By Rebekah Wolf
The journey to Circle L Ranch in Prescott Valley, Arizona, was a taxing one for Hope and Charity. The mare and her foal, then 3 years old and 2 months old respectively, were rescued at a horse auction just as a “killer buyer” was ready to whisk them away to certain death at the slaughterhouse.
“They were pushed into the auction ring separately, both crying frantically for one another,” says Dr. Deborah Wilson, director of Feathers Foundation and Circle L Ranch. “Charity would have perished in the truck on the way to the slaughterhouse, crying for her mother. Hope would have gone crazy with anxiety over the loss of her foal, but no one would have cared.”
Luckily, Wilson outbid the competition to ensure mother and daughter would stay together and live long, healthy lives. It is common for Wilson and her staff to attend auctions and outbid killer buyers. A killer buyer is someone who purchases horses from private parties or livestock auctions and then sells the horses to slaughterhouses. But this practice is sure to end now that United States District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has declared that, after years of legislation, the slaughter of horses in America is a violation of federal law.
After a few months at Circle L, Hope and Charity were adopted by the Pioneer Living History Museum, a 90-acre facility outside of Phoenix devoted to the preservation of America’s Old West frontier heritage. They will remain together there indefinitely.
Stories like Hope and Charity’s are common in the United States. Many horses are deserted in pastures, left to fend for themselves, or taken to auction when their guardians are no longer able to care for them. But with horse rescue organizations popping up across the country, filling a once barren avenue, people will become more aware of humane options and horses will go on living contented lives.
Mary Jones found her calling in horse rescue while helping her husband find horses for his riding school and coming across one neglected or abused horse after the next. Jones saw the need for a rescue organization in Crooksville, Ohio, and WHINNY Horse Rescue opened its doors soon after. Almost five years later, Jones has had 15 horses at WHINNY.
“It’s like a retirement home,” Jones says. “They deserve a better life than they had before they came here, so I don’t turn them away.”
At horse rescue organizations, horses can find the care and love they need, with immunizations, worming, food, and shelter. If they’ve suffered abuse, they go through mental and physical rehabilitation, learning how to interact with people and other horses.
The adoption process at horse rescue organizations is similar to that of any animal shelter. These organizations simply want to ensure that the horses are going to good homes and prospective adopters feel secure with their companions. “We match the horse’s needs to that of the person’s. The potential adopter must work with the horse at our facility until the horse is safe with them and they are safe with the horse. All that depends on the experience level of each and how they connect,” says Cindy Murphee of California Coastal Horse Rescue.
According to Murphee, after the adopter and horse have made a connection they go into a two-month pre-adoption process, like a trial run, allowing the horse to go home with his new person so they can get to know one another better. If all goes well, a contract is signed stating that the horse cannot be sold or given away and must be returned to the rescue if he is no longer wanted.
It’s common to find that these organizations reserve the right to do home visits at any time, whether or not they’re announced.
“I don’t ever want them to go through what they went through to get to the rescue,” Jones says.
Adopting a horse, like adopting any animal, is a huge commitment, and rescue organizations stress the importance of responsibility and awareness to anyone wanting to add a new companion to the household.
“They require lots of time, energy, attention, feed, hoof care,” Murphee says. “A responsible animal lover must meet the needs of the animal, whether it is a dog or a horse. They must also be willing to give that animal up if they know they cannot or do not want to provide for those needs.” Jones adds that being a good horse companion takes as much common sense as being a good parent.
Taking a horse to a rescue organization can be a painful experience, both for the horse and his companion, but by doing so the horse is guaranteed a bright future.
“I have seen horses that have had their hearts broken when their person has dropped them off and left them,” Murphee says. “I have also seen their hearts heal when the right person comes along and the connection is made.”
California Coastal Horse Rescue
Circle L Ranch Horse Rescue
Whinny Horse Rescue