When the fast-moving vegetation fire broke out Monday off Hutto Road in Big Oak Valley, there was a brand new team on standby, ready to rescue endangered horses if necessary.
As it turned out, the team — Dave Fields and Lisa Smith of Lone Wolves Horse Rescue — was called off after a slew of fire agencies swept in to knock the blaze down quickly, containing it to one structure, an RV and 49 acres of brush.
“They got close,” said Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team leader Pat Ehlers of Fields and Smith. “They were ready to mobilize at the Hutto Road fire, but they didn’t have to.”
Incorporated about a year ago as a nonprofit with a website, www.lonewolveshorserescue.org, the new horse rescuers got their first official training on July 3 and, with that, were welcomed into Ehlers’ group. They will be getting membership cards soon, Ehlers said.
“Their expertise on horses is going to be used to the max,” said Ehlers, who at one time had almost 200 volunteers on her call list, mobilized through the Nevada County Office of Emergency Services. “The more horse people I have, the better.
“Also, they have a four-horse trailer,” she added. “Most of our members have one- or two-horse trailers.”
For their part, Fields, 61, a former member of the Yuba County Fire Department in Dobbins, and Smith, 35, a former Nevada County and Penn Valley rodeo queen and operations manager at Durham School Services in Grass Valley, say they are excited to be realizing their dreams of caring for horses in need.
“My original vision was to rescue dogs,” said Fields of the move to the couple’s 4-year-old, 25-acre Luv’in R Ranch on the outskirts of Big Oak Valley near Smartsville.
“The problem was, we got too attached and couldn’t rehome them.” After adopting five dogs, they switched to horses.
“One thing about horses is, they don’t sleep in your bed at night,” said Fields, who has since adopted a rescue horse for himself that he found wandering the streets in Cottonwood. “So it’s a little easier to rehome them.”
Now that operations are moving ahead, they hope the community will support their work through monetary donations or through purchases of their newly released product, Magic Manure, a horse manure “tea” plant fertilizer. The liquid fertilizer is available at two retail stores, A to Z Garden Supply in Grass Valley and Four Seasons Landscape Materials in Penn Valley, or through the Lone Wolves website, in either one-gallon containers ($30) or five-gallon buckets ($50).
“It’s tough for a new rescue group,” Fields said.
“There are a lot of very worthwhile charities fighting over the same dollars.”
So far, their group has received some donations and also some fees for rehoming horses, but that’s it, said Fields, who came up with the idea for Magic Manure.
“I’ve often been told I was full of poop,” he joked. “And we had all this manure sitting around, so I thought, ‘There’s gotta be something we can do with it.’”
After extensive research, Fields created what he considers to be the most plant-nurturing combination of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, with only one minimal additive. That is a biodegradable surfactant that “reduces the surface tension of the tea to allow much more rapid absorption of the nutrients in the roots and on the leaves,” Fields said.
“I would be happy to buy it,” said Ehlers.
“A couple of reasons — it’s good-quality manure without a lot of other crap.
“Also, I know these people, and you know what they’ve got,” she said.
In addition to Fields’ adopted rescue horse, the couple have so far rescued four horses: a second one found in Cottonwood that was rehomed, a horse found in Santa Cruz that was rehomed, and a horse they found near Bear River High School that was rehomed in four days by a friend of Smith’s.
Sassy, a 9-year-old mare they are fostering for Sammie’s Friends animal shelter in Nevada County, is progressing well after being adopted out 2 1/2 years ago and then returned by the owners about a year ago.
“She’s shy and skittish and she needs work,” said Fields of Sassy, whom the couple suspects may have been abused some years back.
“She’s green broke, but most people don’t want a horse that’s not fully broke.”
At a visit this week at the ranch, Fields was able to ride Sassy around the yard.
“This is her first ride out of an area or round pen,” said a beaming Smith. “She’s doing so much better.”
The couple also expects to house a new rescue horse, an 18-year-old mare named Cherry Pie, that belongs to a 25-year-old special needs woman who is a client of local health-care nonprofits. The woman, who is being relocated to Auburn, had lived in Sierra City but lost both of her parents earlier this year. Her mother, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, died in April; her father, a U.S. Army veteran, died in his sleep 18 days later.
“The horse is all she has,” Fields said. “We’re told it’s very malnourished and needs a lot of vet care and food.”
The ranch also hosts special needs clients from Achieving Independent Milestones, an Auburn- area nonprofit, on a bi-weekly basis to visit with the horses and help with chores.
“We just wanted to have property and horses and be out in the country,” said Smith, whose two children and her own horse, Abner, also live at the ranch.
“Now, we have a herd of dogs instead of a herd of horses.”
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.