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HomeNewsLocal newsTriple H Ranch Hosting Christmas Eve Fundraiser for Horse Rescue Mission

Triple H Ranch Hosting Christmas Eve Fundraiser for Horse Rescue Mission

Jaden Muse with Alpha, one of the Triple H Ranch horses, dressed in his holiday finest at the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy Triple H Ranch)
Jaden Muse with Alpha, one of the Triple H Ranch horses, dressed in his holiday finest at the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy Triple H Ranch)

Are you looking for a last-minute gift, or a memorable way to commemorate the holiday with loved ones? Triple H Ranch will host a Holiday Hope for the Horses fundraiser on Christmas Eve, offering 15-minute photo sessions with its rescue horses at Vessup Beach on St. Thomas.

The fundraiser will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, with images digitally delivered to participants the same day. The donation is $200, and all funds will go to providing the horses with food, bedding, and medical services.

Triple H Ranch VenmoTriple H PaypalTime slots may be reserved by calling or texting 512-550-9490, or emailing triplehranchvi@gmail.com. If you’re too busy to join in the holiday photo shoot, donations are welcome any time via Venmo at @hhhranchvi or Paypal at triplehranchvi@gmail.com, or by using the QR codes.

Triple H Ranch, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization based on St. Thomas, is dedicated to the rehabilitation, retraining and rehoming of horses of all kinds, including retired racehorses and horses that are in need.

While new legislation has been enacted as the territory’s horse-racing industry readies to return following the devastation to the St. Croix and St. Thomas tracks wrought by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, provisions are vague for what happens once the horses finish their careers.

Alpha, one of the horses in the care of Triple H Ranch. (Photo courtesy Triple H Ranch)
Alpha, one of the horses in the care of Triple H Ranch. (Photo courtesy Triple H Ranch)

“There’s no legitimate after-care program,” said Travis Mitchell, a retired U.S. Marine who said during a recent interview that the non-profit is a way for him to continue a life of service that he found he was missing when he ended his 20-year military career in 2016. “Somebody has to do it. It’s a problem Caribbean-wide, it’s not just a St. Thomas problem,” he said.

According to a 2017 story in the Paulick Report, billed as North America’s leading independent horse racing publication, some 400 thoroughbreds are euthanized annually in Puerto Rico immediately after they finish their racing careers, often after already long careers on the U.S. mainland. “To compound the issue, some people, rather than putting the horses down, release them into the bush with no reliable food or water source,” it said.

A major barrier is the fact that rescuing and rehoming horses is costly, and because there is no money to be made in the after-care business — but plenty needing to be spent — few are willing to step up.

“Nobody gets rich. There is zero money in it,” said Mitchell. “That’s the bottom-line truth.”

“The biggest outcome is that you give somebody the opportunity to be a hero,” said Tiffany Muse, an advisor and volunteer with Triple H, which also has two silent board members.

“The only thing you can really get out of it is seeing the complete joy of a child, which is absolutely amazing to watch, the happiness of a father witnessing it, and the knowledge that I think these horses probably have more to give at the end of their lives than they do in their prime,” said Mitchell, adding that he would like the after-care mission to become a collaborative effort with the wider equine community on St. Thomas.

Last year, the organization received $38,000 in government funding, “which covers exactly the cost of my grain, my hay and my bedding — not including the shipping here,” said Mitchell. “That cost is a sixteenth of my total cost.”

Yet, he noted, there’s not an industry in the USVI that horse racing doesn’t touch or contribute to.

“Agriculture, tourism, taxis, safaris, hotels, transportation, shipping, flights, even down to waste management — every single thing on this island gets touched in one way or another,” he said.

Travis Mitchell prepares a horse for loading onto a cargo plane in November to be flown off-island to the U.S. mainland after a quarantine stop in Puerto Rico. (Source photo by Sian Cobb)
Travis Mitchell prepares a horse for loading onto a cargo plane in November to be flown to the U.S. mainland after a quarantine stop in Puerto Rico. (Source photo by Sian Cobb)

Despite the financial challenges, last month the organization flew six horses and one donkey off-island on two flights at a cost of some $7,000 per flight. The animals had to quarantine at Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare in Puerto Rico before heading to their new homes or rescues on the mainland. Two were from St. John, and simply transporting them to St. Thomas cost $365, and then there was the cost of housing, feeding and caring for them for 16 days before the flight, said Muse.

“I just can’t continue without funding,” said Mitchell. The rescue has fixed costs that could be easily filled but currently are not.

For example, Triple H Ranch needs the use of one 40-foot shipping container every quarter to bring in supplies such as hay and feed.

“Whether it be funded by a shipping company, whether it be funded by a corporation, whether it be funded privately, that’s an enormous cost. That’s $6,000 a quarter, every single quarter. Just for the shipping – that’s empty. I still have to fill it,” said Mitchell. “That’s a guaranteed cost that someone could say, ‘My money is going straight to that.’”

Other regular costs include two round-trip tickets every month for a veterinarian and farrier to assess and treat the horses in Triple H’s care. “That’s every single month, whether it be private people using their miles, whether it be a corporation doing that, whether it be an airline doing it, I don’t know how it gets funded, but that’s a cost every single month,” said Mitchell.

“It’s a cost, and it’s guaranteed,” he said, adding that he has had limited success in finding an Airbnb or hotel to offer lodging once the vet and farrier arrive on island. “Nobody is entertaining the idea.”

Then there is the daily operation, such as manure management. “It has to be done every single day. What we do is we keep it out of the landfill,” said Mitchell, who delivers the waste to farmers to use as fertilizer. “But I’ve got to pay for someone to help me with it. I already use my own equipment, my own fuel, my own time. That’s a daily cost,” he said, on top of hay, grain, and bedding.

Another desperate need is a mobile X-ray machine, so Triple H Ranch can take its own images to send to the vet, rather than flying one in with the necessary equipment.

“If anyone knows how I can get one donated — new, used, I don’t care. I’ll do the X-rays, then I can email them to an equine vet and they can read them. I need one desperately,” said Mitchell. “That would benefit the entire island, not just me.”

“That would be a game-changer. Right now, these horses go without X-rays,” said Muse.

“Those are just some of the basics,” said Mitchell. “Anyone interested in helping me with this, just call me, or text me or email me. Not one single penny will be wasted. Not one single penny will go to enrich anybody. Not one favor will be given,” he said.

“It’s not going away. It has to be addressed. We have to find creative, inventive ways to solve this,” Mitchell added.

For more information, to volunteer or to donate to Triple H, call 512-550-9490 or email triplehranchvi@gmail.com.

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