In 1996 Pat Miller and Roger Kavan of Ramah started Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue on their property after purchasing two horses for their own use. Those two horses worked their way into the couple’s hearts and stayed with them for the rest of their lives. The couple decided that they would devote their time to providing lifetime homes for horses, giving them a retirement in peace and comfort and, when the time came, euthanizing them rather than sending them to slaughter.
The ranch is named after one of their rescues. Ruby was an American Saddlebred who could no longer be ridden due to an injury to her hock. She lived at the ranch with her buddy, an Appaloosa named Twister, until Ruby was euthanized in the fall of 2006 at age 27. Twister remains at the ranch as the elder statesman of the herd of several mares and two resident donkeys.
The ranch has grown and has gained a reputation as one of the foremost horse rescue programs in the state. It is now a 501c3 and is governed by a five directors who are experienced horse people. The ranch has gained funding from several grant programs, including the American Association of Equine Practitioners, ASPCA and the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance. Ruby Ranch and other rescues such as Dreamcatchers work together when needed to rescue larger groups of animals.
Pat does a great deal of the hands-on work with the horses and supervises volunteers. She has gone through clinics and seminars by ASPCA and CART (the County Animal Rescue Team) and has gone through horsemanship training with many respected instructors including Pat Parelli and Buck Brannaman. She has also had the benefit of instruction from several veterinarians and has over 30 years’ experience in handling horses.
One of Pat’s passions is caring for senior horses. She frequently comments that “senior horses don’t need to be thin.” Her advice to owners of an elder horse is, “For senior horses, start with a dental exam to determine condition of the teeth. When no longer able to maintain weight on good quality hay, provide soaked feed. Use gently for riding and other exercise. Continue to provide equine companions and human attention after retirement. Monitor quality of life and determine when humane euthanizing is appropriate.” She recognizes that there are other circumstances which can affect the way an older horse looks or feels such as insulin resistance or Cushing’s disease, but overall, this is her yardstick of care for them. In fact, in all her rescues, she recommends starting with a vet exam and says that regular vet and farrier care is essential.
When Ruby Ranch takes in a rescue animal, they follow the protocol listed above. When possible, a horse is adopted out or fostered. Great care is taken to find a situation that meets the horse’s needs. For example, some horses are not physically able to be ridden and will only be given a home as a companion horse. Pat’s overall goal is to find permanent, loving homes for the rescued animals when possible. The rescue has strict rules listed in an adoption contract that allow them to visit the adoptive home at any time and to reclaim the animal if it is not being adequately cared for. An owner may also return a horse they are no longer able or willing to care for.
Miller’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. She regularly gets kudos from other horse people and trainers. That and the relationship she has with the grateful animals she rescues is her reward.