The Press Newspaper
Sunshine, aka North Forty Suny Z, is a 14-year-old solid Paint mare that is the namesake for a network of individuals out to save horses that are victims of physical, emotional, or financial hardship.
The Sunshine Equine Volunteer Network recently originated with a small group of local horse owners. They are an organized network offering short-term assistance to Ottawa County horse owners who are no longer able to provide care.
Their goal is to avoid the possibility of starvation, death, and lack of care for horses when their owners have no other options.
Network co-founder Mary Ebel said a lot of horse owners won’t give up their horses, even though they may not be able to properly care for them anymore because of health, financial, or other reasons.
“It is widespread,” said Ebel. “Every horse magazine that we pick up there is something in there about horses being turned loose because people can’t afford to support them anymore. I mean, that’s a widespread problem, and then again we have people who are keeping their horses and they aren’t able to feed them or take care of them.”
She said owners often fear their horse could be sold to a company that might put down the animal for some type of manufacturing or food processing
“The whole thing with people turning them loose is they don’t want to give them up. But then again, they just don’t want anyone to get them, either,” Ebel continued.
Sunshine had lived in her Ottawa County home for seven years. Organizers of the network say her owner died and left Sunshine and a small herd in the hands of people that had no interest in horses.
“They would not allow the people that had looked after the small herd to continue with their care until new homes could be found. As a result, Sunshine and her herd were kept in a dark barn for weeks on end with no contact to the outside world. They were not properly fed or taken care of. When they finally ended up at a horse auction, all were starving and sickly. One gelding died before being sold. Sunshine’s half-sister miscarried her foal,” a news release from the network states.
“Sunshine and her sister ended up not too far from Ottawa County. She delivered a healthy foal not long after she arrived. She was so thin no one realized she was bred. Happily, all three have found good homes,” the release continues. “Sunshine is our inspiration, teacher and friend. She has a big heart and loves to learn new things.”
The organizers say Sunshine “suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of inexperienced and uncaring people.”
Sunshine was rescued by Ebel, who lives just outside Oak Harbor.
“Our horses are like family members,” Ebel said. “You wouldn’t do that to your (family), you know.”
Ebel says the idea to form the network came to her when her husband recently suffered a major illness followed by a long recovery period.
“We were fortunate to have the help and support of family and friends who volunteered to pitch in. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who have no one to help them when they find themselves in a crisis. That’s where the Sunshine Equine Volunteer Network can fill the gap.” she says.
Along with Sandy Heileman, Joan Washburn, Sherri Roth, and Linda Schmidt, Ebel is behind the development of the network. Ebel has owned horses for four years, Heileman has owned them all of her life, and the other owners have owned horses a major part of their lives, say Ebel.
Part of the concept is to maintain a list of people that can be called upon when someone needs help. Each volunteer specifies what they are willing to offer — such as horse care on the owner’s premises or maybe donations of hay or bedding, for instance. When a call is received, the list is used to find the support needed.
Services offered are basic horse care by experienced horse people that consists of feeding, watering, and stall cleaning. Their ultimate goal is to keep horses in their own home and maintain their care by giving temporary help to owners.
All services and supplies are from donations within the network on an as-needed basis. This network operates strictly on a good neighbor policy. It is not a rescue organization, not a humane society, the organizers are not certified veterinarians, and it is not set up for profit, organizers maintain.
Ebel says any referrals will remain confidential, and volunteers are to remain discreet and not criticize.
“The regular person isn’t a horse expert, either, but I think it’s pretty obvious when a horse is neglected for months on end. You can see that, like you would with a person. It’s really important that we stay unbiased and we’re not out to judge,” Ebel said. “We just want to help. Either they can resume the care or another solution is found.”
While the network is specifically for Ottawa County, the founders hope that other Ohio counties will take notice and create networks of their own.
“The whole object is for people to see us, know that it’s there, and expand our list of volunteers because I think right now we only have about eight or nine,” Ebel said.