Local rescues give forever homes, new futures to abused and neglected equines

Every morning, Suzi Cloutier and her husband, Michael VanDerwater, go out to the barn at Zeb’s Wish Equine Sanctuary on their property to let their permanent residents out to pasture for the day. POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Zebs Wish Equine is currently caring for four horses who cannot be housed elsewhere. It is one of two such equine rescue facilties in the Sandy area.

Each of the animals living at Zeb’s Wish has a story and something to teach the humans who visit them. Outspoken Daisy, who was tied to a tree and used as a lawnmower for years, and her roommate Benny, who lived in a mud paddock in Tillamook for a year and a half, are the two resident mules at Zeb’s.

Bodhisattva, known as Bodhi, who was abandoned in a pasture and is living with a chronic illness, and attitudinal Bud, who deals with severe limb problems, are the other two big horse personalities in the barn.

In addition to the two cats, two dogs and three goats that have found a home at Zeb’s Wish Equine Sanctuary, four horses have the promise of Cloutier, VanDerwater and volunteers that they will live out their days being cared for and expected to give nothing in return.

“We may not be able to save everybody,” Cloutier said, “but to this one, we are the world. We want to do absolutely right by the guys that are here.”POST PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Leslie Roach runs R&R New Options Equine rescue facility outside Sandy. The facility boasts dozens of volunteers from the surrounding area.

Zeb’s Wish on average has 10 horses in its system being given sanctuary after hard lives, but they’re not the only equines in Sandy leading better lives and teaching their caregivers. Just a few miles east of Zeb’s is R&R New Options Equine Rescue and Rehab.

Between the two, local equines have multiple options for help if it’s needed.

“There should be no animal that falls through the cracks if you’re collaborating,” Cloutier noted.

Zeb’s Wish

When Cloutier, now executive director of Zeb’s Wish, moved to Oregon 15 years ago, she rented a ranch near Dairy Creek. But she wasn’t the only resident. There was a 38-year-old mule abandoned on the property and Cloutier decided to call him Zeb.

“It took me three months to touch him on the nose, he was so scared of humans,” she said.

As someone who grew up training horses, Cloutier was horrified that a human was capable of so horrendously mistreating this living creature.POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Suzi Cloutier attends to a horse at Zebs Wish equine rescue facility outside Sandy.

“I promised him I’d never leave him, that he’d never be alone,” she declared.

Although Zeb has since died, Cloutier’s promise to him lives on. Zeb’s Wish Equine Sanctuary in Sandy has rescued and offered sanctuary to 33 equines during its time in operation.

Unlike a normal rescue and rehabilitation operation, Zeb’s Wish rarely adopts out its rescues. Instead, it gives them forever homes on the farm or in foster care.

“We need to fight for them,” Cloutier said. “Our job here as volunteers is to be in service to them, because they’ve paid their dues.”

Zeb’s Wish has been at its current location in Sandy for five years. It became a nonprofit three years ago.

Longtime care for horses and mules with serious illnesses and abusive pasts does not come cheap. Bud, who gets regular massage therapy and joint medicine just to walk comfortably costs more than $200 to keep, just in medications and care alone.

Residents at Zeb’s Wish get by on grants and donations from the community.

But caring for the residents is not the only role of Zeb’s Wish. It’s mission — humans healing horses healing humans — reflects Cloutier and VanDerwater’s goal of eventually using the loving personalities and healing hoofs of their residents to make a difference in the lives of humans with troubled pasts and tough lives.

Cloutier is going through a program to introduce equine-assisted psychotherapy to the mission of Zeb’s Wish.

“What I love about this is everybody folds in,” Cloutier said. “It’s a family and we treat them like that.”POST PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Rescued horses roam R&R New Options Equine, a rescue facility outside Sandy. There currently are 42 rescued horses living on the ranch.

Zeb’s Wish also recently got a grant to put in the equipment for oxygen-assisted compost so the waste of the horses will be able to help local families and gardens.

“These horses were considered useless and they’re not,” Cloutier added.

For more information on Zeb’s Wish and a close up look at each member of the herd, visit

R&R New Options Equine

Just like at Zeb’s Wish, every one of the 42 resident horses at R&R New Options Equine has its own story, and founder Leslie Roach, or any one of her young volunteers, will gladly tell you the tales if you ask.

One horse, Charger, has been with the farm for a year. Roach said the day she went to get him was the only time 911 had ever called her.POST PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - 11-year-old Ari Milne of Sandy puts a fly mask onto one of the horses at R&R New Options Equine. Milne is one of 36 volunteers who help care for the horses.

Charger had been dumped 8 miles up Wildcat Mountain outside Sandy and was severely injured. With memories of past abuse fresh in his mind, it took Charger a long time to cooperate with Roach as she tried to load him into a trailer.

Roach said eventually she fell to her knees in tears crying out that she couldn’t help him if he wouldn’t let her. His response? He loaded himself into the trailer.

“And I yelled, ‘Shut the door!’” Roach said with a laugh.

Because of his past, Charger will never be able to be ridden, but that doesn’t make him any less loved or welcome at the New Options ranch on Highway 211 in Sandy.

“He’s what you call a forever horse,” Roach said. “He’ll live with us forever.”POST PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Ari Milne, 11, of Sandy (left) and Hannah Richards, 13, of Sandy, put fly masks onto horses at R&R New Options Equine outside Sandy.

Charger got his name because his loving spirit, desire to be pet and his disregard for personal space that often makes him intimidating to people who don’t know his character.

The goal of New Options is not only to rehabilitate abused and neglected horses, but to use that mission to foster confidence, work ethic and a sense of accomplishment in disabled, disadvantaged and disempowered youths by teaching them to play a part in the care, training and rehabilitation of the ranches residents.

New Options has about 36 young volunteers who show up at the ranch ready to listen, learn and work.

“They’re strong, independent young women,” Roach said.

New Options has been operating from its current location for six years, and it became a nonprofit organization four years ago.

But Roach has been rescuing and rehabilitating horses for 30 years.POST PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Maddi Tubbin, 15, of Sandy, attends to a horse at R&R New Options Equine.

Roach started her personal mission because her father always told her that if she didn’t like the way things were: change them.

“I set out to change the way things are,” she added. “We save the horses, the horses save the kids and the kids save us.”

R&R New Options will hold a benefit and auction on Nov. 7, 2015. For more information on the organization and to keep up with details on its event, visit

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