Chagrin Hunter Jumper Classic Hosts Maggie’s Mission Pet & Equine Rescue

Rescue Organization Teams Up with Local Barns and Trainers in Win-Win Partnerships

The nonprofit Chagrin Hunter Jumper Classic has a history of supporting local charities through donations and exposure during the horse show to increase awareness of their work. This year, Maggie’s Mission Pet & Equine Rescue from Sharon Center, Ohio will be onsite to meet people and share information about their work.

Meet Maggie

Maggie Muirden is the founder and president of Maggie’s Mission Dog & Horse Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue. Since 2012, Maggie’s Mission has rescued and rehomed thousands of dogs, horses, cats, and other animals. However, the work to rehome a horse rescued from an auction kill pen and destined for slaughter, takes a lot more work than pet rescue.

Most equine rescues begin when they are purchased from the auction kill pen; the price is based by the pound, which is what the slaughterhouse pays. Then Maggie and her team transport the horse back to her farm where the work begins to administer medical attention if needed, including trimming feet and fixing teeth. Most of the horses are emaciated and need to be eased onto a healthy diet of quality hay and grain. They learn to be handled and start trusting humans again before they can move on to basic training and this process can take a long time.

Maggie has a good eye for selecting horses with promise. “When we put the time and training into a horse, and the result is placement with a good owner and higher adoption fee. It’s a win-win situation for Maggie’s Mission as well as the rescued horses,” she explained.

“I started rescuing horses when I turned 40, and here I am 62,” said Maggie. She began the pet rescue when she was in her 20s but unlike the pets who live in foster homes, most of the equine rescues (horses, ponies, and long-ears including mules, burros and donkeys) are housed at Maggie’s barn under her care with the help of a few volunteers. The barn has stalls, and pastures, but no indoor arena to work with horses year-round.

Maggie was a partner at the law firm Holland & Muirden before retiring from the practice to volunteer full-time for the Rescue. “Our law office focuses on animal welfare law and my husband works almost full-time prosecuting animal cruelty,” she explained. She served on the board of the Medina County SPCA, including a term as president.

Training is essential so the horse can have a chance at placement and a successful new life, and Maggie sometimes pays for training and boarding, which impacts the number of horses she can rescue and care for. “The biggest gap in our rescue is needing experienced riders to offset the expense of having to pay trainers. Many of them reduce their fees to offset the cost for our rescues, but board is still expensive,” she said. If more trainers and experienced riders donated time or board for promising rescues, the outlook would be even brighter for their future adoption.

Tater before and after – first photo after being rescued, then after proper feeding and care and Maggie’s Mission, he is ready for training and finding a forever home.

Chardon trainer Julie McIlhaney of Four-Star Sport Horses has trained numerous adoptees for Maggie that turned out to be nice riding horses and ponies. “This is my way of giving back and being charitable. Maggie is realistic and knows when something isn’t going to be suitable.”

Most recently she was working with Tater, “He is a cute 3-year-old pony that is smart, but clueless…he’s a baby and I want to make him into a good kids pony.” Julie was helping Tater learn boundaries and how to be led and handled safely, important early lessons before getting on his back. An unfortunate riding accident on Julie’s own horse resulted in her training of Tater being suspended and he is back at Maggie’s barn now waiting to start his next chapter.

Lake Erie College Provides Vital Training

Lake Erie College’s equestrian program came to the rescue earlier this year. Dean of the School of Equine Studies Laura Stockhaus began working with Maggie’s Mission Horse Rescue after agreeing to take a 12-year-old paint mare named Frenchie. 

“Maggie’s Mission contacted us regarding our Training Class for senior Equine Teacher Trainer majors. This course requires that students, guided by an instructor, go through the process of developing a young or green horse from the very beginning. They are required to create training plans, study, and utilize different theories and methodologies, and apply it all to create a good foundation for a privately owned horse. The course is a culmination of all they have learned in the classroom and on the school-owned horses. The course has two semesters, so the students can develop their own personal training techniques with two different horses,” Laura explained.

“Maggie was very forthcoming about the little she knew about the horse, helping us to understand the best place to begin. The students started slowly, using ground manners, leading, cross-tying, basic clipping, and grooming. They then moved on to lunging, long lining, ground driving, and eventually riding Frenchie. Since this horse had most likely been ridden and driven in the past, she progressed quickly and was willing to take on every new aspect of her training with positivity. She has a great attitude and generally enjoys working, so it has been a positive experience for the students.”

At the end of the term the students produced a sales video and Frenchie returned to Maggie’s Mission available for adoption and the video is on the page.

Maggie’s Mission Adoptees Find Home and Purpose at Chagrin Valley Farms Lesson Program

Riders who take lessons at Chagrin Valley Farms (CVF) in Bainbridge may have enjoyed the benefits of several Maggie’s Mission rescue horses over the years without even knowing it. Equine Manager Linnea Swanson said CVF has had a number of horses adopted from Maggie’s Mission over the years. Two Thoroughbred mares came in together in 2021: Trixie (Jockey Club name Trickme Not) is a 12-year-old bay and Kaitlyn (Call Me Kaitlyn), is a 23-year-old gray. They are both still in the lesson program.

“When they first arrived, I rode them and worked with them to get to know them before I knew they were ready to hand off to our more advanced students. Trixie was green (inexperienced) over fences but very willing to learn and so sweet. She is used in our lesson program by advanced and intermediate riders and has also been leased to a student who enjoyed competing with her at our schooling shows and a mini-trial,” said Linnea.

Kaitlyn was introduced into the program the same way Trixie was and has done some dressage shows and schooling jumpers. “They are diamonds in the rough,” said Linnea. “They just needed the right situation to thrive and with time and energy they reward you. They are worth their weight in gold.” And they were certainly worth the adoption fee.

There are times when the adoption isn’t a fit, and not every horse is suited to multiple riders in a lesson program. One pony did very well in the lesson program and was jumping small cross rails, but after a little while, they could tell she was getting cranky, and would be much better suited to a single rider, with light use or pasture duty. Maggie’s policy is to take horses back when they don’t work out with an adopter. The pony is currently in foster care, awaiting her next step of the journey.

Filling an Empty Pasture by Adopting a Pasture Pal

In 2020, Cheryl Reed of Akron needed a companion for her Connemara when she was faced with losing her long-time aged ponies due to health issues. She knew her surviving pony couldn’t live alone so she reached out to Maggie’s Mission to look at a pony they had. However, she didn’t end up adopting that pony, instead she chose Alice, an 11-year-old Haflinger mule with long ears and big kind eyes. Cheryl got more than a great new companion…with only two-weeks of training under her belt, Alice gave her a wealth of new knowledge and experience that Cheryl shared in her story “My Mule Journey” in the March 2024 issue of Western Mule Magazine.

Two of Maggie’s ponies are at a foster home in Geauga County. Cayenne, a senior Arabian mare on the left, will make a lovely pasture pal, and Hans, 9, is ready to get back to work after his former child lost interest and he was sidelined for a few years.

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