Rescue & Welfare

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Heavy rains had turned the gravel roads west of Sundre, Alberta into a bone-jarring ride over an excessive smattering of potholes. One after the other, potholes filled with rainwater splattered a thick coat of dark mud onto my truck. The continuous bump, bump, bump almost knocked out my fillings as my grandson Hunter, and I, drove deeper into the backcountry, searching for Alberta’s free roaming horses, known as Wildies.

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Rider Down! It’s a trail rider’s worst nightmare: getting hurt and requiring evacuation from a remote area. Whether out on the trails for a few hours or on an overnight trip, the reality that every recreational rider must face is that emergencies can occur. Preparation is key and the success of emergency evacuations has a lot to do with planning for their possibility. It can also determine whether a rider survives.

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There’s Far More To It Than You Might Think - In November 2021, my wife and I spent four devastating days in Sumas Prairie, Abbotsford, British Columbia assisting with the rescue and evacuation of animals following the disastrous flooding caused by the “atmospheric river” of torrential rain in mid-November that year. It’s one thing to watch it on the news — it’s surreal to be on the ground in the middle of it.

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2023 marked the worst fire season in Canadian history. Alberta had earlier-than-normal fires, flames threatened Nova Scotian communities, wildfires in eastern Canada produced smoke that stalled North America’s eastern seaboard, 65 percent of the population of the Northwest Territories was forced to evacuate, plus massive British Columbia wildfires burnt homes and displaced people. Smoke was ubiquitous, affecting horse and human health.

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Hoofprints On My Heart - I’ve been writing for this magazine for several years and have long wanted to write on this topic. The fact is, talking about death and dying is hard, even when it’s a part of your career. Although I wrote a book about it, and work with animal lovers all offer the world to move through the transition more easefully, it’s still a challenge to go there.

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"You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - When Dorothy Brooke, the wife of a British army major general, arrived in Egypt in 1930, she became aware of the fate of thousands of former war horses that had faithfully served the British army during World War I. Born in the United Kingdom, these horses were shipped overseas to serve in the war and had not returned home. Those that survived were now living a life of crippling hardship as working horses on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. She decided to do whatever was necessary to ease their suffering.

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Seventy-five years ago, the passion of one lady started a movement to help the horses in Cairo. Today, the Brooke’s five-year goal is to reach two million equines in the world’s poorest countries. They are getting there, one animal and one grateful owner at a time.

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Horse welfare is complex, partly due to the myriad uses, values, and husbandry arrangements for horses. They’re backyard pets, ridden and driven in competition, raced, raised for meat, and used for therapy, recreation, and rodeo. Horses are regularly transported, kept in rural and urban areas, stalls, pens, fields, and pastures, plus managed according to their use. Many horses live on individual properties and their welfare relies on individual owners, making poor welfare difficult to identify.

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A brother and sister had made their usual hurried, obligatory pre-Christmas visit to the little farm, where dwelt their elderly parents with a small herd of horses. The farm was where they had grown up. It had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine, which topped the hill behind the farmhouse.

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According to recent research, equids whose owners believe in their capacity to experience emotions or share an emotional bond with them tend to be in significantly better health.