It’s hard to stop rescuing horses when your first attempt, at 14, was such a huge success. After such a positive experience, Tina Laguna now owns and operates the horse rescue organization she founded—Rancho Laguna’s Heart—in Snoqualmie, Washington. She rescues and rehabilitates horses and donkeys into a new, well-loved life as therapy animals, offering children and adults the benefits that being with horses brings to human emotional and physical well-being.
Rancho Laguna’s Heart is ideally situated among forest lands above the magnificent roaring falls for which Snoqualmie is known. Along with her top wrangler and ranch hand, 9-year-old daughter Isabella, Tina currently cares for eight horses, two donkeys, two pigmy goats, several dogs of varying ages and breeds, a couple dozen exotic chickens and ducks and a large organic garden. Her healing and rehabilitation skills are renown by county officials for saving some of their most difficult confiscation cases.
Weighing half of what they should or suffering total neglect after performance injuries end illustrious show careers, it’s clear that many horses do not receive a fraction of the kindness and respect that’s demanded of them. Humanity’s loss, since horses have more to offer us than in their roles as utility and high performance sport vehicles.
Princess, a 21-year-old Quarter Horse, came to Tina around 2, after the previous owners’ trainer wrapped a wire around her nose, embedding it in the bridge and almost severing her tongue. The amount of rehab needed for the horse’s physical and emotional health was not something the owners could manage, so Tina bought Princess instead of putting a down payment on a house. Tina and Princess persevered together and went on to have a long, successful show career.
Tina’s healing skills were unexpectedly put to the test when Roxy, Princess’ daughter, suffered a broken shoulder from a kick in the field. Although the vet recommended euthanasia, Tina was convinced she could create a sling-type apparatus with special shoes to hold Roxy’s weight in balance to keep her from suffering the same fate with laminitis as the famous Barbaro. It worked and Roxy is now fully recovered.
Before Elmer the donkey came to Rancho Laguna, he was kept in a dark closet for so long that he developed a coping skill of zoning out and mindlessly licking the air. Although he may never stop the behavior completely, he spends much more time now actively socializing with visitors and his herd mates.
Elmer’s galpal, Lil’ Rosie, came from a Christmas tree farm where she spent 11 months of the year without herd or human interaction. Together Elmer and Lil’ Rosie have become quite the engaging couple, providing each other with the companionship they both desperately needed.
As I drove away, I couldn’t help but consider how well horses remember how people treat them, yet they remain incredibly resilient after years of forced compliance, pain or neglect. How many of us could benefit from resilience and learning to trust after living through our own circumstances? Horses can evolve human emotional intelligence by requiring us to stay in the present, showing us the importance of focus and intention, giving and getting respect, showing kindness and patience, working as a team and maintaining self-control. As flight animals in a natural and constant state of wariness, horses are ideal partners for PTSD sufferers. Therapeutic riding builds core strength and balance after humans suffer debilitating injuries.
Without people like Tina and havens like Rancho Laguna’s Heart to care for horses that fall through society’s cracks, these equine teachers, healers, friends and partners would never receive the appreciation and value they so richly deserve.
Thank you, Tina, for your dedication in saving horses and creating ways to share their gifts with others. It’s only as more children and adults are introduced to the benefits of the connection, lessons and healing that horses offer that a tipping point can be reached, and the word “unwanted” will one day never be used to describe a horse.
Rancho Laguna’s Heart can be found online at rancholagunaheart.org