Having a structured program where everyone knows what’s expected of them is critical to the success of an equine foster program. Safe Harbor Equine and Livestock Sanctuary in Cottontown, TN, clearly outlines protocols and communicates roles and responsibilities to all 29 of its foster families.
Expectations and Training
All equine fosters can expect to be fully supported by Safe Harbor. The all-volunteer organization covers all costs for vetting, farrier, feed and necessary supplements, including a hay reimbursement of up to $50 a month per horse, October through March. Sariah Hopkins, executive director, says the hay reimbursement allows them to ensure only healthy feed is used by fosters and frees the organization from the task of delivering feed to numerous locations.
Fosters are also supported with training for themselves and their foster horse. Safe Harbor’s training director offers clinics for foster families in beginning, intermediate and advanced natural horsemanship. Adoption Ambassadors fosters get additional training in using the animal database and RescueGroups.org, coordinating adoptions and reading vet records.
In turn, foster families follow the care and safety guidelines outlined in Safe Harbor’s horse foster care manual. Farriers and veterinarians make house calls to all the foster homes and can provide feedback to Safe Harbor, allowing the agency to follow up with additional training.
Coordinator, Liaisons and Mentors
The coordinator works with each foster family to determine which foster tier is the best fit, based on experience and level of commitment. The families are then assigned a horse and a foster liaison. Foster liaisons serve as the main point of contact once the horse is in the foster home.
Each foster liaison is assigned no more than five foster homes in their geographic area. A liaison is always horse-experienced and checks in with the foster home bi-weekly. Foster homes with little or no horse experience also have a dedicated mentor who visits their farm at least once a week.
Safe Harbor created a private Facebook support group for fosters. Says Hopkins, “Our foster families love sharing stories, and when our Adoption Ambassadors get energized in the group, it is a positive, contagious energy.”
This is especially helpful for fosters who need a little creative inspiration, which recently happened when a foster posted a clever adoption photo collage and encouraged others to try it.