Equine Rescue Program at Lakewood Equestrian Center Welcomes Volunteers

Kelley Pierce
VOLUNTEERS learn how to feed horses at Shoestring City Ranch.

Driving down Carson Street, it is hard to miss the large property filled with riders and their horses, known as Lakewood Equestrian Center. What goes unnoticed is a program based on-site called Shoestring City Ranch.
This program, created by Karen Thompson, “provides free and low cost rural experiences to city kids while teaching teamwork, respect, and leadership skills in an ecologically friendly green-space working with rescued animals.” Inspired by her own experiences with horses as a child, Thompson started the program in 2009, with the hopes of giving urban youth an opportunity to partake in similarly positive experiences.
Shoestring City Ranch, which has grown rapidly since its creation and is funded solely by donations, has between 10 and 15 horses at a time. All different breeds of horses are accepted, including thoroughbreds and paints, currently ranging from age seven to age 33. Dakota, a mare suffering from lordosis, or swayback, is the oldest, just having turned 33 this January. This is quite remarkable considering the lifespan of most horses is between 25 and 30 years.
In response as to how she acquires these animals, Thompson explained that she receives calls extending throughout the community from people with horses in need of a home. Because of the substantial cost of owning and maintaining care of a horse, frequently when the owner of a horse passes away, the family is unable to support the animal. These families will contact Thompson in hopes that she will adopt the horse, which she often does. She also receives calls from animal control and other animal agencies who have encountered a homeless or mistreated animal in need of care.
When asked how much she works for her organization, Thompson replied, “It seems like full-time work, but it is a full-time passion.” That being said, she is at the stables seven days a week, mucking stalls, exercising and grooming horses, and helping volunteers interact and work with the animals. Thompson comes up with fun activities daily to keep the program interesting. She has even held a relay race for her volunteers on horseback!
She tries to leave early at least one day a week (typically Tuesday) as that is her weekly time to cook dinner for her family. Even though her sons are in their thirties, they still come together every Tuesday night for a meal and good company. On top of all her hard work at the stables, Thompson also maintains a full-time job at her real estate company located in Long Beach.
Thompson’s proudest accomplishment in beginning Shoestring City Ranch is “opening the eyes of the next generation of youth making decisions about these gentle creatures.” Her biggest concern in such large communities as Long Beach and Lakewood is that open and green spaces will be eradicated and horses will become a thing of the past. The aim for the future of the organization will be to continue to educate the community on the need for open spaces, especially for equine animals.
The volunteers for the program typically come from students of California State University, Long Beach, girl scouts, boy scouts, and school groups, as well as individuals. One youth participant remarked that because she lives in a high-crime neighborhood, she mostly stays inside, but Shoestring City Ranch allows her the freedom of being outside in a safe environment.
Anyone interested in volunteering is welcome, though there is a minimum age of nine, for safety reasons. Those who would like to volunteer, but are not familiar with horses need not worry. The program offers orientation days usually held on Sundays to teach volunteers proper etiquette and safety rules for being around the animals.
For more information or to volunteer, please visit www.shoestringcityranch.org or email kteamthompson@aol.com.



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