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Passion for horses behind
volunteer’s efforts at Noah’s Ark


By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

  When Armie Robinson of McDonough hung up his police uniform for the last time six years ago, he had no idea he would soon devote his days to protecting and serving horses at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove.

Retired police officer, Armie Robinson volunteers at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary by assisting with therapy for more than 100 horses and ponies.                                  Photo by Nick Vassy

  Now, however, volunteering at the Ark makes him feel 20 years younger.

  “This is turning out to be my little fountain of youth,” said Robinson, 58.

  Robinson began volunteering at Noah’s Ark last year, assisting with therapy six days a week for more than 100 horses and ponies – many of which were previously injured or neglected. Others are retired show horses, and still others came to live at the non-profit facility simply because their owners could no longer give them the care they needed.

  Robinson monitors the weights of the horses, and helps them to remain free from injury. He said the key to determining how to handle horses is to respect them – particularly those that were treated badly in the past.

  “They fear humans, and they have trust issues,” said Robinson.

One of the animals in Robinson’s charge is Prince, a 17-year-old horse. Robinson said Prince is currently helping him to train a 9-year-old Haitian orphan, named Mac, on how to ride horses.

  Although Prince appeared to be at ease thanks to the volunteer’s calm demeanor, not every horse at Noah’s Ark is quite as approachable at first. Robinson said it is important to understand horses in order to care for them properly. 

  “There’s a pecking order with these horses,” he said. “If you stay long enough, you find out who’s the king and who’s the queen. You kind of get accepted by them, and their clique comes around and wants to sniff you and smell you, and find out if you’re a friend or foe. You can’t treat all of them the same way. Some of them will come up to you, and some of them won’t.”

  Robinson first began cultivating his love for horses when he was 7 years old. He said his initial encounter with the equine world came from an unlikely source, when he stole a white pony named Smokey from a family affiliated with the mob.

  Although he eventually learned to ride horses with Smokey’s help, the knowledge came with a price when he mucked stalls for the mob as payment for his theft.

  Robinson later ventured into the law-enforcement arena, where he remained for 25 years. He worked as an officer for a police department in Trenton, N.J.

  Robinson continued to maintain a love of horses during that time, and incorporated it into his chosen profession just before his retirement in 2008.

  “I helped them train their first mounted police unit,” said Robinson, adding that the unit included five horses and their riders.

  Robinson’s previous efforts also include stints with the Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA. He said he first learned about Noah’s Ark from a friend who knew about his love for kids and animals.

  As Robinson basked in the facility’s quiet, peaceful surroundings, he called Noah’s Ark a “hand-in-glove” fit for him.

  “It takes me back to my childhood,” he said. “You can forget how old you are when you’re out here with these horses and with these other animals. You learn something and you see something new every day, if you look.”

  Noah’s Ark, at 712 L.G. Griffin Road, first opened in 1990 and currently houses 1,500 animals from 900 species. The 250-acre sanctuary’s Assistant Director, Charlie Hedgecoth, said Robinson’s knowledge is valuable not only for the horses but also for other volunteers at Noah’s Ark.

  “He’s older, and a lot of times he’s able to focus a lot of the younger guys that work with us,” said Hedgecoth. “What Armie does is, he teaches the kids that there is groundwork to be done before you ride horses. You’ve got to make them your friend. Armie’s good at that. You don’t want to be the cowboy running up on them. You’ve got to respect them.”

  As for the horses themselves, Hedgecoth said they are able to thrive at Noah’s Ark, due in large part to Robinson’s efforts.

  “They don’t have to do anything but just be horses,” said Hedgecoth.

  Hedgecoth said helping the animals at Noah’s Ark is a passion for Robinson and other volunteers there.

  “It gives us a chance to give back,” said Hedgecoth. “It’s not work if you love what you do.”



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