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Volunteers Gain Experience, Inspiration at Duchess Sanctuary

Read their stories; learn how to volunteer

  • Debbie, a volunteer, plans to spend more time at Duchess Sanctuary helping horses like Sheik. Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Month!

Last year, volunteers contributed more than 1000 hours of their time to help care for the 180 horses at Duchess Sanctuary. These amazing volunteers shoveled manure, assisted with herd health days (including maintaining health records and other office tasks), and enriched the lives of special needs horses with grooming and horse cookies.

Everyone at Duchess Sanctuary is so thankful for the vital support that the volunteers continue to provide, with more than 270 hours of their time donated so far this year! No matter what their time commitment, volunteers make a difference in the lives of the horses and staff at Duchess.

A few of the volunteers share their experiences below:

What motivates you to volunteer at the sanctuary?

Dianne (Roseburg, Ore.): I love horses, and I've sorely missed having them in my life; there was a huge hole there, and being at Duchess makes it go away.

Robynne (Ashland, Ore.): I like volunteering at the sanctuary because these horses have been through so much that it's a way to give back. In turn, though, I gain just as much by spending time with them. There is something magical about making a connection with a horse. It's also a wonderful break from my everyday life to spend time outdoors at such a beautiful place. And there is nothing like the thrill of standing only a few feet away from a herd of horses thundering by!

Annaliese (age 8, Council Bluffs, Iowa): I love horses and have always thought they were the nicest and prettiest animals. My mom thought it would be good to donate my time to work for the horses that were saved and live at Duchess. My mom told me it would be a good way for me to give back.

Learn more about volunteering at Duchess Sanctuary »

Do you have a favorite horse, and if so, which one?

Lisanne (Cottage Grove, Ore.): I really enjoy my time with all of the horses and all of their different temperaments and quirks. But, if I were to pick one horse who has touched me in a special way it would be Peppy. She is so quiet and sweet and really seems to have a wonderful presence. Sometimes after I am done grooming her I just stand with her head on my arm and look off into the distance with her. She's an interesting mare with a huge heart.

Gabrielle (Council Bluffs, Iowa): I suffer from a rare illness, which unfortunately limited my participation. After a couple days, I was pleasantly surprised at the serenity I felt and how fond of the horses I became. My favorite has to be Stoney. Stoney also has a rare auto-immune illness, which limits his life somewhat. One might think him to be unfriendly at first, but he and I hit it off almost immediately. It’s as if he knew we shared a special bond.

Keta (Wilbur, Ore.): Hard to have a favorite when you love each one. They all have something so special about them. Peppy has a sweetness that no one else has, Herbie is such a great listener, Rowdy has a great sense of humor, Cheyenne is just a big funny old moody guy who loves a good scratch, and Freckles is beautiful inside and out.

What have you learned so far during your volunteer experience, and what else would you like to learn?

Michelle (Portland, Ore.): I've been helping Darrell build feeder boxes. That has been a lot of fun, as I see the fruits of my labor after a few hours. I enjoy helping in this way, as it is rewarding for me, and the feeders have been successful in keeping hay off the floor, a cost savings for Duchess. I gravitated toward construction projects because I like working with my hands and I like being active. Also, my fear of horses has kept me from getting too close to them. I would like to learn to feel more comfortable around them and groom some of them.

Debbie (Roseburg, Ore.): I have learned that the staff at the sanctuary is very knowledgeable, compassionate, consistent, and approachable. I have also learned how to fill a syringe correctly, how to guide the horses through the chute for worming/inoculations, how to groom, how to put on a halter, how to record information for each horse, such as when their hooves are trimmed, and that I would like to spend more time volunteering at the sanctuary. So, my volunteer experience is quite selfish!

Paige (Springfield, Ore.): I've learned how my camera operates (almost!) and I've learned that there are a lot of people who are willing to volunteer to help horses and I hope to continue to learn about how sanctuaries run.

Jennifer Kunz is ranch manager of the Duchess Sanctuary, operated by the Fund for Animals in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States.

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