Owning a horse is something that many children dream of. Some grow up to realize this dream by entering the competitive world, others follow a completely different path. I chose the road less traveled, the one leading to a sanctuary for those in need of a safe haven, protection and a place to call home.
Starting a horse sanctuary has been an uphill battle and one that planted its roots very early on in my life. To be honest, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride with many bumps along the way. Every day it continues to grow into an ever more amazing experience and I would not change it for anything.
What Inspired me to Start a Horse Sanctuary?
Growing up in the city, my exposure to horses was very limited. Raised as a vegetarian, I had a reputation for bringing home every stray animal in need. It only got worse when I started my first job at a small animal veterinary practice. I saw the dark side of humanity – those uncaring individuals that thought nothing of abandoning their elderly cat or dog, simply walking away from a life they chose to protect. My heart was constantly broken. It was then that I knew what direction my life would eventually take, I just did not know how to get there.
After moving to the country, I gained a deeper awareness of the plight of farm animals. It was nearly impossible to avoid driving by a factory farm or passing a live animal transport truck on the highway where I lived, but I still didn’t have much insight into what was happening to the animals. I was oblivious to the suffering of one particular large animal – the horse. I had no idea how many horses were sent to slaughter on an annual basis or that they even suffered the same cruel fates as other farmed animals. It wasn’t until I was asked to help a horse in need that the reality hit me … and hard.
Chances was the first horse to make her way into my life. She was a race horse on death row, about to make the horrific journey to the slaughter plant. Through the help of my understanding landlord, I was able to reach her in time and bring her home to safety. The idea that such a majestic animal that had given so much of her life for entertainment would be tossed away like garbage sickened me beyond belief. I began to investigate equine welfare issues and the truth astonished me. No matter what age, breed, or condition no horse was safe from slaughter. Nearly 80,000 horses are killed inhumanely every single year. I had to do something.
A True Sanctuary
Running a sanctuary is not the same thing as operating a “rescue.” Unfortunately in today’s cruel world, the word “rescue” does not always mean safe. There are those seeking to make a profit off the misfortune of others, those willing to rescue a horse and sell it for monetary gain. Kill buyers will often pose as potential adopters, only their intent is to ship the horse to slaughter for profit. Bouncing a soul from one place to another is not my idea of providing protection. I believe that animals that have been victims and suffered unimaginable cruelties should be allowed to live out their lives in peace, knowing nothing but love and understanding. This is sanctuary.
There are ten horses at my sanctuary currently, all with their own stories of past horror and future hope. They are happy and live in harmony with their herd mates. They are not asked to perform or entertain; they are allowed to live as horses.
A Day in the Life
Operating a Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary is a daily commitment with no breaks. It has been a rewarding experience to watch the horses recover and find their place. They have all developed their own personal sense of being – they have come a long way and so have I. The sanctuary is now a registered not-for-profit organization with the intent of gaining charitable status in the near future as well as opening its doors to all types of farm animals. It is entirely volunteer-run and nearly 80 percent privately funded. Every day more and more people are discovering the sanctuary and it is those that truly understand its purpose that remain – the ones that want nothing in return aside from spending time with the horses. The visitors that come expecting to ride the horses never come back.
Every day the sanctuary evolves a little – more are beginning to see the therapeutic side of being involved with rescued horses. Not only are we helping horses to heal but those people suffering from depression and illness as well. My hope for the future is for people to see horses are unique and sentient beings and not just objects to be exploited. There is no reason to discard a horse that can no longer be ridden or used. They have just as much right to live as we do. I like to think that I have changed the minds of at least a few individuals that have had the chance to meet the horses at Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary.
How You Can Help
Although I have devoted my life to running a sanctuary for horses, not everyone can do the same. This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t help horses and other animals in a similar way.
If you have not had the opportunity to visit your local farm sanctuary or equine rescue, take some time to do so. There are many reputable ones all over the United States and Canada, with more appearing every day. They are the true definition of peace in a chaotic world – providing protection to gentle creatures. Educate yourself and others about animal welfare issues and always practice compassion. As the Beatles once said, “living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.” Life is so much more fulfilling if you do not turn away from those that need our help the most. Speak up for the voiceless.
“Life is life’s greatest gift. Guard the life of another creature as you would your own because it is your own. On life’s scale of values, the smallest is no less precious to the creature who owns it than the largest.”
– Lloyd Biggle Jr.