The Northeast landscape in the fall is an astounding array of colors so vibrant, they don’t seem real. From amber gold, to crimson red to bright, burnt orange, leaves on the trees beckon you to appreciate their magnificence, if only for a short while. On a beautiful Autumn day one week ago I drove through just such a scenic landscape on my way to Chatham, New York, where I visited Equine Advocates, a “Safe Home Equine Rescue & Sanctuary.” I made the trip for two reasons.
For one thing, I needed the animal therapy. Earlier this year, I lost a sweet, beloved, long-time pet. More recently, my dear and kind mother passed away after a horrifying ordeal with cancer, during which time I served as her full-time caretaker. The scars from these losses will undoubtedly mark my body and mind like tattoos. (They are also why I haven’t been blogging.) For an animal lover and advocate like myself, ultimately there is no better medicine for the soul than the presence of and the love provided by a furry, feathered or finned creature. It’s the reason why I volunteered as a zoo docent, and ultimately adopted three pets in the wake of my last husband’s death, and in the aftermath of my experiences on 9/11.
The second reason I made the trip is because my friend who volunteers some of her time at Equine Advocates suggested I have a look around the farm. In life, I’ve found that when we’re asked to “look around” it pays to say yes. I know I’m better off when I’m asked to learn or consider something new and different, or to challenge myself in some way.
Generally, in life, I’ve found that when we’re asked to look around it pays to say “yes.”
Equines & Ethics
Other than admiring equines (which includes donkeys and ponies), and the absolute beauty of horses in particular, I previously only knew that horses have a typical life span of about 25-30 years. Clearly, caring for them can become a considerable expense. Some equines have the benefit, for whatever reason, of a lifetime of proper attention, diet, veterinary care, and safe shelter.
But I’ve now learned that the end game for many equines is not always a pretty or painless one. Regardless of their level of fame/notoriety, their working contributions to society, or their success in breeding, great numbers of equines are:
- left abandoned (and only sometimes found and rescued) in unhygienic/unsanitary conditions,
- rounded up for horse slaughter and sold to countries including Mexico and Canada for food,
- made to continue in service without adequate veterinary, dental and hoof care, resulting in disease and degeneration,
- made to spend years (female mares, in this case) in the Pregnant Mares’ Urine (PMU) industry. PMU is used by pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies to produce estrogen and hormone-replacement drugs and personal care products. PMU products are made by keeping mares constantly pregnant and confined to stalls where they may not turn around so as to collect their estrogen-rich urine.
- and the list goes on and on.
Whether these animals have spent their careers as race horses, carriage horses, doing farm work or simply being made to serve as riding animals for amusement or enjoyment, and whether or not they were once wild mustangs roaming free or once-gifted thoroughbreds earnings millions in the racing industry, their long-term fate is always uncertain.
I’m trying to avoid getting on a righteous “soap-box.” I have been to petting zoos and have previously taken a horse-drawn carriage ride. I know two different people who own registered race horses. I may have even used a personal care product containing PMU in the past, without any concept of how PMU is sourced in the first place. Check out the disheartening statistics on the web for yourself. There may now be as many as 100,000 PMU mares currently on PMU lines in China. There is no long-term care plan for them when they have outlived their usefulness.
I am simply hoping to remind you that for every action there is a reaction, and a consequence. Please just do the right thing.
For every action there is a reaction, and a consequence — for thousands of horses, that may be slaughter.
As with all good causes, opportunities abound for our participation and involvement to help. We can volunteer our time, volunteer our skills (like writing, in my case), donate money or just spread the word. For example, this Sunday, November 8, 2015, there will be an Open House at Equine Advocates Rescue & Sanctuary. See http://www.equineadvocates.org and discover how you might be able to lend a hand to the rescued equines.
Become an advocate for these horses by learning about legislation that affects them. Make your concerns known and your voice heard. Arm yourself with the facts by visiting one of many valuable sites like the WWF, the HSUS, or the ASPCA.
Or, even consider small opportunities to make a difference like that found through the AMAZON SMILE Program. Now when I’m online shopping at Amazon, since I’ve selected Equine Advocates as my charity of choice, a portion of the purchases I make gets sent from Amazon to my fave charity. A win-win!!
Having just celebrated and acknowledged the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint to animals) my wish and prayer is that someday we won’t have a need for any animal rescue haven, zoo, or sanctuary of any kind. Until then, the horses and all animals need us to do the right thing.