Developing Horses for Sport and Pleasure
At Kindred Farm, we liberate horses from bad situations with a view to rehabilitating and re-homing them into homes that are looking for sport or pleasure horses, or perhaps as a companion. The majority of the horses on the farm are horses that found themselves in very risky situations, through no fault of their own. Since 2012, we have helped home some 200 equines , either directly, or indirectly.
The Bad Situations
Horses are expensive. And many buyers realize just how expensive after a few months, or when there is a financial crisis and they can no longer afford their upkeep and need to sell them. Or they become redundant when children lose interest in riding, or are injured and can no longer be ridden, or some riding schools and camps download at season end. They are advertised for sale, and weeks, months and much money later, they still haven’t found homes. Not surprising, given the glut of horses currently on the market as a result of over breeding. A last ditch effort is often to send them to auction where kill buyers pick them up in the absence of bidding homes.
They have been taken away from the home and buddies they knew, trailered to the auction and put the in pens with horses they do not know. They are then herded into the auction ring where they are chased around in a very small area while the bidders place their bids.
Most caring owners do not realize that the primary buyers at auction are “meat men” who gladly purchase their former riding horse, their child’s pony, or the track horses that made over $300,000, but just can’t compete anymore. Very few auction horses actually get purchased by new homes, horse rescuers or horse traders. Most people also think that it is the old, the lame, the dangerous or the ill that go to auction when in fact many of these horses are young and healthy. The horsemeat industry cares not the age, although the younger, smaller boned, well-weighted horses do garner more at the sales. The babies, the ponies, the mighty Thoroughbreds or Standardbreds that allowed their owners to put dinner on the table through their winnings, the school horses that patiently taught many beginners how to ride: nothing is sacred. And many are worth more for meat, than as riding horses, because of the glutted market.
Not surprisingly, this whole experience in the “slaughter pipeline” is very stressful. Some horses fall into deep depression and hang their heads in the pens, others just circle and call out for their former paddock mates and perhaps their former owners. Their whole life and everything they knew… gone. And no one to even give them a gentle, reassuring pat.
After purchase at auction by the kill buyers, the majority of horses are shipped directly to the slaughterhouse. They are herded onto large trailers, crammed in, jostling and fighting for footing for many hours with no food and no water, often in extreme temperatures, until they arrive at the slaughterhouse. By this time, many have been injured. They are then herded off again into other pens to wait for their turn in the kill chute. Slaughter comes in the same way as it does for cattle, using the same methods and equipment. Horses, unfortunately, are not stoic and quiet animals, as are other farm animals. They are sensitive and fearful. In fact, they are completely terrified and often rear and throw themselves around in the kill chute. Hard to get a clear shot with either a gun or a bolt with a thrashing animal, and it often takes several attempts to down a horse. Suffering and slows deaths are common. From there, they are butchered, much like cattle, packaged, and usually the meat is exported to Europe for human consumption, though we do see horsemeat for sale in Canadian grocery stores and on the menus of some of our restaurants.
From the Kill Pens to Rehab
Equines are picked up at the auction house in Ottawa and brought back to our farm where they are quarantined for a minimum of three weeks. During this time, their health and behaviour patterns are assessed, immediate needs are identified and addressed, and they are given some downtime to recover from health or medical issues as well as the bad experiences of the past days, weeks, months or years. When they are ready, we perform an assessment and determine a program for rehabilitation and training or re-training. We bring in veterinarians and farriers, who provide treatment as required. Many of the horses are also given physical therapy, massage, chiropractic adjustments, light therapy and one-on-one handling. Volunteers work with them on the ground and in riding lessons with a certified coach. Sometimes this cannot happen for many months while health improves and ground and handling manners are established.
Only when they are healthy in both mind and body, do we begin more intensive ground training and under saddle or in harness work, with a view to developing them into good equine citizens that can be re-homed as riding, driving or companion animals.
When They are Ready to Sell
To find forever homes, KF promotes horses on social media and in printed materials that are distributed at local and regional events. We interview potential buyers and undertake reference checks and require a no-slaughter contract be signed.
We provide unlimited advice and guidance, either online or by telephone, to ensure the horse and the new home adjust to each other. In short, we do everything possible to ensure it is never again put in a situation where it might end up in the slaughter pipeline.
It is the farm philosophy that horses should be cross trained. So they are trail and road ridden, started over jumps (free jumping and under saddle), haves some fun and get a chance to let it all out field galloping. In addition, of course, to learning ground manners and how to stand quietly to mount.