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Letter from the President: Getting My Hands (and Boots) Dirty

December 15, 2023, Jim Tedford

Honoring the loss of a dear friend, and recognizing the heroic work of animal welfare professionals

Dear Colleagues,

Just a little over a year ago I experienced the heart-wrenching loss of a dear friend. In truth, he was more than a friend.  He was more like a confidant, or a therapist. Murphy was a 32-year-old quarter horse who had been with us for more than 25 years. Like all companion animals he was a nonjudgmental source of peace and comfort to me through the thick and the thin. We covered hundreds of miles of trails during his riding career and shared a very special bond, the likes of which I doubt I’ll experience again. I could visit the barn and press my face into the thick of his neck to be transported back to my childhood.

I was nine years old or so when my Dad bought our first horse.  That was the beginning of a lifetime of love for all things equine. I still have a collection of Breyer model horses I started in those early years.  It’s that passion for horses that led me to Horse Haven of Tennessee. This rescue and rehoming group provides shelter and care for horses, mostly rescued from neglect or cruelty situations. I reached out to volunteer shortly after Murphy’s passing. I needed some horse time, and thought I could get it while also helping out horses who are far less fortunate than was my pampered boy. I attended volunteer training in January of this year and have worked almost every early Tuesday morning since then. Barn chores have proven to be the perfect treatment for what ailed me!

A few months ago a generous donor gifted Horse Haven with a beautiful piece of property on which we’ll be able to establish a permanent home.  Since its beginning, the organization has been on leased property, requiring a few moves along the way.  All the volunteers, staff and Board members are very excited about the opportunity to build upon the organization’s success.  Establishing a permanent home will require time, money and lots of hard work, but it will all be worth it in the long run.

I am honored to have been asked to serve on the Board, and to help make the dream of a forever home a reality. In some ways it takes me back to my roots in animal sheltering.  It has been a minute since I’ve been involved in a capital campaign and major construction project. But, I’m hoping it’s like riding a bike (which is something else I haven’t done in quite a while!). Whatever work is required, it will all be worth it to make sure Horse Haven is here to help these amazing horses when they need it the most. Getting my hands and boots dirty has been a great reminder of the heroic work happening in the trenches of animal welfare every day.  I applaud you all and your teams for the work you do, and am honored that your professional association—and me—are here to support you in that work


More from Jim

Be Thankful for Each Other
The Single Greatest Threat
Don’t Be Scared

About Jim Tedford
Jim Tedford, CAWA, is President and CEO of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.