History of Colorado Horsecare Foodbank, A Hay Bank That Feeds Colorado Horses

The history of Colorado Horsecare Foodbank starts in 2009, when this non-profit hay bank for horses was founded to provide help to Colorado horse owners struggling to keep their horses fed, hooves trimmed and shod, and vet care kept up to date after the economic crash of 2008.

Economic Crash of 2008 Creates Huge Need
For A Hay Bank

During the hard times after the economic crash of 2008, many horse owners lost their jobs, and paying mortgage, utility, and grocery bills made it impossible for some Colorado horse owners to properly take care of their horses. As a result, some horse owners surrendered their horses to horse rescues, which filled to capacity. Some horse owners cut back on hay and grain to the point of malnourishing their horses. Some horse owners delayed horse-shoeing which is needed every six to eight weeks. Others cut back on needed veterinary care. And some heartbroken horse owners were forced to send their horses to a kill buy auction. The common denominator was that these people loved their horses and wanted to keep them: they just needed some temporary help to feed and care for their horses while they worked on recovering from the economic stresses of losing their jobs, dealing with accidents or serious illness, getting a divorce, and other life-changing problems.

An Added Problem:
The Drought Skyrocketed Hay Prices Beyond The Budgets Of Many Long-time Horse Owners

On top of the economic crash of 2008, those early years in the history of Colorado Horsecare Foodbank also saw a terrible drought that made it very hard to grow hay in many parts of the United States. As the supply of hay shrank, hay prices skyrocketed…doubling, tripling, and quadrupling. Horse owners already on tight budgets, and particularly elderly horse owners on fixed incomes who were carefully budgeting to be able to feed their horses, simply couldn’t make ends meet once hay prices went through the roof.

The majority of horse owners that Colorado Horsecare Foodbank helped were stable, had great jobs, and wanted to work. But when disaster struck, in whatever form, many horse owners could only hang on for so long before they were on the edge of bankruptcy. As a result, although their horses were beloved members of the family, the horses suffered from hunger or lack of care, or were sent away forever because of a temporary problem.

When all this was occurring, Juliana Lehman, a long-time horse owner who grew up on a ranch and knew the special bond that occurs between people and their horses, was determined to do something about it. She formed Colorado Horsecare Foodbank in 2009 as a 501c3 non-profit, brought in some fellow horse owners, and the all-volunteer group started raising money to buy hay, and pay for veterinary care, and hoof trimming and horse shoeing bills for people with nothing left. The goal: Keep those horses with their families. From those modest beginnings, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank has grown steadily every year, with several annual fundraisers now regular and widely anticipated events.

2013 Wildfires & Floods Drive
Colorado Horsecare Foodbank
Into Natural Disaster Response Work

In 2013, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank expanded operations into emergency response work, as wildfires ravaged Colorado communities, burning homes, properties, barns, and year-long supplies of hay. After “epic” wildland fires burned through the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs in May of 2013, the board of Colorado Horsecare Foodbank made the decision to get into natural disaster response out of sheer necessity. Once the full-year supplies of hay stockpiled by horse owners in the Black Forest area burned up in the fires, horses were starving, and because of the drought, it was virtually impossible to obtain hay, let alone afford the astronomical prices. Colorado Horsecare Foodbank deployed emergency hay down to Black Forest and distributed more than 90 tons of emergency hay to horse owners who had lost everything: their homes, personal belongings, barns, and stockpiled hay. Distributing the emergency hay and feeding the horses of Coloradans who had lost everything helped: i.e., stressing about how to feed their horses was one less thing horse owners in the path of the Black Forest wildfire had to worry about as they started the long, slow process of rebuilding their lives.

CHF Distibutes 500+ Tons of Emergency Hay
After Biblical” Floods in Northern Colorado

2013-OverflowingRiverbanks copyThen, in September 2013, Mother Nature hit Colorado again, this time with “biblical” floods in northern Colorado. After three days of torrential rainfall, overloaded mountain streams cascaded water down the mountains and into the already overloaded rivers and streams, leaving much of Northern Colorado cities, ranches, farms, roads, and pastures under water.

Homes were submerged. Barns and “lean-to” shelters were washed away. Roads were under water. Power was out. Hay bales stored in fields washed away to Kansas with the power of the surging water. The hay that remained in nothern Colorado was sopping wet, and immediately turned into a black, moldy mess. Pastures also were under water, so grazing was virtually non-existent.

Horse and livestock owners were desperate to feed and care for their animals. In many cases, horse owners ignored evacuation orders, and stayed in dangerous locations to care for their animals, living in tents, trailers, and Tuff-sheds.

2013-RoadClosed-Detour copyOnce again, the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank team of volunteers went into action, located a farm in northern Colorado above the floodwaters with some passable roads, and a covered hay barn that could be used to keep the emergency hay dry and edible. Then, the CHF team deployed more than 500 tons of emergency hay to that location, and started the outreach work through the media, through email networks, and word of mouth to let Northern Colorado horse and livestock owners know that quality hay was available for free to those in need, and for a reduced price for those who could still afford to pay for it. From mid-September 2013 through January 2014, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank volunteers staffed the emergency hay staging location in Northern Colorado, and fed, not only horses, but llamas, alpacas, cattle, sheep, and goats – until horse owners and ranching families could get back on their feet.

Thankfully, 2014 was a quieter year in terms of natural disasters, which allowed Colorado Horsecare Foodbank to regroup, grow its team of volunteers, and plan for additional growth. After six years in operation, dealing with natural disaster response with an all-volunteer team, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank earned the attention of several prominent animal welfare groups which provided grants for growth, expansion, more hay, outreach, and education, including the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Banfield Charitable Trust, Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance,and the Sally Beck Foundation, businesses, and charitable foundations.

Moving forward in 2015, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank is working to secure multiple locations along Colorado’s Front Range for permanent storage of emergency hay, as well as obtaining more heavy equipment (trucks, skid loaders, etc.) for moving and deploying individual bales and 1,000-pound bales of hay, building up its education and outreach programs, and much more.

2013-ThankYouNoteCloseup copy

We at Colorado Horsecare Foodbank love horses, and are working to keep them with their families after hard times hit. We invite you to help us in this amazing work, either by donating to Colorado Horsecare Foodbank, attending our really fun annual fundraising events, or by volunteering.