James ToddZebís Wish offers mules, horses and humans a heaping of healing posted on 02/01/2019
When Suzi Cloutier moved sight unseen from Rhode Island to a
rental farm in Dairy Creek, she was at a low point in her life. She was not
expecting to meet a soul in even worse condition, a blind and starving mule
named Zebediah abandoned on the property.
“I wasn’t too interested in being on this planet and he
wasn’t too interested in leaving and we kind of saved each other,” Cloutier
said about her fortunate introduction to Zeb the mule in 1997.
Zeb had fallen into neglect and was on the verge of
starvation when Cloutier arrived in Dairy Creek. Through a slow process of
rehabilitation, Cloutier nursed the blind mule back to health while discovering
that compassion and selfless acts of service helped her deal with her own
personal demons and heal herself.
Now more than 20 years and 54 rescued horses and mules
later, Zeb’s Wish exists as testimony to the lesson of compassion Cloutier
learned caring for the abandoned mule.
Zeb’s Wish became a 501c3 nonprofit equine sanctuary in 2013
and exists solely on private donations at its location in Sandy. The
organization’s mission is “to rescue and rehabilitate special needs equines,
conduct equine assisted learning and therapeutic activities and heal humans and
On Cloutier’s farm, a passionate and dedicated staff nurses
her rescued herd back to health with integrated healthcare, a mixture of
traditional and homeopathic veterinary care involving natural hoof care, Reiki
energy work, chiropractic and massage therapy.
“I realized they’re my people,” Cloutier said about her herd
throughout the years.
Traditional equine sanctuaries focus on young rideable
animals that can be rehabilitated for adoption and human use. Zeb’s Wish
focuses on animals that cannot be used in a traditional sense, many of which
will require care until the end of their lives.
“It doesn’t make them any less valuable,” Cloutier said.
“It takes a lot of hands to make it happen,” she added about
the sanctuary’s work, noting the organization has seven active volunteers
providing care to the animals, six foster homes that rehabilitate neglected
animals and five board members overseeing the organization.
“We have an amazing community of people volunteering,”
Cloutier said. “We all come into this sanctuary as an act of service.”
Cindy Stevens fosters equines for Zeb’s Wish on her farm in
Beaver Creek. She has fostered two mares for the organization and is currently
fostering two ponies.
“No doubt they both would have died this winter if Zeb’s
hadn’t stepped in,” Stevens said about the ponies. She described them as
“walking skeletons” at the time of their rescue, but have since managed to put
on weight and are expected to resolve health issues such as rain rot by the
The practices Stevens uses to nurse horses back to help were
established by the University of California Davis refeeding program. She
described the program as the contemporary standard for feeding malnourished
“A lot of people don’t realize the resources available,”
Zeb’s Wish is one of several organizations with resources
available to help people provide for the health and nourishment of their
“When you’re courageous enough to ask for help you can keep
your animals from starving,” Stevens said. “We’re here to help people to
succeed in keeping their animals because that’s the ultimate goal.”
Zeb’s Wish also exists to help humans find healing through
their interaction with the herd on the farm. Victoria Kress is a board member
and Reiki practitioner that teaches animal Reiki at the sanctuary.
Kress describes animal Reiki as a practice of meditation and
energy work that encourages a connection with the animals and fosters a sense
of comfort in both humans and animals.
Kress had been teaching this technique at the sanctuary for
the past five years with classes offered three or four times a year. A level
one class, offered for those with no prior experience with Reiki, will be held
March 30 and 31. Level two and three courses will be held later in the year
with the level three course serving as a Reiki teacher training class in the
“It’s been quite a journey … one I’ve been fortunate to be
part of,” Kress said.
Zeb’s Wish offers equine assisted learning programs, school
field trips, service learning classes, retreats and monthly volunteer
opportunities for community members interested in healing or being healed.
The sanctuary also hosts clinics including the upcoming
“Natural Horse and Mulemanship” with trainer Marta Johann March 17.
Volunteer opportunities or other visits can be arranged by
contacting the organization by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the sanctuary is available online at
zebswish.org and events are posted on the Zeb’s Wish Facebook page.
Zeb the mule died after years of loving care from Cloutier
at the age of 50.
His inspiration lives on, and Albert the mule was recently
rehabilitated and adopted thanks to the efforts of Zeb’s Wish.
By Benjamin Simpson/MT