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Shadarobah Horse Rescue

Michelle Heitz and family provide food, shelter and care for unwanted horses

By Rod King

Fort Wayne Reader


Butterscotch, Bambi, Cola Hustler, Domino, Thunder, Glory, Princess, Shadow, Cupid and Copper are living a comfortable, healthy life at Shadarobah Horse Rescue.

But if it hadn’t been for Michelle Heitz, owner of the facility, they would have been food for people in Europe. She literally saved them from the “slaughter wagon,” gave them food, medicine and nursed them back to health.

Heitz, along with her husband and three children, are caring for 23 rescued horses and a donkey on their five-and-one-half-acre property at 10113 U.S. 33.

They, plus a handful of dedicated volunteers, are staging a concert and silent auction at the farm April 11 to raise funds to help defray the expenses of caring for the horses.

As you might expect, caring for horses can get expensive. “Hay runs us around $500 a week and grain (they eat 100 pounds a day) costs us $100 a week,” says Heitz. “Then, they need seven vaccinations a year, worming every six weeks and their hooves have to be trimmed regularly. It adds up pretty fast,” says the Fort Wayne native and Snider High School graduate.

“I rescued my first horse — a quarter horse named Leroy — last April from a friend and needed a place to house him,” Heiotz says. “So, we sold our house in the city, purchased this property and moved in. It needs a lot of work, but it has a barn with a stall for each horse and two fenced exercise areas.”

Then came a second horse, a miniature named Kitty, from the same family. “They just couldn’t care for them any longer. My husband, Shane, who is part Native American came up with the name for this place, Shadarobah, which means ‘May the future be better than the past’. We’re not sure which native language it comes from.”

“Having grown up in the city, I was literally shocked to learn about the massive number of horses being hauled to Canada and slaughtered for food…people food, no less. They’re packed in trucks shoulder to shoulder so they don’t fall and get trampled, they’re not fed and many of them are already starving because of lack of care by their owners.”

“The problem is that there’s really no place to take a horse that is getting old or is in poor health,” she adds. “It’s expensive when a horse dies because it’s illegal to bury them on one’s property and it’s also expensive to have them put to sleep. So, people are selling them to what I call the ‘slaughter wagons.’ It’s essentially torture. I was appalled.”

Heitz has been able to get to some of the horses before the slaughter wagon does. “When I got a look at four babies less than a year old, I simply said I can’t let them be slaughtered. Then we took two more groups of youngsters of 5 each. If it were up to me, I’d save them all, but we just don’t have the room or the resources to care for more. Many of the horses have been abused and most of them are suffering from malnutrition. Some we didn’t think would live, but with a little love and care we’ve been able to save all of them. Duchess is nine years old and still shakes when around people, but we’re gradually gaining her trust.”

Heitz is hoping that the April 11event will help raise enough money to expand the program, heighten the awareness of the program and interest people in adoption. The silent auction will begin at 10 a.m. and the concert, which features three bands (Otis Jones, Fountainhead and Andy Scheer Quintet, all of Huntington) starts at 2 p.m. Cost for the concert is just $3. In addition, there will be an Easter egg hunt in the straw, egg coloring, photos with the Easter Bunny, concessions, a bake sale and horse and cart rides. Some lucky person will win a horse.

“Our primary goal,” says Heitz, “is to rescue horses. We also want to bring people and horses together and find individuals who will adopt them and give them a good home. We’re planning to organize clinics starting in May for kids from the city to come here and spend time learning how to groom, ride and take care of horses. We’d also like to increase the number of volunteers by at least 20 and find hay, straw, grain and bedding donors.” To learn more about Shadarobah check out their web site at www.shadarobah.com.

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