Mending Horses and People! Rewarding Volunteers!

Thanks to Ariat International, five deserving volunteers at equine charities across the United States receive a $270 Gift Card for Ariat Boots each quarter. Ariat International sponsors the EQUUS Foundation Champions program, which aims to stimulate and reward volunteerism on behalf of horses.

We would like to congratulate the winners for the third quarter of 2021: Peggy Haasl, Linda Howlett, Susan McLemore, Carol Rowehl, and Ilyssa Stokdyk. The EQUUS Foundation is grateful for volunteers like these who dedicate their time to keeping horses safe and healthy and aiding the charities and horses that serve people in need.

Peggy Haasl

Amazing Grace Equine Sanctuary (AGES)

Elkhart Lake, WI

“Never ever could I have imagined how a July Sunday Visitor’s Day at Amazing Grace Equine Sanctuary would impact my life,” said Peggy. Peggy and her husband Dennis had recently retired. With their children and grandchildren a distance away, they began looking for new things to see and experience. The “Visitor’s Day” sign caught their attention so that began their entry into the world of horses. Having had no prior experience with horses, Peggy was amazed at the social and diverse personalities the horses have.

Charlie was standing at the fence with a self-proclaimed greeter status. Then they met Gypsy and Maggie, both blind, plus two donkeys and another blind horse, Frosty. There are over 20 horses and two donkeys – each with a story of their own. “All the horses were so responsive to everyone’s attention. I found this fascinating and just wanted to learn more,” said Peggy.

Peggy’s eyes were also opened to learning about the varied backgrounds of each of the horses, and, in some cases, sad stories – all of which emphasized to her the ongoing need for equine rescues and sanctuaries. There was Sally – afraid of everything and unwilling to even be touched when Sally she first came to AGES, and then her incredible transformation beyond words.

“For me a day, bad or good, is enhanced with time with a horse. I look forward to each visit and undoubtedly a few laughs too. I am grateful to everyone at AGES for the opportunity to spend time there — feeding carrots especially, and yes, even mucking. Whatever your age, physical abilities or knowledge, there is a place for you too. Your life will be enriched, guaranteed!”

Linda Howlett

Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue Inc. (RVHR)

Hardy, VA

After retiring in 2018, Linda was drawn to Roanoke Valley Horse Rescue (RVHR) and their mission to rehabilitate, retrain and find forever homes for abused, neglected, starved, and slaughter-bound horses.

Whether it is feeding, cleaning stalls and water tanks, grooming, round penning, assisting the farrier, or helping with fundraisers, Linda feels she is making a difference in the lives of the 32 horses at the rescue and it’s been a rewarding and humbling experience for her.

“I quickly learned rescue horses are a special breed. Some have trust issues, some have broken spirits, some are blind, some arrive in poor condition as animal control seizures. Each and everyone of their stories have captured my heart, and it makes me want to love them that much more,” said Linda. “It’s such a joy seeing these horses placed with their forever homes.” Linda can count her home among them. She adopted two of the horses this year, Jake and Mack. A win/win situation!

Susan McLemore

Second Chances Equine Rescue (SCER)

Hinesville, GA

“Being a member of the volunteer team at Second Chances Equine Rescue is extremely rewarding to me,” said Susan McLemore. “Each time I feed, groom, assist with the farrier and vet, help with community service events, work on ground training, do grounds maintenance, or clean up the tack and feed rooms, I learn something new about equine care – and sometimes about myself.”

For Susan, it is an honor and a privilege to be a small part of the lives of the equines who arrive in need, go through the rehabilitation process, and find their forever homes. It is equally important for Susan to be able to love and care for the sanctuary herd who will live out their lives at SCER in comfort and with dignity.

Enamored with horses her entire life, it wasn’t until Susan found SCER that she could be involved with horses on a regular basis. “Finding Second Chances Equine Rescue was a godsend,” continued Susan. “With retirement from the working world just around the corner, I will have more time to dedicate to volunteering and I’m very excited about that!”

Carol Rowehl

Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy, Inc.

Philadelphia, PA

Carol Rowehl is no stranger to horses. She started riding lessons when she was 10 years old. At college, she competed as a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) teams at SUNY Farmingdale, Delhi, and Stony Brook. During graduate school, she co-owned a bay Anglo-Arab mare named New Morning (Nellie). Carol and Nellie competed in local horse shows, winning many classes and championships. She brought Nellie with her when she moved to Syracuse, NY, to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Carol retired Nellie but continued riding when she moved to the Philadelphia area.

Five years later, Carol was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Although surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy left her cancer free, she was permanently disabled. Sixteen years later, she saw a brochure for a 16-week riding program for cancer survivors. She didn’t think she could get through a lesson without experiencing nausea, fatigue, or hypoglycemia, but wanted to give it a try. That experience gave her the confidence to continue with lessons at Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy (TRA) and to also volunteer — assisting with barn chores, leading school horses or assisting students as a side-walker in lessons, and exercising school horses. “I am so grateful for the relationships I have formed with the volunteers, staff, students, and horses at Pegasus TRA, and thoroughly enjoy my time there assisting however I can,” said Carol. This month, Carol was recognized at the Pegasus TRA annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner for five years of dedicated service.

Ilyssa Stokdyk

Amazing Grace Equine Sanctuary (AGES)

Elkhart Lake, WI

Ilyssa Stokdyk, a Freshman homeschooler, started volunteering at Amazing Grace Equine Sanctuary in 2018, joining her father and sisters, who had found out about AGES from a friend.

Her family had introduced her to horses when she was younger, and she was able to take lessons, compete in a few small shows, and even lease a horse. Sadly, she is not riding currently, but hopes to start again soon.

“AGES is such a great place,” said Ilyssa. “It is so wonderful to see horses that used to be in great need living happily with other horses, getting all the care and attention they deserve!” Ilyssa and her sister spend several hours volunteering once a week. Although she admits it can be tiring, she enjoys helping and interacting with the horses.

“I am an animal person – my favorites being horses, of course! They are all so sweet, with such different personalities! Sometimes, I get to help train and ride the horses, but most often, we muck, groom, and do other tasks that need to be done,” said Ilyssa. “I also really like helping with the fundraisers, especially the biggest, Hope For Hooves. I really like Ariat and am super excited about being one of the winners!”

Learn more about Champions here

ABOUT EQUUS FOUNDATION: The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, is the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America’s horses and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail:, Website:

ABOUT ARIAT INTERNATIONAL: Ariat International, Inc. is the leading manufacturer of innovative performance equestrian footwear, apparel and belts. Featuring a patented technology designed to deliver stability, durability and comfort, Ariat pioneered the application of advanced athletic shoe technology into English riding boots and authentic Western boots. Ariat products are sold in a network of retail outlets throughout the world. For more information about Ariat products or for the Ariat retailer nearest you, contact Ariat at 800.899.8141 or visit

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Contact: Lynn Coakley