It all started with just a few friends who were advocates for the sound Tennessee Walking Horse. When the horrible abuse of the Gaited Horse breed became public knowledge, and as the value of the breed steadily declined, more and more good Walking Horses ended up in auctions and kill pens. Denise Parsons, President of GAIT, and a few of her friends started privately rescuing many of these horses, but it wasn’t until August 2016 that they formalized GAIT, the Gaited Advocate Intervention Team.
GAIT is on a mission to rescue gaited horses and other at-risk equines from slaughter, abuse, and neglect. GAIT is unique because of their national presence and because they are one of the only horse rescues specializing in gaited horses.
Most of the horses that come to their barn are Tennessee Walking Horses, but they also take other traditional gaited breeds and occasionally a trotting horse. The horses that come to GAIT are rehabilitated and fed with safe weight building products like alfalfa and molasses free beet pulp so they can return to their normal weights. After they are nourished back to health, they are then evaluated for riding needs. Many go to professional trainers for additional riding training.
From there, the horses are ready to find their new homes. However, finding quality adopters is one of GAIT’s biggest challenges. The adoptions process is lengthy and detailed in order to make sure the horse and the owner are a perfect fit. After completing the application, there’s a phone interview, then the prospective owner can come ride the horse. Though this process can be difficult, it is also very rewarding. Denise says that “making that perfect match, especially for the more difficult to adopt horses,” is the greatest success of all.
Another success for GAIT was the rescue of a horse named Billy Jack. Billy was a young and healthy trail horse who was loved and trusted by his owner. He was traded to a horse dealer because he was too big for his owner. His owner thought that because he was so well-trained and young, he would easily find a new home.
But Billy didn’t. Instead, Billy was purchased by a kill buyer for $700. Luckily, the story doesn’t end there. Before Billy could make it out of the auction and to the slaughterhouse, Kelly Smith from Omega Horse Rescue recognized the situation and called Denise. GAIT took action and bought the horse from the kill buyer.
Sadly, this type of situation happens all too often. Gaited horses have been so undervalued in the market that many young, healthy gaited horses ship to slaughter each week. Denise says: “horses like Billy are why we rescue. Horses like Billy are shipped to slaughter every single day because humans have failed them.”
But you can help. You can help horses like Billy by donating to GAIT today. Or, Denise asks you to consider adopting a rescue horse, because “when you adopt, you not only get a great new riding companion, you help to save TWO lives, the horse you adopt AND the one you make room for in the rescue program.”
Gaited Advocate Intervention Team, Inc.
Location: Boyds, Maryland
Donations: 14515 Chrisman Hill Dr Boyds, MD 20841