Lacey Jo wrote and published an article when she was only 14 called Never Too Young to Make a Difference, describing how she convinced her 4H Club to support bringing the Unwanted Horse Coalition’s “Operation Gelding” to her area in Texas, USA. At Operation Gelding clinics, up to 20 stallions at a time are gelded by volunteer vets, thus reducing the number of potentially unwanted horses in North America. Lacey’s group gelded over 50 stallions in just three years.
Many equine organizations in the US belong to the Unwanted Horse Coalition and they all aim to reduce the number of unwanted horses while improving their welfare through education. You can get a lot of valuable information about rescuing and keeping horses at www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org
The majority of horse rescues rely completely on volunteers. There are different kinds of horse rescues, including sanctuaries that provide lifelong homes to horses in need, and re-homing organizations that will place a horse with carefully-screened adopters. Some rescues are a combination of the two.
Such a rescue is PEER – Partners for Essential Equine Rescue – in Canada’s Ottawa Valley (www.peerpartnersforessentialequinerescue.com). Abbi Burton’s mother, school teacher Chelsea Burton, was one of the founding members of PEER, and the Burtons’ farm Something From Nothing is one of several PEER farms. It is also an emergency care location for the region’s Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA).
It was in March of 2012 that a small group of like-minded individuals first met to discuss starting a horse rescue in the Ottawa Valley. The group consisted of experienced and beginner horse people, and others just interested in animal welfare. Says Chelsea Burton, “That spring our farm took in an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Rapid Speed who was slated for slaughter. She will possibly be Abbi’s future hunter mount.”
“Next we outbid a kill buyer for two two-year-old fillies at an auction. One came here, the other went to another PEER farm. Sunni is the name of the one who came here, and Abbi is currently doing groundwork with Sunni under her coach Bobbi Walsh’s tutelage.”
The Burtons also rescued a foal named Asher, but Abbi has been most closely involved with a colt named Mr. Personality, or Percy, pulled from a feedlot at the end of August, 2012. “We couldn’t catch him at first,” says her mother, “but now Abbi has him leading, puts a blanket on him, and picks up his feet.”
PEER’s most dramatic rescue to date has been Chance, who is possibly a Saddlebred. A touching photo of Chance taken just before his rescue convinced the Burtons that no matter what happened, Chance wasn’t going to go to slaughter. “That first night I thought he was going to be dead in the morning,” says Chelsea about what was then a skin-and-bones animal. To look at Chance’s photo now, it’s hard to imagine you’re looking at the same horse!
Chance is well-behaved and is putting on weight. It is suspected he has an ulcer, and he requires free feed hay, plus an alfalfa/mineral mash four times a day. Abbi has been instrumental in researching ulcers and ensuring Chance has all his needs met.
All the rescues at Something For Nothing are in some sort of light training appropriate to their age, except for Chance. “We’re just feeding and loving him!” says Chelsea of their special pet.
As for Abbi, her life’s goals are to eventually study at Guelph to become an equine vet, and to one day ride for Canada in the Olympics.
What is it that drives people like Lacey Jo and the Burtons to help needy horses? In the movie Seabiscuit, horse trainer Tom Smith saves a horse with a fractured foot. When asked why, since the horse will never run again, he replies, “Every horse is good for something. Why, he could be a carthorse or a lead pony, and he’s still nice to look at. You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little.”
Jennifer Williams, PhD, the author of How to Start and Run a Rescue, shares this sentiment. She writes about rescue horses:
“You’ll find all types of horses at rescues – young and old, those sound for riding and just pasture ornaments, well trained campaigners and projects with potential. The only common denominator is that all can lead productive lives in some way, if only they get the chance.”