she wanted to save the former racehorse. After all, it was strangely fitting that a rescue named “Drifter’s Hearts of Hope” would save a mare who wears a perfectly shaped heart, not on her sleeve, but right in the middle of her forehead like a beacon of optimistic light emanating from her classic black beauty and Thoroughbred lineage.
Jacqui and her team of special-needs kids, whom DHOH empowers to save horses, saved Island and set about bringing her back to health. The mare was in need of serious rehabilitation due to neglect. A year later, Island was healthy and in need of a rider who could handle her sweet but high-strung disposition. So Jacqui recruited Melissa, who volunteers at DHOH, to work with Island to rebuild her trust for human beings. Fate stepped in again, because the moment Melissa saw the mare in the pasture, she knew right then she was destined to adopt her.
Melissa and Island (now appropriately renamed Sassy — short for Sassafras) took some time to get to know one another and ended up being a perfect fit. Melissa enjoys a horse that has some fire and spirit and challenges her to do her best. Sassy’s natural athleticism and sweet eagerness to try new things thrives under the care, love, and training of the experienced horsewoman. And there’s frosting on Sassy’s cake — Melissa’s mother, Helen, is an equine Reiki practitioner who’s doing wonders for Sassy’s energy and helping to heal past injuries.
Hearts of Hope
The story of Melissa and Sassy is just one of dozens of successful rescues and adoptions facilitated by the DHOH group. And the story of the founding of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope is powerful, too.
Drifter, a retired, hard-worked roping horse, was adopted in autumn 2010 from another horse rescue, The Horse Protection League, by Jacqui Avis on behalf of a family who’s devoted to caring for horses requiring extra care and expense. Just by accident one day, via a friend of a friend, special-needs girl Bella met Drifter and they bonded immediately. Soon Bella and her friends, also with special needs, were helping take care of Drifter. The kids started making heart-shaped horse cookies, “Drifter’s Hearts of Hope” they called them, to sell to earn money to donate to horse rescue. As cookie sales grew and Jacqui became more passionate about saving horses, the idea of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope as a true 501(c)(3) charitable organization was born. The DHOH mission statement is truly unique: “Empowering children with special needs to rescue horses one cookie at a time.”
Though DHOH is a young organization (founded in July 2015), their number of horse and other equine rescues is impressive: more than 116 so far.
The parents of the DHOH kids point out that the kids are accustomed to everybody taking care of them and that being able to care for the horses empowers the kids to give back.
Now Drifter’s Hearts of Hope is proud to be giving back in another way. Along with corporate sponsor Strachan Exploration, Inc., they’re facilitating the Art For Horses 2016 Show & Sale. This extraordinary equine-themed art show will run from September 10 to October 30 at the PACE Center in Parker, Colorado, a beautiful arts and cultural center right in the heart of Colorado horse country.
The goal is to be a valuable opportunity for nationally renowned and emerging artists who are participating, and to earn money for two Colorado horse rescues: Drifter’s Hearts of Hope in Parker and The Horse Protection League in Arvada.
Art For Horses 2016 Show & Sale
Don’t miss this amazing exhibit of equine art. The ticketed Opening Reception of Art For Horses takes place on Thursday, September 15th with dinner and a silent auction. Help welcome and thank the generous artists and have the first opportunity to acquire amazing equine art and benefit horse rescues in the process. This year, Rose Fredrick, longtime curator of the Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale, has curated Art For Horses and has chosen extraordinary art in a wide range of styles, prices and media.
Opening reception tickets may be purchased at www.parkerarts.org. And, visit www.driftersheartsofhope.org and www.thehorsesprotectionleague.org to learn more about them and the horses they’ve helped. More art show information can be seen at www.artforhorses.org.