When Avery Carlson rescued a severely burned horse from a kill pen in Oklahoma, she never thought that horse would become well enough not just to ride, but to win a blue ribbon in competition. But under Avery’s guidance, that’s exactly what happened.
A resident of Harvard, Illinois, Avery, 18, is a graduate of Marian Central Catholic High School with plans to attend college. Avery’s first horse, at age 8, was a 40-year-old appaloosa mare. At age 11, Avery began showing horses, racking up wins in hunter/jumper, including the James Bolen Memorial Hunter Derby Trophy and the Champion Junior Hunter at the Chicago Festival of the Horse. Her love of horses led her to begin rescuing and rehoming horses from auctions and feedlots.
To date, she has rescued 20 slaughter-bound horses, including the now award-winning Emma.
Avery first spotted Emma on a Facebook page featuring kill pen horses in Oklahoma. She fell in love with the severely burned horse and arranged to purchase her from the then-owner who helped rescue Emma. The cause of her burns is unknown. There are theories ranging from a lightning strike to abuse to a wildfire. No one knows. She simply showed up at auction in horrible condition, very thin with burns and was sold to a “kill-buyer.”
With her family’s help, Avery brought Emma home in March 2017 and started her on the road to recovery.
Standing quietly in the vastness of the American West, mountains jutting up around you, cradling you in some of the last wild places left, you hear nothing but the whispering of the wind, the singing of the birds, the rustling of the grass, until the quietness is broken and you hear it: the thundering of hooves. The sound is instantly familiar, revealing its source before it can be seen: American wild horses, roaming desolate areas of the West that are too remote for humans.
An American Icon
America’s wild mustangs are one of two animals protected by United States law as important symbols of freedom in our country. The other is the bald eagle.
Congress recognized the importance of wild horses and burros to the American landscape in the 1971 Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, which designates them as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” This unanimously-passed Act protected these beloved animals and placed responsibility for their management with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the Department of the Interior.
A federally mismanaged program
The BLM is failing its mandate of protection and preservation by using an outdated, inhumane and costly method of managing wild horses: helicopter roundups. Each year, the BLM terrifies, traumatizes, rounds up, and removes thousands of wild horses from public lands in the West. The roundups threaten the two things free-roaming wild horses value most: family and freedom.
Most of the captured horses and burros will spend their lives in holding facilities at taxpayer expense. Many will go to long-term pastures where they are separated by gender, while others will stay in short-term holding pens, waiting to be either sold or adopted. Not only are these holding facilities inhumane for wild horses, they also cost American taxpayers $2-5 per day per horse to feed and house them. Currently, more than 53,000 horses and burros are stockpiled off the range.
These roundups are expensive, inhumane, and perpetuate the very problem the BLM is claiming to fix. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completed an impartial review of the BLM’s wild horse and burro management practices and concluded that roundups and removals actually increase population growth through compensatory reproduction. Horses respond to decreases in their population density―a consequence of helicopter roundups and removals―by reproducing at higher than normal rates. The NAS recommended a more scientific approach to wild horse management: implementing fertility control measures that prevent pregnancy and reduce horse populations in the wild.
Yet, eight years after the NAS review, the BLM continues to prioritize roundups, spending 70 percent of its budget to remove and warehouse wild horses and burros, while less than one percent is spent on humane fertility control.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility will host BLM Wyoming’s 2021 adoption schedule with an event Feb.19-20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The BLM will offer approximately 80 wild horses during this adoption, including mares and geldings, in age from yearlings to five-years old. The horses were gathered in 2020 from the Lost Creek, Green Mountain, Crooks Mountain, Antelope Hills, and Stewart Creek herd management areas.
The offered horses will be available for adoption on a first-come, first-served basis. Any person wishing to adopt a wild horse must fill out an application, be able to conform to the BLM’s minimum adoption requirements and have their application approved by the BLM. BLM specialists will be on hand to answer questions and assist with the adoption applications. “Wyoming wild horses make great companions and trail animals,” said supervisory wild horse specialist Jake Benson. “We want to see them all adopted into good homes.”
In response to COVID-19, visitors will be asked to follow CDC guidelines including keeping six feet apart while standing in line during the application process, wearing masks and respecting each other’s space. To learn more about BLM Wyoming’s wild horse adoption program or the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility, visit www.blm.gov/WHB.
U.S. federal law now includes critical protections for horses, including measures to stop the drugging of racehorses and provide increased track safety, keep horse slaughter plants in the United States shuttered, and boost funding to stop the cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds.
Racehorses: The law includes the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (S. 4547/H.R. 1754), to address the doping of racehorses and require that the tracks they run on be safe. The law will establish an independent, national authority that contracts with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to oversee drug enforcement. It will put in place uniform and rigorous rules, testing and penalties to address the abuse of pain-masking and performance-enhancing drugs that are key contributing factors to frequent fatalities on American racetracks.
According to the Humane Society, at least eight horses on average died at racetracks each week during the 2019 racing season. The new law will create a committee tasked with mandating enhanced racetrack safety protocols to protect both racehorses and jockeys.
Horse slaughter: The law ensures that no taxpayer money will be allocated to fund U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections of horse slaughter plants, ensuring that they cannot reopen. This provision is necessary to stop the return of the predatory horse slaughter industry in the United States and it has been in place for all but two years since 2005. A majority of Americans—80%—agree that horse slaughter for human consumption is an inherently cruel practice that should be permanently banned. This is also a food safety issue: American horses are not fit for human consumption because they are not raised under the regulatory restrictions required for animals raised for food. Horses in this country routinely receive drugs and medications that are specifically banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food animals due to their toxicity to humans.
Horse soring: The law doubles the FY 2020 funding level for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to more than $2 million to address the “soring” of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds. Soring is the intentional infliction of pain on the horses’ hooves and legs to get them to perform a pain-based and artificial high-stepping gait for the show ring called the “big lick.”
In Tennessee, we’re beginning to hear warnings of a large number of horses that are expected to become “unwanted” over the next 12 to 18 months. During our most recent Tennessee Horse Master Class, our instructor, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, told the group that horse wellness calls are expected to spike in the months ahead and a glut of animals in need of rescue likely will follow, similar to the trend following the 2007 recession.
The following headlines seem to indicate this wave is coming and those of us operating rescues should prepare resources — financial and otherwise — and programs accordingly.
Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue Inc., a nonprofit on Castle Rock Road in Afton, announced it’s been accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for a two-year term, becoming one of four TAA-accredited organizations in Virginia, according to a news release.
According to its website, TAA is the only accrediting body in thoroughbred aftercare.
“We are incredibly honored to be part of the TAA network,” said Maya Proulx, executive director of Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue, in the release. “This is a culmination of a year’s work, making sure we had all of the requirements in place. The entire process has made us a better organization overall.”
There are about 80 accredited organizations in North America.
Organizations must undergo a thorough application and inspection process prior to TAA accreditation with reviews of the organization’s operations, education, horse health care management, facility standards and services, and adoption policies and protocols, the release states. The TAA also works to award grants to assist with retraining and rehoming of retired thoroughbreds.
The release says thoroughbreds are one of the most common breeds of horses Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue has taken in during its 12-year history. The nonprofit was founded in 2008 when it took in its first donkey. Since then it has taken in more than 335 horses, donkeys, ponies, mules and miniature horses.
“People don’t often think about what happens to a racehorse after they leave the track,” Proulx said. “Rescue operations help retrain those horses as great trail horses, eventing and hunter/jumpers, or retired companion horses. The possibilities for these majestic animals are endless.”
Hope’s Legacy rescues, rehabilitates and adopts out, when possible, to new homes. For more information visit www.hopes legacy.com.
Nonprofit Journey with Equus is issuing an urgent call for help after receiving 60-day notice to vacate from an animal sanctuary that houses more than 70 horses, mules, and donkeys in Elizabeth, Colorado.
“We have officially received a 60-day notice to be out of our facility,” the rescue group stated in a Facebook post. “We either find an angel investor and purchase our facility or find a new home.”
Journey with Equus is a nonprofit dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of at-risk horses, as well as unique healing through horse-human partnered relationships.
“We’re open to all creative possibilities that lets us take care of our herd and do our work,” founder Candice Ensign said.
The owner of the land where the sanctuary is located is deciding to sell in order to move to a new home in Idaho. While the sanctuary says there are no hard feelings, they now have until January 15 to either come up with a solution to keep their existing home or find a safe place to land.
“As you all know we are faced with the potential of having to relocate our herd,” the rescue group added. “Not an easy task in the middle of winter.”
Because the final solution is still up-in-the-air, there isn’t a specific target amount the organization is trying to raise.
For more information on how to help, contact Candice Ensign by phone at 303-517-5856 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. According to Ensign, donations raised are set to go toward whatever final solution is implemented.
An El Paso, Texas, horse rescue is raising funds to help care for their rescued animals through February.
Horses Unlimited Rescue and Education Center Inc. is taking part in a Cashapp Challenge to raise $5,000 for their rescued horses. Donations can be made via the rescue’s Cashapp account: $HorsesUnlimited.
Victoria Davis, founder of Horses Unlimited, said $3,000 would be utilized for the horses in the stalls and $2,000 for the pasture for the months of December, January and February.
Davis said the rescue is the only one of its kind in the area. The center is currently caring for 15 horses, two mini horses, one sow, one mule and six goats.
Since 2011, Horses Unlimited Rescue and Education Center Inc. has been committed to rescuing and rehabilitating neglected and abused horses.
According to the rescue’s website, the rescue is located on more than 2.5 acres in East El Paso. Horses Unlimited has expanded to 18 outdoor horse stalls, a free-range pasture, a large round training pen and a 200 foot-by-150-foot arena for lessons and community benefits.
The rescue works closely with surrounding sheriffs’ departments by assisting them on how to respond to and handle abused and abandoned horses that are discovered, the website states.
The people who dedicate their lives to saving and caring for homeless horses deserve our thanks. Show your appreciation for that special horse rescue (and win some great prizes, too) by nominating them for the Barnfest 2020 Contest.
To nominate your favorite 501(c)(3) horse rescue, visit EQUUSMagazine.com/barnfest-2020. On the entry form, tell us why the horse rescue you’ve chosen is deserving of recognition for all the hard work they do. Ten finalists will be selected by The Equine Network based on the overall appeal of the entry and announced via a live Facebook broadcast by Horizon Structures LLC and/or their nominated representatives (Boyd Martin) the week of Dec. 21, 2020.
Finalists will be required to submit a five-minute or less video of themselves that further details why their nominated horse rescue should be chosen. Videos will be judged by Horizon Structures to determine a winner.
“We’re so excited to be able to offer this amazing contest,” said Lindsay Porter, marketing services manager of The Equine Network. “With everything that’s happening in the world right now, we wanted to launch a program that helps to shed light on the horse heroes out there who are doing great work with limited resources.”
The winning Barnfest 2020 entrant will be announced in January 2021 to receive a prize package from Farnam, PuriShield, Purina Animal Nutrition, Lami-Cell and The Equine Network valued more than $1,500. Their nominated 501(c)(3) horse rescue will receive feed from Purina Animal Nutrition LLC and a 12-by-20-foot two-stall Horizon Structures LLC modular barn with eight-foot overhang and tack room for much need storage space. Horizon Structures LLC combines expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart ‘horse-friendly’ design to create a highly functional stabling solution. from Horizon Structures LLC.
“Horizon Structures is pleased to provide the horse barn prize for this noble cause. All horses deserve shelter and good care. Rescue and sanctuary organizations around the country work hard every day to provide a soft landing for horses in need. In this season of goodwill, we are pleased to be able to give back to the equine community for our 3rd consecutive year, this time with the gift of a beautifully crafted 20’ x 12’ horse barn,” says Dave Zook, owner of Horizon Structures, LLC.
The contest is now until Nov. 30, 2020. For more information and to enter, go to EQUUSMagazine.com/barnfest-2020.
Welcome to Horse Rescue Reporter, a new site dedicated to producing and publishing stories, features and news about America’s horse and equine rescues and sanctuaries. The site is designed to offer opinion, perspective and guest editorial from the industry’s thought leaders and those individuals making a measurable difference in the lives of abused and neglected horses across the country.
We care because my wife and I are currently in the process of starting a horse rescue and sanctuary in western Tennessee.
I hope you’ll join us in building this site as a community where we contribute thought leadership based on the experiences of managing and leading your own rescue. We’re most interested in learning more about issues you’ve overcome, most significant challenges faced, why you feel the work you do matters, lessons learned and the one piece of advice you wish you’d known when you started your mission, for example.
If you have anything you’d like to discuss as part of the equine rescue community, please feel free to reach out. We’d love to hear from you, and work with you to grow your rescue and this community!