All in Need of Rescue: Profile

It’s the first bitterly cold morning of the season as Dan McNally begins his daily chores. It’s a late start this morning, and the goats are protesting loudly. He must first muck out each of stalls before the horses and goats in his barn can get their breakfasts. Over the next two hours he cleans, feeds, and cares for 22 horses, three ponies, 11 goats, a scattering of elderly chickens, two dogs, and one abandoned Easter rabbit.


McNally talks while he works. He explains every step, every scoop of the shovel, every horse as it gets its hay. The horses in the field get more calories than those in the barn, he says. They have the cold to deal with. His detailed knowledge of each animal’s diet, history, and personality is more thoughtful than methodical, though. The ten female goats, for example, are each named alphabetically after flowers. Azalea, the matriarch, is the oldest while Juniper is the baby of the herd.


He and his wife have lived on this farm for 16 years after all. He wears tennis shoes muddied from work, an old baseball cap, and a fleece headband to keep his ears out of the biting chill. He has tucked his long hair, held by a scrunchy, into the blue headband.


Their single-story home, not 50 yards from the stables, is cluttered on the inside. In the living room hang horse camp supplies, and tie-dye t-shirts with their home-designed logo. In the corner are bottles, cans, and other recyclables carefully sorted. One bottle-filled wall is taken up by another of Dan McNally’s passion projects: wine making. Another wall is home to his three daughters’ art. He is eager to show off the ceramic ladybugs and small silk circles painted by their horse camp students at his wife’s skilled instruction.


McNally has worn many hats in his life. He has coached middle school softball and is currently a real estate agent. A Eugene native, he studied chemistry, biology, and art at the University of Oregon. He commits himself to everything he does, but nothing quite as much as his family and his farm, into which he pours everything he has.


McNally is talkative, but he talks far more about others than himself. The exception being when he speaks proudly about his newly minted nonprofit, Animal Rescue Teaching for Any Level of Learner.  He co-founded the nonprofit with his wife Tammy McNally, the first one to introduce horses into her husband’s life. “Tammy grew up a horse girl,” says Dan. Her grandmother urged her towards boys, but she just wanted to ride. When they bought a farm together, Tammy, in turn, urged Dan toward horses. 


ART for ALL, which rescues animals and uses the experience as a teaching tool, is new, but the work is far from new to McNally. It began 12 years ago when he saw an opportunity to teach his youngest daughter and her friends (even her softball team) about horses-- not just learning to ride, but how to care for horses and the many facets of life on the farm-- the ups and the downs. “That’s important,” says Dan, “we don’t lie to our students when an animal passes.” Instead, he helps them understand.


It’s a gray afternoon and McNally has paused only once, for a hot cup of coffee. He preps one of his calmest horses for riding as his first riding lesson of the day pulls up. Evie Kaufman is 4 years old. She is shy, and hesitant, and dwarfed by Maddy the brown mare. But the pair warm up to each other as McNally talks Evie and her mother, Erin Kaufman, through saddling, brushing, and cleaning Maddy’s hooves.


McNally’s soft-spoken nature seems perfectly suited to kids and he leads Evie and Maddy though the riding arena with care. Kaufman says it has been hard to find a good fit for Evie, who has always been enamored with horses. McNally is careful and understands which horses should work with which kids. “He prioritizes safety,” says Kaufman, “and he cares.”

What McNally most hopes to teach his students are the ethics and joy of living with animals. “All animals need rescuing,” says McNally while scattering hay, “they need us to be there to take care of them. Even pets.”

When it comes to the animals, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Perhaps that is unsurprising for a man who has raised three daughters, his oldest who was adopted at age 11-- a “rescue human” he jokes.

When he sees his students’ strong commitment to the animals, he is proud. For Dan, the farm is his community. He gets a certain look in his eyes while helping his horses, his students, or his wife. Each time the same look-- like all he sees is family. And at the end of the day, the love that Dan gives so freely is returned to him tenfold.

Jen JacksonComment