“You could feed 1,000 horses with what you are spending on that donkey”, a critic wrote.
Yes, for a day. Then what?
Despite some concerns of strangers, we are making carefully processed decisions after extensive discussion with our team of professionals. We do not have any illusions that we are but “a drop in the lake” of caring, part of a vast network of slightly crazy, loving, optimistic people committed to changing the lives of some horses in need. Our mission reads, “to help horses in need and protect them for life”. The ‘for life’ part is what is hardest to be faithful to, because a life can be long and it’s precious. Our particular ethics, and how we are able to sleep at night, is by providing the best care we are able for the equines we welcome. We call it ‘leaving no stone unturned’. And it’s because we are here and we are looking into their eyes. Sometimes that is more care then private owners might be able to offer, and we would like to think that we show what is possible. We would like to think that things are shifting.
Here’s an example. Years ago when we welcomed a blind 18 month old colt, many thought it was cruel and he should be put down. We gentled and gelded Zak, we began helping him adjust to the world without sight, and other senses slowly developed in him. It took time and was not always easy, for him or us. And after a year, when he seemed to be living a life but was depressed and lonely, I challenged our team to start him under saddle early, to give him more movement and more connection, and see if that would help him. We did not want to keep him alive in misery. So Zak began to learn handling and groundwork and then began to train under saddle. Gently, at a walk, for short periods, as a three year old. That’s early for a horse (their backs are not developed until they are 6 yo) but Zak took to it, clearly loved it, and as his skills developed so did his horse friendships. Now Zak is a young adult and shares a field with 24/7 turnout, with his besties Behr, Christian, and sometimes Annie and Silvie. He runs and plays more energetically then most of his older friends! And NOW where there is discussion of possibly putting down a blind horse, there is an outcry; “WHY? He can have a life!!!” That is a wonderful shift in assumptions, brought on by many people working with blind horses and showing what is possible.
Now Rosemary Farm has accepted a new challenge, and that is learning to use prosthetics. This was an unexpected crisis presented to us, and we could have said no. We could have refused ownership, or we could have taken ownership and euthanized the little 18 month old donkey with the crushed leg. And you know what? It would have been easier, no one would have blamed us for that decision. We talk about euthanizing a lot as an acceptable way to end the life of an equine, and we believe in that, BUT it is still ending a life.
I had to really mull this over. In the stillness of that afternoon, with full ‘permission’ to euthanize from those who were part of the decision, it was really up to me. I had to be honest with myself and recognize my own fear at this challenge, the amputation and the prosthetic, and what it would take for our team here at RF to care for him. But RF is not just one person now; there are many to help carry the responsibility (I almost typed ‘burden’ but in fact there is a lot of joy too, with this little donkey). It would have been the easy path, but this little donkey was at a crossroads. The surgeons and the expert in animal prosthetics both believed that this young boy was a strong candidate for a long and happy life, once his painful limb was removed. And I had to recognize his OWN DESIRE TO LIVE. He is why we exist. If we are at a crossroads, that means there are TWO possible paths. How about we explore the one that is not permanent first?
So we took many deep breaths, thought about aftercare, a safe home here at the sanctuary, how to properly manage this new element. And we thought about Zak, and we thought about Ella, and we thought about Puck and about the Princess Yanaha….all youngsters who required major intervention. All youngsters that would never have had a chance, but wanted to live as much as any of you, dear readers. Wanted a chance to simply live.
So Nemo is getting his chance. His leg was removed and the relief was clear immediately. In addition to dragging around that useless limb, his body suffered from lack of nutrition and from the effects of managing pain for a long time, so Nemo has been resting comfortably at the hospital, becoming a house favorite, and becoming strong. It will take time. The swelling is still receding as I type today, and Nemo has begun experimental walks with his new prosthetic limb. To our surprise this has received a lot more hate and anger then we anticipated; some just idiot comments but some intelligent and compassionate people who don’t agree. They are entitled to their opinion, but it’s the Mission Statement of Rosemary Farm Sanctuary that will continue to guide us, and our mission statement does not contain anything about ease of save, cost of rehab, or adoptibility. The equines who need us the most are in dire need, and it is rarely cheap or easy. Thank you to our supporters who breath life into our efforts, with funding to continue our efforts. As we anticipate Nemo coming home, a special new set of stalls has been built in our barn, with a wider base and shorter sides, new rock added and tamped down, solid walls for safety, and new rubber mats that we will pick up later today. Nemo wants to live, even if it’s not in the way some might imagine. And we are thrilled for him.
Somewhere there are 1,000 horses that we could have fed for a day with those funds. But what about tomorrow? And the next day? It pains us that there is constant need. Care of an equine is a long commitment and is sometimes expensive. We cannot help every horse. But we are helping a fair amount, with 77 equines here today. Our peace lays in knowing that there are many others also working to help horses, and that when we commit to one, we do so with our full hearts and full abilities. If you don’t support us, thank you for at least reading this post. And if you do support us, thank you for making our efforts possible.