2017-03-24 / Neighbors

Nonprofit rescue gives ‘unadoptable’ horses a healing hand

Animal Guardians has saved 50 horses
By Melissa Simon

HELPING HORSES—At left, horse trainer Keith Elliott of Newbury Park pets the head of Baby, a 13-year-old mare, during a training session for volunteers March 11 at a corral in the Bridle Path neighborhood of Simi Valley. Above at right, Deborah Greene-Dellvon, executive director and founder of Animal Guardians Horse Rescue Inc., shows volunteer Natalie Zagnoli, 8, of Simi Valley, how to ride Texas, a 21-year-old gelding. Volunteers work with Animal Guardians’ ranch horses to learn how to work with rescued animals. HELPING HORSES—At left, horse trainer Keith Elliott of Newbury Park pets the head of Baby, a 13-year-old mare, during a training session for volunteers March 11 at a corral in the Bridle Path neighborhood of Simi Valley. Above at right, Deborah Greene-Dellvon, executive director and founder of Animal Guardians Horse Rescue Inc., shows volunteer Natalie Zagnoli, 8, of Simi Valley, how to ride Texas, a 21-year-old gelding. Volunteers work with Animal Guardians’ ranch horses to learn how to work with rescued animals. When Deborah Greene-Dellvon’s beloved horse Copper was injured and fell ill in 2009, she searched desperately for a place that could give him the care he needed.

At the time, Greene-Dellvon and her husband, Robert, were living in Virginia, where Robert was based at U.S. Naval Station Norfolk. Copper’s injuries prevented him from climbing the steep hill at the couple’s home, so Greene-Dellvon had to find a new place for her horse of 14 years to live out his days.


RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers But a local search proved difficult and she eventually sent Copper to a temporary boarding facility in Simi Valley, where she and her husband used to live.

“While we were still in Virginia, I missed Copper tremendously, so my husband and I decided to pull out our first rescue horse, Rosie, from a kill pen (later that year),” she said, adding that Rosie’s rescue was in honor of Copper, whom she’d saved years before. Greene- Dellvon found a foster for Rosie. Then that same person ended up adopting the horse.

That success marked the beginning of a venture that would eventually blossom into a full-blown nonprofit horse rescue.

In 2010, the couple moved back to Simi Valley. Copper remained in temporary boarding until 2012, when Greene-Dellvon discovered the Tierra Del Sol Foundation in Sunland, about 30 miles away, where Copper continues to spend his retirement days.

In 2013, she officially launched the nonprofit Animal Guardians Horse Rescue Inc., which aims to rescue, rehabilitate, adopt out and provide sanctuary for horses that have been abandoned or are considered unadoptable.

These days the rescue horses are cared for by a team of volunteers at a handful of stables in Simi, Fillmore, Valencia and Warner Springs, Calif.

“I felt sorry for horse owners like me who had no way to care for their horses and nowhere to turn,” Greene-Dellvon said.

“I founded the organization because I truly believe in saving the lives of senior horses and horses with special needs that would otherwise

(be euthanized or slaughtered) simply because they are not rideable,” she continued. “I know our organization can do something important to change this.”

The nonprofit’s name was inspired by one of the rescue’s first sponsors, who addressed the donation envelope as being from an “animal guardian angel.”

“That just hit me hard and I decided to name the rescue after her (because) her generosity changed the life of this horse (she was sponsoring),” Greene-Dellvon said.

To date, Animal Guardians has saved more than 50 horses.

Rescue success

One of the nonprofit’s first rehabilitated horses was Gitana, a 3-year-old filly pulled out of the West Valley Animal Shelter in Los Angeles County in 2014.

At the time, Gitana weighed about 400 pounds, not even half of the typical 860 to 900 pounds she should have been, Greene- Dellvon said.

“She was in near-death condition when we picked her up . . . after (her) abandonment at a boarding stable in the San Fernando Valley, where she had been locked in a self-care stall rental situation for months with a padlock on the stall, unable to reach water or food,” the nonprofit founder said.

“We . . . nursed her back to health. It took about five months to get her weight back on and give her some exercise,” she continued. “Gitana . . . turned out to be an amazing little girl who is still alive and well today, sound, happy and content with her new life and job as a cow-sorting western pleasure horse.”

Gitana’s is just one of the rescue’s many successful survival stories. Some of the animals are adopted, while those over 20 years old or with special needs are found a place to live out the rest of their days.

“All of our horses come from significant abuse, neglect and abandonment. They are all in need of greater sponsorship and we are definitely in need of more foster-care homes,” she said.

Aside from continuing to rescue horses, Greene-Dellvon said she wants to “heal the community from the inside out” by purchasing a larger piece of property to house the animals. She also wants to use the horses in a therapy program she hopes to start for battered women and foster children.

To learn more about the nonprofit, contact Greene-Dellvon at (805) 368-9123 or visit animalguardianshorserescue.org.

This story was updated March 24, 2016. The original version incorrectly stated that Greene-Dellvon founded the Tierra Del Sol Foundation in Sunland.

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