The Equine Rescue of Aiken (ERA) could be described with many words. It could even be described perfectly with just a few words. But, if my horse told me that he’d never stick his head in briers again if I would just describe the ERA in one word then I would use… community. By definition, a community is a unified group of individuals that share a common goal or interest. Well, do you want to know something great? Community, to the ERA, means SO much more than just sharing a hobby!
We involve ourselves in as many aspects of the Aiken community and its adjacent communities as we can. Our reach doesn’t just extend locally, though, it’s nationwide! This year alone we’ve coordinated efforts to supply thousands of dollars worth of supplies to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. We’ve supported over 80 veterans during 14 sessions of the Saratoga War Horse Program; we’ve helped over 100 individuals complete community service requirements through the Department of Juvenile Justice. And we’ve welcomed hundreds of Boy and Girl Scouts, school groups, and independent groups all while supporting 60-70 horses in our care!
One thing that most people don’t know is that we have a small team of only 2 paid staff members that is honorably supported by a vast community of volunteers and donors. Drawn together by our love for horses and our need to positively impact the environment surrounding us, we sweat, cry, and work diligently to change lives. One of the things that we are most proud of is that we can offer all of our community outreach programs cost-free because of the generous support from our donors.
For example, the ERA hosts the hands-on portion of the Saratoga War Horse program (SWHp) on the rescue grounds at no cost. We provide the horses (and volunteer chaperones), the round pen and soon-to-be-covered arena, and the education center so the SWHp can focus on the needs of the veterans. Speaking of education, each year we welcome hundreds of young adults in various school and independent groups for educational tours and activities at no cost. A staff member, and maybe a volunteer or two, will mentor groups from organizations like Super Smart Girl, LLC (SSG) as they learn about horse care, what it takes to manage a rescue, and what it means to be an animal welfare advocate. We also support the Tri-Development Center in Aiken to offer a unique opportunity for skill-building and independence.
Another example is the opportunity we provide to young adults (through the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)) to choose to separate from the dangerous path on which they currently travel. While working with our staff members and volunteers, the young adults there for community service are surrounded by people who genuinely care about who they may one day become. Hard work, responsibility, and the ERA community quickly changes hearts that have been hardened by uncontrollable circumstances. At the ERA, all young adults completing community service (whether with DJJ, Boy/Girl Scouts, SSG, or a school group) are coached on attitude and work ethic so that they understand the consequences of their actions whether at home, school, work, or play. We take this commitment seriously, which is why we work tirelessly to help all who cross our path to see the great future ahead of them.
We LOVE our Aiken community and helping others find their peace and inner-strength. Horses really are magical and when they work together with fantastic people like the ERA (donors, volunteers, staff, and all!) NOTHING is impossible. Please come check us out on our website and then come visit for a tour on one of our fabulous ERA limos (A.K.A. comfy golf carts). Our staff knows the horses inside and out and will be sure to tell you hilarious stories about our permanent equine residents and probably about themselves! Also, be sure to ask Caroline and Jim how clumsy Kelsey is was! Until next week, we’re off to love and feed the horses!