Since I was raised in the city, I did not know a lot about horses. Sure, I knew that they had carried people on their backs or in buggies for centuries. I saw horses on television and in the movies, and was always fascinated how strong and fast these magnificent creatures were. They seemed to carry themselves with the pride and independence of royalty.
I never thought about how horses lived until years later, and I had the opportunity to work with them. On average, a horse can live to be 35 years old, if they have quality care. Sadly, many equine lives are cut short because they are overworked and neglected. Most people (including me) never realized the plight of thousands of horses across our nation.
When I was a business major in college, I met my future wife, Eliza. She was majoring in veterinarian medicine, and we hit it off splendidly. After we graduated, and she earned her vet license, we decided to buy some land close to her family in Tennessee. It was here that I got to know and love caring for horses.
We run a non-profit horse rescue ranch. It is outrageous what a lot of owners do when their horses are too ill or too old to work for them. Sending worn-out horses to the “glue factory” is not just a myth. While many glue manufacturers now use non-animal ingredients, some of them still depend on the bones and hides of horses for their products. The furniture industry–especially cabinet manufacturers, use wood glue that has horse ingredients.
What could be more romantic than a horse and carriage ride? The happy couple might feel like Cinderella and her prince, but it is hardly romantic for the horse. Animal rights advocates report that the urban carriage industry is devastating for the animals.
Horses cannot compete with cars, and are often in dangerous traffic situations. Some carriage horses are killed by careless vehicles on the road. With all the stress they endure, urban carriage horses usually live about four years. That is almost a tenth of their expected lifespan.
Horse slaughterhouses are big business in America. The thanks that these poor animals get for being worked to the bone is a gruesome slaughter. Why? Horse meat is considered a delicacy in China and parts of Europe. Thousands of worn-out, abused, neglected horses end up as packs of equine steak and ground meat, and it is shipped overseas. What animals are not sent to the glue factories or slaughterhouses are left to die in cramped industrial stalls.
That is where our rescue ranch helps. Of course, many owners treat their horses well, and the animals thrive in a loving environment. Unfortunately, these are a minority. Equine rescue ranches like ours take in abused and neglected horses for rehabilitation and adoption. Instead of slaughtering the horses, people can bring them to us. I never cease to be amazed by these astounding rescue horses.
We have seen many deplorable cases in the 20 years of our ranch’s history. When our county’s animal welfare agents have an equine case, we are the first ones they call. Some horses we get have been reduced to skin and bones, or have scars from abuse and disease. There are some cases where the horse is suffering so severely that it must be humanely euthanized.
The horses on our rescue ranch roam freely on acres of fenced-in pastures. They have a natural diet with plenty of food and fresh water, and our vet staff cares for their medical needs. In response, these gentle giants reward us with their love and their resilient zeal for life. We have an equine therapy program, where special-needs children can come and spend time with our horses. It is heartwarming to see how child and animal team together to heal each other’s emotional wounds.
Our rescue ranches, and ones like it in other states, try their best to abolish and alleviate the exploitation and abuse of horses, mules, and burros; however, more efforts are needed. How can you be a part in this world-wide rescue? Do it with your dollar. Refuse to attend any circus or carnival act with horses, because these places are noted to be the worst offenders of animal rights. Do not patronize urban carriage ride businesses—walks through the snow can be just as romantic. Report any suspected abuse and neglect to your local animal welfare department.
Horses and humans have long been companions. Even PETA concedes that people can enjoy horseback riding if there are no negative training, the horses have comfortable blankets and saddles, and they only do it for a short while. Like people, horses want time to relax and socialize. They are not our work machines.
Nothing makes us happier than to find a wonderful home for our rehabilitated horses. Many are adopted by families who take them to their ranches to live out their lives in comfort, love, and peace. Starting this rescue ranch was one of the best decisions our family has ever made.