Hillary Dixon, past shift lead, current groom, and Bingo caller extraordinaire!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? My first time I was involved with horses was when I was four years old and had my first pony ride at the Woodland Park Zoo. It was all down hill from there. I signed up for the 4H club at the Woodland Park Zoo on my tenth birthday, but couldn’t start until I was twelve years old. I worked at the zoo for three years and learned everything about horses. During my childhood, I went to horse camps as well. When I graduated high school, I worked at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop during the summer, helping run the ranch of 45 horses and taking tourists on horseback rides. Those three months were the best time of my life.
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? I like the peace I feel being around the horses. It’s been so fulfilling to me and I needed that kind of healing in my life, along with the horses who need healing as well.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? Emmy was my first favorite when I started, then Slim, then Moon. They were all kind.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I play pool, camp or just get out into nature, be with great family and friends, and of course work too much to pay the bills.
Warren Nolder, Thursday AM rock star, facilities powerhouse, and best neighbor ever!
How and when did you first get involved with horses? Do you have one now you want to tell us about? I began working with SAFE last year in March, with absolutely no prior horse experience. Having lived next to the horse facility (that SAFE moved into) for years, I noticed a sudden increase in activity: fences being mended, massive weeding and mowing taking place, things getting pressure washed, new gravel getting laid out, painting happening all over, and old and discarded piles of junk being sorted out and dealt with. I would peak over periodically to check on the progress at the stables and one day, met Jeanne Stine who introduced herself, the SAFE organization, and their goals for the property. We talked off and on for the next few months, and it was always a positive and uplifting conversation regarding the horses and work efforts. I was continuously amazed at the number of people showing up to help out and the amount of work being done. At some point, I just felt the need to be part of that effort, and started volunteering soon after. The commute has been very pleasurable and the work has been very rewarding 😊
What do you like most about volunteering with SAFE? There are many things which stand out regarding what makes SAFE such a great place to volunteer for. The people involved with SAFE (volunteers, leads, etc.) have a genuine interest in the well-being of all the horses that come here. And that shows in their work as well as their words. The horses are fantastic, but not in the way most people think about horses. Every horse here has a story, many of which are very sad to hear. But the resilience of these animals is amazing to watch, and they each have something to teach us and share. The hands-on experience that can be gained as a volunteer is crazy good. Want to learn how to mend a fence? Boom, here is an opportunity. Want to help feed horses? We got that multiple times a day. Want to train horses? Tons of possibilities there as well. Every day I work at SAFE, I walk away feeling like I’ve actually helped move this effort forward, no matter how small or insignificant the task might seem that I completed. Thank you SAFE for this great opportunity.
Do you have a favorite SAFE horse? If so, why? When I first started I had favorites. Stormy was my very first favorite. She is blind, but was taught voice commands so she could navigate uneven ground. She was the first horse I ever led out to pasture and was incredibly gentle. People would say,” Stormy will be here the rest of her life.” But miraculously, she found a great home. And that’s kind of how it is around here. Horse miracles are constantly happening. Now I focus less on ‘favorites’ and more on seeing what is unique and special about each horse and what we can learn from each other.
What do you do when you are not horsing around with us? I’m retired now, but always seem to have very full, action packed days. Besides volunteering at SAFE, I maintain our acre lot, actively ride bikes to keep in shape (for working at SAFE), camp, hike and backpack with my kids, take German language classes, attend occasional dance courses with my wife Kerstin, do weekly wine tasting, and spend long vacations in Germany where half of our family is from.
Do you have family or special people in your life who support your volunteer work that you would want us to mention in your write up? Kerstin and our kids and our friends are very supportive of the volunteer work I do at SAFE. They are always enthralled by the latest horse news and adventures.