2021 Good People for Good Horses Awards
The ASPCA’s Good People for Good Horses Awards recognize the incredible work done daily on behalf of horses in transition. From the hardworking volunteers who show up day in and day out to the incredible advocates who are shining a bright light on equine adoption, the ASPCA’s Right Horse is thrilled to celebrate the heroes in our community who make a difference.
In 2021, we had an outstanding group of nominees who’ve each had a powerful impact in their field of work and communities. In the end, we’re celebrating eight individuals for their dedication to improving equine welfare in the United States through adoption. Each recipient is being honored with a custom belt buckle and recognition for the efforts to help at-risk horses.
If you feel inspired by their great work and commitment, become a hero for horses in your own community! Access our toolkit to find ways you can spread awareness about equine adoption and make a positive impact on horses.
2021 Good People for Good Horses winners
Veterinarian, East Region – Dr. Frank Nickels
Non-profit served: CANTER Michigan
“Without surgeries, many of these horses would have faced an uncertain future and had a difficult time being adopted. Dr. Nickels has saved the lives of over 200 injured horses who now enjoy living with their new, adoptive families,” said Robbie Timmons, CANTER USA President, who nominated Dr. Nickels.
Dr. Frank Nickels is Chief of Staff at Michigan State University’s Large Animal Hospital and an equine surgeon. With a longstanding passion for racehorses, he has specialized in diagnosing and repairing injuries suffered by Thoroughbred racehorses who retire from racing into CANTER Michigan, a Thoroughbred aftercare organization since 1998.
Veterinarian, Central Region – Dr. Susan Heath
Non-profit served: Humane Society of North Texas
“Dr. Heath has dedicated herself to helping improve welfare not just through treating equines, but through educating owners and industry professionals themselves. She has gone above and beyond in our requests for help by going the extra distance (literally) to help in some challenging circumstances without hesitation. She continuously works on advancing the knowledge of area law enforcement, having taught classes on humane education so that officers are better equipped to respond to cases of equine cruelty,” stated Heidi Garbe, HSNT Equine and Livestock Director, in her nomination.
Dr. Susan M. Heath owns and operates Heath Mobile Veterinary Services and provides ambulatory veterinary care for large and small animals in Ellis and Southern Dallas, TX counties. She has assisted county and municipal law enforcement agencies with animal cruelty cases in the field and in the courtroom and participated in the ASPCA’s national pilot program of Vet Direct. As an independent contract vet in the community, she is an asset to the Humane Society of North Texas’ Vet Direct Program, helping to identify horses at risk and getting the necessary vet care to them through utilizing funds from this innovative program. She has assisted in a number of cruelty cases and also works to educate both equine owners and the equine industry on horse care and welfare.
Veterinary Professional, West Region – Kimberly Burton
Non-profit served: L.E.A.N
Dr. Leslie Schur of Desert Pines Equine shared, “Kimmie is a full-time technician with us at Desert Pines and has worked tirelessly with us for the past 17 yrs. She works closely within the community and is always the one that will step up identifying problems that endanger the wellbeing of the horse. She has been a key member of our equine community both inside and outside of the hospital setting. After 27 years in practice, I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”
Kimberly Burton has been a licensed Veterinary Technician at Las Vegas-based Desert Pines Equine for 17 years. In that time, she has held numerous leadership roles in her community and in the profession. Recognizing that there were an increasing number of community horses needing help during the economic recession in 2008, she joined a small group of individuals to form the Local Equine Assistance Network (L.E.A.N). L.E.A.N works to rehabilitate and rehome horses through an expansive foster network and has more recently expanded the program’s efforts upstream to include community safety net programs. She currently serves as the organization’s President and Medical Director. Kimberly also organized her county’s first castration and vaccine clinics, and the county’s first large animal handling and equine investigations class.
Trainer – Bridget Hollern Heasley
Non-profit served: New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program
New Vocations’ Standardbred Program Director, Winnie Nemeth, shared “In October of 2019 I was given less than a month’s notice that our only Standardbred farm was going to have to move and find a new trainer. I contacted Bridget to see if I could possibly move two Standardbred’s to her and if she would help to transition them. She really had not ridden them before but was very happy to help out. She got her first two Standardbreds in November of 2019 and did not look back! When I need her, she is always available and will do just about anything asked to get our horses placed. She is a huge asset to our program.”
With a background in both the hunter/jumper and reining/cowhorse industries, Bridget started a training and lesson program in 2005. In 2011, she joined the New Vocation’s team working as a Thoroughbred trainer in the Marysville, OH location. During her time working with the Thoroughbred program, she helped rehome hundreds of horses. In 2019, when unexpected circumstances left New Vocation’s Standardbred program without a training location, Bridget stepped into the role seamlessly to help retiring racehorses get the skills and visibility they need to find new loving homes and careers.
Community Partner – Patrick King
Non-profit served: Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue
“Patrick has been an incredible supporter of Heart of Phoenix for around 6 years. While he travels internationally and encounters some of the most elite equines and riders in the world, he was always dedicated time each year to help HOP with our efforts to improve the lives of horses in need and increase education to rural communities. We appreciate his partnership more than he will ever know,” said Tinia Creamer, founder and president of Heart of Phoenix.
Passionate about dressage and classical equestrian ideals, Patrick King has spent years culminating knowledge from our generation’s great riding masters and shares this knowledge with his students. Patrick has devoted his life to learning and teaching great horsemanship. To date, Patrick has started well over two thousand young horses under saddle. He conducts clinics around the United States, hosts a podcast and makes his educational resources free to the horse loving public. More recently, Patrick has hosted an annual clinic for Heart of Phoenix and has been a passionate advocate for their Appalachian Trainer Faceoff. He’s helped grow the network of trainers helping Heart of Phoenix’s adoption efforts and raised public interest in adoption.
Farrier – Matt Byars
Non-profit served: SPCA of Texas
“Matt is an incredibly talented and special person when it comes to this profession. His calm demeanor gets the best out of the horses he works with, and he is the first one to take a moment and understand the horse and its background. Patience is one of his strongest attributes, which not only is a huge asset for any farrier experience, but even more so with horses in transition and the different backgrounds they come with. He never says no to helping a horse; even the most difficult of them. We at the SPCA of Texas count ourselves incredibly lucky to have a great partnership with this hard working, and passionate individual,” commented nominator Jamie Riordan.
Matt Byars operates Dallas Farrier Service and supports the North Texas region with quality hoof care services. He offers consulting services alongside hot and cold, natural balance and corrective shoeing. His expertise and horsemanship have been integral in helping rehabilitate and rehome horses at the SPCA of Texas’ Dallas facility.
Volunteer – Zoe Page
Non-profit served: Nexus Equine
Nexus Equine had glowing words for Zoe’s impact: “The amount of time and effort Zoe puts forth into these horses is remarkable. She is their primary caretaker…the one who feeds daily, makes sure they have hay and water, makes sure they get the vet care they need, works them and works with a trainer to get them (and her) all the training they need! She is dedicated and mature beyond her years and the animals in her care, as well as the organizations she gives her time to, benefit greatly from it!”
Zoe is a long-time volunteer at Nexus Equine who has helped multiple horses find homes as a training foster, and mentored numerous youth to get involved with the organization. As an excellent horsewoman with a strong foundation in positive reinforcement and groundwork, she’s been able to use her diverse toolbox of training skills to help multiple horses find new homes. She was reserve champion in the inaugural Oklahoma 4H Equine Makeover and now mentors subsequent participants. She has now mentored four youth members and provided support as the trained their adoptable horses for the competition.
Wild Card – Roger Lauze
Non-profit served: MSPCA-Angell
“Roger retired this year after a very long and very impactful career but remains on call for trainings and work with our law enforcement and community outreach teams when they encounter a horse or large animal owner in need of assistance. His contributions to improving the welfare of horses (and horse owners) in New England – and beyond – have been incredibly significant and we are proud to have him as part of our team,” said Julia Vasquez of the MSPCA when nominating Roger for the award.
Roger has been a central figure at the MSPCA for over 40 years. Not only has he played an integral role in the rescue, sheltering, rehabilitation, training and rehoming of countless horses and farm animals, but he also directed the MSPCA’s equine ambulance and sport horse services. Roger developed the Rescue Glide; an innovative tool designed to efficiently move downed large animals safely. His large animal rescue training classes have entertained and enlightened hundreds of farm owners, horse owners, equine enthusiasts – as well as firefighters and first responders of all stripes.
The ASPCA’s Right Horse congratulates each of our 2021 winners, as well as all of the nominees and other unsung heroes who work tirelessly to help good horse connect with good people.