The noon desert sun bears down on the backs of three horse riders in an Apache Junction wash. The riders make their way along the waterless, porous path flanked by thirsty thickets and foreboding plants like cactus; a dead tree makes the wash impassable.
The noon desert sun bears down on the backs of three horse riders in an Apache Junction wash.
The riders make their way along the waterless, porous path flanked by thirsty thickets and foreboding plants like cactus; a dead tree makes the wash impassable.
Apache Junction Horse Rescue volunteer Jim Helm is used to dealing with obstacles. He hops down from a timid horse at the back of the pack and hands the reins to Kenn Kardish, a snowbird and retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer.
Kardish, riding the largest, the leader of the pack, Rusty, regularly takes the sometimes skittish animals out on the trail for exercise.
As Helm, also a winter visitor from Canada, breaks a big branch and tries to move the tree, Rusty loses it. The horse jostles quickly and kicks while pulling from the pack.
Kardish steadies the steed. “They can change on you in an instant,” he said.
In some cases, the animals may get spooked because they were abused and are easily frightened, or for seemingly innocuous reasons.
“Wind spooks the animals,” Helm said. “Horses use their sense of smell, and when it’s windy that can spook them, as well.”
All of the rescued horses that volunteers ride, or exercise, wound up at the rescue for some reason of neglect or another, said director Jim Moyle. Either an owner fell on hard times and couldn’t afford to feed the animal, or they were getting abused, he said.
The rescue is housed on Moyle’s ranch near McKellips and Idaho roads, aptly named the “Rusty Seven Ranch” after his two horses, Rusty and Seven.
While Moyle feeds and nurses the rescued horses back to health, his nonprofit organization relies on volunteers to come out to the ranch to groom, ride or exercise, as well as provide companionship for the animals.
Volunteerism and donations have been hard hit by the economy, he said.
“We struggle like everybody else,” said the retired NASCAR engine mechanic. His staff is made up mostly of volunteers, his wife, and occasional batches of students who come out with helping in mind, but far too sparingly to count on.
The rescue has gone out on more than 30 emergency calls of abuse, Moyle said. He said the group also stopped a total of five Internet scams involving horses, possibly averting abuse.
Moyle, who worked with many notable NASCAR figures as a mechanic, including Paul Newman, equated his work with horses to his days of thunder working on the race course.
“There’s a lot of research and development involved,” said Moyle, who worked on experimental engines at one point in his career. “The horse can’t tell you what’s wrong with it, so you have to do your research and read” to gauge what’s wrong.
The rescue has already helped in 14 horse adoptions, Moyle said. They partly fund the operation of the rescue.
“As we adopt out horses, the money we raise goes to helping other horses,” he said.
Moyle said his rescue also works with the Pinal County Adult Probation Department, coordinating with people who are court-ordered to work in community programs, among others.
Moyle said he also met with Apache Junction Police Department officials to become an equine rescue organization for local authorities.