Like lots of folks in Colorado, Juliana Lehman loves horses. The image of a band of high spirited ponies on a sweeping Colorado ranch, or a solitary older horse grazing contentedly under the shade tree of a rural family farm warms her heart and reminds her of childhood years spent bonding with her father through their mutual love of horses.
Unfortunately, in recent years, this bucolic, equine scene in Colorado has changed somewhat. Years of drought and the 2008 recession have made it difficult for many rural families to adequately feed their horses. Juliana explained that, yes, the economy is now getting better in some ways, but many hard-working people with very modest incomes who have always lived with horses in their lives, are still struggling mightily to make ends meet.
They are either trying to recover from periods of unemployment due to the economic downturn, or their incomes have stayed stagnant over the last 6 or so years while costs for everything seem to still keep going up. Struggling to meet costs for the basic necessities of life and raising children has left little money to feed the horse or two, or several on their homestead.
About 5 or 6 years ago, Juliana started hearing more and more about horses going hungry or dying because of drought and lack of basic food like hay. Some horse owners in desperation were letting their horses go free, hoping they could find food on their own. Since it is almost impossible for a domesticated horse to survive in the wild, she decided she had to do something about it, founding of the Colorado HorseCare Foodbank situated right here in Evergreen.
Juliana has a substantive history of successful business ventures earlier in her career. Borrowing from those experiences, and drawing upon her creativity and passion for the cause, she has crafted a successful 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation which includes several fun and unique ways of raising money to buy hay, and provide farrier and vet services for horse owners in need throughout the state of Colorado.
The organization’s spring fundraiser is called Flowers for Food and is now in its fifth year. Juliana uses her greenhouse and borrows additional greenhouse space from a few other friends to raise flower starts beginning in February/ March of each year. They then sell these plants in attractive planters in May for those who live down the hill and in June for people up here.
You can also arrange to bring an empty planter or container to her, and she and her volunteers will create a colorful array of starters for you in your favorite pot. They’ll tend to the seedlings, nurture them for a couple of months, and you can retrieve the planter when it is safe to leave plantings outdoors.
The plants are hardy, lovingly cared for, tastefully arranged, come in a variety of colors and textures, and are very reasonably priced. The proceeds go to feed hungry horses in the mountain community and across the plains of Colorado.
If you are looking for a way to spend a gorgeous fall evening, their fall fundraiser is called Hay Bales and Horse Tales and is an evening widely considered to be one of the most enjoyable events in the mountain community. This year it will be on September 28, 2013 at Lucky Penny Ranch, home of the Chuck and Gail Riding.
The organization has also held successful weekend rides in the eastern part of the state where people brought their own horses and is currently working on additional weekend rides where horses will be provided as part of the fee.
Juliana is very quick to express great appreciation for others who have helped her manage this foundation. Although we can’t list them all, Lisa and Pat Clark of ESCO Excavating Company have been invaluable due to their willingness to store huge amounts of hay (1600 bales at a time) on their property. Ellen Storeim and Kelly Hendricks are board members who been supporting this project and Juliana’s vision for several years. Gail and Chuck Ridings have offered their indoor arena for fund raisers.
Juliana also gives a lot of credit to her husband, Richard Lehman, whose business acumen and emotional support have allowed her the opportunity to invest her time in this demanding-but-worthwhile endeavor.
As with all nonprofits in our area, they are always looking for volunteers and more financial help and trying to expand their capabilities. Right now, Juliana is diligently trying to find a place where they can store hay indoors, which would expand their ability to provide emergency services. Juliana’s passion for the well-being of Colorado horses and her diligence in finding solutions to a significant – but somewhat neglected – issue help make her a revered part of our mountain community.