Cancer took Reggie’s eyes.
For most horse owners, that would be enough to mark the end for the huge Belgian horse.
But Jasmin Shinn isn’t like most.
The Corvallis woman has a soft spot in her heart for draft horses that others have given up on. Her nonprofit, 1 Horse at a Time Draft Horse Rescue, has become a clearinghouse that people all over the country turn to when a draft horse’s future seems dire.
And so when Reggie came to her small ranch off Popham Lane, she let people know the story of the blind horse and his seeing-eye friend, Pete, also a draft horse.
Shinn told them about her efforts to save Reggie's eye after he lost the first one to cancer. When he lost that battle, she told people how Reggie followed the sound of the bells she wrapped in Pete’s tail. She let them know he was finding his way around her place and knew where to go when it was time to eat.
A woman from out-of-state followed Reggie’s story.
She offered to pay for the surgery needed to remove Reggie’s last infected eye. When she learned the farrier was using a table that took the huge horse off its feet to trim its hoof, the woman made the trip to Shinn’s place to see for herself.
Along the way, she fell in love with Reggie and his friend, Pete.
“She’s adopting them both,” Shinn said. “I’ve found that there are people out there who want to help too. They want to give a home to a challenged horse like that.”
Shinn’s draft horse rescue is hosting its annual fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 17.
The pair will leave for their new home shortly after that.
“My eyes will be laughing and crying at the time that day,” Shinn said. “It’s always hard when I have to say goodbye. I’m their caretaker for a time. I spent weeks doctoring Reggie’s last eye every day. You develop a connection when you care for these horses, but I’m happy that he will have a home.”
“After all, that’s our ultimate goal is to find someone a forever home,” she said.
Shinn founded her draft horse rescue in 2018 after she outbid a buyer for a rawboned Belgian at a Billings auction. The buyer was at the auction to purchase horses that would be shipped to a feed yard to be fattened before being shipped to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered.
When she asked the man what he planned to do with the horse that she now calls Tiny, he replied, “I’m going to chop his head off.”
Tiny has become of the oversized mascot of Shinn’s rescue. Before the pandemic struck, her gentle giant delighted residents of the Discovery Care Centre in Hamilton regularly.
Although the pair can’t visit out on the front lawn anymore, they do make it a point to walk around the building to say hello through the windows once a week.
“I’ve had a 108-year-old stand up on a chair just so she could see Tiny,” Shinn said. “When I knock on the window and they turn around and see him, they just brighten up and start smiling. I think it makes a difference in their day.”
When she first started the draft horse rescue, Shinn figured she couldn’t afford to keep many horses at her place at one time. Draft horses can weigh nearly a ton and eat that much in hay and grain every month. Many of the horses she rescues need acute veterinary care.
Her cause has struck a chord for many. In 2019, people donated nearly $100,000 to help pay expenses for the 56 draft horses Shinn rescued. Thirty-one of those were adopted last year.
She currently has 25 horses and 19 applications sitting on her desk from people hoping to adopt. Three — including Reggie and Pete — will be leaving for their new home after this weekend’s fundraising event.
The nonprofit’s annual fundraiser, “Beer and Brats at the Barn,” is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shinn’s home at 326 Popham Lane. The event includes live music with Billy G, horse-drawn carriage rides, hand-led draft horse rides, a silent auction and a raffle.
“We’re hoping for a good event to raise some awareness,” Shinn said. “I think people are learning about us and what we’re trying to accomplish. A lot of people just love this cause.”
Shinn said they’re careful when it comes time to find a new home for their horses.
“We try really hard to match them with people in situations that will work out in the long term,” she said. “Our horses have already often changed hands many times. I want this to be the last time that they have to experience that.”
“When I first started, I said I was only going to do one horse at a time,” Shinn said. “But then I learned there were two or three more that needed me. How do you say no? It’s just grown from there.”
“It’s not really about how many we have,” she said. “It’s about who needs us and can we help them.”
To learn more about the draft horse rescue, go to www.1horseatatime.com.
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