When Rhonda and Laura Stock launched the Happy Little Hooves animal sanctuary early in 2019, they did so with the intention of giving small animals a forever home while providing care and improving health for those animals.
It’s grown much quicker than they could have ever imagined, but their mandate of providing that level of care hasn’t changed.
Happy Little Hooves started at the end of January with just three animals. Now they’re up to 15, and getting close to capacity. Two donkeys, a miniature mule, eight miniature horses and four ponies reside there, in addition to animals they had before Happy Little Hooves started.
“We decided we would start an actual sanctuary and see how it goes, and it exploded,” Rhonda Stock said, laughing.
The sanctuary is a not-for-profit that provides veterinary care, hoof care and a loving home to animals. It’s not a rescue shelter or a place where the animals are up for adoption.
It is registered with animal protection services, so they want to save room for a few more animals to care for, in case one arrives that requires care and the Stocks’ expertise.
“We want to make sure we have room for them, so we’re kind of tapped out at 15 right now, until we can do some more fencing, too, and that’s one thing we’re fundraising for is money to get more fences up so we can have more of the animals,” Stock said.
The animals they do have are doing very well. The toughest cases were three ponies who were in really rough shape. One of them was all skin and bones; another’s hair was all falling out due to malnutrition and anemia.
“We got them all fixed up, and with the little guy, who was all skin and bones, he’s starting to gain weight now and he’s starting to look a lot better,” said Stock. “He’s a work in progress. A lot of them come in with hoof issues, and so we’ve been working on those, getting everybody’s hooves fixed up.”
The Stocks have also been working on some behavioural issues, getting their animals to be more sociable.
They still don’t intend to open up the sanctuary for adoptions. It’s still meant to be a place where the animals move on, in case they find themselves in another bad situation.
“In the future, we may do a fostering program, where they would still be part of the sanctuary, but they would be fostered by other people, but we’re not to that point yet. And we would only do that with the really healthy ones, whereas most of the ones we have, have some kind of health issue or behavioural issue, which is why they’re here.”
Other members of their animal family have been there for a while. Horton the donkey arrived at the end of 2011 after living as a petting zoo donkey. Horton was particularly attached to a goat named Nigel, who had a temper.
“The goat was chasing kids, and so we took him in so that Horton could still stay with his goat, because they were super attached,” said Stock. “Horton is very social, and he loves going out and meeting kids and things.”
Horton’s about 20 years old now, but he’s still living a healthy and happy life.
An open house was held on June 29 at the Stocks’ farm southwest of Estevan. Stock described it as an opportunity to introduce their animals to the public, show them where they live, and provide the story on some of the animals, so people know where the sanctuary is located and what they’re about.
Pony rides were offered for children, and people could visit a pony kissing booth. A silent auction and a canteen raised funds, and stuffed donkeys and horses were for sale.
“It’s a chance to meet the animals and pet them and get to know them all,” said Stock.
Stock said they still need hay, since their ponies need to be on dry feed as opposed to rich, green grass. Fencing materials, as mentioned before, would be welcome. Supplements, oats and other items would also be appreciated.
People can sponsor animals at the shelter, with sponsorships ranging from monthly to yearly, and they will receive updates on their animals’ progress. Stock said they have some sponsorships already.