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Originally published Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Despite founder's death, Marysville horse-rescue program goes on

Vel Moore, the founder of Marysville's Equine Rescue Association, had a special ability to read the character of a horse and know its worth. And she did the same with people — especially the troubled teens who were assigned to do volunteer work at the horse rescue farm.

Seattle Times Eastside reporter

Vel Moore, the founder of Marysville's Equine Rescue Association, could read the character of a horse and know its worth. She did the same with people — especially the troubled teens assigned to volunteer at the horse-rescue farm.

Moore fell and broke her leg in February, and later she was diagnosed with cancer. She died last week at age 77. But supporters say the rescue organization will keep going without her.

Equine Rescue, about a mile north of the Tulalip Resort Casino off Interstate 5, works with teens assigned to volunteer there by Marysville's municipal court after being in trouble with the law. The organization takes in horses that are lame, blind, unwanted or that can't be ridden, and the group tries to rehabilitate them or just give them a comfortable home.

Susan McGuire, of Lenore, Idaho, met Moore long before she had the horse-rescue association, when Moore lived in California and taught at California State University, Northridge. On the side, Moore worked with horses as a rider and trainer.

Even though Moore was not running a rescue agency for horses or teens then, she fell into that role with McGuire, in her 20s and "making bad choices" with her life, she said.

Moore took her under her wing, helping McGuire sort out issues with drug use by insisting she have a clear head when she was working with the horses.

"If I hadn't had her support, who knows what would have happened," said McGuire.

"I cannot tell you how significant she was in my life, and to any number of at-risk kids who have been through her program," McGuire said. Today, McGuire is married with two grown sons and lives on a 154-acre farm in Idaho.

"I owe a lot of that to the faith that Vel had in me back then, and the things she taught me," she said.

Those who knew Moore described her as deeply devoted to the horses she rescued. "She was totally given over to the care of these horses, and the care of them at any cost," said Suzette Acey, president of the board of directors of the association.

Acey said Moore sometimes used her Social Security check to pay for food and veterinary bills for the horses. She was the association's leader and office manager, juggling bills and contributions on a shoestring budget while caring for about 30 horses with the help of volunteers.

Sara Losey was a troubled youth when she started working at Equine Rescue at age 12. Losey will step into Moore's shoes as vice president of the association and will run the day-to-day operations.

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"She taught me many incredible things," said Losey, "including how to grow up."

Moore began Equine Rescue Association in 1997 when she moved to Snohomish County from California.

The rescue operation moved to its present site when the Marysville School District offered property near Marysville-Pilchuck High School for a token rent.

The association is planning a memorial service and fundraiser, including pony rides and a sale of used riding equipment, from 1-5 p.m. June 28 at Equine Rescue Association, 2415 116th St. N.E., Marysville.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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