Marnie Lahtinen
Alison Smith spends quality time with a miniature horse named Bella and a draft horse named Hawk Eye at Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue in Mandan.

Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue goat, Little Miss Chevious, gets ready for the holidays.

Miniature horse Bonnie has a big yawn at Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue. (Submited)

How do we define "home"? A roof overhead, a floor underneath? A hometown? Or is home simply where the heart is? It's human nature to crave -- to need -- a sense of belonging and place. One Mandan woman knows that a yearning for home extends beyond human nature.

Meet Alison Smith. This animal lover and her husband, Steve, own and operate Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue, a nonprofit animal welfare organization located south of Mandan. The Smiths devote their lives to giving rescued animals a new beginning by working to place them in safe, life-long settings. The Triple 'H' stands for help, hope and homes, after all.

Be Magazine sat down with Alison Smith recently to learn more about Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue.

Tell me about Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue's mission.

Alison Smith: Awareness -- education, really -- is our number one focus. And then rescue. If there's more awareness, there's less rescue. The two things I want to get out there are a) that we exist and b) there is a place for seized animals. We're the place to call if you suspect animal abuse, but [if] you don't feel comfortable calling it in, we'll do it for you. Education is so key to understanding which animals really need help. We are really trying to limit our work to true rescue animals, and not surrenders.

What does a 'rescue' look like?

AS: When the horses come in and they've been neglected, they [can be] mean. They have to be quarantined for a while; then we find them a pen-mate that isn't going to be mean to them. It varies how quickly the animals feel safe and comfortable at our rescue. Some of them feel like our farm is home right away. Where you're familiar or where you feel comfortable -- that's home, right?

Tell me more about the adoption process.

AS: We have animals stay from two months to two years. Our blind animals are permanent and we know when we take a blind horse we will have them forever.

Before we place [our animals for adoption], they have to gain their proper weight and we need enough time to monitor their behavior. I always tell people the 'bad stuff' so they know exactly what they're getting so that it's a successful adoption. If you make it sound rosy, and then they get home and the horse isn't a good fit, it's coming back.

When we adopt them out, we have a strict no-breed, no-sell contract. We want to know where the animals are going... we are trying to keep them out of the sales ring and more importantly out of the slaughter pipeline after all the work that we have done.

It sounds like a huge commitment!

AS: Chores are complex -- and plentiful. You don't just 'throw hay.' There's hand feeding, food soaking, shots, oral medicine, checking water tanks and foaling. [Alison stays up through the night to watch horses foal on a camera she has set up in the barn.] This is not our full-time job, but we are there every day, and Steve is there probably five hours a day. My in-laws live on the property, so it's nice the animals are not out there alone.

How can others contribute and participate?

AS: What really helps are donations. Taking in even one, sick horse is a huge financial commitment... so $50 can go long way for feed, vet bills and repairs around the farm (a water tank, for example). Big animal, big expense.

Our events also give a lot of information about the horses. We had a 5K for the first time this year, and then we had a farm fun day. We had our goats, horses, donkeys, sheep, chickens and rabbits in a petting pen. This raised $4,000... it all goes for the feed and vet fees.

And I love it at Christmas. One of our miniature horses rings the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign at the Gateway Mall. I also taught him to play the piano with his nose and to shake a tambourine. He paints, too!

To learn more about Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue and Atti's Eats Pet Food Pantry, visit

Marnie Lahtinen is the mother of five children and a Mandan-based freelance writer. In addition to her family, she loves travel, hiking, skiing, food, knitting, red wine and music.