Dear VAULT reader: As you know, THE VAULT published its very first article in 2011 and now enjoys a readership of over 280,000 worldwide. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and enthusiasm.
THE VAULT is a non-profit endeavour written out of love for the horses and the sport.
I felt it was time to find a way to give ‘payback,’ to use my efforts as a means of making a permanent contribution to the welfare of horses. Accordingly, I inaugurated a fund, in the name of THE VAULT, which will collect monies to be contributed towards organisations who specialize in horse rescue.
THE VAULT will feature the link below from this time on. Every few months I will post the monies that have been collected.
I thank you all for taking part in this endeavour. No donation is too small — every penny will help.
Finally, I give you the story behind my decision to create the VAULT fund. It is very personal and written from the heart.
And, of course, THE VAULT will continue in its tradition of bringing you great stories of great racehorses past and present from around the world, beginning with my next article.
“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something
that I can do.”
― Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American author, historian and minister
Like so many of you, I try to avoid looking at listings of doomed dogs, cats and horses because it overwhelms me with grief and a sense of helplessness.
But this time, for some reason, I looked. There were live videos of each horse and I suspect that was what did it. It’s easier (don’t know why) to “black out” a photo of a doomed animal in your head than it is to ignore a video, where, in this case, the horses being led or ridden by the camera trust that they are simply in a new home. Among the listings was a QH mare and her filly foal (above) — and I broke down.
You see, I live in Quebec and it is to Quebec that this particular group of unwanted horses are coming. First stop for them will either be OLEX (Ontario Livestock Exchange) in Toronto, where most will be bought by kill buyers for the current rate of $50 USD a pound. Or they will come directly here, to my home province, to either VIANDE RICHELIEU or the recently re-opened LES VIANDES DE LA PETITE-NATION.
I have stood with protesters outside the VIANDE RICHELIEU facility to no avail. Alanna Devine, our fabulous SPCA Director (Montreal), who was instrumental in getting a law passed here declaring animals as sentient beings (with penalties of 5 years in prison and more) made a run at trying to close this place down. To no avail. Brilliant advocates for horses, ponies of all breeds, wild or domestic, as well as donkeys and mules, the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition (CHDC) have been unstinting in their vigilance, reporting and communication with government. But even though Canada was responsible for the slaughter of 80,000 horses in 2011 alone, our federal government has done little (if anything) to regulate horse slaughter facilities or the industry itself.
I’m not naive. I know that even if I were a millionaire, I couldn’t save the draft horses, ponies, Arabians, donkeys, mules, Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, Saddlebreds, Paints, Standardbreds and mixed breeds that go through kill buyers every single day here and all over the world. According to a 2013 report appearing on Pedigree Query, one North American kill buyer alone is responsible for over 7,000 horses going to slaughter annually.
Conceptually hard to grasp, but if you take a pen & paper and start making dots until you get to, say, 100, you begin to see what 7,000 represent pretty clearly:
The woman who photographs and films these particular horses is tireless in her efforts, going to the farm each and every week to photograph “new arrivals,” posting them to her FB page and helping those who are trying to rescue them with everything she’s got, from responsible shippers to those willing to quarantine a horse at a reasonable cost. But the prices on the heads of each of them is high (from about $650 – $1500 USD) and she only has until 9 p.m., exactly a week later, before she must call to give the kill buyer a list of horses, ponies, donkeys or mules who have been rescued.
As the deadline approached (August 8 @ 9 p.m.) for this particular group, literally hundreds of people on the site tried to reach out to work cooperatively to save a pony, a horse or Molly the piebald mule. Some had the space but no funds. Some had funds but no space. Some had part of the bail money and needed help to raise the rest. GoFundMe sites sprang up: places where individuals could go to contribute funds to save a particular individual.
In the meantime, I was attached by anxiety to the site — for them all, but particularly for the mare and her filly, the Belgian mare (above), a Tennessee Walking horse filly (below) and a 10 year-old mixed breed gelding. These five “spoke” to me. Fighting back rage and a sense of helplessness as the clock ticked on, I first decided to start posting these five on FB and Twitter.
Then, on the evening of August 7, I decided to establish a GoFundMe for horse rescue and to connect it to THE VAULT.
Why do human beings persist in thinking that talk IS action? It isn’t. I assume there’s some kind of “wiring” in the human brain that makes this error repeatedly, even unconsciously. We all do it. Yours truly as well. But using FB and Twitter takes a human foible and turns it into a strength. I kept updating every 6 hours or so, making it clear that the deadline was looming. In the meantime, several VAULT readers stepped up to the plate and made a donation to GoFundMe.
People exclaiming “So beautiful” on the rescue site were about as numerous as those struggling to find a way to help. And, as much as I wanted to blast the former group, I knew that they were struggling too.
The ones who pronounced those “So beautifuls” were making a doomed pony or horse significant by naming them in this way.
As was true in concentration camps, POW camps and other sites of incarceration, giving an individual — be it a horse or a human being — a number rather than a name has the immediate impact of marginalizing them, of placing them outside the classification of living beings. The human mind names things in order to store and make meaning of them. In fact, the act of naming marks the beginning of human consciousness. When people or animals are denied a name, the brain doesn’t know what to do with them. And so it moves them out of the sphere of human consciousness, and drops them out of mind.
As though they knew it, several on the site were going after the identities — the names — of those horses who carried a tattoo.
I immediately went back to THE VAULT’S GoFundMe and gave the little Tennessee Walking horse filly the name “HOPE” and, to the mixed breed gelding, I gave the name “HALE,” after the great teacher quoted at the beginning of this narrative.
By the morning of August 8 — the last day for the horses left — the QH mare and her filly, together with the Belgian mare, the two Shetland ponies and HOPE, as well as Molly the piebald mule, and several other horses had been rescued. The remaining dozen included HALE (below), who, priced at $1,128.88 USD, was likely to be left to slaughter.
I frantically posted and tweeted everywhere I could think of and that may have helped. Or maybe not. Because taking solitary aim at a problem this enormous is pretty much useless.
As I waited for something miraculous to happen, I reflected upon how obliterating any living thing that is not essential to our survival not only speaks to our loss of an intimate relationship with the Earth/earth, but also — quite literally — kills a part of us too. We live in a web of living particles that are interwoven like a spider’s web, even though we can’t see them. Disrupting any part of that web affects each living entity on our planet. That’s physics, but it’s also at the core of every world faith I know.
Here is a perceptible example of how this web works:
In the meantime, the hours ticked away. One group was within $100.00 USD of saving this standardbred gelding (below). We had raised $400.00 CAD/$304.78 USD on THE VAULT’S fund site.
I paid, on our behalf, the balance.
I kept checking HALE’s profile. I just could not turn my back on him.
Finally, in the afternoon of what was his last day before being shipped to slaughter, I re-posted THE VAULT’S fund site on my personal FB page and on Twitter. A few more wonderful VAULT readers stepped up to the bat. THE VAULT fund now stood at $555.00 CAD/ 422.90 USD. Fantastic response in a very short time. But not nearly enough to save “HALE.”
With less than an hour to go before the 9 p.m. deadline, a young woman from New Hampshire (“NH lass”) posted that she would love to have him. Her uncle had a large farm where “HALE” would have the company of another horse, together with fields and forest to roam.
But she couldn’t make his bail.
We started to talk online. I called Jen, who runs the rescue FB page, to get all the information I needed to post bail. “NH lass” also spoke to Jen, to see what shipping would cost. We exchanged fast posts. “NH lass” and her family could cover shipping, another $600.00+ (USD).
With fourteen minutes to go, I paid “HALE’S” bail with the remaining VAULT funds and by emptying my own pocket. Seconds later, “SAFE” appeared above his listing.
As tears dripped splashed onto my phone just minutes later, I managed to tell “NH lass” how happy I was that Hale was going to her, where I knew that he would be loved and cared for forever.
“I’ve never done this before,” she confessed.
“Neither have I,” I replied.
“But, you know, there was just something about him. He spoke to me.”
“Yup. He spoke to me, too. I just couldn’t look away. ‘Couldn’t forget the look in his eyes. Of all the horses paraded in front of that video camera, he was one of the few who seemed to know that something was terribly, terribly wrong, ” I added.
As it turns out, his new owner is officially naming the gelding HALE, in honour of THE VAULT, those of you who donated and myself. Apparently, other than her own considerable courage and compassion, it was Edgar Everett Hale’s words on THE VAULT fund site that had moved “NH lass” to take action. And, in one of those magical moments of synchronicity that are very difficult to explain away, Hale’s new owner’s name is the same as that of my late mother, whose ninety-six birthday was the very next day.
….. Over the next ten days, because of the courage of a number of families, individuals (including teenagers), horse rescues,notably HIDDEN POND FARM HORSE RESCUE, “NH lass” and her family, VAULT readers and myself, Molly the Mule, a Belgian mare, a ageing Standardbred, 2 Shetland ponies, a Quarter horse mare and her filly foal, the Tennessee Walking horse filly that I had named “HOPE,” a crossbred gelding who was # 547 but is now named HALE and another 15 horses will step into lives of love and respect, to which they are entitled.
NOTE: VAULT funds collected from today (August 10, 2015) forward will go to horse rescues only.