The concept of horse rescue and horse sanctuaries are wonderful illustrations of the more positive aspects of a civilized society, caring for the old, retired, disabled and injured of all species. It is especially poignant after all they have been through with horse racing and other equestrian sports. Sad to say though, there appears to be a shadow side to this, as there so often is with many animal issues. This New York Times article report “Veterinarian Fired After Finding Neglected Horses” has exposed the potential for neglect and abuse of our retired companions, whether wittingly or not. A good friend and colleague Dr. Sheila Lyons wrote an extraordinary response to the article, Equine Rescue Under Fire – How to Make Things Better. Dr. Lyons has taken the high road, going beyond blame and finger pointing and perfectly summarizing what we can do and what to look out for when we retire a racehorse or any of our equine companions. She has created an excellent program that can help guide horse caretakers on how to make sure their old or injured horse has the best chance of having a happy and healthy retirement. Read her article and check out her site, www.homecomingfarm.org. Dr Lyons states that “a global sanctuary organization has recently developed a program to oversee the accreditation of equine sanctuaries which is a wonderful benefit”. Dr. Lyons also recommends that supporters investigate for themselves. She shares truthfully that “standards of care and soundness of programs can change so quickly that there is no substitute for your own good judgment” . Kudos to Dr. Lyons for all her pioneering work for the benefit of all our equine kindred spirits!
It is promising to see that there is a commitment globally to oversee and monitor all the different sanctuaries that are arising. These are the positive types of change that are creating a more compassionate society for all beings.
Looking at this issue from a slightly different perspective, one might ask “who was looking after them and how could they let these horses starve and suffer?” From this perspective, one might also ask, what is happening inside the person who was personally neglecting these horses? Were they previously abused and do they need rescuing as well?
How were they suffering inside, to allow this neglect with such lack of awareness and sensitivity? Looking at a bigger picture, perhaps we should provide some sort of evaluation and training for the individuals that look after our kindred spirits. There are psychological patterns where people who have been abused end up abusing others, their children, their animals etc. It is not uncommon to see emotionally wounded, abused and neglected people end up in positions of caring for animals in some way. Perhaps this can provide an excellent opportunity to heal all beings involved, the caretakers and our horses. It may be another opportunity for the full healing circle of co-species or transpecies healing. In addition to assisting these neglected horses to be rehabilitated and return to a state of good health, perhaps this can be a wake up call to create programs and training to rescue, help and heal the caretakers as well. The healing can indeed become a completed, healed circle for all beings!