MOSCOW, Idaho – When Randy and Rhonda Kent retired, they were hoping to settle down with a few riding horses and take it easy. But the abundance of neglected and abused horses in Latah County was a harsh reality they couldn’t tolerate, they said, and other rescue facilities were already at maximum occupancy in their minds.
So the Kents started the Retired Equine And Care Habitat, using their pasture north of Deary, Idaho to address the medical, nutritional and physical training needs of horses in need.
“Ours are a lot of law enforcement seizures, it’s what we try to focus on,” said Rhonda. “By the time we seize them, they’re pretty bad.”
“We do take in from the public, but it’s got to be the right situation,” Randy said.
There are 24 horses of various ages and stages of recovery from their sordid pasts at the R.E.A.C.H. facility, the older ones benefitting last weekend from several extra sets of hands coming from the Ponderosa 4-H group in Deary and members of the Washington State University’s Center for Civic Engagement.
Started just this year, the Ponderosa 4-H group consists of 14 members from kindergartners to high school seniors. Younger members gathered Saturday to learn about grooming horses and trimming their hooves.
“We try to get them to do community service once a month,” said 4H leader Cathy Williams.
Emily Suswal, 8, jumped at every opportunity to brush a horse – a step ladder was required – and eventually got the opportunity to go for a ride.
“I like horses,” she said. “They’re nice. They’re happy. ... I have chickens, though. They don’t lay eggs yet, but they will.”
Laura Chellson, 10, owns three horses, and has a soft spot for animals.
“I can’t stand the commercial on TV about cats and dogs at the pound,” she said.
Rhonda said while many horses are past their prime and unadoptable, R.E.A.C.H. has a respectable 40-percent turnover rate.
Mary Zuhn and her 15-year-old daughter, Bekka, have three rescue horses they keep at their home in St. Paul, Minn., and while on vacation, they decided to drop by the Deary rescue facility after finding out about the organization online.
“We thought we’d come out and hang out and help,” she said. “They’re very nice people, and they do good stuff.”
While WSU students with CCE are sparse in the summer, project leader Nick Montanari said he still gets out to the horse rescue when he can. Typically, students come out every weekend during the school year.
“I use to live on a farm and that’s what really attracted me out here,” he said as he braced a horses leg on his and began clipping its gnarly hoof. “Getting out from behind the desk and getting dirty, that’s what I really want to do.”
Randy said a lot of college girls enjoy braiding the horses’ mains and tails, which is fine by him as it trains their hair to part to one side. He said he hopes to provide more clinics for children and volunteers to show them how to care for and ride horses.
“It’s really cool to see all the things that they want to do,” said Montanari. “I’m really excited about the future and what they’re trying to do with this place.”