Cooling Out With ... Libby Schmittdiel
Five years ago, Libby Schmittdiel began laying the foundation for what would become Moore County’s first equine rescue.
Since founding Healing Hearts Horse Rescue in April 2009, Schmittdiel has saved 11 horses, found homes for two others, and provided financially strapped horse owners with hay and feed.
A riding instructor and coach, Schmittdiel lives with her husband, Patrick, and son P.J. (a junior at Union Pines High School) on a 25-acre farm in Carthage.
Q: Did you grow up with horses?
A: I grew up just outside Gladstone in New Jersey. My grandfather was James Brady (who owned the Gladstone property that would serve as the United States Equestrian Team’s training base). I grew up on horses so I was kind of a brat (laughs).
Q: Did you have a favorite discipline?
A: Pretty much eventing, through Pony Club. I got out of horses when I went to college but got back into them through the driving world.
Q: Do you still ride?
A: My horse (Tommy, a 14-year-old thoroughbred gelding) slipped and broke the front of his withers down to the shoulder blade in September. He’s just now getting back into work … we’re long-lining and he’s getting his muscle back up.
He was a green hunter champion as a young horse, but now we just do dressage. I showed so much as a kid I don’t really have a desire to do it now. I’d rather experience it through my students.
Q: When did you decide to start a horse rescue?
A: We originally bought our farm because we were tired of paying someone else’s mortgage. We decided we were going to get out of the boarding business and turn it into a rescue.
When I first met with the lawyers about getting non-profit status, I had no idea there would be so much paperwork and detail involved. I just wanted to rescue horses.
Q: How many horses can the ranch accommodate?
A: We have four large pastures. As we can afford to, we’re going to clear more land. We plan to make a “geriatric field” for the old horses that are going to live out their lives here.
Q: How do you acquire most of your horses?
A: Most of the horses find me! I have one that was abandoned; another was starved. Another the owner wanted to put down because he had stringhalt. One was on his way to auction but couldn’t be sold because he was too skinny.
Q: Which of your current rescues would you categorize as the most “special needs”?
A: We have a 5-year-old thoroughbred gelding who was just skin and bones when he came in. I asked the vet to try to give him a body score (on a 1-10 scale). He said the horse wouldn’t even be on the scale.
Another week in that condition and he wouldn’t have made it. We’ve had him three weeks now and you can see the personality starting to come out. We named him Sam I Am.
Q: How many volunteers do you have?
A: We have 15. And they are God-sent. They are just fabulous. Tom (Dr. Tom Daniel, of Southern Pines Equine Associates) doesn’t charge for his time.
The one thing I’m learning is that I’m a control freak but I can’t do this all by myself! I’m learning that everybody has a place in the rescue.
Q: How do you get funding?
A: Most of our funding comes from our tack sales. We have a storage unit where people can donate items they no longer use and then every other month we have a sale.
We got some great donations last Christmas that helped put three-sided sheds in every pasture. We’ve been slowly getting the word out and people were very generous this year.
Q: Is the “abandoned horse” problem getting worse because of the dire economy?
A: It is. And I want people to know that we’re out there to help — not just pull horses away from owners. If an owner needs hay, we’ll be more than happy to give them some.
The hardest thing to do is spread the word that Healing Hearts is out to help. When Sam came in, I couldn’t understand how someone let him get this way … there’s such a passion for thoroughbreds in this area. I want people to know that they don’t have to let their horses get to this point.
Q: Do you have a favorite success story?
A: Not yet. They’re all my favorites.
We have an Arabian mare (Aleeza) who was bought by a good Samaritan and surrendered to us.
At first you couldn’t even touch her unless she was eating.
Now I can rub all over her body. She’s not very happy about it yet, but helping a horse regain trust in humans again is very rewarding. Each horse story is so meaningful.
Q: What would you say to an owner worried about being able to provide for his or her horse?
A: I would say that help is out there. We know the economy sucks for owning a horse. But we will find a way to help.
To donate or volunteer, contact Healing Hearts at (910) 639-2482. Contact Stephanie Diaz by e-mail at MediaPlan88@aol.com.
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