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EQUUS Film Festival Tour Stop Helps the Warm Springs Horse Network Raise Money to Save Wild Horses

Updated on September 27, 2017

The Warm Springs Horse Network Team

Shontae, Ronnie, Beth and Tori.
Shontae, Ronnie, Beth and Tori. | Source

The Warm Springs Horse Network Core Group

When the EQUUS Film Festival headed to Oregon for its September 21-23 Tour Stop with the Warm Springs Horse Network (WSHN), Lisa Diersen and Diana De Rosa were looking forward to learning about this young horse rescue.

Part of that picture came alive on the drive from well-known Portland to lesser known Madras. They were treated to miles of desert land with glimpses of wild horses along the way. That created the landscape for what one group of four people have done to save some of the Warm Springs Reservation foals from going to slaughter.

The voices of those four people and the positive messages they continue to send are what has made the WSHN become a mild but mighty powerhouse. Together they have proven time and again that if there is a will, there is a way to give these horses a second chance.

The first “voice” that Lisa and Diana encountered was that of Beth Matanane, who many applaud as the marketing genius that has helped to make WSHN an overwhelming success. To date they have helped save almost 700 horses from ending up at the auctions.

Diana De Rosa, Lisa Diersen, Jason Smith, Bruce Anderson and Julianne Neal
Diana De Rosa, Lisa Diersen, Jason Smith, Bruce Anderson and Julianne Neal | Source
Brigette McConville of the Salmon King Fisheries.
Brigette McConville of the Salmon King Fisheries. | Source
Bruce Anderson giving a clinic.
Bruce Anderson giving a clinic. | Source

How it All Began

You may think that there was a game plan to what would ultimately be called the Warm Springs Horse Network, but the path that led to this began with the site of a horse.

Beth recalls seeing a gorgeous black horse with white stockings in the corrals at the Warm Springs Fairgrounds where they round up the horses who are then taken to the auctions. It was love at first sight and so Beth contacted Shontae Thomas, a friend who works at the Warm Springs Reservation school, and asked if she could track down this horse.

“She looked for him and he was already gone,” Beth recalls. “He’d been shipped to the slaughterhouse.”

A disappointed Beth was then caught off guard when Shontae then touched her soul by letting her know that the black horse was gone but there were three babies left behind that needed a home.”

Knowing that the outcome for these motherless babies would not be good if left on their own, Beth and Shontae both came to the same conclusion. They needed to step in and do something. Yet, bringing up a baby foal was not something they knew anything about. So, Shontae called someone who did.

“She asked if I knew anything about raising orphan horses,” explained Robbie Pruitt, a local breeder of Arabian horses and the recipient of that phone call. “I said I’ve raised about 150 babies….” And so that was the hook that caught the third person (now VP of WSHN) who would help kick off what was soon to be the Warm Springs Horse Network.

Robbie had just finished adding a foaling stall and told Shontae she could take them off her hands for about a week, and that was almost four years ago. When Shontae arrived, Robbie recalls that she had gone shopping and showed up with lots of bottles, calf nipples and other things. With a chuckle, Robbie told her to take all that back.

“We are going to teach them how to drink out of a bucket,” she explained. That defining moment was truly the beginning of their rescue because soon after they placed two of the foals.

“The third baby did not get adopted,” explained Beth. He had a backwards questionmark on his face, so we named him Quizzie and Shontae took him home, where he still resides.

Bruce Anderson clinic.
Bruce Anderson clinic. | Source
A bus load of kids came for the free kid's morning.
A bus load of kids came for the free kid's morning. | Source
Shontae, Ronnie, Beth and Tori.
Shontae, Ronnie, Beth and Tori. | Source

A Time For Help

As time went on and more foals arrived, it was clear they needed help. Beth set to work starting a facebook page and that took them one step closer to officially being called the Warm Springs Horse Network.

“It took a little while but our facebook page grew,” Beth explained. “We quickly realized that there was a desire to help these babies and so that is when Chontae hosted a gathering in May of 2014.”

It was a cry for help. They needed volunteers to do things like cleaning stalls and helping care for the babies. And it was one of the respondents that became the fourth member of this team.

Tori Reid, who is now the treasurer, responded to that cry and once onboard realized her background of having worked for the Humane Society of Albany could help guide them. With the help of her lawyer husband they did what was necessary to make the WSHN into a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Once Shontae accepted the role of president, the organization was formed.

In fact, Tori’s check for $200 became their very first donation. Tori opened their eyes to the reality of what they had created and told them, “You cannot support this. You will burn out.”

“It was with her encouragement that we asked for donations. We started out at $50 (to cover the adoption fee) plus a donation and then upped it to $100. Now our adoption fee is $130,” explained Beth.

“Up until then, we were all digging into our pockets,” Robbie explained. “Now when we get a load in we immediately publish photos and people come and get them. And these fundraising events give us a cushion and help us to make up the deficit.”

Beth Matanane with her horse Shima (Mother in Navaho)
Beth Matanane with her horse Shima (Mother in Navaho) | Source
A Tribunal Dance was part of the ceremony.
A Tribunal Dance was part of the ceremony. | Source
The Tribunal presenters shaking hands with the audience.
The Tribunal presenters shaking hands with the audience. | Source
Bruce Anderson
Bruce Anderson | Source

Becoming the EQUUS Film Festival Oregon Tour Stop

With the support of donations and fundraisers they have been able to cover their costs and this year decided to expand their annual fundraiser by becoming an EQUUS Film Festival Tour Stop. The fundraiser began on September 21 with a sold-out VIP party. It started with a Tribunal youth dance, followed by dinner and concluded with Indian Relay, a film that focuses on following the teams from different American Indian communities as they prepare for and compete in a grueling Indian Relay season, with the goal of being named the National Champion.

The next two days were filled with close to 30 horse films, a trade show, silent auction and clinics by noted trainer Bruce Anderson, who was there with the film director and longtime partner, Julianne Neal. Anderson’s focus on humanship through the help of horses captured an interested crowd as he showed how handling a horse with kindness and clarity would create a strong foundation to build on.

Their film was one of many being shown in the beautiful Madras Center for The Preforming Arts. In The Edge – Bruce Anderson Natural Humanship, Anderson shows why he believes that man's capacity to reduce the wild is the cause and effect of mental imbalance. As a boy, he spent most of his time in "Mother Nature's classroom" learning key tools to balance the mindset; be more AlphA. The impact that horses have had on his life is fundamental to his work which uses a 1000 pound animal to deliver an epiphany: you are merely a steward of this earth. This film was the winner of the 2016 EQUUS Film Festival Equestrian Environmental Awareness WINNIE Award.

Also on hand was filmmaker Tory Kelly and Oregon horse trainer/clinician Stacey Riggs, whose film, Corrals To Competition was being shown. This film is about training wild horses in 100 days. The documentary follows Riggs on her journey of gentling, training and riding two wild mustangs for two separate Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions.

Those in the audience had a special treat because before and after both films were shown, the filmmakers and talent took time to explain each of their films before turning it over to the audience to answer questions.

One of the boutiques in the trade fair.
One of the boutiques in the trade fair. | Source
The Warm Springs Horse Network table.
The Warm Springs Horse Network table. | Source
A Silent Auction sample
A Silent Auction sample | Source
Lisa Diersen, EQUUS Film Festival founder.
Lisa Diersen, EQUUS Film Festival founder. | Source

Looking to the Future

Now the purpose of the organization is very clear. “We buy horses from the Warm Springs Reservation and place them. That had never been done on a consistent basis,” Beth remarked.

Obviously, the goal is to save these horses but also to help the tribe realize there are other ways to make money rather than selling the horses at the auctions.

“Creating a supportive relationship with the tribe is important,” commented Tori. Over time they developed a helpful relationship with Jason Smith, who represents one of the Tribal families. He is also the Warm Springs Range Manager. The more Jason got to know these four women the more he realized that this relationship could work. “We don’t talk about the negative, only the positive,” Tori added.

“It has to be positive about the horses. They, the tribe, had a negative connotation and we had to turn it around. We decided to change the name to something special. Beth came up with the name Pacific Northwest American Heritage Horses from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs,” she continued.

Although this may be a long name, “now you have something that everyone can connect with,” added Beth. “A connection with something that is of value to you. That is what began to make a difference.”

Another way they’ve helped to strengthen their brand through their facebook page is by engaging the owners so they can track the progress (or lack) of these adopted horses. “It gives the owners something to work on,” added Tori.

As the relationship with Jason grew stronger, the women asked if it would be possible to hold the foals until they were a little bit older because it was more expensive and harder to keep them alive when they were too young. Jason helped make that happen.

Overall, it has been a major success because they have a careful screening process to ensure those wanting to purchase the horses cannot only handle these new babies but are able to properly care for them.

“We ask for references, pictures of their facility and set up, such as the fencing and trailer,” Shontae said. “We also have a letter we ask them to read, which is quite lengthy and blunt and we do a phone interview. If at some point the eventual owners can no longer keep the horse we help them rehome it.”

“One of the things we all agree on is we would like to establish a website that the Tribal members can use to market their own horses,” added Robbie.

“We’ve laid the foundation,” Beth added.

Touring the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Jason Smith and Bruce Anderson
Jason Smith and Bruce Anderson | Source

Strengthening the Brand

Now, the Warm Springs Horse Network has become a household name when it comes to saving babies. “If a baby gets missed in the round up, the gateway to communication is open to us and they call,” Beth said. “Nowadays even tourists will call.”

Our conversation ended with the memory of one of the very young colts they saved. A Tribal member called and said she and her daughter had picked up the colt, put it in the backseat of their pickup and it was now in her barn. “Come get him," she said, so, “By hook or by crook,” Beth and Tori drove to the north end of the Reservation and put him in the trailer to get vetted by Robbie. "The story went viral,” said Beth, who was sitting with Shontae, Robbie and Tori. They all had been a part of that story and looking at the smiles of success on their faces said it all.

But they weren’t about to take all the credit. "That Tribal member cared and knew WSHN would move him beyond that power pole," Beth remarked.

All in all, this year's EQUUS Film Festival Oregon Tour Stop was a major success, thanks to not only the efforts of these four women, but also to those who attended the event and the sponsors who supported it.

“Next year we look forward to another exciting film event that we see as a benefit to the tribes of Warm Springs and are excited to continue to be an EQUUS Film Festival Tour Stop,” concluded Beth.

Warm Springs Horse Network is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to the placement of orphan foals. It focuses on the promotion of the Warm Springs horses from the Confederated Tribes in Warm Springs, Oregon and also offers educational opportunities that may be present to adults and children. Feel free to join their facebook page. Donations are always welcome. Email Tori Reid for more details:

The fifth annual EQUUS Film Festival will take place November 17-19 in New York City and is the first event of its kind to offer a home to the storytellers of the horse world, with films, documentaries, videos, commercials and shorts from around the world and also cultural elements of fine equestrian art and literature. EQUUS Film Festival highlights and rewards the diverse and creative efforts of those who pay artistic homage to the horse. The 2017 WINNIE Award Winners will be announced at the end of this year’s festival. For more information contact: Lisa Diersen (Founder/Director), 630-272-3077. For sponsorships and/or media: Co-organizer Diana De Rosa,, 516-848-4867.

A special thank you to the following sponsors:

  • Greta Pruitt, an educator out of California who was instrumental in sponsoring a busload of kids to come for the FREE Kids Morning.

  • Columbia Bank and Trust, The Smith Ranches, Salmon King Fisheries, Central Oregon Ranch Supply, The Law Offices of Jered Reid, Warm Springs Power and Water Enterprises< Indian Head Casino, TS&S Ford, MSS, Oregon Rescue Challenge and Oregon Pipe Mechanix.

Brigette McConville owner of the Salmon King Fisheries.
Brigette McConville owner of the Salmon King Fisheries. | Source

A look at the 2017 EQUUS Film Festival Madras Oregon Tour Stop


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