By Jennifer Pittman, Santa Cruz Sentinel
WATSONVILLE — After eight years of rescuing horses headed for slaughter, Lynn Hummer is looking for someone to take her place at the head of Pregnant Mare Rescue, a nonprofit organization she founded on her 3-acre ranch in Larkin Valley.
"It's where I am in my life," Hummer said during a short break from her full-time day job in a Watsonville product company. She often spends her breaks on her other full-time job — checking on horses and her passionate volunteer team, fielding queries about horses in trouble and considering adoptive homes for the ones she's been able to save.
Since founding the all-volunteer organization eight years ago, Hummer and her team have rescued more than 120 horses, most of which would have ended up being shipped out of the country to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Although she once envisioned expanding the operation, the recession hit the Hummer Ranch hard. She lost her job and her husband took a pay cut. She is a bit burned out, she admitted. After she finds a replacement, she and her husband will probably sell the ranch on Larkin Valley Road.
"It's a huge passion of mine but it's all consuming," Hummer said. "It's 24 hours a day. It takes so much to keep this thing going."
Hummer wants a successor who will maintain the same kind of holistic, rehabilitative philosophy and methodologies that are the foundation of PMR. Because the ranch is small, horses and their foals receive individual attention. In addition to veterinary and farrier visits, the organization hosts Reiki energy healing and Native American prayer ceremonies that are open to the public. They use animal intuits and flower essences.
"Many people don't endorse these things but we get fantastic results," Hummer said. "There is a magic we feel we bring to the property and to the horses." She also tracks the horses for life and tells people they can always bring their horses back if things don't work out.
John Holland, president of Equine Welfare Alliance, an advocacy organization that tracks national horse welfare issues, says these are the kind of organizations that are making a difference in horse rescue.
About 160,000 horses were sent to slaughter outside U.S. borders in 2012, Holland said. Although Holland said he sees some small signs of improvement, the plight of horses mirrors the cost of hay and there are several states, including California and Texas, suffering severe drought.
"When the price is increasing rapidly there's more abuse and neglect and there's more horses sent to slaughter," Holland said. About 300 rescue organizations belong to the Alliance and most of them are about the size of Hummer's organization, sheltering about 10 horses at a time, he said. "What she does is important."
Hummer said a smooth transition to new leadership could take up to a year.
I don't want to dismantle it," she said. "I want to have a legacy.
The next fundraiser is a wine and cheese reception to welcome the three new foals born last month. The event is July 19 and tickets are $15. It comes at a time when donations are at an all-time low. Hummer said she hopes to raise $10,000. There are 10 horses that are in various stages of rehabilitation and will eventually be looking for new homes. When the foals have been weaned, they will be ready for adoption too.
Pregnant Mare Rescue Inc.
What: A temporary sanctuary for pregnant mares, mares with foals at their side and orphaned foals that are in danger of going to slaughter. The nonprofit organization rehabilitates and finds homes for neglected, abused and endangered horses and works to educate people about equine slaughter practices.
Background: Founded at Hummer Ranch in Larkin Valley in May 2006.
Leadership: Lynn Hummer, founding president
Volunteers: About 20-35 volunteers.
Rescued horses: About 120 in eight years
Horses waiting to be adopted: 10 mares, still in rehab, and three new foals who are still nursing.
Expenses: About $4,000 per month
Upcoming events: Wine & cheese reception for the new foals, 3-6 p.m. July 19, Hummer Ranch, 668 Larkin Valley Road, Watsonville. Tickets $15.
Info: 408-540-8568; www.pregnantmarerescue.com.