The majestic horse, strength and power personified, wins over the hearts of many—whether filling their iconic American role roaming free on the western plains or under saddle performing the precise and graceful “dance” of dressage. How can it be then that approximately 150,000 of these sentient beings will be sent to slaughter facilities across in Mexico and Canada this year alone? This number does not even address the foals being born and considered by-products of various industries, nor does it include the 50,000 American Mustangs in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities.
Under the umbrella of the American Horse Council, the Unwanted Horse Coalition was formed in 2005 to educate the private and professional sectors about responsible options available and to support programs that deal with overpopulation. Through the Unwanted Horse Coalition, private owners are given information to make responsible decisions for their equine friend including basic costs expected, re-homing options and equine retirement. To eliminate backyard breeding, which is a large contributor to the overpopulation, the organization has instituted Operation Gelding; they have gelded 939 stallions in the last four years. It also works with breed and racing associations to create options for horses once their careers are over. In the thoroughbred racing industry, approximately 20,000 foals are born annually with nearly 2,000 starting gates to fill. The Jockey Club of America has initiated the Retirement Checkoff Program, which allows breeders and owners to donate toward aftercare at the time of foal registration. Breed associations ask for monitoring but much slips through the cracks and slaughterhouses don’t discriminate.
A University of California, Davis survey discovered that there are 326 501(c)3-registered rescues in the United States. Their maximum capacity is 13,400 horses. Foster homes and donations are invaluable to these nonprofit organizations. They have various ways to accept support, including an “adoption” where children or adults can visit their horse. Here are three local Connecticut rescues that could use support.
H.O.R.S.E. of CT
In the 32 years that H.O.R.S.E. of CT has actively been helping unwanted, neglected or abused horses find their forever homes, 700 horses have gone through their gates. The farm runs at capacity with 35 horses cared for by their volunteer staff and President Patty Wahlers. The yearly cost to keep the rescue open is roughly $150,000. H.O.R.S.E. of CT has been active in the rescue of approximately 35 Premarin foals. These foals are a by-product of the pharmaceutical industry in the production of the hormonal replacement drug Premarin, which is made from the urine of pregnant mares. A visit to their website will show some ways you can support their efforts. For the person who wants to take long walks with an equine friend, they have a horse for you. Never been near a horse but would love the experience? They are available to guide you in basic care.
Equine Angels Rescue Sanctuary (E.A.R.S.)
While researching and filming a piece on the Premarin industry twelve years ago, documentary filmmaker Frank Weller founded E.A.R.S. Four hundred adoptions later, Weller is still working for the foals with a network of volunteers and farms that support E.A.R.S. The network spans as far west as Arizona and includes the entire East Coast. His main focus is raising funds to rescue foals and broodmares from kill auctions, find adopters, and oversee the continued growth of each individual foal. Finding foster homes is key. Weller’s current focus is working with farmers/breeders in the nurse mare industry. The nurse mare is not unlike the wet nurse of the 19th century. When the broodmare that still competes needs to get back to work, the nurse mare is brought in. For the nurse mare to stay “in milk” she needs to have recently foaled herself. Her foal then becomes an orphan. E.A.R.S. believes helping these farmers by giving them better options is a win-win for all. To see how you can help or discuss your farm as a possible foster home, please contact Weller.
CT Draft Horse Rescue
Haddam Neck, Connecticut
Founded by Stacey Golub, DVM, in 2010, CT Draft Rescue’s goal is to rescue, rehab, retrain and rehome draft horses. Currently 12 drafts are under the doctor’s care with a support team of 40 volunteers. It costs roughly $6,000 per month for hay and other expenses. Golub will receive two calls a week needing some type of assistance within the draft community. She also values foster homes to catch overflow in times of need. Golub’s group will be joining the Unwanted Horse Coalition’s Operation Gelding as they have for the past two years with a team from Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine. All stallions are welcome. Tours of the farm to walk among these gentle giants are available on weekends. CT Draft Rescue’s website will keep you up to date on giving and horses ready for adoption.
Even with these efforts, many horses will inhumanely be sent to slaughter. Addressing the front end of this problem and instituting a breeder’s tax and license have been discussed. Addressing the hard decision of responsible euthanasia must be considered. At the very least, this is a humane act in the face of suffering. CT Draft Rescue’s opening quote reflects the heart and soul of every rescue and summarizes what keeps them going: “You can’t change the world by saving one horse, but for that one horse, its world is changed forever.”