Saturday, May 17, 2008

Some great horse related stories in the paper today

The gelding we nicknamed Big Brown, in honor of the Kentucky Derby winner, loped off to the far corner of the arena as if he were looking for a place to hide. I exchanged frustrated frowns with my teammate, Shanda Steenburn, a tall, curly-haired nurse and hospital pharmacy manager.

We were participating in an introductory exercise at the Horse Institute in Ancramdale, N.Y. Our assignment was to catch Big Brown, slip a halter over his head and hook him to a lead line.

Our seemingly simple task was proving to be more daunting than either of us had expected. Shanda knew a lot about handling medications for humans but next to nothing about handling horses.

My previous experience with horses was limited and not especially pleasant. I’d taken fewer than a dozen riding lessons during my youth in Texas. The last time I’d been on a horse as an adult, I’d suffered a back injury that took three months to heal.

To make matters worse, Big Brown shared the arena with three other very large and very wary steeds: a white one, a second brown one and one with a mottled brown and white coat, a breed called a paint. Three pairs of nurses who worked with Shanda at Columbia Memorial Hospital in nearby Hudson, N.Y., were simultaneously trying to catch and halter those horses. But instead of cooperating, the paint, the white and the second brown kept darting away and huddling with Big Brown.

Suddenly, Big Brown separated from the herd and walked toward me. I patted his neck and stroked his face, cooing sweet nothings in his ear for at least a minute. Shanda handed me a halter. As if on cue, Big Brown bolted away again.

Read the entire story HERE.

A thoroughbred named Tchaikovsky, a grandson of Secretariat, was having a tooth pulled in one stall. A horse in another was given a sponge bath. Out the stable door, about a dozen horses shared a sun-lit field.

Somewhere, far out of sight if not entirely out of mind, countless other former racehorses were on their way to being slaughtered.

“I struggle with it,” Diana Koebel said. She is the owner and trainer here at LumberJack Farm, one of hundreds of horse farms around the country helping rescue and rehabilitate thoroughbreds considered too slow or damaged to be worth anything more than horse meat. The rescuers cannot keep up.

“Are we really helping?” Koebel asked as she stood in a stable stall. “I know we are, and every one counts, but it’s overwhelming at points. Can we really fix this industry?”

LumberJack Farm works with a nonprofit organization called ReRun, which prepares discarded racehorses for a second career — as jumping show horses, maybe, or just as pets — and then makes them available for adoption. ReRun annually places about 40 thoroughbreds once destined for the slaughterhouse.

Read the entire story HERE.

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