Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Elaine Nash, CEO Fleet of Angels

Elaine Nash, CEO Fleet of Angels
By Gina McKnight
iView Column

Archived Article As seen in Nov/Dec 2014 Issue

Elaine Nash is the quintessential equestrian; growing up with horses, living with horses, riding horses, now saving horses. Elaine is the founder and director of Fleet of Angels (FOA), a non-profit organization providing safe passage for at-risk equines from danger to safety to save them from slaughter, disaster, abandonment, and abuse. Residing in New York City and Colorado, Elaine oversees the organization’s operations through a fleet of thousands of expert drivers and volunteer staff.  I had the great opportunity to connect with Elaine while she was in Colorado.  We had a wonderful conversation about equines and Elaine’s future goals for Fleet of Angels (FOA). Elaine foresees Fleet of Angels eventually enlisting a hundred thousand or more members. She emphasizes that there are millions of people in this country who own horse trailers, and that she would like for everyone in the country who has a horse trailer to register with FOA. You may never be called to volunteer, she states, but if you are, it is your opportunity to save an equine life. She stresses that if you register your horse trailer, and are called and asked to do something you are not able to do, all you have to do is say no. But, if you register your trailer, pasture, stable, or time, you will have the opportunity to save lives, and who knows, maybe you may need a Fleet of Angels in the future.

Gina: Welcome, Elaine! Thank you for connecting! What made you decide to organize a Fleet of Angels?

Elaine: Thanks for inviting me! Well, I saw a lot of posts on facebook of people talking about what’s wrong; we are all telling each other how bad everything is and I wanted to do something about it. I noticed that people would talk about how they would love to adopt rescue horses, but the cost of transportation was so high, they couldn’t afford to bring them home. So, I started thinking about how many people there are around the country who have horse trailers parked beside their barns and in most cases are always happy to help with horses in their area, or with horses who are in trouble. What I thought was we needed a way to connect the two – people who had trailers and people who needed help with transportation.

Gina: What steps did you take to organize Fleet of Angels?

Elaine: We are about two years old now, and in my mind we are just getting started. We have about 8,000 people participating, two facebook pages, and a website. The transportation networking page where people can post about help they need with transportation. The friends of Fleet of Angels can go there and connect and get help that way.  Fleet of Angels News facebook page where we post things about trailer safety, transportation issues, and things are related to what we do. Then we have a website where people can connect.  The website has the forms on it for people to register to be Angels, or they can make transportation requests. Half of our missions have been from our facebook pages. They go to the website and use the directory that has transport angels, layover locations, and foster homes to host equines overnight – horses, burros, and mules. When I say horses I mean all equines, burros and mules included. We also have a category that people can register in which is called ‘driver host.’ Sometimes we have a driver who transports horses a long distance and needs to stop overnight and keep the horses somewhere, it’s nice to have a place for the driver to sleep, too. We have people who open their homes to drivers to spend the night with them.

Gina: Do you have regular assigned drivers, or are they people from the Fleet of Angels registry?

Elaine: Anyone who is in the registry. We really have three different types of people who help us. We have folks who horse trailers parked beside their house, they don’t do anything professional with that trailer except for haul their own horses and they are available for transportation. Another category of driver who may have their own trailer, who are part-time professional haulers, in between when they have time from their own professional horse operation, they step in and haul horses for extra money. Then we have professional commercial horse transporters who are the big guys with the air-ride trucks and trailers and that’s all they do. The rules for Fleet of Angels membership is first of all, you have a good reputation in life in general and the fact that our horses will be safe with you, then, also, people, who transport for us, by joining us, they agree to transport either for free or for the cost of fuel or a significant discount off their regular rate. Our whole point is just not transporting horses; our mission is to transport at-risk equines for the least possible price.

Gina: Do you receive any government funding or other funding sources?

Elaine: No, I have funded this myself. I got non-profit status assigned to FOA last year. We are still in the process of getting our tax exempt status from the IRS. We haven’t been fundraising at any time except from sells of t-shirts, or anything until we started this burro campaign called the Guatemala 100, where we have been working on placing 200 wild burros in American homes. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is transporting the burros to Guatemala where they will be probably used for food.

Gina: What is the process to adopt a burro?

Elaine: The process is to send me an email to me at holdyourhorses@aol.com and ask for an application. I will email you a letter with a little bit of information in it and an application. It’s very simple, it’s three pages long, and not hard at all. The application asks about how many acres you have, if you have any other animals, if you have experience with animals, who’s your vet, and things like that. You send the application back to me and that starts the process. We are trying to get the burros placed in pairs. They are already paired up with a buddy. We don’t want to separate them from their buddy because they are very connected to their buddy. When your application is approved, and most of them are, we will start working with on transportation. Depending upon where you are we will work with BLM to get the burros on a truck that is going in your direction when they have an adoption in your area, or Fleet of Angels will assist with transportation from BLM’s holding facilities to where you are. The buyers need to pay all they can afford for fuel, but we do have funds that we have to assist with that. In the case of sell-authority-burros, which they are, that means they have been offered for adoption online three times by BLM and haven’t been adopted, they are put into a different category called sell-authority-burros. Those burros cost $25 a piece. If you adopt a burro through BLM, they are $125. These are very economical burros. Anyone can purchase the burros and with the help with transportation, we are making it quite reasonable to transport, and you can have two pretty cool burros.

Gina: Are there safety issues to be concerned about in regards to safe passage for the driver and the equines? Are there liability issues for the volunteer and how is that handled?

Elaine: It depends on the drivers. A lot of them are professionals or semi-professionals and have DOT (Department of Transportation) permits, insurance, and so forth. The others have whatever insurance they have on their vehicles, in terms of liability they have on their own farms would transfer to their vehicles, too.

Gina: Any issues with equine health and transportation?

Elaine: Fleet of Angels does not transport horses that do not have health certificates and everything appropriate for travel. They have to have their traveling papers with them, unless, it’s a situation where we are rushing to get horses out of areas where there are fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or something like that. In those cases, we try to get everyone with a trailer to show up and haul the horses out of there. General transportation requires horses have to have traveling papers. We have a lot of people buying through feedlots and auctions and things like that. We don’t handle those through Fleet of Angels, but I did create a separate facebook page for members who are not in the directory called Home Runs so that drivers are aware where the horses are coming from. They are aware so that they can help the buyers with any problems that may arise. They may help transport horses sold at auction to a quarantine facility or something like that. They take horses home for people, but it’s called a ‘dirty load.’ A ‘clean load’ is a load of horses that have all of their traveling papers up-to-date. A ‘dirty load’ are horses from situations from disasters and situations like that.

Gina: Do you have a favorite anecdote in regards to your operation?

Elaine: Well, there are so many. There are so many stories where people find horses that are starving to death, or about to be loaded onto a slaughter truck, and more. Someone may be advertising a horse on facebook or on Craig’s List, first come first serve, and they go get them and bring them home. They become gorgeous, beautiful and cared for horses. We have a lot of that type of thing happening. We had a call from someone about a Newfoundland Pony organization and they were in distress. There were something like 26 or 28 Newfoundland Ponies on the West coast of Vancouver Island, which is on the western most point Prince Edward Island. They had to be transported to the most eastern point of Canada. We found a transporter to them to the Vancouver. From Vancouver Island to the mainland, they had to take ferries. They all had to be ferried then all the way across Canada, then from the mainland to Newfoundland. That was 4,000 miles. The ponies are very rare now and Newfoundland government wanted the ponies. We have one we are working on right now that is 66 wild horses in Nevada that we are transporting to Florida. They are not trained to lead or anything like that. They are wild. They have to be hauled in big semi-trucks, a two-truck trip. We have livestock trucks where they can be herded up the ramp and into the truck, stopping a few places on the way, overnight, for food and water. They are going to be trained on a high level Parelli horse trainer specialist and homes will be found for all the horses.

Gina: Are all of the wild horses spoken for?

Elaine: No. None of them are spoken for yet. We are in the process of getting them transported. They have to first be taken in small stock trailers to another facility from where they are now to get their Coggins, health certificates, and feet trimmed. Then, when that’s done, which will take several days, then they will be loaded in the semi-truck to go cross-country. It is quite an operation when you are dealing with horses that haven’t been touched.

Gina: Wow. That’s quite an operation.

Elaine: Well, I think they have been captive once before. They have had their feet trimmed once before. They load them in special chutes where they are safe. The horse lays down to get their feet trimmed and let free.

Gina: Do you travel to location to oversee these events?

Elaine: No, I don’t. I am in Colorado right now, going back to New York again soon. Fleet of Angels has amazing people through the United States handling these situations. Last year there was a severe flood in Colorado. Lots of animals were lost. It had washed out homes and barns washed out. Fleet of Angels had almost 700 people in Colorado handling that situation. There were people riding up and down the river banks at night looking for lost equines and horses still alive. One guy rode horseback miles up to a place in high mountain country where several miles of road had washed out. He had a difficult time getting in there, but were able to get to the horses and lead them all out and down the mountain so they could be trailered to food and water. There were a lot of things like that going on. There were people all over the place looking for horses, taking care of horses, and providing food. There were hay drops and people providing hay, shelter, and so much more. Although Fleet of Angels started as more of an emergency organization for equines in trouble, we have become larger now, embracing all types of equine rescue scenarios. Groups of people are involved in a lot of things besides transportation. We have a network of thousands and thousands of amazing people who care about horses. They are willing to do a lot of things.

Gina: What is your horse history?

Elaine: When I was little, we had a big retired plow horse that our neighbor owned and he loaned him to us on kind of permanent loan for several years. His name was Smokey. I rode all over creation. I remember that I couldn’t get on the horse him unless he was lying down. I would get up early in the morning and find him lying down in the field and get on him and I would sit there until he decided to get up.  Sometimes I could get him up to a fence, but he would only stand at a fence head first, so I had to climb up on the fence and then jump up on top of his head and then slide down his neck to his back, or I could stand him beside a pickup truck and stand in the bed of the truck or the side rail of the truck and get on him.

I saw a Disney movie when I was kid called Toby Tyler about a little boy who ran away and joined the circus and sold peanuts and took care of the monkeys until the guy who did the horse act got hurt. Toby got to take over the horse act which this big white horse galloping around the ring. Toby would jump on and off, stand on him, and do tricks on him and things like that. When I saw that movie I was about five and I thought, ‘Well, I have a big white horse!’ So, when I got home I started practicing behind the ranch house where no one could see me, doing all that stuff.

One day, I told my mother to watch, and I came galloping up the driveway standing on my horses back! I have had horses ever since until a few years ago when we moved to New York City to help my son with his acting career. I have had an amazing life with horses; I had horses in my life all day every day. They are my calling now. What I do, I do for horses.

Gina: What does horsemanship mean to you?

Elaine: Horsemanship means partnership to me, really. To have good horsemanship one has to establish a real partnership with a horse so that the horse understands you, you understand your horse, and you do what you do together, with both of you happy about it! Physically willing to do what you are doing; which means without fear or intimidation. I am a big believer of natural horsemanship; the days of spurs, jerking, and intimidation, in my opinion, are over. We are past that. To me, horsemanship means partnership.

Gina: Thanks, Elaine, for a heartwarming conversation and insight to Fleet of Angels! Congratulations on your wonderful organization and best wishes to everyone who registered their trailer and have a hand in saving equines.

Connect with Elaine…

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