It’s not that I haven’t been composing any blogs the last two months; it’s just that they never make it the keyboard. After a long winter of hauling hay and water every night, it is a relief to finally have the mares at home. During the missing months, I have been to Saskatoon for the Annual Warmblood General Meeting, to the Health, Harmony & Horses Conference (where we had a trade booth), to east central Alberta to visit “Texas Lady” in training, to Calgary and Spruce Meadows to visit friends and catch up on the showjumping scene, and “officially retired” from teaching….whew….!! Next week we are at the Farm & Ranch Show and then I need to pick up “Texas”. In the middle of all this we are now on foal watch. In the past few months, I have learned that Caspians have not read the same books on horse behaviour as other horses; despite being shy of 340 days, Tamara has been showing signs of imminient foaling for 3 weeks now.
I would like every blog to have pictures, but I’m not yet in the habit of carrying my camera everywhere I go. Today we had an extraordinary experience. We offered one of our Anivac units, shampoo and fungicide to Keno Hills Stables to assist in their massive horse rescue endeavor. We are so busy at the farm, that sometimes its a major feat to get my boots off before I fall asleep fully clothed on the bed. Consequently, news events are often limited to what I hear on the news in the car, or am told by friends. Many readers will be aware of the S.P.C.A. neglect case involving over 100 purebred Arabian horses found close to starvation near Edmonton. Originally, the horses were to be sent to auction. Upon arriving back from holidays, Susan Fife and her husband Rick, stepped up to offer their farm, stable and expertise to bring the horses back to health, before turning them over to the S.P.C.A for adoption. The next day, after over 30 horses were humanely destroyed, 94 horses arrived at Keno Hills Stables, including 15 stallions. The response from the public has been overwhelming!!
Now, Susan, being an experienced horsewoman, knew what she was getting into in terms of farrier care, veterinarian care, biosecurity, and special feeding requirements of severely compromised horses. She also had an idea of the amount of donations of feed, grooming equipment, and volunteers she was going to require to pull this massive rescue off. But I don’t think anyone could have been prepared for the generosity shown by individuals and corporate sponsors she has been deluged with. Semi truck, after semi truck has arrived with hay and straw; feed, halters and grooming supplies have been given and there are people everywhere. The road is clogged with traffic, as Easter weekend sightseers drive by to get a glimpse of the horses.
Although we don’t know her well, we’ve known Susan for years; we’ve fenced for Keno Hills, Greg has competed against riders from Keno Hills, and we see each other at various horse related events. We have many mutual friends. I have always respected Susan as a horse professional and for the seemless efficiency with which she runs the large breeding, boarding, sales, tack shop, training and instructional facility that is Keno Hills Stables. However, from what Glen and I saw today, that respect has grown into outright admiration and awe for the military precision that been put into effect. She has delegated a full board of volunteer directors to oversee the massive numbers of inexperienced volunteers; she has created departments for stabling issues, feed issues, grooming issues and any other issues as they arise. She has provided for coffee, donuts and food for the army that has appeared at her doorstep. Biosecurity is being strictly enforced and safety is foremost! Bleach footbaths, wash stations, and signage are placed at critical points for anyone involved in handling the rescue horses. Coveralls are mandatory beyond a certain point!! All the horses wear identification collars; yellow for lesson horses and white for rescue horses. I’m sure the boarded horses and breeding stock are wearing collars as well.
In the midst of what should be total chaos, regularly scheduled Saturday lessons are running smoothly, boarders are moving freely about their business, and Susan doesn’t seem to have a hair out of place (although she may be like a swan, serene on top and paddling like mad underwater).
We provided an Anivac, shampoo and fungal fighter to help with ridding the horses of lice and other skin problems. It didn’t even count as a spit in the bucket. We will return tomorrow with all we can spare and have already placed an order for more product. We were happy to be able to offer gated panels to help separate the stallions into pens. We were on our way somewhere else and they have already been picked up. Talk about efficiency.
Monday will be “triage” day with vets and farriers determining priorities and protocols for treatment. Many of the horses have never encountered humans and farrier work will be done with a tipping table, similar to that used to trim cattle hooves.
I’ve never intended this blog to become a soapbox for my particular viewpoints, but after overhearing stray comments from volunteers, I need to state my opinion. Last year there was another S.P.C.A neglect case involving over 150 head of cattle. It made the news briefly and then faded away. My reproduction vet was the government appointed vet on the case. It was during breeding season, when I see more of him than either his spouse, or my spouse. As he got to know the individual charged with neglect, even though highly professional, he often shared his own angst over the situation. As I was teaching at an Outreach school, my students were often “strays” who had slipped through the cracks of public education. His angst caused me serious reflection. I started to think of society as a whole and the whole idea of marginalization, about homeless people and people affected with internal disabilities. They are the shadows of contemporary society and while most of us choose to ignore them, the shadows are growing larger. In the city, these people have made themselves all but invisible. But they exist in the country as well; often without the supports put in place in metro areas. I thought about how easy it would be to become so depressed that you were unable to do daily chores, like feeding, and how that would lead to a downward debilitating spiral of guilt and incapacity.
It is so easy to point fingers and be outraged when animals are the victims of neglect. Somehow, it becomes more outrageous when horses are involved. I don’t know if that is a result mans’ long history with them, or the romanticism and myth wound around horses. I’m not denigrating the generosity, efforts and time of the many volunteers that give selflessly to the horses’ rescue, nor am I absolving the horses’ owner, but I think it behooves all of us to reach inside for the compassion that makes us human and try to understand the individual who caused the animals’ neglect and look to prevent it from happening again. It might just take a phone call, a tray of cookies, or a random act of kindness to change a life. We need to slow down and to get back our sense of community and the sense of belonging that goes with it.
O.K. I’ve done this once in a row; those of you who know me, know how hard it is to keep my opinions to myself. But I’m trying to get back to regular entries, so keep checking back (for pictures too)