Michelle Sommerville has a mission to end the abuse, neglect, and slaughter of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules through rescue and foster care.
Michelle typically has between 10-18 horses on her property at any one time. Over the years, Michelle has rescued more than 50 horses (and other farm pets) from abusive or life-threatening situations. Horses are rehabilitated when possible and matched with loving permanent adoptive homes.
When the Routt County Sheriffs find an abused horse, they often call Michelle – and she never says ‘no’ to taking in another horse. Between five to ten horses arrive at Michelle’s property every year.
Some rescue horses and other animals are young and sound and able to provide lessons to riders. Other horses arrive with injuries or illness due to extreme neglect or starvation. About 80% of the rescue horses go to forever homes. A few are kept for lessons, and some unfortunately arrive in such terrible state that they cannot be saved.
Michelle personally supports a large number of horses on her 10-acre property. The majority of her personal earnings (from being a winter ski instructor – and horse trainer in summer) – go towards buying hay and taking care of the rescue horses.
Occasionally, Michelle is able to rehab a horse and send it to an adoptive permanent family. Adoption fees contribute to feeding and medical care for newly arriving rescue horses -and the horses that are permanently housed on the property.
Michelle’s rescues and adoptions (when the owners could no longer take care of their pets) include: a hedgehog, a mini donkey and a mini horse. The two rescue goats are named Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana.
A note from Michelle:
“Originally from Toronto, Canada, I went to high school in New York, then attended McGill University in Montreal. I graduated with degrees in elementary education and world religions in 2004. I stayed at McGill another year ski racing and working on my Masters degree.
“After college, I taught elementary school for a few short years before taking on a job as a full time Hunter/jumper trainer in New York. After five years of show jumping full time I opened my own riding lesson program, and became active in the ski industry again by teaching at Hunter Mountain.
“I have lived in Steamboat since 2011. In 2010, after visiting on a girls ski trip, I fell in love with the skiing and ranching community and moved here six months later.
“My background is mostly in hunter/ jumper riding. I was lucky enough to have trained with Olympic athletes such as Nona Garson and George Morris. I became certified as a therapeutic riding instructor in 2003 with Cantra. I am an active and competitive member of the United States Equestrian Federation, American Quarter Horse Association and Colorado Horse Council. Since moving to Colorado, I have also enjoyed running barrels in the local rodeos, packing elk, and guiding trail rides.
“I started receiving rescue horses at my ranch in the aftermath of the recession. Some people facing economic difficulties were abandoning their horses. The police often contacted me and other ranches in the area to see if they could take abandoned horses, as there was no local place for them to go. Routt County Horse Rescue is a safe place for unwanted, neglected or abandoned animals.
“I operate Routt County Horse Rescue as a free service. Adoption fees for the rehabbed and re-trained horses helps provide the funds to be able to continue rescue of more horses. I also teach riding lessons, train horses and teach skiing in the winter to help fund the ranch.
“My long term goal is to make the ranch an ADA compliant facility (riding arena, barn, and restroom for guests) so that the rescue horses could help with more special needs riding lessons.”