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Equine rehab facility looking for an angel investor

September 27, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — Caring Hearts for Horses is looking for a stable home.

The equine outreach and rehabilitation facility is looking for an investor to buy the land it occupies and lease it back to the nonprofit.

“We’ve been here for a year,” said Mickey Saathoff, founder and caretaker of Caring Hearts for Horses. “This place is perfect for who we are and what we do.”

The facility offers assistance to horse owners for the health and welfare of their horses, including veterinary assistance for hoof care, handling, nutrition and everything in-between.

“We’re not a rescue,” Saatoff said. “We’re outreach. Our goal is to prevent unnecessary removal of horses from their home because of temporary life circumstances.”

Saatoff, a former dog trainer and long-haul truck driver, currently cares for five horses at the rehabilitation facility, all with special needs. Some are recovering from physical injuries and others recovering from neglect or abuse.

The center also is boarding three horses removed from a kill center — the owners named them Liberty, Justice and Freedom — which will be moved home after two of the horses complete their recovery.

“Taking in more — well, good intentions don’t pay the bills,” Saatoff said. “We’re full. But I love them all.”

Caring Hearts for Horses does more than rehabilitate horses; its larger magic began a year ago when Saatoff partnered with Mohave County Juvenile Probation Department, which refers at-risk youth in probationary programs who are transitioning back into an emotionally healthy routine.

The process is designed to divert youth exhibiting delinquent behavior away from the formal court process for a first and sometimes second offense, said Josh Frisby, Mohave County deputy director of Juvenile Court Services. It gives youths the opportunity to avoid probation, the cost of retaining an attorney, and probation costs. As a part of that diversion process, they are required to take part in an educational program, to perform community restitution and be responsible for their behavior.

“Community-based work programs like this are extremely important in our community,” Frisby said. “We look for places that are safe and interested in working with our kids and their families.”

In Mohave County in fiscal year 2017, more than 380 cases from Kingman, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu and all outlying areas were diverted from formal prosecution, Frisby said.

“The vast majority do not return to the juvenile justice system,” Frisby said.

Participants in the program learn safety first and are given an introduction to the Equine Assisted Learning program.

“Members of horse therapy groups learn how to properly lead, groom and take care of the animals,” Saatoff said. “They move on to ranch work and on-ground, horse-related activities designed for the horse and youth to assist each other to work through life’s challenges.”

Deb Ashton, Caring Hearts for Horses board member, said the at-risk youth program is close to her heart.

“I worked with a horseback riding program for over 20 years when I was in Iowa,” Ashton said. “I haven’t done the agility part like Mickey is doing, but I worked with the kids and the horses and am a firm believer in that — the kids who come out want to come back, they feel like they belong somewhere, that they’re giving back. They’re helping the horses and they’re helping each other and it’s really great to see the teamwork.”

Caring Hearts for Horses Equine Assisted Life Agility program is open to everyone, and the rehab center is reaching out specifically to veterans and veterans programs, Saatoff said. Horse agility programs teach the rider and handler to negotiate an obstacle course with the goal of eventually directing the horse around a course of obstacles free of any restraint.

The training strengthens the bond between horse and handler, Saatoff said. Students participate in competition via video with competitors in Scotland, England and Germany.

Six students already have graduated from level-one agility, she said. There are currently eight students participating in the class.

The owners of the property would like to sell the land the equine center now leases. Their lease-option ends in three months.

“We need an angel investor,” Saatoff said. “We want someone to buy the land and lease it back to us on a lease/option to buy. We’re not in a position to buy now, but in three to five years we will be. We want, with the new owner’s permission of course, to improve the property — we’re willing to do the work.”

The nonprofit also wants to purchase a six-acre commercial-zoned parcel that abuts the current property to use for events.

“The only thing I can say is if we are meant to leave here, there’s got to be something just over the top spectacular happening because I can’t imagine this,” Saatoff said. “I have a hard time believing this isn’t our home. I wouldn’t have it if it was just me — it’s too much work. I’d have an acre and two horses and I’d be totally good.”

“I don’t have kids,” Saatoff said. “I was a troubled teen — I’ve been there. We’re doing what we need to do — it’s good for the kids and its good for the horses. Right now my heart is very full.”

Caring Hearts for Horses can be contacted on Facebook or by email at mickey@caringheartsforhorses.org.

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