Alison Larson-Smith grew up riding horses. When she developed a bad back and could no longer ride, she knew she had to find a way to stay involved with horses. She decided to buy a miniature horse and fell in love with the breed.
About the same time, Smith was feeling a need to do something else, something with meaning. “I felt there was something I was supposed to be doing with my life,” she said. “I know now the rescue was what I was meant to do.”
Smith and her husband Steve own and operate a non-profit miniature horse rescue called Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue. Deciding to open the rescue took a bit of time. “I researched for over a year before acting on my dream,” said Smith. “It took me that long to work my husband over to get on board, too!”
But once Steve came on board he has not looked back. The couple find they work well together. Each has different talents and niches with the horses. “I am better as far as training and getting them to relax and adjust to their new homes,” said Smith. “I feel I just understand them and almost hear what they are saying to me.”
When Smith went to her lawyer to set up the non-profit organization, he was very skeptical of the need or demand for this type of rescue. Three days after the meeting, Triple H welcomed their first two horses. The rescue has brought in over 200 horses since 2007 and currently has 22 at the ranch.
When the opportunity arose to buy her husband’s family farm, they went for it and the horse rescue is located there. “We have had a lot of people come out and help with chores and updating the place,” said Smith. “We have volunteer night every Thursday and people can come out and help with chores and walk or groom the horses.”
Triple H has developed strict guidelines for adoptions and had good success with the process. “Most, but not all of the horses are broken and spiritless when they arrive and it can take a long time to get that spark back in their eyes,” explained Smith. “We want to make sure the horses go to a good home. Rescue is so much more than just taking the horse in and giving it food and water. You need to repair and rehabilitate and that can take months.”
Last year, a very special horse, Bella, was given to Alison as a gift. She is not a rescue horse, but she lives on the ranch and shares a pen with her buddy, Lilly. Bella is a tiny miniature horse and children are especially drawn to her. “She does have an attitude, but she knows when she is supposed to behave,” said Smith. “I have taught her some tricks, too. Last year she rang the bell (with her nose) for the Salvation Army and this year she learned to wave.”
‘Big-Hearted Bella Finds a Friend’ is the title of a new book authored by Smith and inspired by Bella. “My goal with the book right now, is to help children and the horses,” said Smith. “I really want to raise money to start a food bank for the horses, stockpile hay or take hay donations.”
She explained: “Many people who may have starving horses this winter don’t want to get rid of their horses – they don’t want to surrender them, but they may not be able to afford to feed them. It would be nice to be able to give them four or five round bales to get them through the winter. I also think it would be great if businesses buy the books and donate them so children who have been affected by disasters, are ill or mentally challenged can enjoy the books for free.”
(At the time of this interview, Bella and Smith were planning on traveling to the Red Cross shelter in Minot to donate some books to the children living there.)
For more information on the Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue, to donate, volunteer or buy books, visit hhhmhr.org. You can get updates on Bella at myminibella.org or visit her on facebook at facebook.com/bella.contessa.