Local horse rescue gives equine a second chance at life near Lake of the Ozarks

LINN CREEK, Mo. – Since 2011, Missouri Forget-Me-Not Horse Rescue and Sanctuary in the Lake of the Ozarks area has sheltered over 730 horses at its no-kill operation.

Regardless of age and health, the nonprofit takes in all horses who are in need of better days, and is currently housing roughly 200 on-site. Founder Connie Hendrix-Jones told The Heartlander most of the horses come from unfortunate situations, are underweight and require medical care.

After some tender love and care, some of the horses eventually become human companions, riding horses or live at Forget-Me-Not’s ranch for the rest of their life. 

When equine abuse is reported to the sheriff’s department, Forget-Me-Not workers will check out the animal alongside law enforcement to see if their care is needed. Other reasons why horses end up at the ranch include elderly owners who are no longer able to care for the animal, owners who are moving and unable to take their horse with them, and those who are not in a financial position to adequately care for their horses. 

After working at a local animal shelter and witnessing horrific equine conditions in the late-2000s, Hendrix-Jones decided to open her own horse rescue. The first animal she cared for on the new ranch was a horse from Delaware that had navicular syndrome, which is inflammation or degeneration of the navicular bone and surrounding areas in the front feet. 

As people kept calling and Hendrix-Jones kept answering, the horse rescue grew quickly and it continues to care for hundreds of horses a year. 

The horse rescue receives financial help through grants and donations to cover feed, medical care, grooming tools and other needs. Hendrix-Jones says she is excited to soon receive a grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to pay for new sheds to better protect the horses.

In 2019, a resident asked the nonprofit what the most-needed item was for the farm to continue operation. It was a hay barn. Not only did the ranch receive the hay barn, but the resident also pitched the idea for a state-of-the-art equine facility where the public could be part of the rescue. 

One year later, the donor gave $2.5 million to the nonprofit to construct its 34,000-square-foot Unbridled Equestrian Center to take care of its horses. The donor bought and gifted 42 acres behind the Forget-Me-Not property and provided an outdoor riding arena, horse trailers, full fencing and gating and much more. 

In addition to being a horse rescue and rehabilitation center, Forget-Me-Not also invites the public to host birthday parties, group events and other gatherings on the property. The equestrian center includes a spacious conference room, large kitchen, dining room, office space and a wide-open view of the 16,000-square-foot arena from the main lobby. 

“Our goal is to get this to where we can help kids, and horses will help the kids,” Hendrix-Jones said. “It’s a mutual thing that works really well. We’re hoping to get into a program called ‘Hope Rides On’ next year. We’ve got some people qualified to do that. That will help the handicapped children with therapeutic riding.”

Hendrix-Jones says she would also like her rescue to work with the Wounded Warriors Project at some point to help veterans connect and grow alongside her rehabbing horses.

The nonprofit offers tours of its facility and will host Christmas celebrations on Dec. 4 and Dec. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be food, refreshments, tours, a petting zoo and even a visit from Santa Claus himself to meet the little ones. 

For more details on how to volunteer, donate or sponsor Missouri Forget-Me-Not Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, visit its website.

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