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Local horse rescue a breed apart


Story: Clint Branham, Communica ons Specialist Photos: Courtesy of Way’s Ranch Horse Rescue


T


erry Way admits his calling is a bit unusual. He chuckles while referring to himself as a “social worker for horses.” But that is exactly what he is.


Since August 2011, Terry and his family have operated a horse rescue network from a home base in Quapaw, Oklahoma. The ranch is a registered non-profi t that works closely with local law enforcement agencies to rescue horses that have been abused, neglected or abandoned.


“Our fi rst priority is to get the horse to a safe haven where it has access to food and water – somewhere we can get it healthy,” said Terry.


“We like to work strictly with law enforcement and do it their way,” he said. “Basically, we’ve set up a procedure with the Ottawa County sheriff’s offi ce that has worked so well that we’ve extended it out into other counties.”


He estimates that more than 800 horses across three states have been rescued in the three years that Way’s Ranch Horse Rescue has been in existence.


“Every horse comes with its own story,” he said. “I look at each one of these neglected animals like a social worker would look at a neglected child. The abuse they’ve experienced takes on all types of different forms. They may have been hit or hobbled or starved. Whatever the case may be, we have fi ve trainers on board and our goal is to rehabilitate them to the point they can be ridden, or at least what they call ‘green broke.’ We don’t like to use the word ‘break’ too much because when you break a horse, you break its spirit, and we want every horse to have its own spirit and its own personality.”


Terry says several horses are kept at the Quapaw location, but most are kept with various caregivers and foster care families.


“We own and operate over 275 acres in three states,” Terry said. “We’ve been up to St. Louis, all the way down to Durant


and over to Elk City picking up and delivering horses. We get out there. We are fi ve minutes from Kansas and twenty minutes from Missouri. Because of our location, we are also able to work out of those states. Being a 501(c)(3), we can do this nationwide, and I’m not opposed to it, but when we travel distances like that it is usually because of word of mouth. We have been recommended by someone to come help out.”


The success rate, Terry says, is surprisingly high.


“Right now we are running at 92% that end up being adopted or donated to organizations,” he said. “It varies, but about eight percent don’t leave here simply because they are too old to rehabilitate.”


So what happens when a rescue horse is too old to teach?


“What we do with those horses is just turn them loose and let them run wild and free in the pasture. Just let ‘em live out a happy life,” said Terry. “If we get a thirty year old horse in here, it’s really kind of hard to start the training and riding process -- especially if they’ve been abused so long you can’t even touch them. But if you keep feed and hay and fresh water in front of them, most of them come around. There are always a choice few that just really don’t want anything to do with humans, due to the fact that they’ve been abused too much.”


Unfortunately, not all of Terry’s stories are success stories. He said one horse that arrived at the ranch as a ward of Ottawa County had to be put down after a lengthy fi ght.


“I was told from the day I picked her up from the vet


March 2015 - 5


that she wouldn’t make it,” Terry said. “It was a struggle, but we gave it all the fi ght we had. She was starting to come around and then four weeks later she just gave up hope. We did our best to try bring her back around, but in the end we did the most humane thing we could for her.”


Terry added: “We work closely with a lot of veterinarians, watching and observing to make sure these animals are not suffering and not in a lot of pain. Some situations are beyond help, but we want to be able to say we did everything we could. It doesn’t make it any easier but, yes, it is part of it.”


Other times, Terry fi nds out too late about situations where the ranch may have been able to help but was never given a chance. He said two horses were recently found dead on a property in Rogers County.


“It may be a matter of an individual just not knowing who to call for help,” he said. “Or, law enforcement may not know we are here or how we work. Law enforcement also doesn’t always necessarily have a lot of time to devote to going out and checking on animals. In those situations, I am more than happy to make a trip out and make an assessment.”


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