Friday, November 13, 2009




Ci Ci is like the horse you dreamed about as a child: Gentle, kind, white, soft, fuzzy and sweet. She floats along when she trots, her feet scarely touching the ground. Ci Ci will stand for hours while you brush her or braid her mane. Ci Ci loves people and loves attention.

She is just a wonderful, wonderful horse!


Ci Ci lunges well. When you say "whoa" she comes to a stop, and turns to look at you quizzically. She is giving walk/trot lessons to 7 and 8-year-old girls, both of whom adore her. Ci Ci is safe for beginners but also fun for more advanced riders.


Cheryl Krug, a local riding instructor and trainer, has been kind enough to donate full board and training to Ci Ci. Cheryl trailers Ci Ci out on trail rides and says that Ci Ci loads easily into the trailer, rides quietly, and is calm when they unload at the park.

Ci Ci, although not yet very fit, takes a 2-mile flat loop around the lake with Cheryl. She is calm with bikes, strollers, hikers, and dogs. She likes to go on trail rides and will be a wonderful trail, dressage and pleasure horse for a petite adult to youth up to 130 pounds.


Although she is 21 years old, Ci Ci is sound and healthy and looks to have many years of good riding time ahead of her. Her knees and hocks have very good flexion, her legs are clean, she has GREAT feet and is currently barefoot. Ci Ci is nicely put together and will look ever better once she has more muscling on her topline and more weight. That will take time; Ci Ci was very thin when she came to the CHANGE Program in June 2009.



Here is Ci Ci with her trainer, Cheryl. Ci Ci is about 14.2 hands and a petite build. She's very calm and obedient under saddle, and she tries hard to do what you ask. Ci Ci has three lovely gaits with good suspension. She would also excel in lower level dressage.

This dear, sweet little mare is ready for a forever home with someone who will love, cherish and enjoy her. We can't say enough good things about Ci Ci! For information on adopting Ci Ci and other CHANGE Program foster horses, please contact Katie Moore at (707) 544-7584 or email

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crystal Home at Last!

Well, it has been a long and difficult couple of days, not only for Crystal, but also for the CHANGE board and Crystal's foster parents. As you can read below, Crystal was able to go to UC Davis to have laser surgery to remove melanomas on her tail region thanks to a generous private donation from Bev Palm. This act of gratitude motivated Dr. Michael O'Connor or Sonoma Marin Veterinary Service to donate money for a second trip up to UC Davis. Dr. O'Connor has also overseen Crystal's rehabilitation free of charge.

Yesterday, Crystal was trailered up to UC Davis to be seen by Dr. Melinda MacDonald for laser treatment. Dr. MacDonald did an amazing job, and kept costs incredibly low to help the program. Unfortunately, later that day, Crystal began to show signs of colic.

Strictly defined, “colic” is described as any episode of abdominal pain. About 95% of the time in horses, the abdominal pain is coming from the gastrointestinal tract. There are many types of gastrointestinal colic. The most common is impaction colic. With impaction colic, feces get lodged at a tight turn in the large colon. The feces cannot proceed forward, and the result of the back up is distention and pain in the gut. Colic is life threatening in horses because they are unable to vomit. Because they cannot vomit, they cannot relieve the pressure of the backed up digesta. The potential result of this inability to relieve the distention is rupture of the gut inside the body. COLIC IS ALWAYS AN EMERGENCY.

Early signs of colic include some, but not necessarily all of the following:

1. Horse will not eat
2. Horse is laying down
3. Horse is quiet or lethargic and does not seem like himself
4. Horse is standing alone away from others and is reluctant to move
5. Horse turns its head around and looks at its stomach.
6. Horse has not defecated within the past few hours
7. Horse stands in a “rocking horse” posture and appears to be stretching out its abdominal muscles.

Signs of advanced colic include:

1. Horse is getting up and laying down incessantly
2. Horse is rolling and thrashing on the ground violently
3. Horse has shivers and muscle twitching all over its body
4. Horse is sweating excessively
5. Horse is pawing at the ground violently and repeatedly
6. Horse is biting at its abdomen

You can probably imagine how all of our stomachs fell when we got the call... Crystal was down and laying flat out in her stall. Dr. MacDonald admitted Crystal into the ICU and treated her aggressively with fluid therapy and IV medication. She had ups and downs throughout last night, and at moments things looked like they were going to be ok. But this morning, she was still showing signs of pain.

After dozens of phone calls back and forth, criss-crossed and sideways, the CHANGE Board decided that it would be best to let UC Davis keep Crystal for the day today and then plan to pick her up tonight if she was comfortable. Luckily, Crystal made good progress throughout the day today and was able to make the trailer ride home.

Late tonight, I met Crystal back at her foster home as she got off the trailer. She looked exhausted and could not stop yawning when she got into her stall. I made everyone leave the stall and shut off all the lights to give her some peace and quiet! Her loving foster mom is going to check on her all night tonight and feed her handfuls of green grass every 2 hours! What dedication!! We are not out of the woods yet, but we are headed in the right direction.

We are all so relieved that Crystal is home again... and I think that she is the most relieved of all!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leah's Forever Home

The Sonoma CHANGE Program congratulates our sweet, people-lovin' foster horse Leah on her recent adoption. Read Leah's story here.

Leah's new mom, who uses natural horsemanship techniques in her training, spent many hours visiting with Leah at her foster home. Once she got to know this sweet mare, she was 100% committed to providing Leah with the training she needs. Leah is enjoying "playing" Parelli games and learning essential ground skills.

Leah joins her new 'brother,' a 2-year-old Mustang gelding. This is the most beautiful mustang we have ever seen! Besides being incredibly sweet and people-oriented, his coat shines so much, it makes your eyes hurt!

Big thanks go to the many supporters of the Sonoma CHANGE Program. Your help and donations fund our foster care program, which helped Leah go from a thin, neglected, unwanted horse in June, to a shiny, loved and wanted horse with a forever home in September.

Thank you, and congratulations to Leah's new family!

Please read about other Sonoma CHANGE Program horses (and a cute little pony!) who need loving, permanent homes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Crystal Thanks Her "Moms"

Crystal gave big kisses to Bev Palm and Dee today (pictured here.) Bev Palm is her fairy godmother who donated money for her laser surgery at UC Davis, and Dee is her foster mom. Dee has worked hard to keep her surgery site clean and to administer her post-op medications. Crystal is doing great, she has not looked back... literally!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Team Effort Helps Crystal

Crystal is a 15-year-old Arabian mare who entered CHANGE Program foster care last June. Crystal has impressed us all with her intelligent, sweet nature and graceful movement. She floats along the ground like a dancer.

Crystal, like more than 80% of all grey horses age 15 and over, has non-malignant melanomas. Only rarely are melanomas on grey horses malignant, but when they are present in sensitive areas (Crystal's are around her anus and vulva), they can cause discomfort.

Bev Palm of the Sonoma County Fair Board was inspired by Crystal's story and was determined to help CHANGE address Crystal's melanomas surgically in order to give Crystal a better chance at adoption. Ms. Palm held a special fundraiser, where she raised 100% of the funds for Crystal's $540 procedure at UC Davis.

On September 28, two members of the CHANGE Board of Directors transported Crystal to UC Davis for her day-long procedure to debulk the tumors with laser surgery and to determine the extent of the melanomas in Crystal's back end. Happily, the growths were considered superficial, and surgeon Dr. Mindy McDonald was successful in removing about 50% of the mass. She is truly an excellent surgeon! Many thanks to Dr. McDonald and the compassionate group of staff and veterinary students (pictured, above) for their capable care of Crystal.

CHANGE co-founder and board member Betsy, who trailered Crystal to Davis, was touched by the day's events: Well... all went well today....[We] took Crystal up to Davis for her Surgery Day. She was a trooper. This horse is the kindest, sweetest horse you want to meet. Her personality can win over anyone. Even the vet techs fell in love with her. Dr. McDonald....expects a full recovery [from the surgery.] Dr. McDonald said she is available to talk to potential adopters who have questions about melanomas in grey horses. Check out the photos of her surgery day. Dr. McDonald was very pleased that she could help out and was very proud of Dr. Grant Miller for starting the CHANGE Program and helping horses in need.

Crystal is healthy, sound and has been ridden in the past. For information about adopting her or other CHANGE Program horses (including Crystal's "twin," her gentle 21-year-old mother, Ci Ci), please visit the CHANGE Program website or contact CHANGE adoption coordinator Katie Moore at or (707) 544-7584.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cici is a happy girl!

I visited Cici today- the 21 year old Arabian mare taken into the program 3 weeks ago. I was so pleased to see that the foster care center has taken such great care of her! She has gained at least 100 pounds and she is almost up to an ideal body weight! She has a sheen to her coat and she is so proud to come out of her stall and have people pay attention to her. She LOVES attention! This horse has the most gentle soul- she just sits and waits for someone to give her attention, but she never oversteps her bounds. A true lady!

~Grant Miller, DVM
CHANGE Program volunteer and co-founder

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Survivor

I have to admit the phone call kind of put a damper on my vacation.

"I need to talk to you about Buddy," began Dr. Grant Miller, at once apologizing for rousing me lakeside, where I reluctantly fished my cell phone out of my beach bag and sighed when I saw RESTRICTED come up on my phone. My heart sank. The vet. This could not be good news.

Like other members of the governing board of the Sonoma CHANGE Program, I was being called upon for direction with Buddy the pony (aka "Mr. Pony"), who seemed on all fronts to be fading away. Dr. Miller sounded resigned and practical, his normal spark of hope a dim glow.
We discussed euthanasia, whether Buddy was suffering, hope for recovery and continued treatment. We discussed cost, as treating internal pigeon fever is an expensive proposition, and CHANGE has a policy against providing extreme and expensive life-saving care for horses with little hope for recovery. The vet reminded me that, even in the best circumstances, a pony with internal pigeon fever has at best a 50% chance of survival. Perhaps Buddy, who came to us emaciated and loaded with parasites, the victim of long-term neglect, did not even have that.

But we'd come so far with this little guy. He deserved another go.

The board voted to continue treating Buddy with the powerful antibiotics Naxcel and Rifampin, neither of which are fun for either horse or human to administer. Buddy's plucky foster mom was game to keep trying.

Seventeen days later, thanks to dedicated care, an anonymous $400 donation to cover the continued medication, and some powerful antibiotics, Buddy is still with us, except he's now running and bucking and showing signs of recovery. His foster mom and vet remain cautiously optimistic. Buddy is not out of the woods by any stretch, but we can see a break in the trees.

CHANGE volunteer and governing board member

Friday, August 14, 2009

From Pony Club to Animal Control

Mr Pony Before:


Mr Pony 25 Days Later:


The CHANGE Program is a non-profit organization that supports Sonoma County Animal Care & Control in handling equine neglect and cruelty cases. CHANGE provides foster care and adoption services to these horses, promising them a second chance. Horses enter the CHANGE Program via Animal Control as the result of a seizure or relinquishment. Ride along with one Sonoma CHANGE Program director as she responds to a call for help and discovers criminal neglect that catapults the case into the domain of Animal Control.

I RECEIVED A CALL from someone about a pony in trouble. He asked me "Are you the lady who does horse rescue?" I hate it when the conversation starts out like that because I then know what's coming next. He told me he knows a pony who is very thin, and asked if I could come. I told him I would come over and evaluate the pony. We made a plan to meet the next day.

Next morning came and I went to the run-down property. We walked into the back yard area and there stood a horrifying sight. This pony stood in front of me, skin and bones. You could count each individual rib; his hip bones stuck up like an old dairy cow's, and his spine was completely visible and stuck up. His neck was so thin it made his head look too big for his body. His head hung low and he didn't even seem to know I was there. He was one of the saddest ponies I've ever seen. His eyes were dead and he didn't want to eat. Looking down in his feed bowl, I discovered why. He was being given alfalfa cubes only, hard as a rock. Being his teeth were deplorable and his state of health so poor, he could not eat this for nutrition even if he wanted to.


I immediately showed the concerned man how easy it was to take the time to break up the cubes and soak them to make it so the pony could eat them. The little pony came over to me once this was done and I showed him the now soft, prepared food. Still very weak and not understanding, he did attempt to eat some in the rubber bowl.

The man had been right to call. This was neglect, and Animal Control needed to be called. I knelt down next to the pony and whispered in his ear that I was leaving, but I would be back the next day with not only help, but to take him out of this hell.

I left the property and immediately contacted Sonoma County Animal Care & Control. They agreed to investigate the pony the following day. I soon find out this won't be their first time there. Less then a year ago, the owner of the pony had been charged and convicted of misdemeanor Animal Cruelty involving not only this pony, but the other horses.

Next morning, I wait at the property for the arrival of Animal Control. A big, white boxy truck comes down the street and into the driveway. To me it reminds me of a white stallion with the prince aboard, coming to save the day. But, this time it was not a prince, but a tall, slender blond woman. Soft-spoken and kind, Officer Shirley is a great diplomat with defensive pet owners and a top horsewoman, too.

She explained to the owner that a complaint would be filed for the neglect and that he could immediately relinquish the pony, whose condition was critical. I couldn't wait to load up "Mr. Pony," as he was called, and transport him to a waiting critical-care foster home. He was led to the trailer, walking very slowly from weakness. I whispered in his ear: I told you I would come back and take you away and here I am, so let's go! For the first time, he had a burst of energy, enough for him to jump into the trailer as to say " Let's get the hell out of here!"

Mr Pony Day 2, arrival in foster care

And so we did.

I transported the pony to a CHANGE Program foster barn. In foster care, Mr. Pony immediately thrived on a medically-supervised re-feeding program designed for emaciated horses. His foster home fed him many small meals throughout the day and night, making certain never to overload his starved body with too much feed. He rarely took his head out of his bucket, where a special "old man gruel" made it easy for the dentally-challenged pony to gum his feed. His astonished foster caretaker reported that he literally gained weight by the hour.

At the foster barn, Mr. Pony was surrounded by children, who bathed and brushed and braided him. Thin and weak, he closed his eyes, reminded of happier times when he had been used in Pony Club. After a few days, he felt good enough to trot a few steps. After a week, he was turned out with the resident motherly, one-eyed Shetland pony. Mr. Pony, alone for so long, snuggled happily against her side.

I had been unable to foster Mr. Pony when he was first turned over to Animal Control because I was leaving on a long-awaited vacation. During my vacation, I couldn't seem to get this little pony off my mind. Would he be alive when I came home? I would call his foster home, like checking on your kids when you leave them with a babysitter. I just couldn't help myself. Even though I knew he was in the best of hands, I couldn't stop worrying about him.

Two weeks later, I was back from my trip. Mr. Pony, or "Buddy" as we came to call him because of his companionable nature, had gained a lot of weight and was now becoming bright-eyed again. His critical-care foster home had done a good job with him; now he moved to my barn for long-term rehabilitative foster care. Ultimately, he would be placed for adoption in a loving, permanent home.

Buddy had been chronically neglected, and malnutrition had done its devilish work. Despite his outward improving health, a few days aftermoving to my barn, Buddy developed a fever of 103.8. He was lethargic and wouldn't eat.

Later that day, CHANGE Program volunteer veterinarian Grant Miller delivered the sobering news: "He is one very sick pony" said Dr. Miller, as I listened, my eyes swelling with tears. It all seemed so unfair. The next day, lab results from the pony's bloodwork confirmed our worst fears: Buddy had internal pigeon fever. This is a bacterial infection also called "Dryland Distemper." In its common form, it's relatively benign, but rarely, the bacteria sets up internally, near an organ. Even with the most aggressive antibiotic treatment, the survival rate with the "internal" form is only about 50%.

Thanks to all the people who have supported the Sonoma CHANGE Program, our medical fund is able to shoulder much of the cost of the drugs (which even at cost are expensive). Dr. Miller and I are determined to give Buddy the powerful antibiotics (Naxcel and Rifampin to start) he needs for the best chance of survival. This means that twice a day, I must give Buddy intramuscular injections or shoot red goo down his throat. He is miserable, and soon tries to avoid me.

Poor Buddy, he stands along the fenceline of his paddock, eyeing my pasture horses in a lonely way. He just leaks sadness. He wants to be part of the group so badly.

As sick as he is, I just can't let him out with them. But this presents a problem, as he refuses to budge from the fenceline, in spite of 100 degree heat. I thought what to do. Once I noticed his sun burn pink nose, that was it.

I went and purchased a portable gazebo for him, which in turn fell down in the wind within the hour. Next was the RV tent, which also succumbed to the wind. I thought for awhile and decided to make something just small enough for him. Using green shade cloth, the "Getto Shetto" was born. Buddy loves it. He lives in that thing all day, still able to be along the fence line and next to the other horses. I pack it with shaving in order for him to lay down on. I feed the other horses right next to him as if he was in the group. He is a very happy camper now.



Still, Buddy's condition has its ups and downs. One day no fever, two days later a high fever. He has been on several different antibiotics, but then gets loose stool and we have to deal with that. So the next day another medication is tried and so on and so on. We continue our battle against the internal abscess that Dr. Miller says has set up in Buddy's liver. And we hope for the best.

Sonoma CHANGE Program co-founder, board member, and volunteer

Buddy continues his fight against internal pigeon fever. Please look for updates on Buddy as the weeks progress. To help with Buddy's care, please visit our donation page to see how you can be part of CHANGE!

Once he is (hopefully) recovered, Buddy will need a permanent home where he can lead a gentle life of semi-retirement (with lots of children to braid his mane). He is a gentle 23-year-old Welsh cross, 13.2 hands, sound with clean xrays, and has been used extensively in Pony Club by children and teens. Please contact us at for information about adopting Buddy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Poor Leah lost her tail!

What a difference 6 days makes! Leah has GAINED about 50 pounds already... but unfortunately, she LOST her tail! The wind knot in her tail was a 2 foot long knarled mess, no doubt years in the making. Not even the most dedicated foster parents, with a whole bottle of mane detangler, could save that tail. Que sera sera- it will grow back! And quickly too, now that she is getting such good nutrition!

Cici is a sweet mare!

I floated Cicis teeth today. “Floating” is a weird term, since I am actually filing the teeth. Horses' teeth grow throughout their lives and as the horse chews, the edges of the teeth become sharp and need to be filed down.

I was amazed at how sharp the points were on her teeth --- she had deep sores on her cheeks because of them. I cannot imagine the constant pain that she was in, with each chew, she had to compare the pain of her hunger pangs to the pain that she felt in her mouth… and then make the decision as to which pain she wanted to feel that day.

But now, she does not have to feel pain anymore. In about 30 minutes total, we changed her life. She was such a good, trusting girl while I worked. She did not know me, and she definitely did not know anything about the powerfloat, since she had never had her teeth worked on in all of her years. But she was a trooper, and we got the job done!

Cici is a loving and gentle mare, and she flitters her eyelids when you pet her and speak softly to her. She loves bran mashes and whinnies when a person comes to visit her. She welcomes everyone, and is one of the most gentle beings I have met. I feel lucky to be able to have crossed paths with her.

by Dr. Miller
CHANGE Program volunteer veterinarian

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Portrait of a Seizure

The Sonoma County CHANGE Program assists Sonoma County Animal Care & Control when AC takes physical custody of horses due to chronic neglect or abuse. CHANGE arranges for safe transport, veterinary care, and skilled rehabilitative care in a foster barn. Eventually, most seized horses are available for adoption through the CHANGE Program.

July 27th, 2009


I pull my car up the drive leading onto an east Sonoma County property. I’m here to help load three aged Arabian mares into trailers, taking part in an Animal Care & Control horse seizure operation, and representing the Sonoma County CHANGE Program.


The horse owner is nowhere in sight, so no confrontation is anticipated. The property owner is on hand, and appears grateful that the horses will be removed.

I walk over to the paddock where the horses are kept. The terrain is rocky, with an immediate down hill slope. It appears to be a poor choice of a place to keep livestock, with more of a warehouse feeling to it than an actual habitat. My eyes lock onto a block of hay that the horses all but ignore. It appears to be grass hay, but its color is dull and texture dusty. It’s old, and appears to have been kept uncovered for a year or two. I can see that it’s full of mold and dry as sand.


The horses are clearly under weight, and show every detail of each rib. They lack muscle tone, and have an overall demeanor that reflects lethargy and morass. I think of my own horses, and shiver at the thought that anyone would allow their equines to degrade to this condition.


The horses turn out to be gentle, and very receptive to the human touch.

Crystal, a twenty-one year old gray mare stands close by Cecilia, her fifteen year old daughter. They have been together for a decade and a half.


Mama horse Crystal stands waiting, her eye swollen shut, while Animal Control and CHANGE Program representatives prepare her for transport.

Laya, a twelve year old bay with a soft eye stands by the gate patiently.

Each horse readily accepts the halter, and they are led out towards the trailers. They walk with no hesitation, as if they know a better place awaits them.


"Cecilia" seems grateful for the kind touch of a CHANGE Program volunteer, who prepares her for her trip to a CHANGE foster barn, where Cecilia will receive veterinary care and a lot of TLC.

I take Laya off to the side, and wait while the mother and daughter get loaded. Laya nuzzles into the fold between my left arm and chest, leaving a slight trace of dirt off her very dry nose. I rub my hand from her poll to muzzle and over each eye, which causes her to push up gently against my hand.

One by one, we get Cecilia, Crystal and Laya into separate trailers. They don’t pull back, and appear to prefer the confines of the trailer over their paddock. One at a time, the trailers pull away, destined for un-disclosed foster barns, where the rehabilitation process will be begin.

by Tim
Sonoma CHANGE Program volunteer

Stay tuned for updates about Cecilia, Crystal and Laya in our new once-weekly blog!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Working for CHANGE, One Horse at a Time

From the Sonoma County Horse Council's Horse Journal, Spring 2009.

IN A COUNTY with more than 20,000 horses, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control is stretched thin. It handles the needs of unwanted and stray dogs, cats and other domestic pets, as well as injured wild animals and livestock from the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County, the city of Santa Rosa and the town of Windsor. It also responds to calls about abused, neglected and stray horses and livestock.

Small animals find safe haven at the county’s Santa Rosa shelter, but horses do not. Currently, Animal Control does not have facilities for horses, or the funding, personnel or training to care for them. Despite the best of intentions, the County of Sonoma has never had a solid equine care and control program in place.

That changed in 2007, with the founding of the non-profit organization the Sonoma County C.H.A.N.G.E Program, or Coins to Help Abandoned And NeGlected Equines. Concerned about Animal Control’s limited resources for handling horse cases, a group of community members formed CHANGE as a support network for the Sonoma County Animal Control department to call on for assistance with horse abuse, abandonment, or neglect cases.

CHANGE provides housing, veterinary care, farrier care and adoption services for horses that enter Animal Control’s custody. Since the organization’s founding, it has assisted Animal Control with 37 horses, 20 of whom ultimately entered the program as foster horses. Eighteen of those horses have been adopted by area residents. According to Petaluma veterinarian Grant Miller, simply caring for horses who are victims of abuse and neglect without addressing the root of the issue “enables the problem.” Miller, who helped found CHANGE after euthanizing an emaciated and severely dehydrated horse left tied to a fence in 100-degree heat, describes a multi-pronged approach to the challenge of horse neglect in Sonoma County. It all starts, and ends, with the law.“ The law is the bottom line,” says Miller, “and if you enforce the law, you pull the situation up by the bootstraps.”

"A journey of a thousand miles

begins with one step."

By offering intensive support and au-gratis expert witness testimony to Animal Control and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office, CHANGE helps these organizations to more effectively build cases against and prosecute horse abusers. Several criminal cases have already made their way through the legal system, resulting in felony animal cruelty convictions in part because of the organization’s persistence. The Animal Control Department and the Sonoma County District Attorney have utilized CHANGE as a resource in handling cases effectively.

In October, 2008, former Bloomfield resident Salvador Barrera was convicted of felony animal cruelty by a jury and received county jail time for locking his emaciated, colicking horse, “Yiyo,” in a stall, where it died without medical care. Miller, who has forensic veterinary training, spent two days on the witness stand as he described the necropsy he performed on the dead horse. The trial played out before a courtroom packed with North Bay residents and attracted national media coverage, expanding community awareness of horse abuse issues. Barrera’s two surviving horses, “Jack” and “Katie,” were rehabilitated and placed into adoptive homes by the CHANGE Program.

Last September, one the county’s darkest and longest-running horse neglect and abuse cases quietly came to a head when Penngrove resident Pat Tremaine was convicted of two counts of felony animal cruelty. Tremaine, who kept two Thoroughbreds locked in 12 x 24 mare motel pens for upwards of 15 years, failed to provide the horses with consistent exercise or veterinary or farrier care. The horses subsisted primarily on a diet of stale bread and rotting produce. “Argus” and “Bobby” were relinquished to Animal Control and transferred into CHANGE foster homes. They were successfully rehabilitated by CHANGE volunteers and later adopted. Several more cases like these are pending. Before CHANGE, equine cruelty cases might never have made it to the courtroom at all, despite the best efforts of law enforcement and the District Attorney.

The organization recognizes that prevention of horse abuse and neglect before it occurs is preferable to prosecuting and punishing offenders. Knowing that Animal Control officers are on the front line in horse cases, CHANGE is working to offer education programs for officers in order to give them a better understanding of basic management and handling of horses, standards of care, and body condition scoring. In addition, CHANGE helps officers develop an educated eye that can alert them to abusive activities such as horse tripping. A component of underground Hispanic rodeo events, horse tripping involves making a horse run at high speeds and then roping it by the legs to pull it down. Horse tripping is illegal in the state of California.

Future plans for the organization include a traffic school-like program for offenders, offering education on animal cruelty laws and standards of horse care and management in place of a misdemeanor conviction.

It’s a tall order for a little organization that subsists solely on volunteer labor and donations from the community, but CHANGE is already showing Sonoma County that big changes can come from small efforts. “We’re taking a new approach to an old problem,” says Miller. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”