I don't normally write about happenings outside the boundaries of our fair state, but this one was too unbelievable to let go.
Roughly 2,000 miles due west of us lies Oregon. Much like us, they have lots of gorgeous nature, too much mud, and one large city full of excitable, pink-haired persons of indeterminate gender that can yell sexismracismhomophobiafacism faster than a caffeinated auctioneer. Also much like us, they also have many horses and horse rescues. The similarities don't end there.
Recently, we had our first Midwest Rescue Challenge, a special competition for rescue horses only, in September 2018. The Oregon Rescue Challenge began just a few years earlier, in 2015, under the name Rescue Revolution.
In a rescue challenge, trainers apply to work with horses from participating rescues throughout the state, and after 90 days, compete with them in a multi-disciplinary show. The trainer gets exposure and goodwill, the rescue gets a horse or two trained up, and the horse becomes way more adoptable. Sponsors like local businesses and civic organizations pay for advertising and facilities, or donate silent auction items, raffle prizes, etc. If the venue is large enough, vendors can come and sell stuff. Crowds come and see all the adoptable horses in action, plus pictures of more at each horse rescue's booth. Swag is sold, donations given, connections made-- it's like a mini Horse Fair, but just for rescues!
|Stick figure illustration for my stick figure budget.|
These kinds of events are an amazingly good idea. We need them because far too often, the public thinks of all horse rescuers as either shady, fast-talking, redneck liars out to make a profit, or as PETA-inspired, crystal-healing, animal-hoarding lunatics. While those do exist, I'd like to think that
Naturally, of course, the first thing humans do with a good thing is screw it up.
It has just becoming widely known that Oregon Rescue Challenge (ORC) has allowed a convicted an animal abuser to participate in its competition, and was (is?) all set to let him do it again in 2019.
In 2007, Geraldo Morales kicked and beat a three month old foal so hard, he broke its neck. As it lay in the dirt, he kept on kicking it. He then forced a cold water hose up the severely injured foal's nose in an attempt to make it get up. The foal had to be euthanized.
The same year, Morales threw a miniature Jack Russel Terrier puppy through the air like a football, onto concrete.
A full article on these horrors can be found here. Warning: more awful details.
|I'm pretty sure the very definition of evil is beating a baby animal.|
Now, we all know how hard it is to get anyone charged with animal abuse. Long-time readers will remember our constant struggles to even get authorities to pay attention when horses are starving to death. Yet Geraldo Morales was not only arrested and charged with felonies, but convicted by a jury.
You would think that an organization devoted to helping horses rescued from exactly this kind of sadistic criminal would not want to associate one. But ORC did. They promoted Morales as a top trainer, including him in Challenge PR before and after the event. He even won 3rd place in the 2018 Challenge. But that's not where it ends.
There is an argument that can be made about this situation, and it goes like this:
"OK, so Morales screwed up. He did bad things. But he's changed! He's a great guy now!"
Me personally, I'm not
Not according to ORC. In fact, they didn't bother to officially tell any of the participating sponsors, volunteers, or rescues, about Morales's past record so that those folks could make their own decisions about whether to give him horses, money, sponsorships, etc.
Did I mention Geraldo Morales also pleaded guilty to domestic abuse?
He strangled a lady in front of her child.*
Also, while under the influence, he flipped his pickup truck into a canyon, and lied to police about how somebody must have stolen it.
Great guy, this Geraldo. Is the ORC Board of Directors insane?
Oh wait. It appears that Geraldo Morales's wife is on the ORC Board of Directors. NOW it all makes sense! Can you say, "conflict of interest?"
Speaking of morally questionable behavior, it turns out that ORC hasn't filed their yearly tax-exempt forms with the IRS since 2016. According to the IRS, charities which don't file this paperwork for three consecutive years have their non-profit status revoked. I wonder if their sponsors and donors know? As of today, the ORC is still asking for donations of money and services, as well as high-priced sponsorships. And they're doing so despite apparently telling some of their supporters that the 2019 Challenge has been cancelled (no public statement though).
Let's get to what else the Oregon Rescue Challenge Board of Directors has been saying.
Their list of excuses and justifications for the Morales situation is as follows:
- 2007 was a long time ago!
- There were extenuating circumstances that basically excuse his kicking the foal to death.
- It was (somehow) a tragic accident.
- Only God can judge him, you aren't perfect so you can't judge him.
- Our critics should be ashamed of themselves for being bullies.
- We're/he's helping horses, so you shouldn't criticize, doing so makes you the bad guy.
Don't worry, folks. If I had a dollar for every time I have been threatened with lawsuits for outing abusive jerks, neglectful owners, and cheaters, my favorite horse rescues would be rolling in dough from my donations.
In case you weren't aware, slander is a legal term for spoken lies (libel is written lies). To be successfully sued for either, you actually have to knowingly tell a lie.
The fact that Geraldo Morales committed animal abuse, domestic abuse, and a heinous DUI, and the fact that the ORC worked with him anyway, are all 100% true.
To all the good people of Oregon: Don't let anyone from the ORC board try to intimidate you to keep you from telling the truth. They don't have a leg to stand on.
To the horse rescues pulling back from the ORC: Good job.
Maybe your reason is simply that you can't afford to publicly associate with a convicted animal abuser, no matter how reformed he may be.
Maybe your reason is that if the ORC wasn't transparent about this, what else are they not telling you?
Maybe your reason is that you feel that the protection of your rescue horses and volunteers comes first.
Whatever your reasons are, don't be afraid to stand by your convictions. I particularly love Mustang MEND's response to this situation. Very professional.
ORC Board of Directors as listed on their website:
Stephanie Morales -- Barn Manager/Sponsorship
Sarah Hockett -- Trainer & Rescue Contact
Gayle Park --Past-President/Sponsorship
Connie Settle --- Treasurer, Website
Margie Humberston -- Social Media
Cyndi Davis President -- no contact info
Colleen Olsen Secretary -- no contact info
Colleen Freihoff Sponsorship Director -- no contact info
Rescues Withdrawn from the ORC:
|An ORC alternative has invited rescues to their chellenge.|
All About Mustangs
Mustangs and MOHR
Harmony New Beginnings
Rescues Still in the ORC:
3 Sisters Equine Refuge
Project Spirit Horse Rescue
Warm Springs Horse Network
HyTyme Equine Rescue
This blog post was written with help from a wonderful contributor, who is not a part of any of the previously mentioned rescues.
*Supporters of Morales will say that the domestic violence case and DUI were "dismissed." In fact, Morales did plead guilty, and was punished. Court records show "dismissed" because the cases became part of a criminal justice "diversion" program.