Thursday, January 20, 2011

What's a Rescue to Do?

A Mylestone Equine Rescue horse enjoying the day in Phillipsburg, NJ
The horse world is nuts.  We all know that.  If you’re part of it, you know you must be crazy to want to spend the better part of your earnings on a pet.  If you’re not, you look at those of us who are and wonder why they can’t find grown-up hobbies that don’t require risking life and limb and spending the better part of their earnings on a pet. 

The horse world is in trouble.  We all know that, too.  Look at it through the fringes of your pillow if you must, but the days of buying and selling horses as if they were a treasured commodity with an intrinsic and an extrinsic value are gone.  We live now in the Unwanted Horses part of the classifieds.  Horses are still beautiful, elegant, lovely creatures, and as Temple Grandin so astutely puts it, Animals Make Us Human (one of her best works, by the way, so go buy it and read it while your toes defrost).  It’s the better part of our nature that allows us to appreciate how closely animals are connected to each other and the world, and it’s that part that keeps us from sliding into the mayhem we so easily cause when we’re not paying attention.

Today’s news from The Horse is about as intriguing as any I’ve seen in the past year.  Granted, we’re talking about Nebraska, here, not the World at Large, but as goes the Midwest, so goes the Nation…eventually…so it bears noting that Nebraska wants their slaughterhouses back.  They have historically been home to a number of livestock slaughter facilities, and they're hoping to help those survive and help entrepreneurs to open ones that do horses only.

But they’re not stopping there.  You can read the full article here: Nebrasca Slaughter and Rescue Proposal.  To summarize, rural Nebraska, a hot spot for not-so-hot productivity and in need of an industry to rebuild, has on its State Senate docket a bill that would provide the basis for opening slaughterhouses for the processing of horse meat within the state.  But more intriguingly, Nebraska’s Senate is calling the rescues out.  

I’m sure a few people have stopped reading this post and are busy typing nastygrams to everyone they consider pro-slaughter or anti-rescue.  I’m hoping the rest of you will take a clear-eyed look at what Nebraska is seeing pretty clearly.  It’s one thing to be anti-slaughter and pro-rescue and quite another to agree to take in all of the unwanted horses when their owners stop wanting them.  If that isn't a jaw-dropping fiscal and physical nightmare for the charitable rescue organizations, then I can't imagine what might be.

That’s what the bill would require.  Any rescue contacted by an owner wishing to dispose of a horse would be forced by law, with a penalty for shirking of misdemeanor charges, to take every animal when it’s offered, period.  How’s that for a money-where-your-mouth-is clause?  I’ve been wondering how long it would take before someone tipped to the fact that saying and doing are two different things, and when it comes to living creatures the size of horses, that’s a big difference.  

Smarty Joe, a personal ReRun fave of mine
Which brings me to the second point.  

Last weekend I was fortunate to be invited to take part in a horse assessment at Blue Crest Farm in Long Valley, New Jersey, home of some of Rerun Thoroughbred Adoption’s New Jersey-based rescued horses.  It’s a lovely place, the horses were wonderful, and Dr. Christine Orman, Rerun’s Resource Development Director, and Wendy Voss, Volunteer Extraordinaire, were a joy to play with on a cold, sunny day.  [I stole the accompanying photos from their site since I didn't have the presence of mind to take any myself.] 

But it became clear very quickly that in order for ReRun to succeed in the overall and in any given project, they are going to need more than just financial help.  They need bodies.  They need experienced horse handlers willing to give some time—the current project could probably use three handlers each giving an hour three times a week—to make things run smoothly.  The benefit to the horses would be immense, and the benefit to ReRun doubly so as they strive to give the horses a job to do in an Equine Assisted Learning program.

Regent, another lovely boy happily living life 

The Facebook posts of support are wonderful, but if rescue is to survive the coming crisis, more people are going to have to step up and give time and energy.  Anyone can write a check.  Many of us less-technologically-challenged types can even Paypal a donation.  But it takes a special commitment to actually show up on a snowy day and teach a horse a job he can do for the rest of his life to his own benefit and that of a few needy humans.  

I’ve posted before about the many faces of rescue.  Buying and shipping horses around the country is only one face.  Maintaining them is another.  Voluteerism of many sorts is a third.  Can you put your face in this picture?  If so, please contact ReRun and offer your services.  Cowgirl up before the bell sounds and give this effort a fighting chance at success.

At risk of repeating myself (as if that never happens), if you can't volunteer at ReRun or some other local rescue of your choice, can you help out a neighbor in need?  Can you feed someone's horses for a few days so they can do what they need to do to keep body and soul together?  Can you spring for some hay for someone whose horses are obviously starving?  Can you do anything to help the situation?  Launching a Facebook or forum rant on Awful Owners and Thoughtless Horsemen doesn't count.

The time is upon us, the wall has been hit, and your help is vitally needed. 


Natalie Keller Reinert said...

There's no doubt that the size of horses plays into the sad reality that they won't all be saved. Where would you put them all? There isn't enough money, there isn't enough land.

But when it comes to manpower - yes please. I wish I had a nice OTTB to work every day, before sending him on and getting another.

Michelle said...

Very well written. The benefits I've received from rescuing a horse are immeasurable, even when rescuing a horse was never a conscious desire or intention. Horses offer a gift of personal growth to anyone who enters their lives. Find a horse, open yourself to what they will teach you, and enjoy what happens!