Shania Lillie grew up loving horses and always had a soft spot in her heart for horses others struggled to care for. So it made perfect sense when Lillie and her family moved to Coos County that they would open a horse rescue.
"I grew up with horses and unofficially have been rescuing horses my entire life," she said. "It's just something I always wanted to do. When I got out of the military, I had all the VA benefits, so I said 'I guess I can start the rescue because that's what I wanted to do.'"
So Lillie did just that, opening Lillies of the Field Equine Rescue. The rescue originally started in Langlois before moving to a larger location outside of Myrtle Point.
The rescue currently has seven horses, one Lillie rescued in Virginia while serving in the military and a second her husband rescued. The remaining five were rescued after Lillies of the Field officially opened earlier this year.
"The mare we got in February, the owner had her her entire life," Lillie said. "She had good training, but her manners were really violent. She really didn't need any riding training, she just needed interaction training."
Lillie said the horse would bite its owner and was really aggressive toward food. After just a few weeks of training at Lillies of the Field, the horse made a complete turnaround and is now used as a trainer horse at the rescue.
"She's honestly amazing," Lillie said. "She's my best kid horse. She can be led around by little kids, she can be led around by adults. It took us six weeks from when we got her to where she could be part of the lessons program. She just needed guidance. I think was just pretty happy to get the attention. Just how different she was when we first got her to now. She's my easiest horse. I can take her anywhere and anyone can ride her."
Lillies of the Field also rescued three stallions from a breeder in Idaho.
"The three stallions were the last. Nobody wanted them, absolutely nobody," Lillie said. "I told them, 'we will come get the last of the pickings that nobody wants because those are the ones at greatest risk for slaughter.'"
The oldest stallion, a 20-year-old, was very aggressive and also had physical issues. After getting his physical ailments fixed and with consistent training, that horse is also a model.
"He's a totally different horse," Lillie said. "He's super sweet. He will follow me around. He's not a crazy stallion at all. It's crazy how a different environment really helps them."
Lillie said seeing the difference in the animals, often in just a couple of months, shows that in the right hands even the toughest horses are redeemable.
"Seeing where we got them from and how much better they are, and just how happy they are, that's why we do it," she said.
Rescuing horses is a key component of the work done at Lillies of the Field, but it's not the only one.
"Another part of our mission is educate the public," Lillie said. "A lot of people want to rescue horses, but they have no idea what to do. Education to the public is a big thing, because, to be honest, it's the humans that create the reason horses have to be rescued."
Lillie said she offers lessons for those new to horses to educate them and prepare them to be owners.
"I cater to the people who have never really been around horses before," she said. "Some of my lessons are because people need confidence boosters. They haven't been around horses for a while or they had an accident. I teach everything horse. I don't just teach you how to ride. I teach you how to care for the horse, how to lead the horse, how to be safe around horses."
The lessons are offered for all ages, with many children coming to learn how to ride and how to lead horses. While the lessons are valuable for people, they are also good for the horses, all that come with some "baggage."
"I would say it's going good," Lillie said. "It's good for my horses to get out and have other people ride them. It's good for me to be able to articulate my lessons."
Like all nonprofits, a big challenge for Lillies of the Field is funding and other kinds of help. Lillie does a lot of the work herself, but she admits assistance is always needed. She said learning to ask for help has probably been the biggest challenge of running her rescue.
"We have a lot of events coming up, and I need a lot of volunteers and help," she said. "I don't like asking for money. In turn, I will be putting on events where people can come and get something for their money. People can help by showing up for events, people can help by coming to our volunteer days. Volunteers are great, I could really use volunteers to clean out the barn."
Lillies of the Field is hosting a monthly event called Dancing for Hoofbeats at the Coquille Community Center. The first dance is Friday, September 30, from 6-9 p.m. Future dances art scheduled for November 4 and December 16.
For information or to learn more about the rescue, visit www.lilliesofthefieldequinerescue.com