Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We are responsible, forever, for what we have tamed

Looking back on the pre-unemployment days--those "halcyon/salad days" (ha ha) of gainful employment, I wish I'd had the time to really pursue and really work with the equine charities that I'm now becoming familiar with. I'll admit I was too consumed with the daily grind--consumed to the exclusion of most everything else. Now of course, I have time (possibly too much time) on my hands, but am lacking the income from the aforementioned gainful employment.

So while I'm in no position to adopt and retrain a thoroughbred to ride and hack about on (yes, this is my dream), or give a pile of money to anyone,  I can give a little extra publicity to some of the groups that I've found so inspiring. It is amazing what starts to happen when people work together on projects for which they feel passion and love.

The H.O.R.S.E website (#2, below) used a quote from one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. In his classic, The Little Prince, the fox reminds the Little Prince that he is responsible forever for what he has tamed. We owe horses (and dogs, cats, you name the domesticated creature...) nothing less than love and care throughout their lives. Here are 5 great equine organizations that I think are taking the lead in responsible care and treatment of horses.

1. Work to Ride (www.worktoride.net) 

I remember seeing this group highlighted on HBO's Real Sports a while ago, but was reminded of their good work with inner city kids and horses when CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on the ridiculously handsome Nacho Figueras and mentioned his connection to the group. From their own statement..."Created in 1994 by Lezlie Hiner, Work to Ride is a non-profit, providing disadvantaged urban youth from Philadelphia with constructive activities centered around horsemanship, equine sports, and education. Located in Fairmount Park, the setting provides a unique opportunity to bring 7-to 19-year-old youth in contact with animals and nature. While most participants are trained in several sports, polo has proven to be the perennial favorite of Work to Ride youth. In 1999, the Work to Ride polo team became the first African American polo team in the nation, and in 2005 the team won the Eastern Regional Interscholastic Polo tournament."

So many of these programs involve teaching children responsibility through the care and hard work involved in horses. These children learn everything from mucking out stalls to the finer points of polo and get to experience that special bond that just happens between humans and horses. What could be better that that?

2. H.O.R.S.E of Connecticut (www.horseofct.org) 

This organization has been around since 1982 and is a great friend to horses. Not only do they do a lot specifically with the Premarin mares and foals, they rehab horses for lease to riders and even have horses available for adoption.
Their missions, directly from their website:

After our horses have been returned to good physical and mental health, we place them out for adoption. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing that new bond of trust and love between human and horse.

We hold regular seminars and make guest lectures to teach people about caring for their horse. Other topics include the Premarin issues, animal cruelty, horse rescue and many other facets of the work we do here.

For $50 a month, you can sponsor a horse of your choice. Sponsorship includes four visits a month where you can groom, spend time with and hand-walk the horse. Some horses are able to carry a small child while hand-walked. If you can't come to the farm, you can still sponsor a horse and one of our volunteers will be happy to take "your" horse for a walk and give it love and goodies.

After all the horse has given to humans they deserve nothing less than our care and compassion--and peppermints and carrots, too.

3. Standing In The Gap (www.standinginthegap.info)

I wrote about them a couple of weeks ago, but it's definitely worth another mention. How much more good could be done than to use rehabilitated and rescued horses to help ease the return of wounded American soldiers? Talk about a win/win proposition. I first heard the main forces behind the group, Darla Jeffery and Leslie Morley, on Ted Grevelis' Blog Talk Radio. (You can listen HERE.)And here's their mission statement again, for those of you who may not have read the earlier post:
Standing In The Gap's Mission Statement:
"We will stand in the gap for injured thoroughbred racehorses just moments off the track. We will provide nurturing care, rehabilitation, and training for these fallen athletes. We will guard their dignity with our integrity; teaching them - through love, commitment, and endurance - to become effective mentors for our returning military vets."

4.  Canter USA/Canter NE (www.canterusa.org)

If you're not in the Northeast, there are CANTER groups nationwide that help to facilitate the transitioning of thoroughbreds into good saddle horses--or even into hunter/jumper and dressage horses. Just because their racing careers didn't take off or maybe weren't terribly successful, doesn't mean these horses don't have long and productive lives ahead. You can browse the animals up for adoption and lease and see what other things CANTER is doing.

5.  Old Friends Equine (www.oldfriendsequine.org)

I follow the Twitters of the folks at Old Friends and they do such great work. From the big welcomes they give to their new charges to the tours of the farm that reacquaint racing fans with horses they've watched and loved. As is often the case, out of tragedy comes something very powerful. In 2002 word went round the world that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had been slaughtered in Japan.

As their mission/goal page relates, "Old Friends began as a retirement and rescue facility for pensioned Thoroughbreds. The discovery {of the Ferdinand tragedy} gave even more impetus to our organization. We went from getting five emails a day to hundreds, noted President and founder Michael Blowen. We knew such a death must never happen again. And so the plan became to bring " at risk" racehorses--those whose racing and breeding careers had come to an end--to Old Friends, provide them with the dignified retirement they deserve, and open the space to the public. By promoting these one-time celebrated horses through a campaign of education and tourism, we realized we could draw attention to all retired Thoroughbreds and all equines in need.

Since then Old Friends has retired two mares (including Bonnie's Poker, the dam of 1997 Derby winner Silver Charm) and five geldings (including Seabiscuit star Popcorn Deelites).

We are the only thoroughbred rescue/retirement facility that accepts stallions, and so we take exceptional pride in our pensioned champions, among them 1988 Eclipse-winning Turf Champion Sunshine Forever and the last great son of Damascus Ogygian.(See Our Horses).

Based in Georgetown, Ky.,  Old Friends has begun receiving visitors. We are hosting two to five tours daily (see Visit Old Friends), and while our guests come to visit a few ex-racehorses, they leave having been touched by the heart of a Thoroughbred hero.

If I'm ever fortunate enough to be in Kentucky, this is a pilgrimage site I'd love to visit. Check out the websites above if for no other reason than to see some great stories and beautiful horses. The difference that all these groups make is large, but there are still many miles to go.

No comments: