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LA SELVA BEACH—Donations have kept hay in the stalls at Pregnant Mare Rescue, but the all-volunteer, nonprofit operation now faces its toughest financial struggle in nearly a decade — just as founding owner Lynn Hummer faces breast cancer.
“It is what it is,” Hummer, 58, said Saturday from her Larkin Valley ranch, which provides sanctuary and finds permanent homes for pregnant mares and their foals that would otherwise be sent to slaughter in Canada or Mexico.
In July, Hummer found a grape-size lump in her right chest cavity. She thought she’d pulled a muscle from baling hay. Weeks later, a biopsy showed she had invasive ductal carcinoma and four additional tumors.
“It got more real as it went on,” said Hummer who is heading into surgery Tuesday. She will know more about her treatment options afterward. “The good news is it’s the most common and most treatable with the highest success rate. I just don’t know what’s going to be the road ahead.”
It’s been a year of challenges for the organization. Not only has the drought impacted hay prices but an outbreak of “strangles,” a common, highly contagious respiratory infection, affected 60 percent of the horses at the ranch. The infection required isolating the horses for months, which resulted in higher feed and veterinary costs and the cancellation of community activities that augment fundraising.
“When I started in 2006, I had $300 in the bank,” Hummer said. “I’m almost at that level now.” Hummer was laid off from a local company almost a year ago and her efforts to find a partner to help support the organization have not yet paid off.
In July, Hummer launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the organization pay down some of the costs. Operation costs are about $4,000 per month. The cost of hay is about $300 a month per horse. A total of 59 people gave more than $4,200, which helped tremendously, she said.
“We will barely scrape by for September,” she said. “We’re getting there. I’m feeling confident and the volunteers have been amazing.”
Much of the fundraising, however, is telling the story of the horses in blogging and pictures and ranch activities and Hummer is expecting to need at least two months for recovery.
She still hopes to find homes for three young “beautiful, healthy, but completely green” quarter horse mares — two chestnut and one bay.
As Hummer is recovering from her surgery, supporters will be moving forward with several fundraisers, including a benefit concert in San Martin with the Wicked Tinkers band, spirits and refreshments Sept. 25.
A barbecue benefit with Fox Equine Rescue is planned Oct. 10 at the Summit Riders Horsemen’s Association show grounds near the Summit. The event will include a horse clinic and pony rides.
For information or to make a donation to Pregnant Mare Rescue, visit http://www.pregnantmarerescue.org.
This article first appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.