CHATHAM — Equine Advocates, a protection organization in Chatham that rescues horses from slaughter and other dangers, held an open house Sunday for visitors to meet the horses, donkeys and goats in residence.
The sanctuary hosts 10 open houses a year that begin in April and continue through November as an opportunity for visitors to come free of charge and learn about the horses, Equine Advocates founder and president Susan Wagner said, adding signs are placed outside each animal’s stall detailing their story and how they got to Chatham.
“It’s not just a bunch of horses standing around. You can learn about how they came here, why they need to be rescued, what issue they’re affiliated with,” Wagner said. “It’s just a way to give people the ability to have some contact with these horses and learn about them and their special needs.”
Many of the sanctuary’s equines were slaughter-bound, while others were abandoned and mares, or female horses, were rescued because their urine was used in Premarin, a medication which treats menopause, Wagner said.
“We have lots of mares here that we rescued in Canada who were used as four-legged drug machines,” she said. “The animals that come here are the ones that have no one to speak for them.”
In many cases, the horses being sent to slaughter are for human consumption and their meat should be labeled as contraband because the equines receive medication which is deadly to people and other animals who eat it, Wagner said, adding large cats in zoos have received liver cancer from being fed horse meat.
“No horse is bred for human consumption, consequently when that horse is slaughtered you have no idea what drugs that horse has been given,” Wagner said. “Eating that meat is like playing Russian roulette.”
The sanctuary is informed of cases of horses in distress in many different ways, and sometimes sanctuary representatives attend auctions where horses are sold, Wagner said, adding the auctions are horrible to see.
“The killer buyers will bid on everything unless they’re outbid by somebody that wants a horse for personal reasons,” Wagner said.
Wagner recommends visitors to the sanctuary call or fax their respective senators and members of Congress to share their concerns about declining wild horse populations and lodge opposition to slaughtering horses.
“That would be very helpful because there’s no way otherwise for our members of Congress to know how people feel,” Wagner said. “The most important things to wild horses and burros [a type of horse] is freedom and family, and when they [people] round them up, they lose everything.”
The horses are sponsored by animal lovers across the country and a few from abroad who help to pay for the equines’ health needs, Wagner said, adding a donkey who was abandoned before coming to Chatham, now has eight sponsors.
“Some horses need more than just routine care if they have to go to a hospital or something, so this really helps offset the costs,” she said. “Horses are magical; they were for me when I was a kid.”
Visitors to the sanctuary on Sunday enjoyed the time they spent with the horses.
Lorraine Rengers, of Woodstock, supports horse sanctuaries because they protect the animals from slaughter, she said, adding horses play a crucial role in the nation’s history.
“Our country was built on the backs of horses,” she said. “It’s really great to expose people to this and what’s going on.”
The sanctuary should host more open houses for visitors to see horses live a good life, Rengers said. She’s been a horse lover all her life.
“It’s really refreshing to come and get to see the horses live the life they’re supposed to,” she said. “I would love to see more open days.”
It was the first time Kyle Manginelli, of Kinderhook, visited Equine Advocates, and he likes how people have stepped up to the plate to save horses, he said.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “We’re very lucky in this area where something like this exists.”
Horses need love and respect and Esteban Preussier, of Claverack, has visited the sanctuary on numerous occasions, he said.
“All they want is love and affection,” Preussier said. “They are beautiful creatures that need to be treated with respect.”
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.