Gail Hirt, executive director of Beyond the Roses Equine Rescue and Retirement, reports that her nonprofit charity is in dire straits, and may have to close its doors following a combination of financial setbacks.
The nonprofit charity with 15 horses in Ohio and Michigan saw funding sources dry up this year, and other attempts to bring in money to support war horses — who earned a combined total of $4 million on the track— have failed, she says.
The charity is down to its last $5,000, Hirt says, and she is actively considering the heartbreaking decision to close the doors to the certified nonprofit by June.
“I’ve been lying in bed thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ If it doesn’t get better by June, I won’t be able to continue this.”
Prior to starting Beyond The Roses, Hirt was a national board member of CANTER USA and the secretary for CANTER Michigan. During her tenure with the national Thoroughbred charity, she fostered and rehabilitated 42 horses from 2003 through 2011.
She branched off on her own in 2008 when she rescued the famous poster-child for racing warhorses, Top Bunk. Foaled in 1997 by Dixie Brass, the racehorse earned $554,284 in 90 starts, before Hirt joined an effort with Alex Brown of Alex Brown Racing Forum to get the hard-knocking horse retired.
From that point on, the name Top Bunk was adopted on a racehorse watch list, called the Top Bunk List, which kept an eye on seasoned campaigners, who, like Top Bunk, had earned more than $500,000 and were still racing.
Despite numerable successes retiring and re-homing horses, Hirt says her charity, which was officially certified as a 501 c 3 in 2012, has hit hard times. A key reason for the evaporation of financial support was due to restrictions enacted by past funding sources, which made her ineligible for funding help this year, Hirt says.
“Some of my grant-funding sources changed their rules to require that charities be a certified nonprofit for three years,” she explains. Although Hirt’s work with Beyond the Roses extends back longer than the requisite three years, she has only had her certification for two. The result is that Hirt can no longer turn to donors who helped her in the past, she says.
Beyond the Roses’ yearly operating budget is $70,000. Some $58,000, the lion’s share, pays for the upkeep of the animals, including regular veterinary care, dental care, feed, transportation, etc. The remainder is used to pay a reasonably priced trainer to school horses for new careers, Hirt says.
“I’ve got $5,000 right now and I have four horses that need to go into training so they can be eligible for new homes,” she says. “My trainers don’t charge a lot, it’s very minimal.”
Hirt adds that a generous donation from After the Finish Line, which provided funds for hay, is a big help, but that her other efforts to raise funds, through both applications to donors, and Facebook campaigns, have been shockingly disappointing.
“I asked on Facebook for some help with vaccines, and posted three announcements,” she says. “I didn’t get one dollar. In the past, when I’ve posted for help—I only ask when I absolutely need to—I get help.”
Horses currently under the care of Beyond the Roses include, Fuhrever Dancing, Skippy Due, Greatest Star, Distorted Groom, Harley D, Nurse Merf, So Busted, and Flyingwiththebeat. Sanctuary horses are Rocky, Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, Twisted Wit, Top Bunk, Ebben Estoora, Mighty Win, and Untamed Irish.
“The thing that’s so sad about all this is that together these horses earned, for the industry, $4,335,697 in 904 races. Over $4 million,” Hirt says. “These horses all had their place in racing, many were stakes winners; many were the sons of well-known stallions like Distorted Humor, Tiznow, Devil His Due, Black Tie Affair and Dixie Brass.”
She adds, “Our financial status is good until the end of May. Then we’ll have to make some hard decisions. One of my board members keeps saying, ‘God’s watching over us, and every time we need help, something comes through.”
Hirt hopes and prays she is right.
Donations to Beyond the Roses, a certified 501 c 3, are tax deductible, may be made in one of three ways: A credit card may be accepted over the phone at 586-321-6780. Via Pay Pal to: Main@beyondtherosesequine.org, or through the general mail to: 11621 Bryce Road, Emmett, MI 48022.