“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” said Ruth Plenty founder of Harmony and Hope Horse Haven in Portal, Arizona near Rodeo, New Mexico. “Horse rescue can be terrible heartache but there is also nothing more rewarding. You just do the best you can.”
Located in a rural area two and a half hours from Tucson, Arizona, Harmony and Hope is a 40-acre ranch that is a permanent home to 32 Thoroughbreds and 18 other breeds of horses.
Plenty, a New Hampshire native, founded Harmony and Hope in 1996 as a sanctuary for horses with no alternatives. “I have a weakness for the older horse. Many of our residents are not directly off the track but come to us from undesirable situations where owners have passed away, or fallen on hard times and cannot provide proper care or simply lost interest.”
New arrivals at the ranch are placed in a quarantine paddock for about three weeks while Plenty and the ranch veterinarian conduct evaluations. During this time, horses are provided with necessary veterinary care and are assessed by Plenty. “I spend time with them and get to know their personalities by hand walking and grooming them,” she said. “I try to determine which horses will blend in with which herds.”
Interestingly, Harmony and Hope is one of very few rescue organizations that accepts stallions. “I really enjoy the stallions,” said Plenty. “They like to test you but I let them know that I’m head mare around here.” The ranch is currently home to eight older stallions including sons of Grindstone, War Chant, Sea Hero, Pirate's Bounty, Air Forbes Won and two sons of Hennessy.
Harmony and Hope does not utilize any paid employees and, due to its remote location, does not have a large volunteer base so much of the day-to-day horse care is managed by Plenty. A typical day at the ranch begins at 6 a.m. with wellness checks of all residents followed by morning hay and grain. Plenty completes farm chores then offers lunch time meals for horses with special nutritional needs. Afternoons are often dedicated to grooming and hand walking before the afternoon feedings. Evenings are often spent catching up on paperwork or writing grant requests.
Despite the long days and hard work, when asked what drives her to continue, Plenty simply replied, “I love it. Sure, there are days when I wonder why I do what I do but then I just take a walk with a horse or spend time with them and it makes it all worth it.”
Plenty and her husband are also a testament to responsible Thoroughbred racehorse ownership. As the former owners of a racing stable based at Turf Paradise and the operators of a small breeding program they still own and care for their two original stallions, their broodmares and all progeny. Plenty is also a big believer in preparing horses for a career after the track, well before they ever begin racing. “Before any of our horses ever hit the track they were ridden at home in the desert. We believed that if we could provide more training in the beginning that the horse would be better prepared to enter a second career immediately after he is finished racing.”
TCA applauds Harmony and Hope for working to provide a better life for Thoroughbreds and has provided a grant for horse care for several years. Plenty still recalls the first TCA grant that the organization received. “It was the first year that hay prices really skyrocketed and we were desperately in need of funding for hay,” she says. “TCA’s grants have been a tremendous help.”