Mountain Valley Horse Rescue hosts annual barn brunch fundraiser Sunday

Cekka is a current resident of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue. According to the Horse Rescue’s website, she enjoys trail rides and having her hindquarters scratched, and she can be adopted for $1,200.
courtesy of Shana Devins

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Down Colorado Highway 131, in McCoy, on 115 acres of red dirt and low shrubbery and under a huge sky, lies the Mountain Valley Horse Rescue. The Colorado River runs past the rescue’s land, where 25 horses live.

The rescue’s horses are a rainbow of sizes, colors and physical and emotional issues. They’ve come to McCoy from across the Western Slope of Colorado and as far as South Dakota. Each has a different reason for needing rescue, ranging from its owners having financial or medical issues to being bought at auction just in time to avoid heading to a slaughterhouse.

But whether a horse was neglected, abused or abandoned, once it arrives to the McCoy site, it gets the rest, recovery and rehabilitation it needs to lead a rich, healthy life.

What that rich, healthy life looks like can vary. When a horse is brought into Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, a veterinarian and equine trainer meet and evaluate the horse and formulate a specific set of goals for it.

What’s the horse’s physical condition and age? What’s its personality? How trained, and how socialized to people is it? Can the horse be ridden, and what sizes or experience levels of riders can the horse take? If it’s not rideable, is it handleable — could it work as an ambassador, educator, therapist or companion at one of the rescue’s sanctuary programs? How adoptable is the horse? 

After socialization, training, care and rehabilitation, nearly 200 horses have been adopted out to their forever homes since the nonprofit got its 501(c)(3) status in 2005. 

For other horses, the chances of being adopted are far lower, so the goals for them are created around their living a good life within the sanctuary of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue. 

For example, two horses recently came in from the Maybell area in a state of neglect. One was young and healthy; one was older and in bad condition. The young horse is doing great and is heading to a foster home in the next week or so; the older one lived for about a week, then passed away. But workers at the rescue were grateful the horse got to live the last week of his life in comfort and peace.

“We’d rather deal with humane euthanasia when we have to, instead of letting a horse suffer alone” said Mountain Valley Horse Rescue Board Vice President Cookie Murphy-Pettee. “We like to think that he brought (the younger, healthier horse) to us.”

If you go

What: Mountain Valley Horse Rescue’s annual Barn Brunch
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11
Where: Alpine Mountain Ranch, 33105 Meadow Creek Drive, Steamboat Springs
Tickets: $50 per person at or at the door

Another horse, 46-year-old Sinclair, is the rescue’s oldest resident. While he’ll likely never be adopted, “he still has a job,” said Shana Devins, the rescue’s executive director. “He’s gentle and good for new volunteers, who are learning to care for horses.”

Sinclair also helps out with education, outreach and therapy programs.

In addition to the 25 horses currently in Mountain Valley Horse Rescue’s care, there are 40 on a waiting list. The quicker on-site horses complete their recovery and move onto new adoptive homes, the quicker the horses on the waitlist can begin their rehabilitation at the rescue.

It’s a fraction of the 6,000 unwanted or neglected horses in Colorado, according to Devins, but to those horses, it’s a world of difference.

A preschooler poses with Jackie, a mini horse, during a session of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue’s monthly Mini Horse Heroes program.
courtesy of Shana Devins

Mountain Valley Horse Rescue also coordinates the fostering of horses outside of the ranch and provides food, supplies, day-to-day care, vet and farrier care and any special needs care the foster horse requires.

All of this work is run by two paid staff, two contract trainers, plus a veterinarian and a farrier. Devins estimates there are also about 25 volunteers who help out on-site regularly and another 50 or 60 more who occasionally volunteer.

“Because our staff is so small, we rely on volunteers to do a lot of the work,” she said.

A homeschool student, through Mountain Valley Horse Rescue’s monthly homeschool program, shares a moment with Ginger, a resident of Mountain Valley Horse Rescue.
courtesy of Shana Devins

In addition to the care of these horses, the rescue also hosts horse care and riding camps, one for preschoolers and one for children ages 8 to 14. Throughout the school year, the group hosts elementary school classes, whose students learn how to do everything from feeding a horse to scooping poop. Service groups and employee groups are also welcome to visit the ranch for a day of learning.

The rescue also brings education and outreach to reduce horse abuse and neglect off-site. 

On Sunday, Aug. 11, Mountain Valley Horse Rescue hosts its annual Yampa Valley Barn Brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club in Steamboat Springs. The fundraiser includes a catered Champagne brunch and stories of the rescue’s work and horses.

Jasper, who went through Mountain Valley Horse Rescue and was adopted to a family, loves snuggling with his new pasture-mates.
courtesy of Shana Devins

Learn more about Mountain Valley Horse Rescue, its horses, volunteer opportunities and programming at

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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