It all started with the idea of taking in “just a few local horses to rescue," laughs Nina Margetson. Fourteen years and over 600 horses later, Margetson is now Founder and Executive Director of the Horse Haven of Tennessee, providing statewide rescue, rehabilitation, investigation, and education.
“My passion has always been horses,” Nina Margetson explains. “The need for rescue is drastic.” There are 95 counties in Tennessee but less than 70 have a professional animal control department, which means people abuse animals without repercussions. Even if caught, most counties will not prosecute an animal abuse case because of time, money, and effort. “It is a never ending battle.”
Horse Haven of Tennessee (HHT) has such a high standard of ethics that they are not affiliated with any other Tennessee equine rescue groups. The group has assisted in shutting down at least two “rescue” groups for unethical practices. “Some of them are just horse traders,” explains Margetson. A “horse trader” is someone who buys and sells horses with no thought to care, rehabilitation, or the animal’s future. “It’s all about the money.”
HHT is 100% nonprofit. The group, on average, spends at least $550 rehabilitating each horse, and the return is about $71. The return goes right back into the horses and the programs. Everything from hay to office supplies is purchased with donations. Some of the programs include a gelding program, owner assistance, education and training for law enforcement on equine abuse programs, and adoption. The latter is very strict and HHT will do follow-up visits to ensure the adopted animal are the perfect match for their new homes. “We are nonjudgmental, realistic, and open-minded” Nina Margetson vows. “I would rather see humane euthanasia than an animal go through some of what I have seen.” The rescue part of what HHT does is the hardest part of the job – and the most rewarding.
HHT worked six months to prove abuse in one case alone. They have gone as far as Memphis, from Knoxville, to assist. “We worry about backyard abusers on a daily basis,” Margetson sighs, people who abandoned a horse or is leaving it “to fend for itself. A cow can drink any water and eat any hay. A horse cannot.”
The cruelty and neglect situations never end. Horse ownership once was a privilege but now is commonplace, particularly in Tennessee. Over breeding is routine to “get the perfect race horse, or show horse, or good-looking horse. Secretariat had over 600 foals but none of them were ‘the’ great racehorse. Where are all those offspring now?”
With the love and care given to them at HHT, abused horses find their way back to solid health and the security of being safe. There is fresh water, healthy food, warm beds and plenty of space to run and play. No one is starving, beating, or mistreating the horses. They will, hopefully, find a forever home. Until then, “we are the voice of the horses in Tennessee,” Nina Margetson says proudly. “We do everything we can within our power.”
Meet Horse Haven of Tennessee at the Southern Horse Bonanza March 8-10!
To donate or contact HHT, click HERE
Credit photo of J. Yates