Alumni in Action: Colleen Fitzpatrick ’17 puts her passion for horses to use with Colorado rescue organization

Fitzpatrick is the director of communications for Drifter's Hearts of Hope, a nonprofit horse rescue organization in Douglas County, Colorado committed to circumventing the horse-slaughter pipeline.

With a passion for horses since a young age, Colleen Fitzpatrick ’17 was drawn to Colorado-based horse rescue center, Drifter’s Hearts of Hope, as soon as she left Elon.

Fitzpatrick has spent the last several years volunteering with the horse rescue organization in a riding capacity and has more recently added the position of Director of Communications of Drifter’s Hearts of Hope to her resume.

As a rider, Fitzpatrick assists the center in evaluating the horses that they rescue, while also helping them build on new skills and preparing them for their future adoption. Her role as director of communications includes working with grants, other administrative tasks and meeting with potential adopters.

Although her love for horses began long before Elon, Fitzpatrick’s time as a member of the Equestrian Team deepened this passion. In another installment of the Alumni in Action series, Fitzpatrick spoke about this passion, her time at Elon and her future with the Drifter’s Hearts of Hope organization.

How did your passion for horses start?

I cannot remember a time in my life that did not involve horses. Growing up, our neighbors had horses and I was always over at their fence, trying to feed them as many carrots and apples as my tiny elementary schooler hands could carry. I begged my way into horseback riding lessons soon after, and have been in the saddle ever since.

What is your favorite part of working with Drifter’s Hearts of Hope?

My favorite part of working with Drifter’s Hearts of Hope is seeing the transformation in the horses. Many come to the rescue in poor condition – underweight and/or injured.

Through nutritional and veterinary care, these horses complete the most incredible transformations. I have seen horses that I was shocked could even move a few feet when they came to the rescue complete incredible transformations and go on to performance and show careers.

The knowledge that the nutrition, medical care, training, time, effort and commitment the rescue provides to these horses results in the horses having a happier and healthier tomorrow is by far the most incredible return on any investment I have ever seen.

What is the greatest challenge of working with Drifter’s Hearts of Hope?

The greatest challenge of working with Drifter’s Hearts of Hope is the unfortunate reality that we are not able to save every horse. Due to financial and spatial constraints, we are not able to take in and rehabilitate every horse, and instead try to help folks find other rescues and organizations that could be able to help. In some cases, we are made aware of the issue too late to save the horse, and these situations are the most heartbreaking.

What is your favorite memory from your time as a member of the Elon Equestrian team?

The Elon Equestrian team brought so many wonderful people, horses and learning opportunities to my life. A memory that sticks out is cantering in the pasture aboard one of my all-time favorite horses, surrounded by riders and trainers who became a fantastic support team. That memory captures the reason I have loved horses for so long – that sense of freedom, adrenaline rush and how in that moment, all you can think about is that horse and that moment.

What volunteering or service activities at Elon were you involved in?

While at Elon, I was a two-time orientation leader, participated in a Jungle Service winter term program and lead a volunteering-focused pre-orientation program. These activities helped me develop my passion for volunteering through seeing the impact of volunteer efforts on the community.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself as a first-year stepping onto campus for the first time?

Realize that you can learn something from every single person that you interact with during your time at Elon, and always be open to that learning.

How do you feel Elon prepared you for life following graduation?

Elon provided me countless opportunities to hone my communication skills, which has greatly benefited me post-graduation. From presenting at rescue events to writing much-needed grants for financial support to requesting donations from local businesses, the communication skills I improved on while at Elon have made it possible for me to help the rescue receive grants and private donations. Over the course of the rescue’s six years of operations, more than 550 horses have received the care that they so desperately needed.

Nominations for alumni to be highlighted in the Alumni in Action segment can be made here.