WHAT MAKES A SANCTUARY A SANCTUARY?
You may have been hearing a lot of reports lately of animal sanctuaries that are being raided and the animals rescued from horrific conditions. The situations and reports are extremely upsetting and disturbing. Many people are jumping to broad conclusions that sanctuaries are horrible places and offer only suffering to the animals in their care. It is important to note that not all sanctuaries are alike.
We feel that it is time for us to respond to this issue. Obviously not ALL sanctuaries are bad. Many are outstanding in the scope of their work and the care of their animals. It is unfair to lump all sanctuaries into one category because of the extreme neglect by a few. It is vitally important if you are looking to donate to a sanctuary, or wish to bring an animal to one, that you ask some fundamental questions and educate yourself as to what the sanctuary does and how it operates.
There are many points to consider on what makes a good sanctuary. First, it is important to note that people who start sanctuaries do so out of an honest love for animals and wanting to rescue them. But if they don’t know their own limitations, or lack a solid foundation and a clear vision to live by, things can go very wrong very quickly. There are always many more animals in need than what any sanctuary can possibly take in. To operate a sanctuary means having to say “no” when you are full and that can be very tough. We have to say “no” to over 60 cats/kittens, 25 dogs, multiple rabbits and a handful of goats, horses, etc., EVERY WEEK, simply because we are at our limit and have no more room. It is heartbreaking to say “no”, but it is necessary.
Here are four major factors to consider when looking at sanctuaries:
- Animal to staff ratio – Providing care for the animals in a sanctuary goes far beyond their immediate daily care and veterinary needs. Quality of life is equally important. That includes how much attention animals get and what kind of life they have. Are they sitting in cages with no attention? Or are they in rooms or housing that allows them social contact with humans and other animals? Also, is the environment suited for that particular animal? Some animals want to be social and others don’t. It takes a lot of man-hours to maintain a nurturing environment that includes not only their physical care but also their emotional needs. For example, at Spring Farm CARES we have an animal population of about 250 -275 animals. We currently have 14 full-time and 8 part-time animal care employees, as well as 4 full-time office/administrative staff, (plus 3 full time directors working 70-80 hours per week each). The administrative staff and directors all also spend some of their time working with the animals. In addition, we also have over 100 volunteers who not only help with physical labor, but more importantly spend time sitting with and playing with the animals. Even with all these people, we could always use more help. The animal/staff ratio then is important information as to how much care is going to the animals. Cleaning, feeding, medicating are necessary parts of their daily care, but play/socialization/snuggle time is equally as important.
- Transparency – Another factor to consider is whether you are allowed to visit the sanctuary and how much of the sanctuary is open for visitors to see. While there are bound to be some restrictions on where visitors can go, if no one is allowed to see the animals at all, as well as the environments that they live in, then that is a big red flag. Here, we are open to the public 7 days a week from 10am-5pm. We do not have any of our animal areas restricted to the public unless we have an animal that is stressed or ill or just is not social to people coming to visit. But in general, our entire facility is open. We also have veterinarians and other animal care professionals who are on site regularly and who see the care our animals are getting on a routine basis. We do not have a veterinarian on staff but do have a Licensed Veterinary Technician working for us full-time.
- Population and Limits – Another important factor is whether the sanctuary discloses how many animals they currently have, what their limit is and whether animals are permanent residents or are being adopted out. It also makes a difference as to whether the animals are healthy adoptable animals, or if they are special needs animals, requiring even more care. At Spring Farm CARES, our animal population ranges from 250-275 animals, which is the limit we can maintain while providing an excellent quality of life. We do have many elderly, disabled, and special needs animals, as well as young, healthy adoptable ones. Determining our population limit, is not only based on space availability, but also on how much time is required to be sure to cater to each animal’s special needs, and to be sure they have a high quality of life.
- Funding – Obviously, funding is another huge factor in how a sanctuary operates. It is important to note in sanctuary work that, as animals age, their medical needs increase. Thus, if a sanctuary is working with elderly, disabled or hospice cases, medical expenses per animal are bound to be higher than for younger, less challenged animals. At Spring Farm CARES, our annual operating budget is $1.25 million per year. Our funds are dedicated first to the animal care part of the operation, including medical care, and lastly to any other programs we run. No animal in our care ever has a medical decision made based on finances. That has been the level of care with which we started our sanctuary and that is how we will continue to operate. If an animal comes in with a badly broken leg that can be amputated for $400 or surgically repaired for $3,000, then, if the best medical decision for that animal is the orthopedic surgery, that’s what they get without question. Besides the excellent small and large animal veterinarians who treat our animals, we also use alternative and preventative medicine such as chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, physical rehabilitation services, etc. Whatever the level of care our animals need, they will get.
There are many other factors that make a sanctuary a true sanctuary, but these are the four that will give you a clearer picture of how a sanctuary operates and what level of care the animals receive.
It is a challenge to operate a sanctuary when people are banging at your doors, calling you on the phone, and sending you emails pleading with you to take their animals and when you know that you are indeed that animal’s last chance. Saying yes and taking them in is a great feeling. And having to say no is one of the hardest things in the world. We have that happen here every single day. The way we get through it is to always look into the eyes of the ones who are already with us and know that to be true to them and their care, we must know and respect our limitations. If we don’t, then we become part of the problem that caused these animals to need us in the first place. Meeting the needs of the animals currently in our care must always remain top priority when facing the needs of those we know we can’t help.
The foundation of Spring Farm CARES is based on a strong philosophy that guides us each and every day. Our hope is that by listening to and learning from the animals and sharing their stories and messages, we can make a difference in how people see animals. We believe that, if humans understood that animals have souls and feel emotions just as we do, the animals would not be treated as poorly as they often are. We have known from day one that we couldn’t save them all, and that in fact, we can actually save very few. But we can work with the animals and on their behalf to try to open the human heart and get people to realize that we are all on this planet together – connected. The animals teach us about unconditional love and to not judge. If we humans understood that like they do, the world would be a very different place.
We believe we can stand with the animals to get their message heard. And that is what the Spring Farm CARES mission has been and continues to be today. Below is our Mission Statement. We keep it posted in the front of our facility to remind us every day that there is always hope even in the sea of despair we face daily.
SPRING FARM CARES MISSION STATEMENT
We believe that when our Mother Earth and all her living things were created, a loving balance, respect, and communication existed between Humans, all other life forms, and the Earth. We believe that Humankind has forgotten the original plan, to the detriment not only of others in the animal kingdom, and of the Earth, but of ourselves. We believe that a return to an understanding of our oneness with All That Is will cure the cruelties and horrors, and the illnesses with which we find ourselves surrounded. Through our caring contribution, we hope to help Humankind remember that original plan of love and respect, to remember our natural ability to communicate with All That Is, and so return to balanced health, physically, mentally, spiritually, and in relationship to all.
The Plight of Dumped Cats
Serene was carelessly dumped on the roadside outside of our farm one cold winter evening. We believe that she may have been dumped with two other cats. We first found Tony, a big black and white male, streaking terrified out of our barn as we were closing down for the night. As he leaped through the deep snow in terror, we tried gently to call to him. He stopped. He listened. And although he would not come up to the person trying to lure him in, he very slowly allowed her to creep to him on hands and knees, until he finally let her touch him, and then pick him up. As always when we find cats who have so recklessly been abandoned, we made sure he was alright, set him up with food and water, and then began to feel the sting of betrayal that he felt. At least he was one of the lucky ones, we all said. At least we caught him. So often we have found the remains of cats either who have been hit by cars or starved to death. A few times we have found them collapsed in the woods, mere skeletons but still hanging to life. We couldn’t save them, although we tried. The only comfort we take with us is that they died in a warm blanket in our arms, not alone. But how many more do we never see? This is the life of a dumped cat. It is brutal. It is reckless. It is heart breaking.
The morning after Tony was found, we saw two calico cats streaking around across the highway in our hay barn. We bet anything that the three of them came from the same place. We tried to catch them but they were terrified and all of our talking to them, sitting trying to lure them out, and bribing them with food just didn’t work. House cats who are dumped outside, or even outside cats who are relocated, often become so scared that they just run and hide, unable to function or comprehend what has happened to them. We set humane traps baited with cat food to catch them. But, as has happened so many times before, they evaded the traps. Several of our staff faithfully tried for weeks to catch these cats. In the meantime, we saw some more that we had never seen before. More drop offs. None of them going into the traps. We set up a food station to at least try to feed them. But skunks, opossums and other wild animals, also found the food stash. About 4 weeks later, we got lucky and caught one of the calico cats in one of the traps. We named her Iris. She was as friendly as can be and so relieved to be with loving humans again. She purred and rubbed up against us. You could see her relief when we brought her inside. She knew she was safe. We stepped up our efforts in earnest to catch any of the others, especially the other calico who had now been out there for several weeks. She came close to some of our staff working in the hay barn. She so wanted to be with humans again but just could not gain the courage to walk up to us or to walk into the traps. We came so close but not close enough to help her.
Four weeks later, our barn manager heard the pathetic meows of a cat in the hay barn. He followed the crying and found the second calico cat in a pool of blood, unable to move her back end, and obviously very badly injured. We rushed her to our veterinarian immediately. We named her Serene, not for the life she had endured so far, but for the energy she exuded. Even in her badly injured state, she gently purred, rubbed against our hands, and made it clear how grateful she was to be held once again. It felt so unfair. Why? Why all this needless suffering? How could someone have done this to her? Why couldn’t we have caught her before this?
Her injuries were severe but possibly survivable so we gave the go ahead for full treatment. It appeared one back leg would need to be amputated. Her pelvis was badly broken, and she had a severe wound. After two days at the first vet hospital, she was transferred to a very special surgeon to see what he could do. Once in surgery, it was discovered that her injuries were far worse than what was thought. The surgeon tried valiantly to save her and it was going to be a wait and see to how she would do. Serene quickly captured the hearts of the surgeon and his staff as well. Grateful for every thing done for her, she would purr when anyone handled her. She was surrounded by the best medical care, the most loving people around her, and the prayers of so many more pulling for her. She gave it her best. It was so clear that she was trying to live. We promised her a forever home where she would never know the pain of abandonment again. For 8 weeks prior, all of us were consumed with trying to help her. And now to see her like this was so painful to watch. Recovery went hour by hour and Serene began to show some small signs of improvement. But 5 days post-op, her body could not make a go of it any longer and she very quietly passed away. Serene has left behind a lot of broken hearts. She touched us in a way that is extraordinary in its depth. We are sad for our loss. We are angry at her having been dumped. We are blessed with having known her. But mostly, we are determined to reach out to humanity from our hearts and beg you to never, ever dump a cat to fend for itself. So few ever get found. Since Serene, we have seen at least 7 more cats. Fleeting glimpses so that we know they are there, and then they are gone. Too scared to come to us or to go into the humane traps we have set up. They go off hiding. In the past we have found them near death from starvation and we were unable to pull them through. They died in our arms as we helplessly watched. We have picked their bodies out of the road after they were hit by cars. Many we have never seen again. Most do not make it to safety. This is the life of a dumped cat. It is brutal. It is reckless. It is heart breaking. Please, for the sake of Serene and the faces we cannot show you. Please for the sake of humanity. Please don’t dump them. Serene’s last 8 weeks of life were incredibly difficult, filled with fear, despondency, pain, and agony, so unnecessarily cruel. In the end, she died. Please don’t let this happen again.
GAME FARM/PETTING ZOO
YEAR END CLEARANCE SALE
How Your Dollars Often Lead to the Demise of Many Animals Every Year!
Last week we became an emergency sanctuary to 8 pygmy goats and 6 hair sheep all of whom were headed from auction to the meat truck. Each one of these animals was sent to auction by a game farm/petting zoo. So many of us have fond memories as children of being taken to a petting zoo or game farm and being able to see and touch all the cute animals, many of them babies. Maybe some of you still take your children and grandchildren to such places. For sure, not all of them are bad. However, most people have no clue that a great majority of these tourist attractions exist not for the welfare of the animals but for our entertainment and for the profit of those who run them. By far, the biggest attractions are the baby animals. To have baby animals in abundance, many of these places over breed or allow indiscriminate breeding so that they are assured a nice supply of cute cuddly young ones when the crowds arrive to greet them each summer. Have you ever wondered though what happens to these babies? You can go back the next year and lo and behold there are all those cute babies again. But few stop to wonder where the babies from last year went. What most people do not know is that many of these petting zoos and game farms liquidate their “assets” each fall after Labor Day and when the crowds are gone. Now these same babies that you all loved and touched, and fed in some cases, are no longer an asset but a liability for the winter. Off they go to auction where they are largely sold for meat or for canned hunts.
For those of you who are not familiar with canned hunts, these are places where animals, mostly exotic types that have been hand raised at game farms and the like, are set loose in a completely fenced in area and then shot by people who pay to come and shoot them. Like a petting zoo only with guns. But instead of getting their heads petted, they get to be mounted on someone’s wall as a trophy. Canned hunts are legal in many states. And they love to buy the liquidated assets of game farms and zoos from auctions because they are generally extremely tame.
The sheep and goats that have found sanctuary with us will be assured that they will not end up in the meat truck or in the hands of the canned hunt people. A group of animal lovers and rescues bought up those hand raised animals that were certain to go for meat from the auction and they are being placed in homes by various sanctuaries and rescue groups. Spring Farm only took in a few. Just to be clear, there were over 40 pygmy goats and over 40 hair sheep that were just among some of the animals that were liquidated that day by one game farm at this one auction. There was even a baby camel, a couple of tortoises, 35 pot bellied pigs and many more, all from the same game farm. Many of the goats and sheep are pregnant. So many more lives were being auctioned off at the end of this tourist season than we will know. We will be placing the herd of sheep all together soon at another facility where they will be safe. Some of the goats have been placed and some will stay here with us. Some of the goats were ill so we are giving them time to settle in, to be sure they are healthy, and to see who is pregnant and who may not be.
But just this week, one of the goats delivered an amazingly cute little kid. At less than one week old, she is out bouncing around with the other 5 remaining adults and learning about life. Born on a full moon, we named her Luna. She is feisty, determined, and very smart. And she hopefully will never have to feel the sting of betrayal of being born to get to know, love, and trust people, only to then be discarded with the trash at the end of a tourist season. She will know she is not a commodity but that she is a treasured being for her entire life and not just for when she is a cute youngster.
Our intention is to keep some of the goats to use in our humane education programs and to just let them be goats. I just wish though that the same tourists that spent their summer feeding and petting these adorable beings could have seen the look of terror and confusion in the pens at the auction, waiting for their uncertain fate, and being separated from their friends and families. And if you think they don’t care about those connections, if you think that they don’t understand where they are being sent off to and understand what the kill pens are, then I wish you could have seen it for yourselves. The look of fear and terror, the screams to each other as they were divided up and separated, and then their gradually learning trust that they have found safety again. Little Luna only knows that the sun feels good, people are friendly, and that Life is waiting for her to explore. She has the complete innocence and trust of all newborn beings. It is up to us now never to betray that.
When animals are used for our entertainment, it is up to us to be sure how their lives are being spent and what happens to them when the doors close for the season and the show is over. Are they just a seasonal commodity, bred to make a few bucks while people gather to see their beauty, only then to be discarded as a worthless liability? Or, are they truly loved, honored, and cared for, even when times are tough and the doors are closed? It is up to all of us as “consumers” to find out the answers to these questions before we promote them with our dollars. There are probably not many of you who would get a baby animal for your child or grandchild just so they can see it be young and vibrant and then send it off to a meat auction when fall comes, yet that is what we all unknowingly promote and condone when we financially support these operations. Ask questions. Life is too precious to waste. Ask Luna.
FOR WHOM THE BELLE TOLLS
Horse Racing is Put on Notice
EIGHT BELLES NEEDS A LEGACY
Only history will show whether the untimely and unnecessary death of Thoroughbred filly Eight Belles is honored by an industry addressing a far too long ignored problem. Eight Belles placed second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby only to collapse on the track as she was galloping out after her finish. As she went down and track personnel rushed to her aid, it was discovered that she broke not just one, but two, legs. Even the track vet said he had never seen an injury as catastrophic. Is this a rare occurrence in racing? To listen to those in the racing industry who are expounding about how much they care about and love these horses, you might be lulled into thinking that. Human athletes after all also have injuries in their sports.
The truth, however, is much more complicated and ugly than that. For far too long now the racing industry has swept this issue under the proverbial rug. Then a horse named Barbaro came into this world and started to change all of that. Barbaro broke a leg during the Preakness in 2006 and left a legacy behind that many have said will change the racing industry forever. The valiant effort to save his life captured the hearts of millions around the world. And much good has come of his life and his death. The Friends of Barbaro have done amazing work at saving many other horses and money has been raised to help research the care of leg injuries and founder in horses. Since his death, awareness has been raised about the slaughter industry and how far too many horses, such as Thoroughbreds, are being bred each year to find that one gem that may be a triple crown contender. The industry itself seems to have become completely calloused to the plight of these horses. Barbaro, and all who loved him, began to open the eyes and hearts of many that changes needed to be made. Make no mistake, changes have been made. But is it too little too late?
COULD EIGHT BELLES BE THE DEATH KNELL FOR RACING?
We almost started to slip back into complacency feeling that after Barbaro certainly changes are being made now to alleviate all this suffering. Yet, in 2007, in another futurity race, another horse broke a leg and had to be euthanized on the track. It was during the Breeder's Cup Classic at Monmouth Park and the colt George Washington suddenly went down with a broken leg. He could not be saved.
Then, the Kentucky Derby 2008, the only filly, named Eight Belles, was running the race of her life. She zoomed across the finish line in second place, a magnificent finish for her and for any filly. Yet as the cameras all focused on the winner, Big Brown, Eight Belles was just galloping out when her jockey felt a sudden change in her gait and tried to pull her up. She collapsed to the ground. When track personnel arrived on the scene, it was discovered that both front ankles were broken. She was euthanized on the track. While NBC continued to cover the winner and the awards ceremony, she lay dying on the track, not far away. It was as if it was hoped no one would take notice or that her death would quickly go away. Racing depends on fans just like any sport. It depends on advertisers and marketing. All the interviews with all the people who knew Eight Belles talked about how much they love and care for their horses. We don't question that they love their horses. But there are obviously problems in the racing industry that are not being addressed. Far too many horses are dying while running their hearts out, for what? Our entertainment?
The very day before the Kentucky Derby, on the same track at Churchill Downs, another horse broke down in a race. A colt named Chelokee, who ironically won the Barbaro Stakes in 2007. So just how much have we learned since Barbaro? How much has improved for these horses? It is said that Chelokee has a 50/50 chance of recovery, but his career is over. It is a very sad commentary to say that a horse's big break in racing, could indeed be the breaking of a leg, ending their life and not just their chances at winning. We have heard people quip that the Triple Crown should be renamed the Cripple Crown.
The New York Times reported that on the same day that Eight Belles died, 15 other horses were injured at 39 North American tracks, 9 of them so seriously that they had to be carried off in ambulances. If that same statistic was true in any human sport, I daresay that action would be taken immediately to prevent this. We must be sure that Eight Belles has not died in vain. The media have picked up on her story and are exposing a lot of issues with the racing industry that need to be exposed. A conversation is being started. This has happened before and then been swept away. This time, hopefully, we can open up and expose what is happening so that changes can be made. The day has come for the racing industry to answer to the horses whose lives have lined their pockets, brought them fame and glory, and whom they say they love and care for so much. This is the day of reckoning.
THE FATE OF FERDINAND
Ferdinand was a colt who won the Kentucky Derby 1n 1986. He went on to win the Breeder's Cup Classic in 1987 and was also named Horse of the Year that same year. His destiny seemed to be that of a great breeding stallion. He won $3,777,978 in his racing career and then was retired to stud in 1989. In 1994 he was sold to a business in Japan and lived a life as a breeding sire from 1995-2000. Shockingly, it has been discovered that Ferdinand's life ended in 2002 in a slaughterhouse. He did not perform as well as they had hoped for as a breeding sire.
Death in a slaughterhouse for any horse is a nightmare. Horse rescues across the United States are often the stop gap that saves these horses from that fate. When racing fans hear of Ferdinand's fate, they usually respond with stunned silence. If a horse of the stature of Ferdinand could meet that fate, how many others who do not claim that purse money or do not get all the accolades meet the same destiny? These are the hidden tragedies of racing. Horrific deaths taking place behind the cameras and well out of the way of the fans.
SPRING FARM'S RETIRED RACE HORSES
The horses mentioned above, just happen to be famous race horses. Horses that made it to the futurity races that could land them a lucrative breeding career afterwards. But such a small percentage of Thoroughbred's born in this country will ever make it to that.
As witnessed by Ferdinand, the great horses who run in the Triple Crown races don't always live a life of glory after the race. And the hundreds of thousands who never make it to the big race tracks often remain unseen and unheard of by the general public. The number of horses killed on American race tracks annually is staggering and sobering. Names you have never heard. Horses as valiant and noble and as deserving as Barbaro. Spring Farm CARES has been the last resting place of many retired Thoroughbred race horses. We have had the opportunity to learn their thoughts and feelings on the life they lived on the track and off the track.
Some of them broke down young and retirement for them would have meant death at a very young age. Others were raced until they could no longer run and then bred until they could no longer carry a pregnancy and then were being discarded like an old piece of farm equipment. Each one of them touched our hearts and their stories are as important to us as the stories of the famous horses listed above. There are breeders in the Thoroughbred industry that are coming forward and doing the right thing, the moral thing, and taking responsibility for the lifelong well-being of the horses that they breed. But they are far too few. We salute the ones who do so and we beg the others to follow their example. These noble horses deserve nothing short of that.
While the "famous" race horses may run 10-20 times or less in their careers before they are turned out for stud or breeding, there are countless others across this country who literally are raced until they drop on the track, breaking down, and unable to continue. We had one Thoroughbred mare who retired here at the age of 21 years. Her race record told of 86 starts on the track. And then she got to "retire" to go on to breeding. She had 11 foals until she could not be bred anymore. She was going to the meat man we were told, unless we took her. The mare was named Four Bales and she was our second retired race horse on the farm. She was the kindest, sweetest, and most noble animal I have ever known. She worked hard her entire life. She spent her last 6 years of her life with us, just living her days grazing in a pasture with her herd. Being loved, cared for, and adored. Not all of them find such a fortunate ending. Horse rescues across this country try valiantly to keep up with the demand of discarded race horses and those that were bred to race but never even make it to the track. It is impossible to keep up with the steady flow. Their retirements should be funded by the same money they themselves helped earn for their owners, trainers and breeders. Instead, countless rescues across this country do all they can to scrape together donations to keep operating and helping the heroes of this industry who have been forgotten and cast away by the people who claim to love and care for them so much.
IN OUR OPINION
At Spring Farm CARES, we lived through the nightmare of a horse breaking a leg. It was our retired Thoroughbred mare Lamoka Babe. While running in one of our pastures one day, one of her hind legs just snapped. Fatal injuries like these are not uncommon in retired race horses. We have heard stories of many who had a leg snap while they were just standing in their stalls. Race horses are started way too young. The Triple Crown races are all 3 year olds. A horse's bones aren't even completely knit until they are 4-6 years old. Thoroughbreds are being bred to have lighter and thinner legs all the time. These practices just make them all the more vulnerable to breaking down. Dirt track surfaces are very harsh on such young legs. Much has been done with synthetic tracks and evidence is mounting that the injury rates are dramatically diminished on these surfaces. We can do so much more for these horses.
So should racing be banned altogether? Is horse racing the equivalent to animal cruelty? Our opinion is yes and no. The way horse racing is today, we'd agree that it is equal to animal cruelty. But does it have to be that way? We don't think so. Do horses like to race as so many claim they do? We believe some of them do. Has the sport become corrupt? We'd say like in all sports, there are parts of it that have. The use of steroids and drugs both legal and illegal is common in horse racing to the complete detriment of the horse. But we need only look to baseball or football right now to hear the same headlines. Its not just horse racing. Its human greed.
One day at Spring Farm CARES, Bonnie and I witnessed something that completely amazed us and changed our way of thinking. Spending countless hours caring for and trying to support so many retired race horses and facing an ever increasing and endless supply of them needing homes, we could only think that there was nothing at all acceptable about horse racing. Then, one day, we heard a lot of commotion in one of our pastures. We called it our Thoroughbred pasture as it was where 7 retired Thoroughbreds were turned out each day. It is a pasture with lots of hills. Of those 7 Thoroughbreds, 6 had raced, and one had been bred to race but never made it to the track due to an injury while being trained. We went out to see what was happening and we couldn't believe what we were seeing. All 7 of them were lining up shoulder to shoulder with their backs to the fence line. Then it was as if an imaginary start gun was fired and all of them simultaneously took off heading for the top of the hill. It was so clear to us what was happening. "First one there wins!", we could hear them shout.
That would have been astounding enough. But then they came back and did it again. All of them, running for the pure joy of running. Playing by their rules, not ours. We climbed up on the fence to watch the second race and off they ran. And when the winner was clear we cheered and clapped and shouted the horse's name. You could see the joy in their eyes. So we began cheering for each and every one of them. Each one was a champion. And the more we cheered, the more they enjoyed it. We stayed there with them for at least 20 minutes while the scene just repeated itself over and over until the game was over and it was time to go back up the hill to roll and graze.
If human greed and ego were taken out of the equation. If the goal was to have a horse that is the fittest, strongest, and most able to endure distance and not just speed, we do think that some of the horses would love to run for the pure joy of running and sharing in the glory of the moment. But something got lost in horse racing along the way. And that would be the horse. Its no longer about the horse. Its now about the human who bred the horse, the human who trained the horse, the human who owned the horse, or the financier who backs the horse. But everyone has forgotten the horse and the heart that beats deep within them. Anytime I see a horse race, I cry as the winner crosses that finish line. Why? Because you can feel the pride as they understand what they've just done. You can feel the awesome power of what they just gave and spent and accomplished. And I always know that its lost at the end of the day. The moment isn't about them anymore. Its all about the humans around them. And yet, they come out on the track and do it again and again and again. Now its our turn to go the distance for them. Can we be as noble as they are? Will we give them as much as they've given us? Can we bet on ourselves as we have bet on them? This is our moment. The starting gun has fired. And now they are the ones waiting to see if we will come through for them.
For these 3 retired race horses, the starting gate now means heading out to pasture to eat grass. Far too many others never get to see this kind of retirement. All of them were cast-aways from the industry that bred them, raced them, and then decided they weren't good enough. At left, Thoroughbred mare, Lamoka Bo. Center, Thoroughbred mare Lamoka Gypsy. Right, Standardbred gelding, Smiley. All are now in their mid 20's and are retired at Spring Farm CARES.