Equine outreach nonprofit looking for help as it faces eviction
GOLDEN VALLEY — It’s difficult to plan a fundraising event around imminent eviction, but that’s what Mickey Saathoff is trying to do.
The creator of the nonprofit equine outreach organization Caring Hearts for Horses, in Golden Valley, is putting the finishing touches on its second annual Country Christmas Faire planned for Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In between gathering sponsors and items for raffle prizes and maintaining a full-time job in addition to keeping on top of obligations for the organization, Saathoff also is trying to find a solution to her biggest problem. In a matter of days the organization will be homeless — if something in the way of a miracle doesn’t manifest itself.
“The unfortunate part is our landlord, the people we lease the land from, want us out,” Saathoff said. “They gave us two weeks to get the hell out. It’s not going to happen. That demand was delivered in a text message.”
The landowners wanted Saathoff to vacate the property by Dec. 4.
“They’re giving us 10 days because we offered them money,” Saathoff said. “So as much as I sound like I’m laughing, I’m laughing because if I don’t laugh, I cry. We have a very scary Plan B. While we’re putting all of the events together for our fundraiser, we’re also trying to find a rental in this area because we have so much support here. We want to stay in the Walnut Creek area.”
If this were simply a matter of filling a truck with furniture and boxes of personal belongings — no problem. But Saathoff has her unique family to think of — her herd of special needs horses. If the right property doesn’t materialize quickly and the funding isn’t there, she will have some tough decisions to make, she said.
“I live by myself, so I’m not worried about myself,” Saathoff said. “I have my horses to think of and my volunteers, which are absolutely instrumental to us — they are my concern. I don’t like the idea of breaking our horses up, we need to keep the horses together because they’re a herd — we don’t keep our horses in stalls. We happen to have a mustang — she’s our matriarch who takes care of everybody. If I have to split any of these horses up, it’s going to break her heart.”
While juggling the myriad of details pertaining to her event, Saathoff is hoping for a miracle and planning for disaster.
“There’s property available, but it’s just a big-ass mess,” she said. “Hopefully we will find an investor who’s willing to sell back to us or lease back to us some property here. We’ve also got a new friend trying to help us get a USDA home loan, but that takes time — it takes more than a week.”
Saathoff’s fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants method of planning seems to work for her when it comes to the Country Christmas Faire. This year’s event is filled with activities. The Christmas-themed two-day grilling competition is front and center.
“What we’re trying to get people to understand is, it is backyard-type grilling — it isn’t barbecue, it’s grilling,” Saathoff said. “But you can barbecue if that’s what you choose to do. People can make anything they would cook at Christmas, because a grill is basically an oven. That’s what people forget.”
The event is open to all experience levels, Saathoff said.
“We revamped our event to include people who have never competed before, who might not want to compete because they’ve never done it before. But you know what, it’s all about having fun,” she said. “If there’s that one dish everybody says, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love that dish,’ that’s what you make and you enter it — it’s that simple. There’s no winning or losing, it’s simply having a great time.”
Only 12 spots remain for prospective grillers. The entry fee is $25 for both days, or $15 for Sunday only. Taster cups are purchased with what Saathoff calls Q-Bucks.
“People will buy the cups from us for a dollar a ticket, receiving what we’re calling Q-Bucks,” she explained. “Then they will take them to the different grillers who will have the 2-ounce cups. Usually they cost one or two tickets, and they get to sample everybody’s foods.”
While the event will raise money for the nonprofit, more important to Saathoff is exposure of the group’s purpose and its current predicament.
“Typically we use the event to let people know who we are and to raise funds for the year to take care of any horses that need to be taken care of,” Saathoff said. “It goes into funding for anybody who needs it for their horse, whether it’s temporary aid for food, or medication, or whatever. However, this year, with everything happening, it’s going to be about letting people know we’re losing our home.”
There is an equine poker ride sponsored by Stockton Hill Feed for $15 per hand; horse drawn carriage rides with a team of Allegra Spanish-Norman horses; gingerbread house and cookie decorating contests sponsored by Tractor Supply and Kingman Animal Hospital; vendors; face painting; holiday music; and a visit from Santa. There’s also an auction and 50/50 drawing.
“Our auction is something we work on making successful — we want to be known for our auction, but we also want to be known for our 50/50 raffle,” Saathoff said. “We’re really pushing for $1,000 this year. We have a big auction going on and we’ve got different businesses still calling in offering things to donate, so that’s really cool. It’s crazy.”
Contrary to information on early flyers, the motorcycle poker run isn’t happening.
“If anybody else steps up, that would be great, but if not, we have bike parking and anybody that shows up, we’re going to make sure you get something special,” she said. “That’s how we work around that. Things happen. When someone cancels, you do the best you can. You say, ‘no worries,’ and we’ll make sure you have a good time. Maybe we’ll give you a free raffle ticket or something. Who knows, but we’ll make it right.”
Some activities require a small fee, some are offered for a donation.
Caring Hearts for Horses offers assistance to horse owners with regards to the health and welfare of their horses when in need, from nutrition to rehabilitation, Saathoff said.
Saathoff and her volunteers also offer rehab programs for people.
“Things have changed with our program since last year — they’ve grown,” she said. “We’re waiting to receive a final response from the Mohave County Juvenile Probation Department concerning our first grant.”
Caring Hearts for Horses partners with the probation department to help at-risk youth.
“We’re opening the program up to all youth,” Saathoff said. “Using my special needs horses, the program has morphed into a life agility program. Kids teach the horses how to go through agility moves and in turn, they learn better communication skills, patience, self confidence, honesty, acceptance, trust, self control and discipline. The program has taken off.”
Saathoff is expanding the program to include adults.
“We have more than 13 veterans organizations who want to step up and get involved as well,” she said. “So sometime in January, I’m going to be reaching out to veterans for the same type of program.”
The organization was created after a horse Saathoff was trying to save died as she held its head in her lap.
“First and foremost, we focus on offering assistance to horse owners concerning the health and welfare of their animals, because that’s how we started,” Saathoff said. “I had a horse die in my lap because this woman could not find help. People said ‘just call a vet, the ASPCA, or the Humane Society,’ and I did all that. I called literally everybody — I found out that Arizona doesn’t give a s---. That’s a very harsh way of putting it, but it’s the bottom line. Basically it’s because they don’t have the funding to take care of hoofed animals of all kinds, not just horses, or they are just too busy.”
Saathoff’s first hand experience of the lack of services and support motivated her to uproot her life and fill the void, she said.
“That’s why I stepped in,” Saathoff said. “I was raised in Bullhead City, I had gone to school and was living in Utah — my whole frickin’ life changed at 52. I chose to step in the line of fire of machine guns and then it opened up into a community service — and the doors just kept flying open. I don’t believe in slamming doors back. When they open, you walk through ’em, so here we are.”
Saathoff’s tenacity and faith won’t let her give up on the nonprofit, she is determined to find a way.
“Everything happens for a better reason, no matter how (terrible) it is, even though the journey might suck,” she said. “Beautiful things have happened from us moving here to Walnut Creek. Even though there have been some seriously rocky times and hateful haters, it’s all good. We’re not stopping. With the support we have, we’ll make it. We’ll figure it out, we keep working on a solution and by God, we’ll find it. We’ll keep the faith, I’m too ornery to give up.”
The event takes place at the event area, 2798 McConnico Road, in Golden Valley. From Highway 68, turn right on Aztec Road, then left on Shinarump Drive, go right on West Oatman Road, then another right on McConnico. For more information, directions or to sign up for the poker ride or grilling competition, call Saathoff at 928-719-7589.