"I take it hard," Munden said, standing in the middle of snowy pens filled with other horses. "I know it's not my fault, but I blame myself."
When the economy sank in 2009 and Munden lost her job selling construction supplies, her husband encouraged her to pursue a dream she'd had for a while: a horse rescue, where she could save and rehabilitate the animals the way other places save cats and dogs. Munden, a horse owner since she was 15, went with it. A few months later, she converted her 5-acre Herriman property, at 7300 W. 13496 South, into MadaresGold Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
Since they started, Munden's found new homes for about 100 horses like Hero, who arrived beaten and bloody from head to toe two years ago and have lost 20, like Misha. Other rescues might call that a bad ratio, Munden said, "but we take the worst of the worst. I don't want to put down other rescues, but I'm not going to turn away any horse."
The way she and her husband see it, if they can save them they'll try, and if the horse doesn't make it, at least they passed away with someone caring for them.
Every day, Munden tends to the horses. Sometimes her husband James can help, but he's gone much of the time at his electrician job in Davis County, and once in a while there's a volunteer or two to help feed the horses.
"But it mostly boils down to me," Munden said.
It's not obvious from the narrow road, but right behind Munden's one-story wooden house, 24 horses are spread out in pens and stalls. They come from all over northern Utah. Sometimes owners fall on hard times and don't have the means to take care of the animal, so they give them up to the rescue. That was the case for Krissi Roberts, who didn't know beforehand a horse she bought was blind, requiring more skill than Roberts has to ride. So she gave the horse up to Munden, who found it a new home. Roberts was so taken by the rescue, she's stayed involved as a volunteer ever since.
But most of the horses arrive starved, dehydrated or abused, given up by an owner or seized by a court. Some of them have only one eye from beatings they received from their previous owners.
And then they show up at MadaresGold. It seems they can tell right away they've arrived in a safe place, Munden said, where someone does have the love and means to care for them. Once they're rehabilitated, Munden finds them a new home.
Most of them hear of the rescue through word of mouth or, like Kelli McFadden of West Jordan, through social media. A horse owner her whole life, she'd never seen the dark side of it until she heard of the rescue on Facebook.
Eighteen of the rescue's current horses all came from one owner, a hoarder, who voluntarily gave up eight of them before the court forced her to give up the rest to the rescue two months ago. They were starved and beaten, and one needed surgery to remove a crushed eye. Because of ongoing legal proceedings, Munden declined to say where their previous home was, but they've never taken in so many horses from one place before.
"The most before was eight at one time from a previous owner," Munden's husband James said.
McFadden's heart broke for them. She and her husband, who already volunteer at the rescue and adopted one horse before, adopted one of the youngest from the hoarder Vegas, a paint horse. Vegas' mother had also been seized from the property, and died not long after from damage to her hooves. But McFadden has high hopes for her baby at its new home.
"She has come a long way. She was really scared when she got there. She was only two or three months old. You could tell she had never been handled," McFadden said. "To see one horse come in and scared to death and have no energy, and afraid of everything, to coming around and seeing their personalities, it's like an adopted child [who was] abused and seeing them come around want to be around you…that's the rewarding part."
But it's a reward that comes at a cost for Munden.
She pays $2,000 a month on average just for hay, and then there is the dental work and veterinary bills. She feels lucky to have Lyle Barbour at South Mountain Equine as her veterinarian, who's been with her from the start, finding her discounts and understanding that sometimes the payments take time.
The rescue survives on donations, auctions and fundraisers. But they're not always enough to cover costs, and Munden makes up the difference herself. "It gets frustrating," she said, but she's hopeful for the annual fundraiser this summer that recently obtained Ken Garff West Valley Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram as a sponsor.
Ideally, Munden would like enough money to hire two full-time employees and to build a heated barn. Munden's looking for a grant writer to help her find that funding. If she had such a barn for Misha, she would have survived the night.
Until then, she has a two-stall barn, a lot of pens, a few loyal volunteers and a love for horses.
"It's not a five-star hotel, but they're well taken care of," Munden said.
MadaresGold Horse Rescue
I For more information on the rescue, including how to donate, visit www.mghr.org.