With a desire to reduce the number of Oklahoma horses at-risk through education, outreach, and adoption, Nexus Equine was founded in 2016 under the leadership of Rita Hoch, president and CEO. But even with such lofty goals, Hoch could not have imagined the sort of life-changing event that occurred in February 2021.
A Fateful Ice Storm
“For the first five years, we didn’t have an official facility,” says Hoch. “While the previous facility was adequate, the weather forecast for that fateful month in 2021 indicated that it would be really cold with life-threatening wind chills.”
With the predicted ice and extreme cold, there was a legitimate concern that not only would the caregivers be unable to reach the horses at Nexus Equine, but that the horses might not have the type of shelter they required to meet their needs.
“We ended up having some longtime supporters take some of the horses in,” explains Hoch. “One of them was my father, and I ended up staying out there with him for a week during the storm.”
One morning during her stay, Hoch received a call from a donor.
“The roads were bad, people were out of power, the water was frozen, and we had 17 Nexus horses at my father’s house so that they could be taken care of and have adequate shelter,” Hoch says. “When [the donor] called, she asked what I was doing. I explained to her everything that was happening. She marveled at it all and was impressed and grateful for the lengths we were going to for our horses.”
Hoch returned to her chores, but about 30 minutes later, the donor called again.
“Between the two phone calls, I had fallen in the snow and my niece had to get me up,” Hoch says. “Both of us were laughing at how crazy all of this was. We were trying to break the ice. We had to carry water buckets to the house to fill up since the water was frozen at the barn. It was a nightmare. When she called back, she said we’ve got to get you into a facility where you never have to do this again. She said I want you to be able to carry out your mission both today and tomorrow. I started crying!”
New Nexus Equine Facility and Outreach
Fast-forward to June 2021.
“We were given this beautiful opportunity to get into this property,” Hoch says. “It’s on the west side of metropolitan Oklahoma City in a small town called El Reno. It’s a 160-acre property with a beautiful barn, along with hay and equipment sheds. There’s a beautiful 3,000-square-foot home that allows for someone to be onsite 24/7, with 5½ miles of pipe and cable fencing and multiple run-in sheds. It also features an indoor covered arena and an outdoor arena. We can do anything with this facility.”
Without that phone call, the current level of organizational maturity might never have happened or, if it did, it may have taken years of fundraising to reach. Today, the anonymous donor, along with others, continues to demonstrate their support.
“Today, we can take care of any horse that we need to take care of,” Hoch says. “We can increase our capacity to help more equines.”
Beyond being able to help more horses, it’s equally important to Hoch to expand the organization’s community outreach.
“We want to create opportunities for the community to be involved,” she says. “We want them to have interactions with horses that they otherwise might not have. Since we’ve been out here, we’ve had many different organizations come out that would not have been able to if we were not at this facility. In particular, it would not have been possible for children to come out and ride and interact with horses, learn something, then go back to inner-city Oklahoma City having done something different.”
Just one example of the organization’s expanded community outreach is a partnership they have with the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Police Athletic League. This partnership allows children to come to the facility and be exposed to positive opportunities and interactions. In addition to riding and engaging with the horses, the children have an opportunity to learn about farrier care, nutrition, and other aspects of horse health.
“Any time you can show these kids—especially ones that have never been exposed to horses—that there is a whole other world of interests and opportunities they may not have been aware of before, it’s pretty incredible,” says Hoch.
As someone who knows firsthand the impact that horses can have on a life, she believes it is very important for her to create these types of opportunities for others. Another example of Hoch’s vision was hosting the Center of Family Love, a residential care facility that serves mentally and physically disabled adults, earlier in 2022.
“It brought us all to tears watching them interact with the horses,” she says. “Spending time with horses, interacting with their quiet beautiful nature, not only brings positivity to one’s life, but I believe makes us better versions of ourselves.”
Help Is Still Needed
Like many organizations, Nexus Equine was hard-hit financially by Covid. If not for their grittiness, increased costs for even the upkeep of the old facility might have been out of reach. Now, however, they look to continue to grow. Increased opportunities for youth engagement and a bigger facility mean a bigger budget. Financial contributions are always welcome through the organization’s website, nexusequine.org. The organization also has an Amazon Wish List to help meet their needs.
If you are unable to contribute financially, volunteers are always welcome, and increasing the organization’s volunteer base is at the top of Hoch’s list of goals. An application can also be found on their website.
It’s an exciting time at Nexus Equine, and everyone is welcome to take part.