Community remembers ERA founder Vel Moore

MARYSVILLE — The Equine Rescue Association staged a memorial fundraiser June 28, not only to honor the passing of their founder, Dr. Vel Moore, but also to enlist support from the community in carrying on Moore’s legacy

Moore passed away in her sleep May 28, at the age of 77, and Sara Losey, the barn director and one of the instructors at the Equine Rescue Association, was on hand June 28, at the “memorial tent” for Moore to show off Moore’s resume, as well as the sketches and paintings that Moore did of her horses to accompany the biographies that she’d written about them.

“She drew every horse she’d met in her life, sometimes more than once, until she got it right,” Losey said. “We’ll miss having her artwork for our yearly calendars.”

Since Moore’s passing, Losey has met several people who knew Moore from years ago, with whom Losey has been able to share memories of Moore’s training techniques. Losey noted that “this is the most cars I’ve seen at any of our events,” adding that attendees began arriving well before the official start of the event.

Jeanne and Debbie Ebbighausen came all the way from Bothell to show their support for the Equine Rescue Association. Debbie, 15, was joined by her 13-year-old friend, Sabine DeGraaff, in browsing for bits and tack, as Jeanne recalled how her daughter had learned to ride at the Equine Rescue Association three years ago, on a horse named Irish that’s since been retired but which Debbie still feeds and grooms during her monthly return visits.

“This is a great organization,” Jeanne Ebbighausen said. “It takes in animals that would otherwise be put down, from blind and abused horses to ones like Irish, who are lame and can’t be ridden anymore. These people take good care of these animals and we appreciate that they’re here, which is why we want to give them some of our money,” she laughed.

Jeanne explained that she and her daughter plan on moving to either North Dakota or Minnesota, to property which could accommodate a horse for Debbie. Debbie still plans on returning to work at the Equine Rescue Association every summer, even if it means “living in the barn the entire summer,” according to her mother.

Dawn Topp’s daughter, 12-year-old Mikenze, worked at the Equine Rescue Association from the summer through the fall of last year, but as soon as she heard about Moore’s passing, she asked her mother if she could go back to work at the Equine Rescue Association’s stables.

“She wanted to get a horse, so we thought that having her volunteer here would be a good start,” said Dawn Topp, a Marysville native, as she bid on a food basket that was being auctioned off. “It’s a great place for kids because it lets them take care of animals that really need their help. These kids work their buns off doing the sorts of chores that they don’t want to do when their parents ask, and they’re willing to do it all for free.”

As 15-year-old Aubree Wood groomed a horse named Jake, her 15-year-old classmate, Breanna Smith, petted the horse and expressed her desire to start volunteering for the Equine Rescue Association. Smith, a Marysville native, had never visited the Equine Rescue Association’s stables before, but as a student at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Bio-Med Academy, she believes that the experience of working in the stables could help her in her veterinary studies.

Wood is a relative newcomer to the Equine Rescue Association, having only worked in its stables since February, but she’s devoted at least three days a Å to it, in part for horses like Jake, whose leg recently got caught on a bar. While it remains to be seen whether Jake can ever be ridden again, Wood cares for him and the other horses with attentive affection.

Katherine Boersma is 16 now, but she was only 12 when she started working for Moore. After she finished riding a horse named Cora, she reflected on what she’d learned from Moore.

“She taught me everything I know about riding horses,” said Boersma, who works at the Equine Rescue Association four days a week, from 2-7 p.m. during the school year, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer. “She was a loving, caring woman. She cared about every little thing, especially our safety. When we made mistakes, she let us get back on our feet. This is a good place for both horses and people to get a new lease on life. By learning how to care for horses, you learn that life is not all me, me, me.”

Moore leaves behind a staff of close to 25 volunteer workers, who are faced with the task of coming up with the $5,000 a month that it costs to operate the Equine Rescue Association. They’re looking for sponsors, and in the meantime, their instructors are available for $20 an hour, to teach prospective horse handlers how to tack, ride and play with horses. At their memorial fundraiser June 28, they offered $5 pony rides, raffles and a tack sale.

“It’ll be different with Vel gone, but we can still use all the support we can get,” said Losey, who’s already planning a “poker ride” for July 26, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting at the Arlington tree farm.

The Equine Rescue Association is located at 2415 116th St. NE in Marysville. For more information, you can call them at 360-658-5494, or log onto their Web site, at

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