As the country braces for long-term economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems all but certain a number of Americans will find themselves unemployed or underemployed. The Kentucky Horse Council anticipates that some of those people will be horse owners.
The Council is a 501c3 organization which provides a number of educational and support programs to all breeds and sports in the state. In more normal times, it hosts regular public lectures, large animal rescue training for first responders, abuse/neglect investigation training for law enforcement, and other educational events for recreational and experienced horse owners alike.
The Kentucky Horse Council gets most of its funding through its specialty license plates, which are available through Kentucky's Department of Motor Vehicles and feature the image of a foal next to the license number. The Council was among the first entities in the state to have its own license plate.
Full disclosure: The author is on the board of the Kentucky Horse Council.
One of the Council's most popular programs will now be expanded to help horse owners who have lost income due to coronavirus. The Equine Safety Net is a longstanding program that helps horse owners who have had a temporary setback that has reduced their ability to feed their horses. The program typically covers horse feed for up to two months.
“It's intended to be a temporary fix for those who are suffering from a temporary problem, like a job loss or medical problem,” said Kentucky Horse Council executive director Katy Ross. “We've been averaging two to six Safety Nets a year.”
The Equine Safety Net is part of a larger program called Save Our Horses, which also offers vouchers for gelding procedures, as well as vouchers for euthanasia costs to horse owners in need.
Ross said that in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the program will instead offer $250 grants for general horse care. She acknowledges the Equine Safety Net fund is already strapped – it has offered aid to counties in Eastern Kentucky, where authorities have struggled to feed seized horses from neglect cases, and that ate away at half the funds budgeted for the Safety Net for the year. She's hopeful that the many horse owners who have been looking for a way to help their local equine community may call in donations to the fund. Even small donations could add up.
“If we're able to raise any additional money, that will 100 percent go to this,” she said. “It won't go to operating costs. Hopefully that happens we'll be able to give out more money than we're budgeted for right now.”
Applications, which are available online, for the Equine Safety Net are vetted by Council staff to determine an owner's needs.
In the face of board costs in Central Kentucky, Ross acknowledges $250 may not sound like not much, but she's hopeful it could make an important difference for someone who needs the help.
“It's not a ton of money but if I was boarding at a farm, I could at least give the farm owner money to buy feed for my horse,” she said. “I keep going back to, if this had happened to me when I was just out of law school if I'd had my horse back then I would have been in a lot of trouble. I want to help if I can.”
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