HAPI Trails and an equine subdivision make a perfect match

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DRIGGS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – It isn’t every day we find a story where the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ hammer out a mutually beneficial agreement.  We have that story now.  A Driggs horse rescue group was desperate for land.  An equine subdivision had no horses.  Put the two together with some intense negotiators, and it’s a dream come true all the way around.

Teton Saddleback Vista in Driggs was advertised and sold as a subdivision for horse owners.  There was a top of the line barn, stalls for rent, and an indoor riding arena. Something didn’t work out for the developer, and the buildings were auctioned off and torn down.  It left a gaping ugly cement hole where a beautiful horse facility once stood. Enter VARD!

” It stands for Valley Advocates for Responsible Development,” Anna Trentadue, VARD director said.

Anna Trentadue and Shawn Hill work to keep the Teton Valley beautiful.  In the past, some bad development decisions made for some messy looking subdivisions.

” You could see they were being designed rather hastily without much attention to details,” said Trentadue.

When it came to the Teton Saddleback Vista, VARD wanted to find someone that could use the horse space, before everything went to weeds. Executive Director Shawn Hill explains it this way.

” We did some non-profit matchmaking,” explained executive director Shawn Hill.   “HAPI Trails rose to the top of the pile.”

That’s the other half of this story.

“This is a palomino mare,” said Julie Martin, of HAPI Trails. “She came from a hoarding situation.  She was pretty emaciated when she came in.”

HAPI Trails stands for Horse Adoption Program Incorporated. It started in 2009 when the recession hit, and many people couldn’t afford to care for their horses anymore.

“This one was the worst of the group.  She had elf feet from never having her hooves trimmed. But you can see she’s healthy, she’s strong,” said Martin.

HAPI Trails had more needy horses than it had space to keep them.

“We put the two together and thought they could work out an arrangement, and they did.  Intense negotiations and it finally happened,” said Hill.

“We’ve been wanting a facility where we could expand our capacity and bring in more community involvement,” Martin added.  “A total rehab facility for horses and people.”

There were several advantages for people living in the subdivision.

” One of the biggest advantages is the tax breaks,” said Jon Wisby, Teton Saddleback Vista homeowner.  “We were paying $4000 a year in taxes, and it’s going to go down to about $400.”

“With horses on the property it’s more asthetically pleasing to look out and see horses,” said Jennifer Carter, the HAPI Trails board chair. “HAPI Trails volunteer their time, so we come over and maintain the fencing and get rid of the weeds.  That’s a benefit to homeowners.  As our program flourishes we’ll bring in more community members and connect with other organizations that are doing horse activities.”

Credit needs to be given to Cecelia Connell, who lives  lives in the Saddleback subdivision and made it her mission to get horses back on the property.

All creatures great & small: Dr. Betts on being a veterinarian in a changing valley



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Dr. Don Betts has seen a few things in his 32 years as a veterinarian in Teton Valley. TVN spoke with him at our recent Pet Expo at the county fairgrounds.

“When we first came it was mostly large animal, farm and ranch sort of thing,” said Betts. “We have gone almost completely to small animals. It’s almost a hundred percent flip flop—the demography of the valley has changed so much.”

Betts recalls some extraordinary statistics.

“There used to be over 40 dairies in the valley—now there are maybe five,” he said. “There’s only one truck that comes in to pick up milk every other day now. It goes out half loaded. There used to be 3 or 4 going out of here a day, full, every day.”

Betts used to tend to a lot of those operations, especially during calving season.

“One year I did 150 C-sections. I’d do five in a day,” he said.

Betts said this number reduced, mainly because of genetics and ranchers paying attention to what and when they were breeding. But the rest came from development.

“All the old ranch land is subdivisions. Where Huntsman is now was all cattle grazing,” he said. “That was all pasture land. That’s a good example.”

Betts recalls how that change impacted the valley, eventually spurring him to help form the Teton Valley Humane Society in the mid-nineties.

“I was one of the original board members,” said Betts. “We did a lot of fundraising and got the building built and even found a way to fund an animal control officer and did so.”

The Humane Society was originally in charge of the officer.

“A lot of his time was donated and he did a good job,” recalls Betts. “We were using the shelter as the place to confine these picked up animals. It worked out pretty well, then things kind of went in a different direction.”

As the valley continues to grow and the animal population continues to rise, Betts is an advocate of more animal control and regulation.

“I think it’s a mess any more,” he said. “Every week we see dogs that have been chewed up by another dog. Dog fights are common. I blame a lot of that on owner compliance or consideration. We see a lot of it and it shouldn’t happen.”

Betts is emphatic that it isn’t the animals’ fault; there’s just more of them—and owners need to take that it into consideration.

“It’s a training thing,” he said. “Of course, my own dogs ignore me. My example is that the cobblers son has no shoes. I don’t work as much with my dogs as I should.”

Failing better training, owners should default to the old maxim that good fences make good neighbors.

“Even an invisible fence works really well,” he said. “My dogs know exactly where the boundary is and don’t go through the fence as a general rule.”

Betts challenged the view that invisible fences are inhumane.

“I think what’s even more inhumane is letting your dogs run off onto the road and get run over,” he said. “You need to train a dog right, it does take a little bit of training. Most of these fences you put up yourself come with training videos.”

Although dogs and cats may be a majority of Betts’ patients, there are still farm calls.

“There are a lot of these small, menagerie farms,” he said. “They’ve got everything. Some for eating, so for having them on the place—chickens and goats and pigs and sheep. Many farms are on smaller acreages.”

One type of farm animal that is on the rise is goats.

“The dairy goat industry is really growing… Most of the people here are taking the milk themselves and making the cheese themselves,” Betts said. “People should know that any kind of commercial dairy needs to be over and above on testing. They get regular checks from the state veterinarian.”

Like at last weekend’s Pet Expo, Betts’ clinic (the Driggs Veterinary Clinic) is always willing to answer a question, even if they have to do research to get the answer.

“We do a lot of consultations,” said Betts. “Noise seems to be a big one, riding in cars is another big one. We have that information and expertise. We know a lot but we also know where to get better information. I’m a firm believer in that.”