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James Todd
Zebís Wish offers mules, horses and humans a heaping of healing posted on 02/01/2019

When Suzi Cloutier moved sight unseen from Rhode Island to a rental farm in Dairy Creek, she was at a low point in her life. She was not expecting to meet a soul in even worse condition, a blind and starving mule named Zebediah abandoned on the property.

“I wasn’t too interested in being on this planet and he wasn’t too interested in leaving and we kind of saved each other,” Cloutier said about her fortunate introduction to Zeb the mule in 1997.

Zeb had fallen into neglect and was on the verge of starvation when Cloutier arrived in Dairy Creek. Through a slow process of rehabilitation, Cloutier nursed the blind mule back to health while discovering that compassion and selfless acts of service helped her deal with her own personal demons and heal herself.

Now more than 20 years and 54 rescued horses and mules later, Zeb’s Wish exists as testimony to the lesson of compassion Cloutier learned caring for the abandoned mule.

Zeb’s Wish became a 501c3 nonprofit equine sanctuary in 2013 and exists solely on private donations at its location in Sandy. The organization’s mission is “to rescue and rehabilitate special needs equines, conduct equine assisted learning and therapeutic activities and heal humans and equines alike.”

On Cloutier’s farm, a passionate and dedicated staff nurses her rescued herd back to health with integrated healthcare, a mixture of traditional and homeopathic veterinary care involving natural hoof care, Reiki energy work, chiropractic and massage therapy.

“I realized they’re my people,” Cloutier said about her herd throughout the years.

Traditional equine sanctuaries focus on young rideable animals that can be rehabilitated for adoption and human use. Zeb’s Wish focuses on animals that cannot be used in a traditional sense, many of which will require care until the end of their lives.

“It doesn’t make them any less valuable,” Cloutier said.

“It takes a lot of hands to make it happen,” she added about the sanctuary’s work, noting the organization has seven active volunteers providing care to the animals, six foster homes that rehabilitate neglected animals and five board members overseeing the organization.

“We have an amazing community of people volunteering,” Cloutier said. “We all come into this sanctuary as an act of service.”

Cindy Stevens fosters equines for Zeb’s Wish on her farm in Beaver Creek. She has fostered two mares for the organization and is currently fostering two ponies.

“No doubt they both would have died this winter if Zeb’s hadn’t stepped in,” Stevens said about the ponies. She described them as “walking skeletons” at the time of their rescue, but have since managed to put on weight and are expected to resolve health issues such as rain rot by the spring.

The practices Stevens uses to nurse horses back to help were established by the University of California Davis refeeding program. She described the program as the contemporary standard for feeding malnourished equines.

“A lot of people don’t realize the resources available,” Stevens said.

Zeb’s Wish is one of several organizations with resources available to help people provide for the health and nourishment of their animals.

“When you’re courageous enough to ask for help you can keep your animals from starving,” Stevens said. “We’re here to help people to succeed in keeping their animals because that’s the ultimate goal.”

Zeb’s Wish also exists to help humans find healing through their interaction with the herd on the farm. Victoria Kress is a board member and Reiki practitioner that teaches animal Reiki at the sanctuary.

Kress describes animal Reiki as a practice of meditation and energy work that encourages a connection with the animals and fosters a sense of comfort in both humans and animals.

Kress had been teaching this technique at the sanctuary for the past five years with classes offered three or four times a year. A level one class, offered for those with no prior experience with Reiki, will be held March 30 and 31. Level two and three courses will be held later in the year with the level three course serving as a Reiki teacher training class in the fall.

“It’s been quite a journey … one I’ve been fortunate to be part of,” Kress said.

Zeb’s Wish offers equine assisted learning programs, school field trips, service learning classes, retreats and monthly volunteer opportunities for community members interested in healing or being healed.

The sanctuary also hosts clinics including the upcoming “Natural Horse and Mulemanship” with trainer Marta Johann March 17.

Volunteer opportunities or other visits can be arranged by contacting the organization by email at zebswish@gmail.com.

More information about the sanctuary is available online at zebswish.org and events are posted on the Zeb’s Wish Facebook page.

Zeb the mule died after years of loving care from Cloutier at the age of 50.

His inspiration lives on, and Albert the mule was recently rehabilitated and adopted thanks to the efforts of Zeb’s Wish.

By Benjamin Simpson/MT

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