Horse haven trots out new rehab arena

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WINDHAM — The Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals will soon open the Lawrence J. Keddy and Marilyn L. Goodreau Equine Rehabilitation Facility, featuring a brand new training arena.

The society will celebrate with a Welcome Weekend on Oct. 26, 27 and 28, when visitors can tour the new building, meet the horses, receive free merchandise, talk to staff and watch various horse demonstrations.

The MSSPA takes in neglected or abused horses that have been seized by the state, cares for and trains them and then adopts them out to new families.

The 15,540-square-foot indoor arena had been a dream for long time, according to Meris Bickford, MSSPA’s chief executive officer. Because of weather conditions and bugs, horses can only be trained outside for about 70 days a year in Maine. The facility also did not have access to a wash stall. The only place a horse could be cleaned was outdoors, meaning that it could only be done in the summertime.
But while an indoor arena “was always recognized as a need,” Bickford said, the MSSPA did not have the means to undertake such a project. When the organization had an engineering firm create a plan in 2007, the price tag was $4 million, which “simply wasn’t feasible,” she said.

The society began putting money aside for the project in the future, but help arrived in 2016, when a foundation that the late Lawrence J. Keddy — who became president of the MSSPA in 1972 — founded went out of business and donated its assets, totaling nearly $2 million, to the society, $700,000 of which was designated to the construction of the arena.

The total cost of building the new facility was just over $2 million, Bickford said. The rest was self-funded by the society.
They broke ground on the project on June 29 and plan to take possession of the building on Oct. 17. The building is named in honor of Keddy and his longtime partner, Marilyn L. Goodreau, a 45-year MSSPA board member.

In addition to a training arena and wash stall, the new building also has a tack room, humane education classroom and administrative offices, among other features.

The society is “pretty thrifty,” Bickford said. Its office furniture was donated by organizations that have gone out of business, and all administrative operations are funded by its endowment.

This means that for donors, “every dollar you give, 100 percent of it goes to the animals,” she said.

The MSSPA currently houses 42 horses in its two barns, which are located next to the new rehabilitation facility.

Bickford compares the society to “running an orphanage.”

“They’re getting food, care, their meds and the staff is great, but it’s not like being at home with your family,” she said.

Bickford came to the MSSPA in 2007 as a lobbyist when the society was greatly over capacity with 90 horses. “They were able to receive horses into care, they had a pretty good arrangement for getting them rehabilitated. One of the things they weren’t doing very effectively was adopting them out,” she said.

Now, Bickford said, the MSSPA is “New England’s premier horse shelter.” Not only is it the largest, she explained, it’s also “superior because we’re able to really focus our mission on rehabilitating and re-homing these horses that are so desperately in need of it.”

With a brand-new training arena, complete with a cupola on top that will be lit at night, Bickford said the facility will “be a beacon of hope for horses out here.”

The MSSPA is open to the public every day from 1 to 4 p.m. Visitors are welcome to meet the horses, chat with staff, have a picnic or walk around the society’s 124-acre property.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com.

The MSSPA will take occupation of its new facility on Oct. 17.

Fire, an Arabian mare, is being trained and cared for at the MSSPA.

The MSSPA currently houses 42 horses in its barns.