A few years ago I wrote a post about why horses end up in rescue organizations. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty nor a light read. However, as someone who rode growing up, I never knew overpopulation in the horse world was a thing until 2018 really. Sure, I knew that retired race horses are often shipped to slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico, but I didn’t really think about it outside of that. So, when I get the chance to work with equine rescue organizations, I am thrilled to be able to shed more light on horses in need.
When Margaret and I pulled up to Amazing Grace Equine Sanctuary (AGES), it was quite literally a breath of fresh air. After being confined during quarantine, the open air, pastures, ponds, and barns were a welcome change of pace. We were greeted by Erin, the President and founder of AGES. You could tell immediately she was one of those people with a huge heart. She told us stories about each horse. Erin could tell you each horses’s quirks, temperament, and relationship to other animals at the sanctuary. I could see why Anna Johnson adopted her horse here.
The grounds were expansive and clean, or at least as clean as any large animal operation can be. There were volunteers wandering about, pitching in and mucking out stalls. Getting the horses, ponies, and donkeys ready for the day. It was a little slice of heaven during a tough time in the world. I could have stayed up there all day with the animals. You knew they were safe, loved, and happy at AGES.
Currently, AGES has 21 horses, ponies, and donkeys. While most of them are available for adoption, they also have several permanent residents, many of whom are blind. My favorite forever resident is Sheriff Johnnie, a boy with plenty ailments from his previous life as a roping donkey. Luckily, thanks to lots of care and love, he is thriving at AGES.
When I asked Ellen Dupuy, a board member of AGES, what she wished people knew about rescue equines, she told me, “The biggest falsehood about rescues is that the horses are all worthless and unsound throwaways. This is the furthest from the truth. We find loving, riding, and non-riding homes for our horses – for the life of the horse! There are hundreds of success stories!” Just how many success stories? AGES has helped 209 animals get adopted.
About 65% of the horses at AGES were surrendered privately by their owners from all over Wisconsin. You see, because owning a horse is no different from owning any other kind of pet. Circumstances change and people are no longer able to care for their animals for a multitude of reasons.
The remaining equines in their organization are from kill lots and neglect cases. The whole situation with kill lots is heartbreaking, and again, just like dogs and cats, the problem is overpopulation. Over 100,000 horses are sent to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada each year. 92% of those horses are said to be in good condition and could live out their lives with purpose. Unfortunately, there are just not enough homes for them.
Ellen and I chatted about overpopulation and she believes that education is key. I absolutely echo her belief. I’m hopeful that by sharing these horses’ stories, we can shine a bigger spotlight on the horse industry in hopes people who are considering buying a horse will rescue one instead.
There are plenty of ways to get involved if you want to help. Ellen said AGES always needs volunteers. There is a long list of “jobs” to fill running any business. It takes a great team to get the basic work done on a daily basis and there are dozens of other types of work – office, repair work, tack cleaning and selling, organizing and setting up for fundraisers or Visitors Day. She said signing up online for one of their Volunteer Orientations is the best place to start. Once you get a feel for the organization, you can use your talents and experience in a helpful way to help us sustain their mission! You can also support their mission with a donation or sponsor one of their forever equines.
A huge, sincere thank you to AGES for having us up and showing us around. I highly recommend visiting their farm so you too can see how wonderful and loved these horses are!
RJ is a 15 year-old Standardbred who is built like a brick wall, has a heart of gold and is also still seeking his forever home! He was used as a racehorse in the Standardbred racing industry. He was sold to an Amish family who used him as their road horse for years, until he could no longer physically do his job due to being overused pounding his hooves on roadways and was sold to a kill pen. AGES paid his “bail” to save him from a horrible fate (slaughter) and he’s been adored and loved by many over the years. He sometimes can be lightly ridden but is not sound for regular work/riding.
This dress is from my friend Johanna so it’s not for sale currently, but there are some similar ones available! Shoes are from my favorite Bhava 🙂