The Remarkable Journey of Jamie Clifton and Volunteer Equine Advocates

by | Jan 2024

IN A setting where rolling hills merge into endless green pastures, a sanctuary for horses emerges. But this haven is more than just a refuge; it is a testament to a lifelong love affair with horses that began in the heart of a young Jamie Clifton. With a dedicated team of around 40 volunteers, Clifton now leads Volunteer Equine Advocates, a small nonprofit organization with an immense love for horses and a compassionate desire to make a difference in their lives.

Clifton and her organization have been transforming the lives of horses for the past two decades.

Clifton’s journey into the world of horse rescue and rehabilitation began in 2003 when Volunteer Equine Advocates officially gained nonprofit status. Their mission was clear: to work closely with law enforcement to rescue horses seized from cruelty cases. The organization’s primary focus has always been giving these innocent creatures a new chance at life.

However, it’s not just about the legal cases and the court orders; Clifton and her team go above and beyond. In certain situations, they even take in owner-surrendered horses. As Clifton put it, “We have 14 horses right now. They’re mostly senior horses that are the last to be adopted unless somebody is just looking for a pasture mate. We have a couple of mules, too.”

Clifton’s deeply personal connection with her mission sets Volunteer Equine Advocates apart. It all began with a news story that hit close to home — a case of extreme neglect and cruelty in Sumner County, just a stone’s throw away from where Clifton lived.

“I got such a drive to do this when a case here in Sumner County that was actually very close to where I live, was on the news, and there were a lot of dead horses. [It was] just a terrible situation,” Clifton recalled with sadness filling her voice.

The local sheriff ’s department took action, charging the owner with animal cruelty. Still, they faced a significant challenge: They had no place to house the rescued horses until they were ready for adoption and no one to care for them properly. Clifton’s friend stepped in and offered to find foster homes for all the seized horses. “And I think there were 11,” Clifton remembered. “She called on friends that had pastures and knew how to take care of horses and got that situation taken care of.”

In this pivotal moment, Clifton realized the need for an organization like a Humane Society that could handle livestock, especially in severe cases like the one she had just witnessed. Shewasted no time and, with the help of like-minded individuals, began writing bills and policies, eventually securing nonprofit status. They approached the sheriff, offering assistance, not interference. Clifton recalled, “We went to the sheriff and said, ‘We’re here to help you, not here to tell you how to do your job.’ And he was very receptive.”

The impact of Volunteer Equine Advocates soon extended beyond the boundaries of Sumner County. They started receiving calls from other counties, such as Giles County, and even from counties farther away.

Clifton said, “Within a couple of years, the word got out, and we were being called by counties far away. It has been 26 different counties we’ve worked in.”

Clifton’s passion for her work is clear, and thinking about her work over the past 23 years makes her smile and fills her heart. “It is so fulfilling, you know, to be able to help so many horses and be able to take them in,” she explained. The transformation these horses undergo is nothing short of miraculous.

“You can’t believe how wonderful it is when you get one that is skin and bones, and in three months, you wouldn’t even know it was the same horse,” said Clifton. Clifton’s love for horses has been a lifelong affair, beginning with her childhood ponies. Her involvement in different nonprofits in the past, mainly related to historic sites, took a completely different turn when she saw a need in her community.

“I have always loved horses,” she shared. “It was just a passion and something I saw a need for.” With the help of her dedicated team and the support of her community, she has rescued and rehabilitated over 1,500 horses in Central Tennessee and sown the seeds of hope, healing, and a brighter future for countless equines to come. GN

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