Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bowling, Beer and Rescue

My own round about awakening to the need for horse rescue was a strange path. I had shown A system Arabians as a kid, managed professional breeding and boarding farms as an adult and ended up finding a career in veterinary hospital management. The horses I worked around, for the most part, were pampered show animals. I had seen some individual neglect cases while working for an equine vet, but the people had at least cared enough to call a vet, pay the bill and follow his instructions. This was far from the world I first encountered in 2005.

I had left my latest veterinary management job to get married. I had been running a very busy 24 hour emergency hospital and had wanted a break to plan the wedding and start my new life. I found an office job, successfully pulled off a lovely wedding and started the life of married leisure. I was pretty shallow looking back. I had designer clothes, shoes, handbags, drove a Mercedes and had a very nice boat moored in Seattle. I "did lunch" with my girlfriends and nothing of much value. I did have a couple of rescue dogs from the emergency hospital but no horses in my life for the first time in decades.

One night my girlfriend called me and told me we were going "Bowling for horses". I recall laughing at her and she insisted "No really- Beer Church is hosting a fundraiser for a horse rescue!" Beer Church is a local group who have adopted to heart the motto first espoused by Benjamin Franklin, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy". They also host very successful fundraisers for beer friendly folks and donate the proceeds to a charity of their choice. This one happened to be a local horse rescue. Call me crazy but I do like beer and horses.......so I went. We had fun, drank beer, and raised money for rescue horses.

Fast forward a year and I had moved to a farm in rural Pierce County. I had 8 acres, a truck and trailer, a 5 stall facility and only one horse. Oh yeah......I still had the pamphlet on the horse rescue I had picked up while bowling a year earlier. I contacted them, let them know I could help with foster care and trailering horses. Shortly thereafter my life was changed forever.

The rescue called me and wanted to know if I could meet them to help confiscate horses for the Sheriff's Department. The farm they were serving the warrant on was literally 2 miles away from mine. I said yes and hitched up the trailer. The things I saw that day will be with me for the rest of my life. There were horses so starved they were walking anatomy lessons. You could see every bone in their body. The clear outline of pelvic bones and spines were shocking to me. Far from the pampered show animals I had owned and worked on. I truly thought at least one would die in the trailer on the way to a safe place. The most shocking thing to me was the owner lived just over the fence line from the horses. A $50,000 aluminum horse trailer with living quarters was parked in her driveway next to a $40,000 truck, a smaller aluminum trailer and other very expensive items. It was clear to me the horses conditions were not related to any sort of economic problem. The neighbors came out of their houses as we led the horses away and confessed they had looked like that for years and one had died before we got there. I was shocked that such ugliness was so close to my own serene farm. It was inconceivable to me horses were dying tucked behind a house and away from view, while I was driving within a mile of them every day. It was a very ugly eye opener.

This was just the beginning of a long road to co-founding Pony Up Rescue. The horses we seized that day were all well bred, young, registered animals. I am hoping to continue to intercept animals that have a chance to go on to productive careers as riding/show horses to educate the general public as to the caliber of animals that are discarded in our community on a daily basis. I have a soft spot for old working horses that need a soft place to land and spend the rest of their lives in retirement. I will continue that work as well, but I truly believe we need to give the younger ones a chance at proving themselves to the same community who at some point lost sight of their value.

I look forward to seeing where this road in the journey leads.

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