Under the Knife: Friends of H.O.R.S.E. Rescue form student-equine bonds

Volunteer activities can range from glamorous to grubby. Volunteering with Geneseo’s Friends of H.O.R.S.E. Rescue may be among the grubbiest.

The acronym H.O.R.S.E. stands for “Help Our Rescue Save Equines.” Members of FOHR spend at least two hours every week mucking out stalls and pastures, putting out feed and hay, filling water buckets and grooming horses at H.O.R.S.E. Rescue and Sanctuary in Pavilion, N.Y.

The work isn’t always clean or pretty, but it can be, as sanctuary owner Chris Dodge said, “so therapeutic and relaxing - something college students don’t get to do very often.”

FOHR began in 2004 when alumna Julia Kogut ‘04 started volunteering at the sanctuary on her own.

When she recognized that the sanctuary needed more help than it was currently receiving from the community, Kogut founded FOHR to raise awareness for the sanctuary and get more people involved.

The club has grown to include about 30 members, some taking more than one shift each week. Students work with horses that were abandoned, abused, neglected and owner surrendered, saved from slaughter or off the track with injuries.

Members assist Chris Dodge with her mission “to rehabilitate and retrain as many horses as possible and find them forever homes … [to] give them the respect and dignity they deserve with a life without fear and suffering.”

Chris Dodge and her husband, Mike Dodge, ran the rescue for years before Kogut and FOHR got involved, but the rescue rapidly became dependent on the student support.

“Without the students we would not have been able to continue our work for so long,” Chris Dodge said. “Not only have they pretty much taken over the daily chores … they’ve done painting, fence repair, groundskeeping … Add to this the fundraisers they’ve held and assisted us with makes this group of young people so very important to us.”

The club isn’t all about the work. Volunteers are encouraged to come out to the rescue and spend time with the horses - grooming them, playing with them or simply talking to them.

Freshman Emily Victoria, a member of FOHR, said, “Freshman year has been pretty stressful, but going to the sanctuary to help Chris [Dodge] and the horses relaxes me and makes me smile. Many of the horses are really friendly … after all they’ve gone through, [they] are both humbling and inspiring.”

Members of FOHR also spend some time getting to know the Dodges and their many cats and dogs. Chris Dodge said of FOHR members, “We consider each and every one a member of our extended family.”