Updated: Feb 14, 2019
At Gateway Farms, you discover genuine epiphanies, real moments of change. But there’s another, bigger element in the Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) picture. They weigh about a ton, give or take, and live on the farm.
Of course, I’m talking about our horses.
This winter I had the incredible opportunity to help a horse and add her to the EAL team. Her name is Cruz, and she’s just the cutest girl.
My story with Cruz goes back 16 years, when my late husband and I operated a thoroughbred racing facility in Mono, Ontario. She arrived in the fall with a trailer-load of young horses. I fell in love with her right away. I swear, she had the most beautiful face.
In the equine business, everyone has a job. Cruz was no different. So she was shipped off every spring to race in the U.S. and Canada. Cruz came and went with the seasons; she arrived in the fall and left in the spring. We spent four winters together.
Then life happened - to both of us. We lost touch.
One cold November morning last year, I saw a post on Facebook by Andrea Harrison. It was about a little horse in the Ontario kill pens. My god, I thought, that’s Cruz!
I contacted Andrea Harrison right away. She runs a horse rescue named Team Valiant. When I got involved, I knew nothing about the kill pens. Here’s some of what I learned during my research.
The Ontario SPCA’s hands are tied
The OSPCA’s restructuring. That means they no longer investigate cruelty and abuse charges involving horses. They cite their priority to dogs and cats, and their shelters. I admit, I don’t know enough about the OSPCA’s situation to blame them. But it’s terrible that they can’t do anything to help.
It’s illegal to slaughter horses in the U.S., but that doesn’t stop them from sending 30,000 horses a year to Canada. Four abattoirs operate in Canada: two in Quebec and two in Alberta. And ever since the closure of American abattoirs, Canada has profited.
The Japanese Connection
Canada not only kills horses in-house. They send healthy Canadian horses To Japan. Shipped in crowded wooden crates, they’re slaughtered when they arrive overseas. Horse meat is a delicacy in the East, and the Japanese pay anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 per horse. Thankfully, Cruz wasn’t one of those poor souls.
Reading about the horse meat industry devastated me.
I quickly got in touch with the rescue team. They asked if I could donate money to save Cruz. I was in the barn, cell phone in-hand, staring at an empty stall. Then I realized how I could help.
I can do one better, I said. I can offer Cruz a home.
She’s been at Gateway Farms for a few months. The vet and I expect her to recover. She’s still the cutest girl. And best of all, she’s enjoying her new life as an EAL team member. Here, she can be herself.
One last thing. There’s another organization working very hard to curb horse abuse in Canada: Canadian Horse Defense Coalition (CHDC). They need help. So please, if you’re able, donate.