Marylanders Paying it Forward (first published in the November 2019 Equiery)

In October, The Equiery asked its readers to nominate staff, organizers, volunteers and horses that have had an impact on the Maryland horse community through one of our State’s many non-profit philanthropic organizations. We received several nominations which were then reviewed by a committee with three selected here for print. This year, the committee selected one volunteer, one staff/organizer and one horse to be honored in The Equiery’s first November Giving Issue.

This year’s winners have all had a positive impact on their non-profit organizations. From a recently retired school teacher now dedicating her days to Gentle Giants, to a trainer who pairs unwanted horses with children who help transform them into show horses, to a horse that has spent the past 20 years patiently teaching campers, these individuals have touched the lives of many.

Here are their stories as told by the people who submitted their nominations. In addition, all nominations submitted will be posted here on throughout the month of November. Be sure to subscribe to!

Volunteer Patty Mitchell submitted by Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue
Patty has been a volunteer at Gentle Giants for years, offering her weekends without fail to come feed the horses come rain, snow or shine. Despite working full time as a special educator for Montgomery County schools, Patty has always found time to make the horses of Gentle Giants a priority in her life.
Patty gives of her time selflessly, willing to feed 130+ horses and then tasking herself with tackling the less glamorous and unpleasant, but deeply needed, projects like cleaning, organizing, and never-ending blanket management. She sweeps the cleanest barn aisle one has ever seen, and she is endlessly patient with guiding new volunteers.

Patty recently retired from teaching, and in her newfound freedom she has recommitted herself to the horses of Gentle Giants. Patty runs several morning shifts at the Gentle Giants Sanctuary, as well as filling in at the main farm and always being game for special events. She has selflessly logged thousands of hours, and shows no sign of slowing down!

It’s thanks to Patty, and the many volunteers of organizations everywhere that embody her spirit of giving, that the animal rescue world keeps turning ‘round! Thanks, Patty! We love you!

Wonderful Watson – submitted by Alex Abella, Equestrian Center Director of YMCA Camp Letts
One might think that the first nomination for an exceptional individual who has given to the Maryland equestrian community would be a human, but what is the equestrian world without horses? Horses ARE what equestrian is all about and no horse has given more to the Maryland equestrian community than Watson, lesson horse extraordinaire at the YMCA Camp Letts Equestrian Center.

This uniquely noble and generous soul arrived as a summer camp horse when he was only two-years-old. Unbelievable, yes, but a true measure of what a remarkable being he was already at such a young age. Since then, he has been a summer camp horse for twenty years, teaching sixteen children per week their first walk, trot and canter. With nine weeks of summer, that is 2,880 riders over twenty years, and that doesn’t even include his other achievements!

After gifting wide smiles and creating lifelong passions during the summer, Watson was busy creating equestrian dreams the rest of the year. He was a regular lesson horse and a winning show horse that earned the nickname “Mr. Congeniality,” for his affable nature and funny antics: stealing donuts from the judge’s table and eating the jump flowers in the middle of a hunter round were part of his regular routine.

Today, Watson is still doing his job masterfully, five days a week, packing kids around the ring that can barely climb up his 16-hand frame and preparing to give a wonderful older adult her dressage century ride. He has also launched many equestrian careers, including a veterinary student who is about to graduate and has offered him a retirement home as soon as he needs it.

A solid chestnut registered American Paint Horse, Watson was perhaps a disappointment to his breeder but he has been the most beloved redhead in Anne Arundel County for over two decades. And for the current director of the equestrian center, he is a daily example of generosity, tolerance and love of life. Watson doesn’t just make the Maryland equestrian community better, he makes better and happier humans, and that is giving at its core.

Safe Haven’s Tina Snydersubmitted by…many! (see names with each quote)
“Tina is an amazing human who has dedicated her life to advocating for the humane treatment of horses. An outstanding trainer, coach, mentor, and all-around horse woman, any given day could consist of her teaching multiple classes of our future horsemen/women, educating our policy makers on important equine legislation such as the SAFE Act, and getting up every few hours of the night to provide veterinary treatment to a horse newly rescued from the slaughterhouse pipeline. There is no doubt that Tina deserves to be recognized for the amazing work she does through Safe Haven Equine Warriors.” – Ashleigh Martini

“Tina is certainly the most selfless individual I’ve ever met. She has dedicated the past 25 years of her life to saving horses and people. Through Safe Haven Equine Warriors, Tina, a warrior in her own right, saves horses on the brink of death and rehabilitates, re-trains, and re-homes them. She makes many personal sacrifices in order to save the horses that she does. Recently, when one of Safe Haven Equine Warrior’s new rescues, Merlin, had an infection in his eye that required injections into a port every two hours for the course of several months, it was Tina and Tina alone that woke up every two hours to inject Merlin, all the while maintaining her grueling teaching and showing schedule. Because of Tina, Merlin’s eye was saved.” – Adi Ruekgaue

“I have known Tina Snyder for 9 years. In every one of those years, and for many years before I knew her, she always put the horse first. Not only HER horses and ponies, but ALL horses and ponies. So much so that she braved the confines of New Holland, more times than I know of. So much so that she founded her own horse rescue, Safe Haven Equine Warriors. She has walked the halls of Congress rallying on behalf of equines everywhere, near and far, who were not, and are not, being treated humanely (the SAFE Act and most recently the PAST Act). Children and adults have been educated to also help carry the torch of compassion and giving to help make this world a better place for all equines year in and year out. It starts with one person, a person like Tina Snyder, who moves the earth and triggers a tsunami of change. This nomination is written with immense gratitude and a knowledge that it is an honor and a privilege to call her our coach, trainer, mentor, but especially our friend.” – Wendy Bourque

“Tina has dedicated her life to advocating for and rescuing horses and ponies. Safe Haven Equine Warriors is a nonprofit organization that rescues neglected, abused horses and ponies or those who are brought to the kill buyer markets to be sold. The horses and ponies are rescued, rehabilitated, trained and then adopted out to new homes. Tina has dedicated her life to this cause, including educating our younger generations of riders so that her great work may continue over time.” – Kelly Russo

“Tina is one the most dedicated individuals I know. She has spent years helping to rescue neglected and abused horses. I had the pleasure to join Tina in Washington, DC, where we lobbied for the SAFE Act, PAST Act and the Horseracing Integrity bill. She has dedicated her life to helping the Equine community.” – Mary Tillett

“I’ve known Tina for almost six years as my daughter has been a student of hers for that long. Tina is the biggest advocate for horses I have ever met. Horses are in her heart. The love of horses and rescuing horses runs deep in her veins. She is a teacher, not only of being an equestrian, but she also teaches her students, volunteers and parents how to care for horses. Tina has served on several councils, is a board member for one of the largest horse rescues in Maryland and has also lobbied in Annapolis and Washington, DC, for equine care and treatment.” – Christine and Madelyn Vicencio

“I would like to nominate Tina Snyder from Safe Haven Equine Warriors (SHEW) because of her impact on the horse rescue community and on my family. As the founder and head of SHEW, Tina has put a spotlight on the plight of horses bound for slaughter. Not only does she rescue and rehabilitate these horses, but she works to prevent horses from heading to the kill pens. She advocates for change in legislation, brings awareness to the community, and works with others to find homes for at-risk horses that may otherwise end up auctioned off for slaughter.” – Ani Hyslop

“I am nominating Tina Snyder for her astounding positive impact on the Maryland equestrian community. She is a tireless campaigner for equine welfare, educating others and herself at every opportunity. She has been involved with equine rescue in Maryland for more than 30 years, currently as the executive director of Safe Haven Equine Warriors (SHEW). Her outreach stretches to the nation’s capital, where she has spent much time lobbying in support of bills that will protect the domestic and wild horses of America. She has changed more than one mind on the Hill, which is not a necessarily easy task! Her impact on individuals, such as myself, is palpable. I have learned more from her in all things equestrian–ethical and conscious horsemanship, equine welfare, methods of rehabbing, etc.–than I did in previous decades of involvement in the industry. Thanks to her, the welfare of Maryland’s equines is now my passion as well as my professional focus.” – Katy Whipple

“For many years Tina has worked tirelessly to help horses in bad situations. Rescuing from New Holland auction where horses are bound to end up in the slaughterhouse pipeline and helping individuals who can no longer care for their horses by networking with people throughout Maryland to get the horses to a safe situation. This year Tina and her crew of volunteers even went to Capitol Hill to help lobby for the welfare and safety of the horses in Maryland. Under Tina’s guidance volunteers love, care, rehab, and help rehome the dear horses lucky enough to end up with Safe Haven Equine Warriors! Please give Tina the Congratulations she so justly deserve!” – Beth Bagley

“I have been working for and riding with Tina for the past 10 years. She has made me the advocate and the leader I am today. Tina has been working with horses her whole life and has worked on the boards of multiple local horse rescues, and now has one of her own. She is extremely dedicated to helping not only the horses that walk through her gates, but helping other people with their horses as well. Tina also is a huge advocate for the SAFE Act and recently took others from our barn and myself to lobby in DC for a day on behalf of that bill, and others like it. She is a huge inspiration to me and to many others.” – Cassandra Held

“I’ve known Tina for 16 years and she introduced me and my daughter, Emily Benton, to horses when Emily was 8 years old. When I say horses, I mean rescue horses. That has a significant meaning in Tina’s life, and now for both Emily and I. Tina is one of the most dedicated individuals that I know who wants to be the change and voice of equines facing the perils and plights in today’s world. She is dedicated to teaching and sharing her knowledge of horses to anyone who lends her an ear. She teaches our young ones the value and meaning of horsemanship. She is behind the scenes, but her voice has been heard loudly in changing mindsets for the betterment of our equines. Her dedication is one that I truly admire and I’m honored to nominate her and truly blessed to be in her circle. She exemplifies and dedicates every minute of each day to making a difference, one horse at a time.” – Mary Benton

“My almost five year old son has been riding with Tina Snyder for the past year. He started riding because he was diagnosed by a physical therapist as having low muscle tone in his core, as well as being knock-kneed. Our two options were to start traditional physical therapy, or to find a trainer who would be willing to work with our shy little four year old. I cannot tell you how large a role Tina Snyder has played in helping our son develop strength and confidence over the year. Not only did she quickly remedy his low muscle tone, but she also taught him about horse rescue, horse care, and a great deal of empathy.” – Alexis Geddes