They Did It: Partnered with Dude Ranches to Adopt Out Retired Horses
Drifter’s Hearts of Hope in Franktown, CO.
Drifter’s Hearts of Hope (DHOH) transitioned 61 dude and guest ranch horses to adoptive homes in a little over two years with its Annie Project, a collaboration that provides a safety net for potentially at-risk horses.
The project is named after Annie, a retired ranch horse who ended up at a local auction. Because Annie was branded with the ranch’s name, the ranch came under pressure on social media for putting Annie in jeopardy of being sold for slaughter. DHOH purchased Annie and reached out to the ranch to partner with them on taking their retired horses in the future.
How They Did It
According to Jacqui Avis, founder and president of DHOH, most ranches want to know their horses will end up in a good place, and the Annie Project helps to ensure a wonderful life for former dude-ranch horses in an adoptive home.
Avis contacts ranches directly to let them know about the program and speaks at the annual Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association conference, to share with attendees how to join the program.
Participating ranches are responsible for transporting horses to DHOH and must relinquish horses to the organization. In exchange, they get a donation receipt and DHOH promotes the ranch as a partner.
According to Avis, “Many patrons who stay at dude and guest ranches want to know that the horses they’ll be riding will have a happy retirement when their work is done.” She says negative reviews on social media about how retired horses are handled can ruin a business’s reputation overnight. Ranches that partner with DHOH get an Annie Project seal of approval, which includes a plaque that can be displayed onsite at the ranch, a listing on DHOH’s website and an Annie Project badge that can be displayed on the ranch’s website and social media.
Annie Project horses typically have a short stay at the rescue before being adopted—and there’s even a waiting list for beginner horses for adult males.
These horses have worked hard all their lives, and I love that they’re going from being a tool for multiple humans to getting their very own person.
Now You Try It
Avis says DHOH would love to expand the Annie Project into additional states and will work with other equine rescues to achieve this goal. Interested groups can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Groups wanting to start their own program should consider these suggestions from Avis:
Offer the ranches something in return for their horses—whether it’s positive public relations and/or a tax receipt, it’s a good idea to help offset any perceived profit they may make by sending a horse to auction.
Show the ranchers that you provide a great home and adopters for their horses—most of them want what’s best for the horses.
If you are partnering with multiple ranches, make sure to treat everyone the same. For example, if you require that one business pays for hauling horses to you, then all businesses should be required to do so.
Don’t write people off. At first, one ranch DHOH ended up working with said they didn’t want to partner with the rescue, but later changed their mind. Give people the chance to come around, and when they do, welcome them with open arms.