Second Chance gets new home

nonprofit: Horse-rescue organization relocates

ckrotzer@theolympian.comJune 26, 2012 

A rescue organization that specializes in rehoming thoroughbred racehorses has settled near Rainier.

The move makes Second Chance Ranch the second-largest horse rescue in the county. Hooved Animal Rescue of Thurston County has been helping with county sheriff’s seizures for years.

The two organizations look forward to supporting each other in the future.

“It would be great to partner up with her and pool our resources and use each other’s contacts,” said Kathy Bailey, President of HARTC. “There is unfortunately people downsizing and having to get rid of their animals. It would be nice to have the resources to help everybody.”

June has been an eventful month for the 40 horses in Katie Merwick’s care at Second Chance Ranch. She’s glad to see they can finally relax.

Located in Elma for the past seven years, Merwick moved to a property in Thurston County. The move began June 3 and lasted four days, costing the nonprofit about $10,000.

It’s a move several years in the making.

“Our problem with moving to Elma was it’s so remote and impossible to get volunteers out there,” Merwick said. “It was very stagnant.”

The property lacked an indoor arena for potential owners to come and ride. The pastures quickly turned to mud in adverse weather.

Merwick will have a year to prove she can sustain herself in the new surroundings on the outskirts of Rainier. Four investors fronted $50,000 needed to lease the property for a year with the option to buy.

If things go the way Merwick plans, the investors will purchase the property outright next year.

She’s happy to take on the challenge. With 28 years of horse training experience and a passion for thoroughbreds, she can’t wait to move on to the next chapter of Second Chance Ranch.

She’s rehomed between 500 and 600 horses since Second Chance Ranch began in 1991.

“I take a lot of individual time to get to know the horse and match it up,” Merwick said.

NEW SURROUNDINGS

The new property provides temporary homes to adoptable horses straight from the track, as well as permanent homes to several horses who had successful careers and have their retirement funded.

They will live out their days at Second Chance Ranch.

Among them are Longacres Mile winners No Give Away and The Great Face, as well as stake race winner Flying Notes, who Merwick said matched Secretariat’s time running a 11/8-mile race.

Not all of Merwick’s horses hit the track. Some are bred to race and never made it to the starting gate, like Slicker, a horse who broke its neck and now suffers from wobbler syndrome.

“He’s healthy and happy, but he can’t be ridden or raced,” Merwick said.

They each have plenty of room to roam on the 38 acres with four large pastures, two 5-acre paddocks and three lay-up paddocks.

The indoor arena provides a space for potential new owners to meet and ride adoptable horses. The large ranch house will one day provide a space for company retreats, weddings and a place for established pony clubs.

Merwick also plans on expanding her educational outreach programs, including working with PTSD patients and participating in a video series on training racehorses.

Before all that can happen, Merwick needs to rebuild her volunteer force.

“We have a skeleton crew now,” Merwick said. “We need folks for grooming, be under saddle and riding, taking photos and doing the website.”

Merwick wants to cut the number of horses she is housing by half and is working hard to start rehoming now that the move is complete.

Connie Fleming is a volunteer. Her 19-year-old quarterhorse named Todd was a product of Second Chance Ranch.

“(Merwick) has such passion for what she does, and at the time when I went to work for her, I didn’t have a horse,” Fleming said. “I had horses as a kid, and I really was craving being around them again … and now I’m a full-fledged horse owner. … Because of her, my whole life changed.”

Contact Second Chance Ranch

Second Chance Ranch, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is now located at 12440 Koeppen Road S.E. in Rainier.

To donate, go online to www.secondchanceranch.org. For information, email info@secondchanceranch.org.

ckrotzer@theolympian.com 360-754-5476 theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer

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