The last weekend in October was a true celebration of the horse in Tryon, North Carolina. Volunteers from varying segments the horse world came together to raise awareness of equine welfare, and the result was a celebration of horses, film and community.
Before traveling to the Tryon region for this event, I had previously worked with Edge Brewing Equestrian promoting their last philanthropic efforts for Horses N Heroes of Marion County (Ocala, Fl). I had the opportunity to get to know Kim and Christian Oliver, who have been a driving force in equine related 501C’s which have positive impact on the greater community.
Once again, the Olivers became the nucleus of a larger effort to improve horse welfare by ‘Saving Horses One Beer at a Time’ for HERD Rescue, located in Tryon. This year I met an army of other like-minded horse lovers in step with the Olivers, and it is their combined efforts which made my adventures in Tryon so memorable.
HERD (Helping Equines Regain Dignity) is a fairly new equine rescue, founded in 2016 by Heather Freeman, a Tryon area horse lover who discovered that horses at the area auction were being sourced by a kill buyer. In the time since HERD began their mission, over 200 horses have been saved, retrained and placed in many loving homes. Below is their mission and purpose:
- Save horses from the slaughter pipeline to Mexico and Canada
- Restore rescued horses to their best possible physical and mental health
- Carefully evaluate and professionally train each horse to maximize their potential
- Based on capabilities - match every rescue to an appropriate, loving, forever home
- Provide ongoing support and monitoring to horses and owners post placement
Upon arriving in Tryon, I quickly became acquainted with many of the players in the HERD effort. This enthusiastic group of do-gooders was lead by the gracious and spunky Stuart Evans, a retired banker, who clearly still utilizes her corporate relationship management skills to get positive results!
Through Stuarts’ unrelenting charm and optimism, she lead a group of 13 HERD volunteers in orchestrating a weekend fundraising clinic at Traycee and Eric Dierk’s Renovation Farm in Tryon. The Dierks generously opened up their farm to host the Barteau Family from KYB Dressage, who volunteered their time to lead both ground work and dressage clinics throughout the weekend. Of the 57 clinic attendees who took part in the weekend clinic, many of the horses were actual HERD rescues and/or graduates!
Upon conclusion of the day’s horse clinics, the communal efforts to raise awareness for HERD spilled over into Friday night, as festivities continued at the Tryon International Film Festival opening night gala. Held in downtown Tryon, TRIFF worked in conjunction with Kim Oliver to feature the documentary film produced by KYB Dressage, ‘Into the Spotlight: The Journey of an Equine Theater Horse’ which was featured at TRIFF to draw awareness to the plight of abandoned horses.
The party continued throughout the weekend as KYB Dressage performed their musical freestyle of The Lion King at the Tryon International Equestrian Center on Saturday night, prior to the final Grand Prix show jumping competition. To further help the goal of raising awareness of HERD, TRIFF presented a shorter film about HERD which was shown on TIEC’s Jumbotron during the exhibition.
The Olivers and Edge Brewing Equestrian were this year’s charity sponsors for HERD, underwriting the travel (from Chicago) of the KYB Dressage trainers, performers and horses to the 2017 Tryon International Film Festival. They were the connectors who brought together TRIFF, KYB Dressage and all of the HERD volunteers who shared in the raising awareness about the plight of unwanted horses through rescue, retraining and re-purposing efforts.
The weekend was a great success, not only through fund raising efforts, but by putting HERD on the map as an organization making a real and positive change in the lives of 200+ horses (and their new humans). HERD’s mission was presented to an international crowd of horse and movie lovers at TIEC and TRIFF, and by featuring them in this way, HERD made new contacts all over the country and even the world.
Kim Oliver said it best in my introductory article about this event, “To affect real change in an industry that benefits from animals which bring us so much joy, you have to inspire more and more groups of people to take up the charge – movie makers, film festivals, horse trainers, performers, business owners, writers, neighbors and anyone else who can help. If we can keep doing that, while having fun drinking beer, making new friends and saving some horses, we have achieved our goals!”
The weekend was an inspiration for all the kindness that exists within our equestrian community. I was honored to be involved, and thankful to the Olivers for the introduction to HERD, KYB Dressage, the crew at TRIFF and the countless volunteers!
Please consider learning more about HERD and becoming involved, either through a direct donation, or by getting to know the key players within these organizations. Take action by contacting them, interviewing them, and spreading the love on social media.
Horse welfare and safety will only improve through our collective passion and effort! Please take the time to learn more about HERD:
Stuart Evans - President