Congratulations to the winner of the 2022 Tack Room Makeover contest: Equi-Ed, nominated by Katie Moore!
Here’s some of what Katie had to share about the program:
“On October 8, 2017, a massive wind-driven wildfire called the Tubbs Fire swept through Santa Rosa, California. In just a few short hours of horror and chaos, thousands of homes were destroyed and some 23 people lost their lives. In the fire’s path was a much-loved therapeutic riding program called Equi-Ed, a fixture in the community since 1993.
On that horrible night, Equi-Ed somehow managed to get most of their program horses out through the wall of flames and to safety at my stables. Their entire ranch burned, destroying several homes on the property as well as fencing and pastures. Miraculously, their barn survived the fire. No small feat considering the flames scorched right up to the walls of an old wood barn. And a stroke of luck for the four equines they couldn’t get out in time. They survived unscathed despite all their fencing burning.
Coordinating all this was founder and director Maxine Freitas, who has led the program since its inception. Ms. Freitas coordinated the entire evacuation while she stood—in her pajamas—in the middle of a vineyard, watching her own home burn to the ground. She lost her retired horse that night to the flames as well—the fire moved so fast, she was unable to reach him in time. And yet this amazing woman stayed calm and focused on desperate calls and texts to try to get her beloved program horses to safety.
In the years since 2017, Equi Ed’s program horses have come to my farm in more orderly evacuations an additional five times (2017, 2019, 2020 x 3). During the 2019 Kincade Fire, their home ranch was once again threatened. These lengthy disruptions in the program have been hard on this little organization, and it has impacted their ability to fundraise to support the therapeutic riding they offer. This is no glitzy, high-end non-profit. They work hard for every donor dollar that comes in, all the while providing a high level of care for their 10 horses.
After the 2017 Tubbs Fire, Equi-Ed was able to bring their horses home after a long month of evacuation. They went right back to offering the life-changing programs they provide for disabled children and adults. But as they tried to settle back into their new normal, they realized there was a legion of heavily traumatized Sonoma County children who had fled for their lives as well. Equi Ed responded by offering free therapeutic horse programs for children who lost their homes to the fire. These programs continued for months and made a big difference in the recovery of dozens of children.
I am nominating Equi Ed because they have truly been hard hit by wildfires and yet have kept persevering in the face of staggering losses. They contribute so much to their community and the people they serve. They have changed many lives for the better through their efforts, through thick and thin. Equi Ed sure needs a “win” for a change!” —Katie Moore