Hundreds of thousands of horses in the United States are abandoned, neglected and abused every year — and their stories are heartbreaking. Yet just a few miles south of downtown Ashland, on Highway 66, the Equamore Foundation is working to give these tragic stories happy endings, for as many horses as they can. I visited the sanctuary for the first time this fall, where I met more than a dozen rescued horses.
I met Destiny, a stunning thoroughbred whose owners had planned to put her down because they "didn't want her anymore." Destiny was thin, needed basic hoof and dental care, and had a bad wound on her hoof that still causes her to lose her balance.
I also met Star, who had been left to starve in a field at age 3. After being seized by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, she was brought to Equamore. As Star gently ate carrots from my hand on the afternoon I met her, I was surprised to learn that this relaxed, friendly mare had been afraid of humans when she first arrived at the sanctuary. In only a few weeks, volunteers had worked their magic to earn her trust.
Why do you support animal rescue programs?
"I love animals, and it breaks my heart to see an animal suffer, and I want to do what I can to help." Abbey Paiken, 35, Ashland
"I've seen lots of neglect and abuse of horses and cruelty in methods of training. Horses end up without a place to go. I try to help those horses always have a home." Linda Davis, 63, Ashland
"There is something about animals that just touches me. You see how people use them and abuse them and throw them away. I want to make it right." Ruth Kennedy, 58, Ashland
"People who abuse animals later abuse human beings. The way we treat animals is the way we treat the world around us." Colleen M. Dumont, 62, Ashland
"It's disturbing to me that people treat animals the way they do. There are amazing animals in shelters and everyone should do their part." Dana Feagin, 48, Ashland
"We have to speak up for animals, protect them and provide them with the proper care and attention. They can't negotiate for themselves." Paula Sendar, 58, Ashland
And I met Sara, who'd been rescued from severe neglect along with Star. Confused and anxious at first, Sara has been under the watchful eye of Equamore board Vice President Ruth Kennedy, who spends time walking, grooming and visiting her. The extra attention has helped her find peace in her new home.
Destiny, Star, Sara and the 43 other rescued and retired horses at Equamore are among the very lucky ones. Only a fraction of the horses in need find sanctuary.
In addition to reporting animal abuse and neglect, there are many ways to help, from sponsoring an Equamore horse ($350 per month) or feeding a horse for a week ($12 per month) to making a one-time donation. Visit Equamore's website, www.equamore.org, for more information on how to donate or volunteer.
Midge Raymond is co-founder of Ashland Creek Press, a local publisher focusing on literature about the environment and animal protection. She is the author of the award-winning short story collection "Forgetting English" and the writing guide "Everyday Writing."