Saturday, July 21, 2012

United States Equine Rescue League

A magnificent horse helps its less fortunate brethren
I spent a good part of my day volunteering at a concession stand at a horse show put on by the Suffolk Horse Show Association at Pachanga Farms. Proceeds from the event benefited the regional chapter of the United States Equine Rescue League, or USERL. It is a non-profit organization "founded for the protection of equines," meaning horses and their relatives, such as mules and donkeys.

My friend Amy, a friend to all equines
A good friend of mine, Amy Woodard, is deeply involved with this group. I have heard much about the amazing work this team of committed men and women do to rescue, foster, rehabilitate and re-home horses. I have seen some of it, and I can only feel admiration for their tremendous efforts.

 If you think nobody would neglect or abuse an animal as large and magnificent as a horse, think again! USERL takes in horses that are so skinny and malnourished that it is a miracle they live.

Some don't.

There is a scoring system for the condition of horses or any other animal. USERL unfortunately sees and takes in horses with a body condition score as low as 1. These horses are skin and bones. There is literally no fat to be found anywhere on the body. They are so weak, they may not even be able to stand. They often have had others in their herd whose bones lie somewhere in the pasture where USERL finds them. Other horses have not received the handling, training, veterinary care, or even farrier services that they need.

Horses' hooves need regular farrier care and trimming, at least every six to eight weeks. Lack of such care can lead to extremely painful and even life-threatening conditions. USERL has taken in horses that have had no attention to their feet for years.

It's horrible. If I were to post pictures and detailed explanations,  readers would not be able to sleep at night.

In case you think this type of neglect and cruelty is an occasional problem, think again. USERL chapters in the North Carolina and Virginia regions get calls and new cases every week! They have even had to respond to well-publicized cases where dozens of horses have had to be rescued from hoarders.

Can you imagine what it takes to feed and care for an animal that is as much as 1,000 lbs. underweight? Now multiply that by 60 animals or so, and you see the kinds of obstacles the brave volunteers for this rescue group face... and face again!

If you are reading this post and live in some other countries, this may come as a surprise to you. In your country there might be a market for horse meat, and so you might expect unwanted horses to wind up on the dinner table instead of slowly starving in someone's paddock or barn. But most people in the United States would no more eat horses than they would their own pet dogs and cats. The culture has a reverence for them that is connected with their role in building our young country. Mustangs had a role in the taming of the West, and so cowboys and horses have a cultural mystique.

Yours truly working with our best customer
Horses are beautiful and noble animals. It is a shame that a culture that has so much respect for its horses is not doing all it can to protect them from harm. I, for one, am glad for the hard and often unappreciated work of USERL in our region. Kudos to the Suffolk Horse Show Association and its fine members for hosting this event. I was glad to devote some small part of my time, energy, and money to help them, even if only for one day.

For more pictures, visit this set on Flickr.

Update on 12/8/12: USERL just released his beautiful video highlighting some of the majestic horses this group has rescued over the past 15 years. Just in time for Christmas but enjoy it any time of year!

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