“Why save the freaks?”

Lameness, soreness, dental infections, flat feet, thin feet, dropped coffin bones, dropped backs, EPM, kissing spine, Intestinal Bowel Disorder, tendons that are swollen or bowed or pin-fired or blown out entirely…. wobblers syndrome, “lupus-like” skin photosensitivity, decaying pasterns, founder, cancer, Lordosis, Cushing’s, impactions, string-halt, severe worm infestation, severe tick infestation, rashes and hives, tumors, shattered stifle, cracked ribs, cracked pelvis, severe laxity, starvation, severe ulcers, chronic lyme, chronic choking, chronic colic, cryptorchids, cribbing and wind-sucking, snapped coffin bones, sarcoids, tumors and cysts and lesions, more cancer, Uveitis, orbital lock, dwarfism, blindness…

We have seen everything on that list here at Rosemary Farm, and some of the horses suffering from one or more of these ailments looks a far cry from a ‘beautiful horse’; in fact, they look like freaks, and not worthy to live. Expensive and a waste of resources.

Why do we save the “freaks”?

Why do we save the horses with ‘issues’? Why not just the ‘nice’ horses, ready to go? Ready to be adopted, and used again? Why waste money on the ones in need?

Why, indeed?

Why are we here?

We are here, ostensibly, to help horses in dire need.

Yes, there are horses in dire need with nothing medically wrong, and actually a fair number do end up here, but they don’t get the same public attention as the ones in need. Sometimes also, while nothing physically is wrong, emotionally there are issues to uncover and heal. Despite our opening list, ’emotional scarring’ tops the physical ailments 10 to 1. The physical issues are what we can see easily see; the mare stumbling with severe neurological issues, or bleeding from the skull, body broken, mind gone, not even fit for the slaughter trucks…. These are the ones most in need, because despite what the pro-slaughter proponents will argue, the old, broken, and feeble horses are not even wanted by the kill buyers. So, the rescues are there. If we feel we can manage it, physically, financially and emotionally, we welcome these horses, and manage somehow, and either fix the horse, stabilize the horse, or give it a peaceful passing.  Journey complete.

But still, why help these expensive saves rather then ones that could ride again?

If we were here to serve humans, here to focus on providing riding amusement, that would be a valid question.  We are not here to help humans.  We are here to help horses.  And horses are not on this planet to serve man.

And yet, we are not here to just help horses.

Have you ever fallen down? Have you ever been ill?  Has anyone in your family ever suffered from cancer, or been ravaged by another disease? Has anyone in your family ever grown old, feeble, unable to work, to support themselves? Have you, yourself, ever been left without help in your weakest moment, your hand in the air for a help up that didn’t appear?

Whether the answer is yes or no, perhaps there is a glimmer of understanding about why we do what we do.  Why we stay up late, get up early, bother vets non-stop, research more supplements or exercises, then share photos and stories about our efforts. Share our journey and the journey of the horses we welcome. To us, life matters. Yes, these horses lives, but your life, too. The “life” here on this planet, how it goes about the business of living and yes, very much, how we go about dying. Now, one might argue that such broken life, in nature, would be swiftly ended. There is some truth to that. However, these horses do not live in nature; most were created by Man, and born into captivity. Even the mustangs, once born wild, that are now ‘owned’, were captured and removed from the level playing field of nature. Their choices are restricted, their ability to move, fenced off. Their ability to forage or find a new band or a warmer locale, gone. By removing these choices, we have assumed their care.  And in a life they did not choose, the least of our humanity dictates a kindness in care, in life and in death. In short, we created them, we owe them dignity, and we owe ourselves the dignity of humane stewardship.  We owe ourselves to be the best ‘human’ we can manage.

So we save the freaks because they matter, as each life matters, even if that means a kind end.  We save the freaks because odds are, one day that will be us in need. We save the freaks because we want the same kindness, and dignity, returned, because we want the philosophy of ‘humanity’ to carry the weight that it was intended to carry.  And in the process of ‘saving the freaks’ , something extraordinary happens. By connecting with these living beings, the kodachrome spectrum of life, a life without expectation of performance, the inherent astounding beauty of these creatures, is fully revealed. A sensitivity, a connection to an astral plane that humans can only dimly perceive, is reflected back to us. It’s a gasping beauty, in a different language then our limited forms of communication. And the distance that some of these souls have traveled, the depth of pain and despair that they relate to us about their journey here, when they are brought back, and the immense gratitude that they return to us… well, it is humbling. We are lucky to share their lives, we are lucky to get to know them as themselves.

We save the freaks to see the world without a human lens, to see ourselves as the freaks, then to rise above the idea of any living creature being labelled a freak.

We save the freaks to save ourselves.


“We choose you”

The choices we make and the choices we live with.
Friday there was a horse auction we had hoped to attend. We do so because there are always horses there with no further hope or chance of a humane death, horses who will get directly on the slaughter trucks, without intervention that is not likely to come. These are the lives we set out to help with RF was founded, horses in dire need. But sometimes the horse in dire need is able to be helped before auction. So last Sunday, on Easter, two of the RF crew spent the bulk of the day with the trailer, going to get a mare in dire need; Luna.
This beautiful black mare, 20 yo is a registered APHA halter champion and behaves like the royalty she is; calm, mannered, trusting. From what we can gather, about 18 months ago a minor tumor was identified outside her eye. In between that time and last Sunday, there are a lot of words, but the reality for the mare is that tumor grew without treatment, until it had grown unchecked into her eye, with a raging infection dripping down her face. This was what we saw in the photos and this is why we set aside our plans, hooked up the trailer, and went to get this mare. We will never know who we missed helping on Friday, so we focus on who we have helped.
This week, Luna was welcomed into the RF family, surgeons contacted, and an unlikely opening on Wednesday got her into surgery, a procedure that we did not know whether she would live through. She was lucky, and every indication is that the cancer that had invaded her eye was contained. Both the eye and the cancer were removed safely. She will live! She came home on Friday and we will get to know her, heal her, see if there is an adoptive family, if that is the right path for her future. Yesterday she was hand walked, still bandaged, to give her some exercise and let her see more of the farm. She is still learning who we all are, but her life was changed by our choice. Made with the help of all of you.
A choice we can live with.

Molly and Finn, and the changing of the guard

There is change happening in our herd.
Change is the normal evolution of life, everything changes. It’s our human nature to label it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but those are subjective terms, attempting to stop the flow of life. Here today, the change I am thinking about is with Molly.
Stepping in as herd leader in 2010, Molly is our force-of-nature percheron mare saved from slaughter. She is a great teacher because she is not easy, with a checkered past. Finn was just a youngster when he arrived but as he grew, the pair meshed and have been a dynamic force leading the band, as RF grew from a young private sanctuary to a growing non-profit. Molly has welcomed, disciplined, guided, and shaped our herd. But things are changing, as I mentioned. Molly is starting to show her age.
She was likely mid to late teens when she was saved, which puts her in her early 20’s now. She still looks magnificent but there is a new breathing issue, we believe it’s in her airway, called ‘roaring’, which is a problem with oxygen airflow. This is slowing her down, and River, waiting on the sidelines, can see it too. River is one of our mustangs, a wilder one, gorgeous and a good leader, but not too close emotionally to humans. River has been increasing his challenge to Molly, and Finn is increasingly running interference. Lately, Finn has been spending more time with River, Sawyer, and their band of pony mares, while Molly has been with some of her older friends, Clover, Whisper, Gracie….Since Molly is still powerful, and is aging with the herd, she will likely not be kicked out, she has the respect of an elder. It’s hard watching this change though. And yes, I am interfering sometimes. River knows that I will defend Molly and run him off. I know that I am not there all the time to do this, and he knows it too, so it’s a gesture of loyalty to her, but not going to change the flow of things in the end. Since Molly’s band is growing in size and we are preparing our new field, we may divide the band, and give Molly some protection that way. Actually it’s been dividing naturally, since general herd size is under 10 horses and there are over 2o in that band.
I am unsure what will happen to the alliance of Finn and Molly. He is much younger then her, strong and wise, and we are lucky to have him here. As a leader, he cannot be bested and as a connection to humans, his trust is strong. It’s not entirely up to me, which is good. They will have a say as time continues to pass, as horses die and others arrive, and the life of the band, which is the protection of the HORSE, continues to ebb and flow.

“Falling on your own knife; when your desire to help is used against you”

The trend has been growing. Social media sites carrying photos of animals in need; dogs, cats, and probably because of my circle of friends, horses. Photos of horses being sold in ‘kill lots’  with the metaphorical gun to their head; ‘The truck is coming! This horse will die without your help!” The message quickens ones heartbeat, because we know there is truth to it. These kill pen pages, these last chance posts, these dire photos showing a sad spent horse in bad lighting, being held “hostage” for what is called ‘bail’, a price well above the street value of most…and women, (because it is primarily women) smart women who don’t buy shoes without trying them on, will plunk down large sums for a horse, pay to get it quarantined for health, pay vet bills and trailering, to save a life, and yes, usually they have their own dream attached to the horse, the dream of a bond, and based on the description (“sound, just needs weight”, “10 year old”, “child safe”, “draft cross”, “anyone can ride”) feel they are doing a good deed AND fulfilling a lifetime wish all at once….and generally, most of the time, if the horse even lives to meet them, the dream is not what they thought. Off the trailer comes a 20 year old bitter and broken horse, or sometimes a sweet young untrained horse, sometimes a pregnant horse or a stallion or another version of expensive surprise, and now things get tricky. Because actually that living breathing victim of a horse didn’t write that description and has no idea what you are thinking and now your dream money is spent and you have a problem. Trainers, vets, time, stress, all add up to a ‘what the heck did I get into?’, and a rescue is called to ‘take over’. Or the horse is taken back to auction, put on craigslist, passed along, and the cycle repeats itself. It’s happened too often even in my own small circle here.

Now sometimes it works out just right, you have still spent a fortune and you don’t mind because you love your horse, but the kill buyer, looking for the next one “of you”, goes to auction and outbids the neighborhood rescue, or private buyer, because now the kill buyer has a new line of clientele online, and what he doesn’t sell just goes on the truck.

Or perhaps, you just contribute to a ‘kill pen’ horse. “Doesn’t matter where the horse comes from” you say, “It’s in need, who cares what he is asking”. And you are right; a horse in need is a horse in need. And those horses ARE in need. They are owned by people who probably WILL sell them to slaughter, if they are able, or re-sell them to whoever will pay. It’s an ugly business. The problem arises for the rescues because we attend the same auctions that these buyers do, and we will take home one or two horses, and we will see them purchase 1–50 horses that night, and we will see how low they get them for. The next week, while we are quarantining and vetting and evaluating and nursing the one we saved, they have re-listed the ones they bought for twice, three times, five times the amount. Now our horse is getting healthy and their horse is getting flipped again. Now they are sometimes professionals and will not be cruel (some are, yes) but many want the horse in good shape; the very process of selling and re-selling, the moves and the stress wear them down, the horses. And the rescue will pump several hundred dollars in that first week towards health, and in a few months or a year they may adopt it out. And will be criticized if they ask anything beyond ‘sale price’. And that’s if you can get an adopter to come out. Because while that one horse is nursed, truckloads are selling for a lot more money each week, on these sale pages.

Ok, so say you are thinking ‘so what, the rescue saves a few and more are saved through the kill pages, what is the problem?’. The problem is that the kill buyers are STILL SELLING TO SLAUGHTER. The horse you save just provides more funds to buy another three horses in the back, horses you will never see. Slaughter isn’t being stopped when a horse is purchased. This is the part that just slays us emotionally. Here we sit with a bunch of horses safe, in varying stages of training, honestly represented, with vaccines and health and back up, and few adopters. And the overpriced, frequently misrepresented horses in the kill lots sell and sell and sell. And the funds raised buy bigger trucks, the better to take their equine brothers to the slaughter houses. Now do you see what we are stricken with all sorts of feelings of frustration and confusion and knots in our stomach?

So, should we buy from kill lots or not? Should we profit the sellers who we are working to put out of business, in order to save a life? Do we help them buy the gas to take their brothers to slaughter?

There is a cold hard moment when one realizes that these ‘kill pen pages’ these re-sale hostage posts, exist BECAUSE you, and others, care. Your caring is the knife and you are also the victim.

Every rescuer I know has done a lot of soul searching on the subject. The horses advertised online frequently bring new support to the rescue, and can usually get funded, at least to start. But we know that money is going to buy three more next week. What is right? And the rescues squabble and fret and judge and fret some more. Maybe in this impossible scenario there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. There are always horses in need. I know that here at RF, we cannot welcome every horse, no one can. When we welcome them, we are fully committed to them, whether they ‘ride’ or not does not matter. It’s great when we have adoptions, but we have standards and want forever homes. Yes, that probably makes it harder. I don’t know. I do know that the photos I see online affect me as much as they affect everyone else. The noise noise noise in one’s head can be overwhelming, trying to do the right thing. The frustration with the prices is real, the problem is never ending, and some days you just want to help one horse. As short term as that is, you just want to help one horse out of the nightmare.AuctionAd

Freddy, the Long Island Police Horse

Only the coolest thoroughbreds go on to become police horses after their time on the track, and Fred was one of those. Tall, dark and handsome, Fred served on Long Island for over two years..but despite being a sweetheart, he was a bit timid and in due time, was replaced; he was rehomed, then rehomed again, before he found himself with a loving family living in a swamp that they had intended to be his grazing field. Alone and lonely, the family reached out to us, and Fred was one of our earliest horses welcomed, in 2010. Fred went out twice on foster to adopt contracts and just returned to Rosemary Farm (it’s the end of January 2016). Fred is 23 yo now, and would probably be best served by retiring here. We are getting to know him again, getting caught up on medical issues and would welcome sponsors for his care. Fred was returned to the barn he knew, where there were still two mares that would remember him and another (um Stella) who always falls for the new guy. He is most welcome home.

Fredfull Fred&America Me&Fred2