Leg-Up Equestrian Assistance Program: Helping Horses and People

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In early January, I heard of, for the first time, an organization called the Leg-Up Equestrian Assistance Program, because they had come to the aid of the Marin County Humane Society, located about 50 miles south of us. The Marin County Humane Society had no alternative that month but to seize about half a dozen mares and stallions from a local warmblood breeding farm, called Gray Fox Farm, and Leg-Up supported their efforts by organizing an online auction to pay for the care of the neglected horses.

Thanks to donations of items and services by dozens of individuals and businesses from around the USA and Canada, the Leg-Up auction raised $24,500 for the Marin County Humane Society. We at Phoenix Farm supported it by donating two lessons (which an occasional student of Heather?s snapped up) and by buying a custom-made ear bonnet for my sensitive mare Amani.

I was fascinated by the rapid success of this effort, and I wanted to find out more about the Leg-Up Equestrian Assistance Program (www.leg-up.org). So I emailed Kathy St. Martin, who with her husband, Jos Mottershead, runs the charity, along with five other board members.

Kathy told me that establishing Leg-Up ?was a situation of making lemonade out of lemons.? We originally raffled a foal off in 2010.? The Leg-Up Equestrian Assistance Program, Inc. was not established at that time, and we worked in conjunction with the Oklahoma Dressage Society as they were already a 501(c)(3) charity.

?All of the funds from that raffle went to assist Courtney King-Dye, who had recently had a traumatic head injury.? We raised almost $10,000 in that first foal raffle. We cannot thank the ODS enough for stepping up and helping get the whole thing going!? But we also recognized that in order to make it a bit more efficient and manageable, we needed to establish a charity.? And the well-named Leg-Up was born.

In 2012, Leg-Up donated funds to Colorado State University after their equine-reproductive lab burned to the ground. Most of the students? research was destroyed in that fire, which meant they didn't have their data to finish their research and to graduate.

Leg-Up also donated funds to Eddo Hoekstra, a young dressage rider, trainer and clinician who suffered a stroke last spring.? He needed some equipment to be able to continue teaching and giving clinics. ?So, between Rebecca Pennington/Sonesta Farm's fund-raising efforts and a donation from Leg-Up Equestrian Assistance Program, he was able to purchase a mobility unit in order to continue teaching and earning a living.? Eddo had just had his first child when he suffered the stroke,? Kathy told me.

Leg-Up also paid for the burial of Edward Hyde, a farrier who contracted multiple myeloma, last fall.? The board had already granted a donation to Edward, but he died the day before they?d planned to send him a check. ?He had friends who cared for him during the last few months of his life, but when he passed unexpectedly, there weren't any funds left to bury him.? His wish was to be buried in North Carolina with his two young children who had passed.? The board made the decision to pay for that,? Kathy said.

Jos was born in England and was a professional hunt servant in England before immigrating to Nova Scotia, Canada.? He later established Deep Water Farm, a warmblood breeding farm, and worked with a local veterinarian in equine reproduction.? When that vet left the area, Jos continued with the reproductive business and started the website www.Equine-Reproduction.com as a resource for breeders. ?That website has become the go-to for information on the topic. ?We're fortunate in that some of the top researchers in the industry contribute to it and use it as a portal for disseminating current information,? said Kathy.

Kathy has been breeding warmbloods for about 30 years.? In 2001, she and Jos met and began offering equine reproduction short courses.? At one point they were hosting more than 25 courses a year in the United States, Canada and England.? After she and Jos married, they combined their two breeding operations and established Avalon Equine. In 2005 they moved to Wynnewood, Okla., and set up an equine reproductive facility, where they offer breeding services and one-on-one training in equine reproduction.

For the last four years, Avalon Equine has donated a foal for the foal raffle that's Leg-Up?s main source of funding. ?We typically raise between $8,000 and $10,000 by doing that.? We are hoping to expand upon that this year, but as we are entirely volunteer, and all of our board members can only donate their time, a commodity that we sometimes struggle with!? said Kathy. ?We've been fortunate recently, however, to have a few generous individuals?Miranda Pierson and Allie Armento?who have assisted us in fund raising and getting the word out.

?We are also hoping to run another auction later in the year, and we're hoping that people will get behind us again and donate. The generosity of so many individuals who did come forward to help the Marin County Humane Society truly was overwhelming!? she said.

We?ll certainly by watching to help our fellow horsemen in need through the Leg-Up Equestrian Assistance Program.