Painted ponies give leg up to those helping flood victims

Floyd Visser, executive director of the SHARP Foundation (which cares for people living with HIV or AIDS), accepts $10,000 for the first-place decorated horse.  The Horse Jump to Give  A Leg Up project is helping non-profit organizations that serve those affected by last summer’s floods in southern Alberta. The horse was nicknamed Penny, as it is covered in donated coppers.
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A herd of painted ponies is leaving hoofprints on the hearts of communities devastated by last year’s floods that ravaged towns and farms, leaving many homeless across southern Alberta. The Spruce Meadows horse complex near Calgary gave 20 non-profit organizations each a fibreglass horse to decorate. They are on display at the facility throughout the summer. Groups include the Opening Gaits Therapeutic Riding Society of Calgary, Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Diamond Valley and District and Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta Foothills Chapter. “It was really fun to see the horses take life. I hope this brings luck and energy into these organizations,” said Spruce Meadow CEO Linda Southern-Heathcott. “Each one is unique. This is a way to bring all the (flood-affected) communities together.”

From striped stockings and angel wings  to ribcage landscapes of flooded farmland, the equines were painted with spirit and a vibrant pallette.

Each of the 20 organizations, selected from 58 applicants, receives $1,000. The public is also invited to bid on each horse, with proceeds going to the organizations. Bids can be made through to September by going to

Also, cash prizes were awarded to those judged to be the most innovative equines. A first-place cheque for $10,000 went to the SHARP Foundation (which provides care both medically and spiritually for people living with HIV or AIDS). Literacy for Life Foundation received $7,000 for second place and Special Olympics Calgary and the Bowness Community Association tied for third, each winning $3,000. A special Pegasus volunteerism award of $10,000 went to the Opening Gaits Therapeutic Riding Society.

“So many organizations are suffering from donor and volunteer fatigue,” said Southern-Heathcott. “We chose those that were struggling and needed a leg up.”

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