The Equine Sanctuary in Ojai faces crisis and rescued horses might have to be put down

by DK Crawford on April 9, 2010

The rescued horses at The Equine Sanctuary have 5 days of hay left and perhaps enough pelleted grain to get through Friday. If they don’t get the resources they need, the founder/director of the nonprofit sanctuary Alexis Ells will be faced with putting these rescued horses down. For a sanctuary whose very core message teaches “life is not disposable”, this is a sad and terrifying prospect.
I received a message about this crisis on my facebook wall from a source that Ells says she doesn’t even know. That is how fast communications now travel and my hope in writing this story is that everyone forward this story to at least five others,post it on your own facebook wall or send it to a television station so the right people who have solutions can be reached. The Equine Sanctuary has two primary needs. It needs immediate care for 8 horses that do not have enough food for another week and it needs larger solutions for the future; for all 30 horses it cares for and funding, backing, and help with grant writing so it can continue its therapeutic programs. Quite frankly in these times, it needs a miracle.
The Equine Sanctuary was hand-selected by National Geographic out of all other therapeutic horse programs in the country to be featured in their magazine. It was a great honor and now The Equine Sanctuary is recognized internationally for what they do. The irony though is that due to their recognition, they haven’t received funding but rather almost daily, Ells receives a call about another horse that needs rescuing. “You have to come pick up this horse!” someone pleads on the other end of the phone. So many seek the help of The Equine Sanctuary yet they are needing help themselves.

The Equine Sanctuary is a place where disregarded champion horses come to live. These sport horses are often at the top of their game in hunting, jumping, racing, and polo when something happens and they sustain an injury. The world of expensive horseplay is a cruel place in that these injuries most often result in the animals being used as a tax write-off, sold for meat and sent across the border to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. What Alexis Ells did, a former champion rider herself, was find a way to get her hands on these amazing animals, rehabilitate them and then use them therapeutically to help others — thus giving life to help life.
Part of Ells’s goal is “to change the paradigm of human/equine relationships” and in many ways she has. The horses have worked with children, special needs individuals, helped educate the public about alternative modalities (as she successfully uses several forms of healing for her horses and lets people watch and learn), and the horses helped heal veterans who come home broken themselves from serving our country. Horses are very empathetic and smart animals. These seem to understand the chance they’ve been given and thrive on giving back. Thus far The Equine Sanctuary has not charged for their services, Ells was supporting it through her holistic health company. But with the economy, her business has slowed and she is running out of options. “The horses have given so much, to their owners and others,” said Ells. “Finally its time for the community to step up and help them.”
“There is the potential for so many more good things we can give,” said Ells. And indeed, she is believes in miracles.
Please take a moment and forward this message. A local church is holding a garage sale in the future to try and help. If you visit The Equine Sanctuary’s website you can make a donation online through pay-pal or if you’d like to send a check, make it out to The Equine Sanctuary, 239 Boardman Rd., Ojai CA 93023. There is also more information available about what feed and care the horses require (the need specific hay and grains, etc) and the exact financial needs they are facing. To help or for further questions contact Alexis Ells at 805.453.4567 or

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Suza April 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Thank you DK, I’ve forwarded your article.
You wrote,”This weekend a local church is holding a garage sale to try and help.”
Can you tell us which church and where to bring donations? Will check website too.

DK April 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Thanks Suza! I didn’t think to ask last night. I’ve sent Alexis and email to see if I can find that out. $ donations can obviously be made on the website and it’s easy, did it in two seconds last night but I will let you know when I get an answer about the church event.

DK April 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Suza, it’s the Unity Church of Ventura doing the fundraiser/garage sale and it’s not this weekend but later this month. The director/founder wishes there were one going on this weekend :)

Suza questions April 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Hi DK,
I’m wondering if you wrote this article from scratch or if it came from The Equine Sanctuary.
Probably like most people I had a knee jerk reaction when I read that “The rescued horses at The Equine Sanctuary have 5 days of hay left and perhaps enough pelleted grain to get through Friday. If they don’t get the resources they need, the founder/director of the nonprofit sanctuary Alexis Ells will be faced with putting these rescued horses down.”
I’ve had time now to think about it and I’m feeling that some of the things stated here do not make sense.
Here are some random thoughts:
The horses need to be placed, not put down.
Give money AFTER you see the organization’s 990′s.
Check out all nonprofits on GuideStar and/or Charity Navigator.
I’m sorry to say this and I hope this is not the case in this situation but, sadly, some horse rescues ( and many other animal rescue organizations) are bogus. Or they may do some good work but are also pocketing money beyond what is neded for personal necessities.
The 990′s should be made available to everyone who donates. It is required that all non-profits give this financial information upon request.
Before forwarding this article to more friends and associates I need to make sure the organization is on the level. Their website is impressive and I’ve read wonderful articles about them, but it is still prudent to check.
I have other questions too but will save for later.
Thanks, DK!

charlie liskey d.v.m. April 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm

This article is troubling from several standpoints. Unless something catastrophic happened to the founder of this organization, it seems unlikely a rescue organization would “put horses down” that have been rescued. Why rescue these animals if you are going to destroy them at a later date? I agree with the previous post. These animals need to be placed in homes that can care for them. I wish the article would have been more detailed with the circumstances leading up to this emergency. While reading the article I feel my emotions are being exploited. Only 5 days of hay left or else!!!! Was this also not a problem with 10 days of hay left also.
I agree with the previous post also. Check out all non profit equine organizations before blindly sending donations. I am sure this organization is legitimate but something odd has happened. I strongly support horse rescue organizations but I always verify first!

Suza April 9, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Thank you, charlie liskey d.v.m.
I had the same response as you did:
“While reading the article I feel my emotions are being exploited. Only 5 days of hay left or else!!!! Was this also not a problem with 10 days of hay left also.”
I’ve e-mailed DK, the author of the above article. I’m confident that she will clarify if there has been a misunderstanding.
I also downloaded the 2008 990′s and I’m having someone check it out.

Liz C. April 9, 2010 at 10:33 pm

As an active member of the horse community in Ojai, I found this story to be quite odd. First, I haven’t heard a word about any problems the Sanctuary was having and trust me, if the situation was as dire as has been described, the word would have gone out. Feed stores, vets, farriers, etc. would all be talking about it and gathering support.
Second, as has been seen in the past (when the large number of horses were rescued from Lockwood Valley last year), no one in this Valley would sit by and let innocent and otherwise healthy horses be put down … especially by a rescue organization.
Third, as anyone involved with horses knows, the Humane Society is available to take in horses. No horse person would agree to have those horses at the Sanctuary put down when there is a resource a few blocks away with empty stalls that could take them in, at least temporarily, until the Sanctuary got back on its feet.
Something isn’t right here and I would urge people to not have a knee-jerk reaction to what has been stated. It might be true or it might partially be true or none of it might be true.

DK April 10, 2010 at 12:27 am

I just saw these comments and am a bit sleepy but I will try to be clear about what I know. Firstly, I did write the piece after having spoken to the founder Alexis on the phone. I received a message originally on facebook from Edible Ojai and it said “”Due to economic times the horses at the equine sanctuary in Ojai have six days of hay left and will have to be put down if there is no other option. If you could send out to all you know. The founder of this non-profit is desperate.Thank you!” Please help if you can!!!”
I had the same reaction. How is this possible in Ojai? How did it get to this point? How could I not have known? Then I thought wait…this IS facebook, perhaps it’s not a valid problem or organization. I took it upon myself to call the foundation number and speak with Alexis to clarify. I didn’t have a lot of time to clarify all the points of the article and felt this urgency to get it written and out to the public. I just wanted to spread the message and help. I did look at the National Geographic videos and article and I did look at some articles the Ojai Valley News has posted before as well as I spoke to the founder/director to try to clarify it was all legitimate.
To answer the other points, here is what I understand which certainly doesn’t make it the right answers. Perhaps emailing Alexis is the best thing for most questions.
I am hesitant to speak for them because I may not represent their thoughts acurately. I wrote the piece the best I could from what I was told and wanted to avoid what sounds like potential tragedy. With exception of what I have already corrected, the rest they thought was representational.
I currently have an introduction letter from the foundation and photos and bios of the horses from them as further information. As I am dreadful at posting links here with further information googling The Equine Sanctuary and OVN or National Geographic will show you some of the information about them.
Meanwhile perhaps we should just send questions to the founder/director?

Horse Friend April 10, 2010 at 6:59 am

This is so sad that the emotions of people get exploited this way. If you are a resuce place, do not take in more horses/animals than you can physically/finacially afford. I’m a horse lover and have seen how some “resuced” horses can be treated. Some live in tiny corrals, with enough food to keep them going. Volunteers do all the work and the owners of the resuce places get the glory and the tax write off. (I know there are MANY wonderful rescue organizations) I say if the rescue is that broke, place the horses or if they are injured so bad, they live in pain, then euthanize them. And quit taking in horses that you can’t afford or can’t physically take care of.

Suza April 10, 2010 at 8:03 am

Thanks, DK, for the background information. I wanted to hear what you had to say before asking the director. I will e-mail her now.
The National Geographic videos are impressive. I looked at the website several months ago after reading the OVN’s article about the Equine Sanctuary. I totally support the stated mission and all the important educational material on their website.
I’m not in a position to donate money but I forwarded your article to a horse lover friend who questioned that a rescue organization in Ojai, with only 30 horses, would be forced to put them down. She had other questions as well.
I would sell everything I had that is not absolutely essential for the care of the horses and get the word out that things are desperate…

DK April 10, 2010 at 8:21 am

Suza, do email her. In my discussions with her it was very clear she really cares for the horses. I just don’t want to try to answer these questions specifically and represent them inaccurately. I hope they will clarify on their end and everything will be clear. And I hope I didn’t cause more confusion by trying to help get the word out. I think everyone’s intentions are good and hope better answers than I can give will come. That said, direct email to them might be best.

Suza April 10, 2010 at 8:26 am

DK, I just this second sent the email and copied you.
Thanks for all your replies! I know you are a very conscientious person! I appreciate your time and efforts to call our attention to this situation.
Yes, the important thing is that the rescued horses are well-cared for and not put down unless they are suffering from health issues that cannot be taken care of humanely.

DK April 10, 2010 at 8:34 am

My understanding is there are reasons these animals cannot be adopted out from the rescue (aren’t eligible) and that if they were put down it would indeed be at last resort. Also I don’t believe they are taking on more horses, just trying to care for the ones they have. The calls they receive about other horses were just mentioned because they are a sign of the times and how desparate the horse situation is in general and to show that being selected and featured on National Geograhic did not give them the funding they needed but rather has other people asking them for help.
Suza, I hope it’s all made clear in a way that can be explained. It sounds like this Sanctuary is actually an amazing and unique resource for Ojai that would be great to save if possible. At least that was my take.

Suza April 10, 2010 at 8:40 am

That was my impression too.

Rand Ketchpaw April 10, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Hello My name is Rand Ketchpaw, I would have addressed these concerns sooner, however, I was actually doing my chores on the grounds here at the sanctuary, walking the walk, now for those of you just talking the talk.
The responses to Katie’s blog are a true testament that the horse stirs a powerful emotion in our hearts. And while I share some of the same concerns as those who were kind enough to write in, an action of understanding not hasty judgement should have been your first reaction. As a volunteer, I work with Ms. Ells side by side. She is hardly perched on the implied “ivory tower” and if you really knew her, you would find the concept laughable.
Our goal at The Equine Sanctuary is to foster a safe and secure environment, not just today but forever. And while I appreciate the advise to reach out to formal organizations for assistance, WE HAVE! Throughout the years we have applied for grants, asked for funding both locally and globally through memberships, endowments and straight donation, adoptions and sponsorship, i.e. newspaper articles, internet, television etc. Trust me we have been asking!!!! Unfortunately, only a select few responded and gave anything other than a pat on the back for what a great job we do.
As with all charitable organizations, legitimacy is very important. I read your concerns and say please, check out The Equine Sanctuary website, it is the very understanding we seek. National Geographic did their due diligence in researching their article.
The basis of our work is to promote the ethical treatment of not only our residents, but all living creatures. There has been some hysteria about the euthanizing of the horses. Our concern is to feed them not euthanize them. Our mission is to mitigate any need for these horses to be sent anywhere else as well! We are in a unique position of caring for special needs horses, we cannot send them anywhere. They need our help in the short term, and we need funding to insure their well being for the long term.
Ms. Ells has worked tirelessly to bring these horses back from emotional and physical injury and abuse. With her training/knowledge of both western medicine and alternative modalities, combined with her love, passion and intuitive sense for these animals, she has worked miracles! And our Goodwill Ambassadors, are the living proof of her skills.
I can speak for all the hardworking volunteers that we feel fortunate to be involved with such wonderful creatures, this fine organization and such a great mentor that we have found in Alexis Ells.

Rhonda Tyacke April 10, 2010 at 4:24 pm

In June of 2004, after moving to Camarillo from Oregon, I was looking for a place to volunteer with horses. After meeting the founder, Alexis Ells, and the beautiful Goodwill Ambassadors, I knew I had found the place for me. I’ve been traveling from Camarillo to The Equine Sanctuary in Ojai virtually every weekend since then, many of them on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
I don’t have appropriate words to describe the caring devotion that Alexis has for these magnificent animals. She does virtually anything possible to give them a loving and safe home. She encourages the volunteers to be positive, calm and reassuring as we work with the horses. Whether they have career-ending injuries, or come from abusive environments, they DO respond and come to know that this sanctuary truly is their place of peace and safety.
Working at TES gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction, and I believe that this is a place where I can truly make a small difference in at least a few lives. I hope that I’ve eased Alexis’ burden of caring for these animals for at least the 5 or 6 hours that I am there that day. And I hope I have helped make the sanctuary a nicer place for each horse that calls this place their home.
Sadly, many horses that are thought to have outlived their usefulness are simply discarded like an old worn out piece of equipment. Few organizations are dedicated to rescuing performance horses such as the ones that are here. Alexis is trying so very hard to create a wonderful and serene haven for these incredible animals that have done everything asked of them and now deserve to spend the rest of the lives in a safe and peaceful home. The Equine Sanctuary of Ojai is this place.
I would invite anyone who is critical of this sanctuary to make an appointment, like I did and come see for yourself who and what this place is made of!

Sara S April 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I applaud DK for her efforts of getting the word out of the difficulties The Equine Sanctuary is facing with trying to care for our eight Goodwill Ambassadors. I know first hand what The Equine sanctuary is facing as I have volunteered my time and money for the past 4 years. With the economy the way it is, donations have declined. Alexis has done what she could to help stretch the donations we do get. We have tried many different ways for the four years I have been with the Sanctuary for monitary donations along with people to help with horse care. If anyone can come up with fundraising solution, we would glady like to hear it or if you would like to volunteer for a shift to care for the horses, we would love to have you.
The eight Goodwill Ambassadors at the sanctuary came to us from worked related injuries or abuse. If someone had not called, Alexis, these eight wonderful horses would be been sent to slaughter. I know it breaks her heart that Alexis have to turn away horses but TES in unable to take in all the horses she get calls about.
Alexis works tiredlessly to care for our horses. At times, she has put the health of the horses before hers. We have worked side by side for four years come rain, wind, heat and cold. Horses get moved around the different areas of the sanctuary so everyone has time to eat the grass in the pasture and to have different stimulations during the day. Caring for these horses is hard work and I treasure every day I get to spend with them.
I hope everyone who reads this goes to our website to find out about The Equine Sanctuary. If you are in the area, make an appointment to come out to see our Goodwill Ambassadors and hopefully after your visit, you will feel it in your heart to help with a donation. I personally invite Suza, Liz and Dr Liskey to come out for a visit and ask to see the sanctuary’s 990s. If you have any questions concerning the sanctuary, please e-mail us at to get your questions answered. It concerns me that misinformation is getting pasted around about a wonderful organization trying to make some horses life a little better.

Jim Rider April 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm

As is often the case in communications, 2nd hand conversations can get blown out of proportion and each successive, though well-meaning telling of the story weaves in more distortions born of emotions and lack of information. It is all the more rampant in this day of blogs, social networking, and self-professed experts on the internet. This is the case with recent posts about The Equine Sanctuary and legitimate fund raising efforts. Like most not-for-profits, let alone mainstream bricks and mortars businesses in this economy, funds are harder and harder to come by, and many have gone out of business altogether. The Equine Sanctuary is just another not-for-profit doing it’s best to serve a noble cause where most show no interest or care whatsoever. These days everyone is a critic. And while it has become vogue to espouse and pontificate about causes, actually doing the work is a rare occurrence.
I have known Alexis Ells for over 12 years. I have seen her devote her life to saving animals from slaughter. And while I confess I know nothing about horses, I can tell when a person genuinely cares for a cause. I have seen first hand, her work from daybreak to sundown in care of her animals. I have both admired and been amazed at her devotion to taking care of, and finding a healthy home for horses while others turn a blind eye. It is tireless and thankless work. And, like most non-profits, The Equine Sanctuary can always use funds.
So rather than criticize, or look for some covert meaning where there is none, I suggest you spend the cost of a couple of lattes and go buy a bale of hay and donate it. And the next time you see a gaunt and weary homeless person give them a couple bucks rather than walk by pretending you don’t see them or pretending you don’t have any money. Put down your keyboard and go volunteer at one of the many struggling and noble non-profits, homeless shelters or convalescent homes.
The world will be much better for your efforts than any pontificating post you make on a blog or article you write to a newspaper.

Suza April 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Hold your horses!!
We are all animal lovers here, “walking the walk…AND talking the talk!”
I appreciate all that Alexis and all you wonderful volunteers are doing.
If you go back and read carefully, we asked for clarification on the opening paragraph of the article. (That is not spreading “misinformation.” In fact, it gave you a golden opportunity to tell us more about the Sanctuary.)
Here’s what we asked about:
“The rescued horses at The Equine Sanctuary have 5 days of hay left and perhaps enough pelleted grain to get through Friday. If they don’t get the resources they need, the founder/director of the nonprofit sanctuary Alexis Ells will be faced with putting these rescued horses down.”
I have been wanting to visit the sanctuary ever since I read about in the Ojai Valley News a few months ago. I also visited the website and watched the videos.
I look forward to visiting in the near future. Thank you for the invitation.

Liz C. April 10, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Wow. People sure are quick to misunderstand comments here. All I was trying to say was that the content in the original post seemed unbelievable to me, a horsperson. At no point was I criticizing Alexis. I’ve met Alexis and I have a lot of admiration for her. What I was trying to say was that people shouldn’t be getting all excited until all the facts were presented accurately.
I spent the majority of my career working for nonprofits. I know how difficult it is to raise funds. And as a horseperson, I know the realities of feeding and caring for equines. I’ve adopted rescues myself. Trust me, I know.
If the situation is as dire as was originally presented, I would urge Alexis to get the facts out.

to alexis April 11, 2010 at 9:00 am

why haven’t we heard from alexis?

jean-marie webster April 11, 2010 at 11:22 am

I read the posts from everyone with interest. First of all let me say that in life the facts are the facts and the narrative of those facts is what makes a story. So let me share a few of the facts that I researched as a result of this post. 1.) Horses do not go to slaughter today in California there is a very strict law regarding this. IF they do it is a felony in the state of California. And the law takes this one step further by saying that if a person knowingly or unknowingly sends a horse to slaughter and that person could deduce that through his or her actions that horse might end up a slaughter he or she is guilty of a felony. That also includes sending a horse out of state where slaughter is legal, the culpability is still with the owner and he or she can be prosecuted. 2) Why do 8 horses need food or they will be put down–what about the other 22? As anyone knows to feed 8 horses is simply the price of a bale and 1/2 times 8 per week per month. Depending on the price and whether you only feed 8 to 12 bales a week the price at an average of 10.00 a bale results in an amount of 320 or a high of 480 per month. Not a great sum. This buys time to PLACE the 8 horses in question. Remember evidently the other 22 horses have PLENTY of food as that is what the post suggest.
3.) I am not too impressed as to whatever press people or organizations get as there are plenty of examples of press that represent one picture when there may be an entirely different picture of reality that exists. A lot of organizations get caught up in the press they receive and forget about the animals or the situation that got them there in the first place. 4.) I also took the time to look at the last 990′s filed by this organization and it appears that the actual hay and grain costs for the last year( dated 4/2009) filed was only 12,849 while the cost for rent or mortgage paid was almost 16,640.00 and gardening was 3063.00 which was apparently paid for by public monies. Farrier costs about 4500 and vet bills around 8000. Travel was accounted for etc. And yet Tens of thousands of dollars was harder to track since it appears the volunteers who do the work had a value of 64,748. When an organization takes in almost 120,000 and can’t plan for the food of 8 horses something is odd about the allotment of where the monies go. Possibly, the individuals living on the property are could pay rent to the organization and that it is not all public donations paying for the rent or mortgage of said property to the tune of almost 17,000. I think to pay for gardening on the property in the amount of 3,000 when there are 8 horses at risk for death might not be justified at this time.
There is not a “horse person” out there that would put down a horse for economic reasons but there are horse owners out there who would and do put down horses but they are not a horseman. Frankly, we are only talking about 8 horses that clearly need to be placed as they are at risk and of no longer use to this organization. I would donate money as long as I know how much is raised for these 8 horses and that they are going to be placed. There are many wonderful people and organizations that will help to place these 8 horses. Finally, Non-profits are created for many reasons some for a specific profect, some for someone’s ego, some for a tax benefit, some so that the person in charge will have a job or income to pay their expenses of living, some are just plain crooked. But regardless of the reason, all non-profits need to be held to a higher standard of performance and total transparency. To question the finances or motives of a non-profit by the public should be applauded and welcomed by not only all non-profits but the non-profit in question. Just because one is a non-profit does not give them a pass from doing the right thing and having accountability. Yes there are animal non-profits in trouble , but most of them place the animals, they ask for the communities help in adoption or other groups –most do not say if I don’t have food for the animals in question(8 horses out of 22} they will be KILLED. I find this abhorrent and wrong. And I will forever question the motivations of any organization that takes that route. Again I will donate a month’s worth of food for the 8 horses in question as long as they are placed or in the process of being placed to another home.
23 horses were recently placed out of an oregon non-profit who were in dire straits, horses in Goleta were place in the same situation recently–therefore 8 should be a piece of cake. By the way the horses placed in both instances were old, lame and sick with special needs and ALL got homes. So again, I think the 990′s speak for themselves in terms of how dollars are spent by non-profits. Yes these are difficult economic times but again the answer is to solve the problem and not take the expedient way of death– Unfortunately, sounds like these horses were simply an accessory to a photo op, news article, and video instead of the reason that these photo ops, news articles and videos came about. Let us know when to buy the hay and include a plan for placement as clearly these 8 horses will always be in jeopardy or at risk as they are apparently expendable while the other 22 are safe—for now. The important issue at this point in time is not how many articles are written videos shot, not whether someone is a good person,how monies are spent (although that has some bearing) not whether someone has the right to question what is going on, not whether there has to be defense or attack but the fate of these 8 horses. Again, non-profits should be held to a higher standard of not only ownership but the disposition of horses that they have raised money on through out the years and for what ever reason no longer need. They deserve better than this and we as the public who donate monies deserve better than this. There is an implied warranty here that a non-profit will take better care of their charges and that is why money is given to them by the public. And in reality as a general statement I don’t personally care if someone pays them self a salary, pays their housing expenses, pays their personal costs ( although the IRS might care) AS LONG as their personal or extraneous expenses do not put their charges or the stated purpose of their non-profit in danger of death or substandard care. When the cost of taking care animals or stated purposes is so low and other expenses of the non-profit are extraordinarily high then not only do I care but I get angry. I notice that some people attacked those that questioned HOW it got to the point that 8 horses were going to be killed in 5 days if no food were forthcoming by a non-profit. Questioning is good and again non-profits should welcome those questions because it is public monies and really the final accounting should be done by the general public. For in those questions, all non-profits will become more accountable to those who really matter–their charges and the general public.

Suza April 11, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Thank you, Jean-Marie, for this extensive Comment. I think having a conversation about all this is very important.
(I’m working on another project but will come back later and read more carefully.)

anonymous April 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I read this post with horror. First of all I believe that this is the same person and organization that started off with 2 or 3 horses that were polo ponies that belonged to some relative , brother in law or ex husband or something –and a non-profit was formed for those 3 horses years ago. That in itself does not take away from their needs. What I object to and in my opinion needs to be looked into is why there is a non-profit for such a small a number of horses?–starting with 3 and going to 8 or 10? Some of my friends have 6 and 8 horses and they don’t have a non-profit. They don’t have their rent or mortgage being paid out of non-profit funds by the general public donations. Again in my opinion shouldn’t there be a correlation to the number of animals that a non-profit has to income raised and what that money pays for? As I remember the article and I could be mistaken but this very non-profit that rescued these polo ponies sent the baby off to a trainer to become a polo pony!–At the time that seemed to me just plain stupid. I let it go but when I read that these 8 horses were in danger of being put down in 5 days because there was no food–I thought to my self after all these horses have done in terms of publicity for alexis this is their fate?
They are the reason that it appears the place where she lives ( if the 990 is correct–and I read it and that’s what shows) gets paid for!!! Hay is now about 8 to 9 dollars a bale therefore if there are 8 horse that would be about 72.00 a week–that would be 8 bales at 14 to 16 flakes in a bale-therefore it is about say a 100 a week with trims etc which would be 400 a month!!! There are many horse owners out there with multiple horses that pay their hay and food bills without the advantage of a non-profit and they have to in addition pay their own living expenses!! I totally agree that as the dollar giving public we need to know how our dollars are spent with any non-profit.
There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for the threat to be made that horses are going to be put down if we the general public do not give money for food!! That is emotional blackmail of the worst kind and inexcusable. This was her choice, her project and I for one do not like being blackmailed. It appears she has a successful business she should put up the money for food for the 8 horses on her property. I read there are others being fostered so I assume those fosters are covering the cost of the horses in their charge. But at the end of the day these horses just need to find new homes and not be hauled out for some “dog and pony show” to raise funds! I too went on “Guidestar” and saw that 119,000 dollars was raised –gee where did the rest of the money go? And while I commend the volunteers who put in their time and their hearts they too need to ask for a non-profits 990′s with that kind of money being raised some money should have been saved for the lean years –that would be prudent and wise. But again maybe alexis should just buy some hay from her personal income and the horses simply placed. The economy is only going to get worse not better, so better to find homes for these horses that they will not face the prospect of death at some point in the future when they have out lived their economic usefulness! Or maybe the original owner could donate a few bucks–I am worried because anyone who threatens to kill horses will , in my opinion, at some point quietly do it one day when no one is looking.
So I urge that instead of writing post that we all band together and find homes for these horses!! Does anyone know who the vet is for these horses?

DK April 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Those who are concerned I believe speaking with Alexis directly is the way to go. She has welcomed people to come to the sanctuary and to even speak with her vet. She does not appear to me as a person working for publicity or for herself. She also did not come across as someone who sees the horses as expendable or easily thrown away. I believe she has helped these horses, rehabilitated them and healed them from catastrophic injuries. I don’t think anyone who devotes her life to that is solely looking for publicity nor do I think she would wish to harm the very animals she helped rebuild. Perhaps I, or another could do a follow-up where we collect all the questions and ask them of her. I think not having the public understand the sanctuary, what it does and what it needs, is a hinderance. This seems like a natural opportunity to clear any questions up.

Anonymous April 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm

If you people dont want to assist then don’t! I sent in a little money because I follow sports involving horses, and the athletic ones are tossed aside when they are done. If you do not want to assist then you shouldn’t. But there is no reason to be mean spirited.

Liz C. April 12, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I would like to address dollar amounts in an earlier post. Hay does not coast $8-$9 bale – alfalfa (which I just bought today) costs between $12-14/bale. Orchard costs anywhere from $12- 19 (depending on store).
This is a minor point but before throwing dollar figures around, it would be best to double-check them.

Anonymous April 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I am a student in the nursing program at VC, and a fellow animal lover, and I have been following the blogs regarding the Equine Sanctuary in Ojai. I did some research on my own, and what I gather is that this is a special rescue charity that provides comprehensive care for ex-performance horses with “special needs”. And, although there are many other wonderful equine rescue organizations out there, it doesn’t neccessarily mean they are equipped to provide the level of care that these particualr horses require. So,I guess I am just a bit confused about all of the anger that DK’s article has generated, i.e. demands for transparency and the 990s. It seems to me that they must run a pretty clean operation in order for National Geographic to have sought them out for their article and documentary. I feel this charity is just one more victum of our struggling economy, and this woman is just asking for some help feeding the horses. Frankly, I am saddended by the negetivity in some of the blogs, and I for one, will be sending a donation to the sanctuary, tomorrow.

Jim Rider April 12, 2010 at 11:50 pm

There are some interesting, sad, and grossly false accusations here. Some clearly sounding like they are laced with a personal agenda. It would be wise to question their motives as well.
Law or no law, like most, they get broken. Dog fighting is illegal too, but it happens everyday. So does murder and rape in case you haven’t noticed. To think that horses don’t get shipped across the border or overseas for slaughter under some other pretense is being in denial.
There are no horses at risk of being put down here. Somewhere along the line someone misconstrued something. These horses have been cared for in the utmost manner. Even the casual observer can see that they are magnificent looking animals. These are ex high-performance horses with “special needs” that require a different level of care than the average horse. They are treated with the finest medical care, acupuncture, chiropractic, lazer therapy and other holistic techniques. Not the kind of horses just anyone can take care of, and not the kind of horse you set free in a mountain pasture and throw out a couple of flakes of hay a day, or stick in some stall in the guise of rescuing them and watch them painfully deteriorate like some cast aside Easter bunny.
And to suggest that these horses existed for the presence of a photo shoot is propagating an incendiary and false impression. These comments are dangerous and reek of personal animosity. All it takes is one self righteous commentary to start a riot.
The founder is not a millionaire. To suggest any efforts have been for personal gain is laughable. Alexis spends her days and nights and personal funds taking care of the horses with skill and devotion. She endeavors to create a safe and uplifting environment for the animals, volunteers, visitors and children, while running a separate business. Many people have seen the efforts first hand, including reputable veterinarians.
In life you meet two kinds of people. Those that believe in you and want you to succeed, and those that don’t and want to tear you down. The latter usually have their own agenda. Forget the ranting and raving of petty and ill informed voices. Their comments do little more than incite hatred. Perhaps causing damage is their actual intent.
Stick with the people that believe in you Alexis. Many of us have witnessed miracles occur for the horses at The Equine Sanctuary.

jes MaHarry April 13, 2010 at 1:17 am

After reading these posts I agree these horses need to be placed asap. What worries me is that a “rescue” group even thought of putting these animals down and then went public with this article (with 5 days of food until death????) Why in 5 days? Isn’t this the real question here — Why would a horse rescue wait until then? I can think of a few ways to make some quick money for at least a month or so of hay that would give her time to place these poor horses. I am sure her volunteers would be more than happy to help work at a fund raiser, bake sale, car wash, even a yard sale, etc… Hay which we just bought is at 10.25 a bale so I imagine her hay bill for 8 horses for one month would be around $500-700 ish which should be easy to make. I am sure these animals are “adoptable” no matter what illness they have. It might take some research and networking but it can be done and to honor these animals it should be done. I agree with comment/post #22 and that as a non-profit they should be accountable. Who is the vet? What is wrong with these horses? Why is she considering euthaniza? I would like to hear back from the groups founder.

jes MaHarry April 13, 2010 at 1:18 am

After reading these posts I agree these horses need to be placed asap. What worries me is that a “rescue” group even thought of putting these animals down and then went public with this article (with 5 days of food until death????) Why in 5 days? Isn’t this the real question here — Why would a horse rescue wait until then? I can think of a few ways to make some quick money for at least a month or so of hay that would give her time to place these poor horses. I am sure her volunteers would be more than happy to help work at a fund raiser, bake sale, car wash, even a yard sale, etc… Hay which we just bought is at 10.25 a bale so I imagine her hay bill for 8 horses for one month would be around $500-700 ish which should be easy to make. I am sure these animals are “adoptable” no matter what illness they have. It might take some research and networking but it can be done and to honor these animals it should be done. I agree with comment/post #22 and that as a non-profit they should be accountable. Who is the vet? What is wrong with these horses? Why is she considering euthaniza? I would like to hear back from the groups founder.

to alexis April 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

I’ll ask again: Why haven’t we heard from Alexis?

To Jim Rider April 13, 2010 at 8:13 am

You wrote:
“There are no horses at risk of being put down here. Somewhere along the line someone misconstrued something.”
DK, the author of the article posted here, wrote the following in a sincere effort to raise funds for the Equine Sanctuary:
The Equine Sanctuary in Ojai faces crisis and rescued horses might have to be put down
The rescued horses at The Equine Sanctuary have 5 days of hay left and perhaps enough pelleted grain to get through Friday. If they don’t get the resources they need, the founder/director of the nonprofit sanctuary Alexis Ells will be faced with putting these rescued horses down.
When I first read this, my immediate response was that I wanted to help. I am stretched thin feding myown rescue dogs and cats so I forwarded the letter to a horse lover thinking she or her friends might help.
She wrote back and questioned the headline and opening paragraph.
She also had other questions that I could not answer but I thought they were fair and reasonable so I posted them here.
It would have been a simple matter for Alexis or a board member or someone else who represents the organization to contact DK, the author of the article, and request that she correct any inaccuracies and respond to the questions that were posed.
Speaking for myself as a writer, an animal lover, and volunteer for nonprofits, I have the same good impression as the anonymous nurse (Comment #28. But I also feel it is fair to respectfully question any organization that accepts donations from the public.
(My keyboard sticks so please excuse any typos)

Anonymous April 13, 2010 at 8:15 am


Suza to Jim Rider April 13, 2010 at 8:20 am

I forgot to add my name to Comment #33 which was addressed to Jim Rider.

Suza April 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

To Comment #32,
I received a very nice call and e-mail from Alexis on Saturday afternoon, inviting me to visit the Sanctuary and ask any questions I or anyone else, might have.

LTOR April 13, 2010 at 9:16 am

Common sense dictates that, given the information presented in the original post, the questions and concerns above are logical, natural and prudent! Anything less would have been cause for concern!
I agree that perhaps jumping to conclusions right off the bat about motivations (financial or otherwise) are not wise (or fair), but everything else mentioned is fair game. While it perhaps understandable to rigorously defend a friend or colleague, the comments above that chastise, belittle or question the motivations of those concerned (some even with an implication to “back off”) make me (just a curious reading bystander) almost feel that someone “doth protest too much” and I certainly now want to have someone get to the bottom of this “story”. If, as Jim says above, facts have been misconstrued – then clear everything up!!! Don’t shake a (self)righteous finger at those “pontificating bloggers” who have genuinely (and naturally!) reacted.
I wish the horses, all the volunteers, Alexis and her sanctuary the best of luck going forward!

DK April 13, 2010 at 10:55 am

I received the message on facebook, became concerned, sent a donation then thought “wait, is this real? I’d better check”. So I googled the Sanctuary and immediately called Alexis asking a) is this a real crisis and b) how can I help. Mostly I was concerned with getting the severity of this message out to the right people who could help more than I.
Alexis called and told me it is very real and she is deeply distraught but she is also a hopeful, deeply spiritual person. She answered any and all questions I had in the short amount of time I did have before an obligation. The next morning I woke up, took the notes, wrote the piece and posted it. Alexis contacted me with mistakes I had made in my haste. I wrote some wrong words like owner rather than founder, I messed up the name, the link wasn’t working….These are all things to be expected when rushing to get something out in an emergency. They have been corrected. To my knowledge, what I posted is not an inaccuracy but I believe it’s not explained in a way that makes sense to everyone yet.
When we spoke, it was different than speaking to a business person who has a lawyer on one side, a PR mouth on the other. Alexis was real and told me more than I asked and trusted me.
She told me that if she cannot get funding that these horses might have to be put down. She said it was not going to happen in 5 days but if they could not find resources it was a very real possibility. My understanding is that these horses often require surgeries and pretty expensive food and treatment and I know when the animal and financial world combine, sometime decisions are made to stop treatment or not go forward with an expensive operation that might give an animal a bit more time. Maybe realistically the treatment these horses receive and need isn’t something others would consider financially viable.
It’s tricky because I don’t fully understand the whole senario but Alexis is someone who is very aware that there is a large horse trade where horses are being sold for meat and sent across the border for slaughter. If she was facing that option between putting the horses in someone’s hands who wouldn’t do everything they could to save them then I believe she would want to give the horses a kinder death.
Though people have spoken about all these folks who want to adopt horses, let alone horses with all sorts of health and emotional issues I’m not so sure about that. Many see horses as a luxury and many horses are being taken to the animal shelters or abandoned. It’s not a pretty time in our history when people are struggling to feed their families and then they have this large animals who is expensive to care for that needs things.
So yes, email Alexis, try to get an understanding of financials and of policy regarding euthanasia with the sanctuary. Do understand where you are putting your money and trust.
The good about this post is that it’s obvious people care about horses and are passionate about their welfare. The bad about it is because I haven’t had the answers, there is confusion and fear and reaction. I appreciate that the questions are probably coming from people who also intend good for the horses.
When I wrote it, though the message was raw in a way, I believed it contained more of the truth than we normally get to hear and more of a chance for help. For a nonprofit that has done so much publicity and received not a ton of funding I thought “well if this is the truth, then let’s put it”. If it is that urgent people need to know. I still believe the good The Equine Sanctuary has done with therapeutic modalities for children and veterans with horses who have suffered such trials themselves is remarkable and could be a hallmark of Ojai.
In that light, I will compile a list of questions to submit to Alexis if you like and give her a chance to answer them herself. If you wish to send questions, do so here Please do not send rants or digs, I don’t see how that is helpful. We’ll see if it helps to have them all go to one source and answered in one lump. I am willing to try.

Suza April 13, 2010 at 4:34 pm

DK, thank you for explaining all this. I look forward to visiting the Sanctuary and learning more. (Am tied up getting ready for City meeting tonight… tomorrow is taxes…cannot go this week due to previous commitments)

Suza April 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

DK, I think your idea in last paragraph is good.

anonymous April 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm

give me a break we are talking about 8 horses here. I would like to see what a vet thinks about putting these horses down. A non-profit would rather destroy these horses then look for a suitable home, make the attempt to look for a home? To feed 8 horses whether one is paying 9,10 or 14 dollars a bale( priced is usually based on weight of bale and who you buy from) is not the point so much –we are only talking about 8 horses here and it seems that not only did alexis make the statement about putting them down but so did some of her volunteers!! To guilt trip the public with this wrong wrong!! And yes the 990′s of any non-profit are important to us the public how our money is spent is important.
If she does not want to even attempt to find these horses homes then that is her choice but I wonder what her board, the national geographic etc and the i.r.s. would think about this solution. She is acting like these are her personal horses(maybe they are or were) at this point in time they are not–they belong to the non-profit, and in turn monies have been accepted from us the general public to support these 8 horses (and from the 990′s looks like a lot more then just food and medicine) . Does she want us to support these 8 horses for the rest of their lives and then she can just decide to kill them–again what about board approval, what about a vet looking at these horses- quite frankly they look pretty good from their pictures–Sounds like the volunteers are doing most of the work and we are paying the freight. If she can’t afford 8 horses then they NEED to get new homes or at least the attempt–seems like our money is good enough but we as the general public can’t be trusted to adopt them? There are many at risk animals that find great and loving homes to suggest that this is not possible is arrogant at best. The 8 horses here are what is important and someone threatened to put them down–shame, shame , shame on this non-profit.

DK April 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Anonymous, must be handy to be born knowing all the answers without asking the questions.
Suza, I look forward to hearing what you learn.

Alexis Ells April 13, 2010 at 7:35 pm

It is unfortunate that this has caused such distress and misunderstanding. Someone once said, “the horse stirs powerful emotions in many of us.”
Rather than address each and every entry, I would like to make clear The Equine
Sanctuary’s mission as simply as possible. The basis of our work is to promote the ethical treatment of not only our beloved horses, but for all sentient beings.
We do our best on a daily basis to make a difference in the world for as many
horses as possible. We have been helping the equine community for years and have never put down a horse for economic reasons, EVER. On the contrary, we have gone to great expense and effort that many would never consider, for their long-term rehabilitation.
There is no plan to put any horses down, now or in the future.
>Like any non-profit, large or small, sustainable funding is always sought and often a challenge to find.
We made a commitment to these horses to provide them with a “safe home forever”. And our goal continues to be the same: to feed, care and provide for them today, tomorrow and for many years to come.

Lauren Miller April 13, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I have known Alexis for years and always been impressed with her dedication and willing personal sacrifice for The Equine Sanctuary. She is a wonderful, brilliant woman with a heart of gold. I have been very disturbed by all of the comments in this blog.
There seems to be lots of criticism and judgment, but very little advice and help. Over the years, I have personally spent hours brainstorming with Alexis to find different solutions and ways to help these amazing horses. I have seen the amount of work and reaching out for help that Alexis has done.
The thing that has always struck me as odd, is why hasn’t The Equine Sanctuary received more support from the local community? Why is it that you have not visited the sanctuary before now? There are comments that you have seen articles about the sanctuary over the years, and wanted to go and see it, but never have. This is what I see as the main problem with our society at large. We all want to reach out, but very few of us ever do.
If you have advice and not just criticism, please give it. It will be heard with open and welcoming ears. The bottom line is that the economy has hurt us all and we have all had to change the way we are getting by. Alexis’ innovation has kept the sanctuary a healing healthy and productive organization for many years now. Please give viable advice, not judgment. Let us all help The Equine Sanctuary get through this month and the years to come.
I invite all of you to share your knowledge, time and wisdom to help sustain something of lasting value in the community instead of just tearing it down.

Anonymous April 13, 2010 at 8:45 pm

#41 you should understand that the horses are not being put down and they are as well cared for as any horses I have been around. I told my children today that there is always someone who thrives on controversy instead of solution. I find it almost “divine” that you have stepped forward at this time to prove my point. I had my children read your blog.

Bob Saunders, D.V.M. April 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm

As the attending veterinarian for The Equine Sanctuary, I am very saddened to hear the negative reaction to the plea for help last week. I have worked with Alexis Ells for over 25 years in both Santa Barbara and Ojai, and I have NEVER known her to choose euthanasia for any reason other than an extreme medical emergency.
I extend considerable credit to The Equine Sanctuary so they can rehabilitate cases that are often very difficult. And we address not just health concerns that demand immediate attention, but also veterinary care/rehabilitation so that their long-term health and well-being can be sustained.
The reknown Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Clinic, has assisted with the sanctuary’s more severe surgeries that could not be done in the field. They have great respect for Alexis and the lengths she will go to rehabilitate these ex-performance horses, at her own expense. The founding veterinarian and a surgeon there, were both interviewed by National Geographic and acknowledged the good works accomplished by Alexis and The Equine Sanctuary.
Alexis nor I would NEVER put a horse down except in the most dire medical emergency. A well meaning article gave an erroneous impression that there was actually a plan to put horses down. It was more of an abstract concept that ALL sanctuaries have to face. If all else fails, ANY rescue/sanctuary might have to do what the Humane Societies and dog pounds all over the country do every day of the week. Again, I reiterate, as the attending veterinarian, The Equine Sanctuary would never put any horse down for financial reasons.
I also work for a Handicapped Riding Academy in another city and they too are faced with the realities of older and injured horses that might need to be put to sleep…not sent to Mexico for slaughter. Both organizations put their horses’ health and happiness before anything else and will go to whatever lengths needed to feed and care for the animals entrusted to them.
I can personally vouch for the legitimacy and integrity of The Equine Sanctuary. They continue to give a lot to the horse world and I for one, will continue to support their efforts.
Bob Saunders DVM

LS April 14, 2010 at 8:01 am

There are a lot of denials and back-pedaling but the statement was made that “horses might have to be put down” unless funds are received. Alexis, why was this statement made?

mk April 14, 2010 at 8:13 am

after 47 comments LS hits the bullseye by commenting on the 7 words that have engendered a firestorm. it always amazes me how completely incapable many people are of reading carefully and thinking rationally. I hesitate to call them stupid. I merely think they get “very emotional” and it clouds their ability to reason.
I have had a dilemma staying out of this fray. I know Alexis personally, even before the Equine Sanctuary started. She is certainly an unusual lady. Any typical person would have posted much sooner here to explain or do damage control. I like to think Alexis was way too busy running the Sanctuary and attending to the horses. I don’t have the fortitude to re-read all the comments. Hope it works out for ALL involved- quadrupeds AND bipeds and that we ALL learn something

Suza April 14, 2010 at 8:23 am

I have read all the Comments carefully, and continue to learn from them.
I hope everyone speaking up here takes time to read the original article that sparked the initial questions and also the author’s (DK) follow-up Comments, which I have greatly appreciated.
There is only so much that one human being can do. It is not possible for any one person to visit every animal rescue organization or sanctuary that they want to visit, at the time that they learn about it. My guess is that everyone speakingup here is already doing as much as they can for the animal kingdom. Speaking for myself, I am involved with spay & neuter efforts, fish & game/bear hunting, pot bellied pig rescue, cat and dog adoption, humane farming/slaughter efforts…the list is endless.
One of my volunteer animal projects this month is helping the Ojai Wildlife League with the upcoming Ojai event on May 1 with Ann Bryant, a bear expert from Tahoe who can teach our community and local officials how to handle bear encounters so that we do not repeat the sad incident with the Aliso street bear…

Suza April 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

I just now read Lisa and mk’s comments… thank you, Lisa…this was respectfully asked, in several previous comments.

mk April 14, 2010 at 9:29 am

this thread has been fueled by DKs comment in the very first paragraph of the very first comment that:
“If they don’t get the resources they need, the founder/director of the nonprofit sanctuary Alexis Ells will be faced with putting these rescued horses down”.
Now, unless Tyler integrates a loud banner crawler on this site where DK can say “woops, I’m just not sure about that statement”, we are going to get reaction and over-reaction and uber-reaction.
Also your comment that “My guess is that everyone speakingup here is already doing as much as they can for the animal kingdom.”, is questionable at best. Several of the commentators have suggested that instead of blogging so much a fe wfolks get down to the Sanctuary and help or donate or whatever. I am clearly not doing as much as I can. My bad…

Tyler April 14, 2010 at 9:37 am

mk – a common way to update a blog post would be to post the word UPDATE or CORRECTION, along with the time that the change is being made. It is also acceptable to use striken text to show a change. It’s generally frowned upon to delete or edit a post without any acknowledgment of doing so.
DK is addressing her post in the comments (starting with #8), which is also completely acceptable.

mk April 14, 2010 at 9:48 am

Tyler- well yes, of course.
but if i recall Dk was just a wee bit sleepy and i assume (make an ass-of-me) that several readers were also a wee bit sleepy or spaced out or stoned or emotional or dealing with early-onset Alzheimers and all they REMEMBERED was that HORSES ARE GOING TO BE PUT DWON.
(I may be wrong)

LTOR April 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

Bullseye MK, indeed.
I have a question for all of those who, while speaking up on behalf of Alexis and her organization, chastised commenters (some more harshly and inappropriately than others)….Since most of those reading DO NOT KNOW Alexis – based on the information provided, why is thoughtfully and respectfully asking questions about the fate of the 8 horses, addressing with concern the way publically donated money has been spent and asking for clarification about these two valid points…why is this a problem exactly? Would not your reaction have been the same had you read the article about someone about whom you didn’t know and didn’t have the benefit of working so closely with over the years? Alexis may be the most wonderful, loving, heart-in-the-right place person in all of Ojai, but such a person could still potentially be a less-than-stellar businessperson…I’m not in any way saying that is the case, but the article suggested a few red flags that needed to be addressed. And that was what was done. Simple. The people who asked politely and fairly for clarification deserve answers, not chastisement, derision or evasive, bait and switch rhetoric…Quite frankly, a few of those comments only stirred the pot and fanned the flames…These are INNOCENT, HELPLESS animals whose future (even lives) seem to be at stake. And Alexis runs a NON-PROFIT WITH PUBLIC MONEY. To me (again just looking in from the outside) this is a no-brainer. Questions need to be raised. And answered. (I still do not understand this point, for example: Is it the food needed to feed the animals the issue or is it the quite substantially higher chiropractic and therapeutic costs involved that the organization cannot meet?)
~ Trying Not To Be A Pontificating Blogger
(I feel bad for you DK – you are so terrific, conscientious and such a gift to the community and it appears as though you are caught in the middle of something that (somehow) spiraled out of your control. Very unfortunate.)

DK April 14, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Ah Hah!
I’ve found the confusion and how to fix it..I think. I made a statement that people reacted to and rather than clarifying that, we’ve danced around it. If we can get to the heart of this matter I think it’ll all be clear and the sanctuary and the horses and everyone who cares about this will be better for it.
In starting to write to clarify all of these issues I think I came upon the one key that would clear all of this up. It was written by Bob Saunders, D.V.M.
Bob you made this statement, “I also work for a Handicapped Riding Academy in another city and they too are faced with the realities of older and injured horses that might need to be put to sleep…not sent to Mexico for slaughter. Both organizations put their horses’ health and happiness before anything else and will go to whatever lengths needed to feed and care for the animals entrusted to them.”
This statement is the key to the heart of what is not understood and what is striking fear in people’s hearts because they don’t understand the why. Why in the case of the Handicapped Riding Academy would the horses not be adopted out? Why do they immediately go from being of service to being sent to slaughter in Mexico?
A similar question is for The Equine Sanctuary in what makes these 8 horses “unable to be adopted?” Why do they go from high maintenance animals to being sent across the border? Why can they not be adopted out?
People on this post seem to think whether correctly or not that these animals CAN be adopted by organizations and CAN find homes and clearly they cannot from the standpoint of a D.V.M. and the founder/director.
If we can just get to the heart of that question and answer when and why these types of horses would be sent to slaughter and/or are put down and what makes them adoptable or further rescueable (not a word I know) or not, that will clear this ALL up. If we can answer it clearly and face these questions I believe the light will shine through any confusions and educate people about the realities of what these horses face,
If everyone who is involved in the care of these horses is giving their all and the best care they can which I personally believe they are, then helping the public and me, to understand some of the why these choices are made and when would help clarify any doubts people are having.

LS April 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm

All I want to know is this, from the horse’s mouth (sorry for the pun) which I cut and pasted from earlier:
There are a lot of denials and back-pedaling but the statement was made that “horses might have to be put down” unless funds are received. Alexis, why was this statement made?

LTOR April 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Hi DK,
Thank you for your well thought out post. I get that the actual reason for euthanasia for these types of horses is complicated and may even be (as sad as it is to say) better for the horses than the alternative (if indeed adoption is not a viable option – and not being a “horseperson”, I have no idea if that is the case). But I think this post raised more issues – namely, that of how the public monies have been (and are) being allocated. Transparency (the concept of which should be no stranger to not-for-profit organizations) was asked for and it appeared that the response (from some) was: How dare you ask?
The reason people flipped out is because AT FIRST it did indeed appear that a) the horses would be put down and b) due to LACK OF FOOD. (Which I am sure is not the case, but again – direct and specific answers have not been forthcoming.) If a non-profit took in $120,000 last year and is in this predicament (not being able to afford food for those in their care) – someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do! Now again, it appears (through all the accolades heaped upon Alexis by those who know and work with her), that people reacted to something that was not, in fact, a reality. However, the newsflash was what the newsflash was. 8 horses to be put down due to lack of food. Obviously, the situation is far more complicated and extensive. All the more reason for those in the know to address the concerns forthright with candor, specificity and respect. To do anything less – and especially to shake a finger at those asking the questions is (especially in this town) just asking for trouble.
Again, I hope this story has a happy ending!

LB April 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm

DK, the only thing that confuses me is WHY was a statement made that 8 horses WILL be put down (not may, it says WILL) if money/food is not donated by Friday, if this were not the case? Is this something you misunderstood when you were told this or is this what was originally told and now it’s being retracted? What about the other horses? Will the whole organization be shut down and the rest of the horses be adopted out ASAP? What is the long term plan? Or is business as usual and they will continue to hope/pray/ask for donations to help these horses? I just want to understand why such a dramatic statement was made if it isn’t true. I understand if there are financial difficulties but to try and guilt people into donating is so sad. These are hard times for everyone. So again, the issue is for my WHY was this statement made if it’s not true?

mk April 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm

“will be faced with” has a slightly different entendre than “will be”
1, one is where you’re face to face
2. the other is where you punch another in the face
cunning linguists please comment?

Suza to mk April 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Re: Comment #51, by mk
You wrote:
Also your comment that “My guess is that everyone speaking up here is already doing as much as they can for the animal kingdom,” is questionable at best. Several of the commentators have suggested that instead of blogging so much a few folks get down to the Sanctuary and help or donate or whatever.”
Dear mk, I know you love to stir the pot. But I do happen to know that some of the commenters are volunteers with other animal rescue groups and have many rescue animls themselves.
It might have been more accurate to say, “My guess is that ALMOST everyone speaking up here is already doing as much as they can for the animal kingdom.”
If you read all the comments here carefully from the very beginning, it will become clear that the people speaking up are longtime animal caregivers (including two vets) and that in spite of the questions that have arisen, there is a common bond, our love and compassion for the animal kingdom.

mk April 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I don’t do this to stir the pot.
I do it in the interest of the greatest good.
The greatest lesson my great ego has taught me is that there is potentially a greater good than my great ego can create.
Not only that but I love humor, word play and to entertain and be entertained.
I really don’t stir the pot.
I leave that to much more experienced cooks than i.

Suza April 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

I feel the same way.
Are you a gemini?

mk April 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm

but my mama was…

shangrilalife April 14, 2010 at 8:32 pm

“They shoot horses, don’t they?” Horace McCoy

anonymous April 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

it would be good to hear from a vet who is not paid by the sanctuary as to the condition. I notice Dr.Saunders did not comment as to the actual health of the horses only that it is a reality that non-profits are in trouble. (So is the general public) Therefore, I suspect they could easily be placed. I too looked up the 990′s on Guidestar and was surprised at how the money was spent. Clearly this foundation from the numbers filed for feed and supplements is ONLY paying for about 8 horses and not 30 (22 are in foster with those advantages–are they the sanctuary’s horses or do they belong to the fosters?) I understand that alexis sells herbs, does acupuncture etc. so what is the 8000 in vet care? Did that money actually go to Dr.Saunders? Is he a chiropractor or acupuncturist? His office says no. Anyway, if an organization is threatening to put horses down, is guilt tripping us to give money to them, and yet spends non-profit monies on housing and gardening almost 20,000 something is really wrong here. To say to the general public just give money and don’t question how money is being spent on 8 horses is childish and quite frankly against the law and could result in the loss of non-profit status! The issues here again are 8 horses and their food–acupuncture and chiropractic care for animals is not usually for life threatening conditions. I suspect not much is really wrong with these horses( look at the one skipping around the ring with his shiny coat!!) I’ll bet money these horses could be placed and for some reason this non-profit does not want to–by the way the post about alexis out there cleaning is odd since there was almost 67,000 dollars in kind donation of time was contributed by volunteers–that is a lot of time for 8 horses in one year– although in the Ventura star article there was a need for volunteers to trim roses!!! And yet $3000 was spent in gardner costs!! I for one like to give monies
where most every dollar goes to the animals and not outside expenses!!! Where did these horses come from? I understand from the article you started with 3 rescued polo horses and then sent one of them to be trained as a polo pony? Why would you rescue
and then send one back to that gruesome life? I think you need to start over here.
From where you got these horses, to how many you actually have rescued, to what you
spend public monies on, to the fact that you demand this community pay for your 8 horses and yet you get upset when people want to know how this non-profit with 8 horses got the the point they couldn’t afford some hay!! You get upset when people offer to see about the adoption process. I know of a lot of horse rescues that do adoption–you have lots of paperwork to fill out and are carefully checked out–surely someone who cares about horses would explore this option–maybe instead of the non-profit paying for gardeners and house payments some of that money could go to feed–looks like from your numbers feed, supplements, grain, etc is about a 1000 a month. Not too much–you have had these same horses for years and years which is good which is why you should have explored the option of placement–What exactly
is wrong with them? Supplements, herbs, chiropractor work, acupuncture work suggests that these quality, pampered horses are actually highly placeable–unless of course you just simply don’t want to—then maybe you and your board should reach into your pockets, fire the gardner, rent the house out and take care of your horses–but don’t guilt trip, threaten with death, rail against us the community for not putting up monies –assume that we don’t help animals,people or plants, trash those who simply want to know the facts about you and your non-profit–you skip all around the problem here–the problem being that you can’t afford the price of hay until a solution is found–that you waited until 5 days before you were to run out of hay and grain and then you put it out there that horses were going to die if food was not sent to you. I doubt DK got the story wrong–the sentence was pretty simple. But you need to be more accountable as to why you would wait until there was only 5 days of hay left–You should plan 3-4 months in advance which would be monies of 10 a bale 160 a week at the very most 2 bales per horse ( i check 2 feed stores and that is the average cost ) to a high of 850 (that would be with all the perks). Clearly these horses need to find other homes–this whole thing is a mess. But this organization would rather demand the money and go on with business as usual–

Kathleen MacGregor April 15, 2010 at 6:50 pm

WOW! Alexis said very clearly that no horses are being put down!
I’ve known Alexis and the Sanctuary for years. She saved these horses when they were given up on by their owners. She has spent years saving, fostering, and finding homes for many horses.
It’s sad that because of some unfortunate wording meant to illustrate how great the need was that all that was heard was the putting down part. If anyone bothered to check with Alexis they would know this. She would no more put down these horses than put herself down.
Alexis pours heart and soul into her work. She has impeccable integrity. At a time when all non profits are struggling she has managed to keep going. She has asked for help and the horse community here in Ojai has not responded except for a few.
It’s good to question and be clear when deciding to support a non profit. The answers have been given.
Now let’s spend all this passion about saving animals on helping the organizations that are actually doing it! Please support the Equine Sanctuary.

LS April 15, 2010 at 7:56 pm

thanks for weighing in kathleen, but I would like to know from alexis why those 7 words were used

Anonymous April 16, 2010 at 8:34 am

The point has already been addressed in the earlier blogs by Alexis and Dr. Saunders. Of the 67 blogs not one person who volunteers past or present, not one donor or associate, not one D.V.M. or friend has said anything, other than praise about Alexis’ efforts. O.K. enough is enough, it’s time for all of us to move forward. Let us use this passion to make things better for the animals we love. For those of you who volunteer at any of the many shelters, God Bless you!. For those of you who do not,come join us. You will find it very rewarding shoveling a little manure and making new friends.

look at the shiny thing April 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

the question has never been answered. stop deflecting and answer the question…please, so we can all move on.

Anonymous April 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

what is the question?

see what I mean April 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm

the statement was made that “horses might have to be put down” unless funds are received. Alexis, why was this statement made?

Anonymous April 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

This is like watching Fox News, I am neutral but somewhat intrigued. So the question is why did you say the horses would be put down. Well I own animals and the unfortunate truth is I have had to put them all down. it would have been nice if they would go in their sleep, but it never happens that way. So I will go on the supposition that the Founder would do everything possible before that would become an option. And if you read closely that has been expressed throughout this dialogue. If you cannot excuse the author’s passion for trying to get people moving then I guess some of you will just blog on.

Gaylene April 16, 2010 at 4:31 pm

The other day a friend called me and said that I needed to check out ojaipost and read what was being written about the equine sanctuary. My reaction to the first post was that I was not surprised that Alexis was calling and seeking a conversation or publicity to feed or help the horses, that is what she does day in and day out 365 days a year. The throwaway line about putting the horses down I assumed and still believe was misspoke or a miss quote. A few days later I checked it out again and it read like watching a pack of dogs jump on a dog caring for her young. I simply cannot believe there are that many people that will sit down at a computer and so eagerly and easily trash someone who works as hard as Alexis does to maintain and care for those horses or anyone for that matter.
In August 2007 I was looking for a way to work through personal grief and I volunteered at the Equine Sanctuary of Ojai. For a full calendar year I worked there 2-5 days a week, day in and day out. I worked early or late for hours at a time and sometimes whole days. I was there for hay deliveries and held the horses for the farrier and washed them down in the 100 degree days. A couple of horses have spent rainy seasons in my barn. At one point I helped fund the website to make it more user friendly. I measured medicines and separated unfriendly horses. I helped exercise horses that were healthy enough to be exercised.
This is what I never did; I never ever ever heard Alexis threaten to put a horse down for any reason. In fact the opposite is true. With Alexis’s knowledge and depth of experience she provides the highest quality of care for each horse, including traditional and alternative care, often pro-bono. We had a running conversation about a particular elderly mare.. was this the day, would tomorrow be the day? Alexis felt that as long as she loved life, the mare would be cared for and the mare lived a lot longer than I would have predicted.
I witnessed Alexis beg, borrow and barter to provide for the horses. But never has she seen euthanasia as an option.

spiral April 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

no one doubts the sanctuary’s hard work. the only reason this has spiraled out of control is because the statement was made (what you call a throwaway line, what another calls emotional blackmail) and the question has never been answered.

Kayla April 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I know I am late on responding to this article. I have not read through all the comments and I don’t feel I have to. My comment is simple.
The Equine Sanctuary has been a place for these horses to live in peace and calm, after a life of abuse and abandonment. What people are ignoring is the act of help. Alexis has always asked for help, but some people do not seem to want to go the extra mile anymore. This article should not be argued on. If you had an emotional reaction to it, call the Sanctuary and talk with Alexis. If the drastic act was to put the horses down instead of commenting about it get to the source,Alexis, get answers and the make the decision to make a difference in someone’s or some creatures life.
I was a volunteer of the Sanctuary for 2 years. I love these horses and I Love Alexis. I have seen and been through a lot with the Sanctuary. I am a full time student and have not had the time to do my part. But if I did I would be standing right next to her answering calls from people who want to help or want questions answered.
People need to stop attacking each other. Somethings in this world deserve peace and these horses are one of those things.
That is all Alexis is trying to give them.

beating a dead horse April 22, 2010 at 7:52 am

People are less inclined to donate/help when threatened with horses being put down unless they do. Correct that statement and you will likely see people open their hearts and their wallets to your cause.

nancy of ojai April 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm

This information about putting these horses down is all taken out of context and someone has misinterpreted comments made by Alexis. I am a friend and supporter of the sanctuary and although they always need support, there is no crisis of putting horses down and furthermore, the sanctuary would not do such a thing, they would certainly find other homes before any such ridiculous action would take place. I live near the sanctuary and speak with Alexis regularly. She is a responsible, hard working compassionate person and runs that sanctuary with many years of extremely hard work and dedication.

mea culpa April 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

I think if Alexis could simply offer a sincere apology we can put this thread to rest.

DK April 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I don’t believe in requesting apologies from someone unless we know they did something. I would have preferred clarification and assumption of innocence until otherwise is known without a shadow of a doubt. Doubts?don’t donate. My wish is we could have become more educated about how this all works but instead, due to lack of direct answers, suspicions have grown to condemnation. I for my part am sorry I wrote something I couldn’t clarify more.

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