The CHDC would like to wish our friends and followers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season! We would like to thank you all for your continued support over the past year. Hopefully, the new year will bring changes to Canada’s shameful horse slaughter industry – please continue to advocate on behalf of our horses any way you can. Don’t give up on them, you’re the only voice they have and they need you so desperately.
As you celebrate with family and friends, take care to be safe and don’t forget to be kind to one another.
We would also like to encourage creative writers and horse lovers to enter our Short Story Contest, which has now been extended to January 15th. The theme of all stories submitted must be horse rescue. Stories may be fiction, creative non-fiction, or autobiographical. To get you started, we have included below an autobiographical short story written by one of our Directors (directors are not eligible to submit stories for the contest).
I only have a few early memories of my childhood, when I lived with my Mother and Uncle on a rural property that backed onto a forest. The family we lived with had a young daughter, and I think I was born to one day be her riding horse. Plans change though, as I would find out.
They called my Mom Sarah, and my Uncle was King. From what I can remember, she was a Thoroughbred mare – a big chestnut coloured beauty – who had a funny limp when she walked. Uncle King was a quiet, uncertain sort of fellow – but he loved me dearly – and everyone who came around to visit us said he was a very handsome “Paint”. I didn’t’ know what that meant, but I think it was because his coat was a funny brown and white colour, like a cow.
One day, I can barely remember, the family’s owners, a young couple, had a terrible argument, and while I didn’t understand all they had to say, I knew that they had lost their love for each other, and a negative air hung over the farm after that.
Not long later, the mother moved away from the farm. A profound sadness prevailed there, and we could all feel the looming unhappiness when she left.
It wasn’t long after that, when some people came to visit my Mother, Uncle King and me. I wasn’t very welcoming, and Uncle King was his usual wary self. He never talked about his difficult past, but I do know that he rightfully had a distrust of people, given the stories of cruelty I overheard when he told them to my Mother.
After that visit, I had an uneasy feeling, and it was only a matter of days before they returned with a truck and trailer, and we were all loaded on and vanned off to another farm not far away. My Mother didn’t want to load on the trailer, so they put me on first, and then she quickly followed. Uncle King didn’t want to go, but knew he had little choice, with the two of us loaded and waiting for him.
My memories are sketchy of the new farm, but I remember being relieved and happy to meet new friends. They treated me special – I was the baby – and they allowed me to get away with more than I should have. Uncle King looked over me – he knew I had an independent streak – and I think the herd tried to nurture that in me.
One of the horses became a special friend to me. Destiny reminded me of my Mother – what she might have looked like when she was a young mare. She was a flashy dark chestnut mare who was not much older than me – maybe a couple of years or more. She became my surrogate Mom, as I drifted further and further away from my own Mother.
I looked forward to morning turnout, watching Destiny run out to the field, bucking as she sprinted away from the gate. I tried my best to emulate her, but no one could match Destiny’s graceful prance and impossibly high kicks as she greeted the new day and her pasture mates in the field.
Not many weeks later, my mother Sarah left the farm, after a man came with a trailer to meet her, and took her away. I was a little sad, but Destiny reassured me, and I felt safe and protected, as long as she was there. I hardly remember my Mother now, but I hope she went to a safe and loving home, like I was fortunate to have.
Destiny’s owner Emily was a similarly energetic young woman. She and Destiny made a wonderful pair – a well matched horse and rider. I used to watch them ride in the ring and over the jumps, and thought that one day I wanted to be a talented riding horse like her.
As I got a little older, Uncle King worked harder to protect me. I wasn’t the young little filly any longer, and the other horses didn’t have the same tolerance of my early, impulsive ways. As I grew older, I found I had to fend for myself, and work my way up the herd pecking order, like everybody else. But King was always there watching over me.
Time went on, but the next year, a similar sense of change took over the farm, and I knew I had to prepare myself for more life changes.
Before long, one day Destiny and her owner were gone – I don’t even remember seeing her leave. Then Uncle King and I were loaded on a trailer and moved to a farm not far away, and the only face that looked familiar was the woman who took care of me from the first time I was moved – her name is Leah. I came to realize over time that she was going to be my constant friend and caregiver. She would be with me through all the years, and all the changes.
For reasons I don’t know or understand, there were many moves over the years, but every new home Leah took me to was welcoming, and I always felt safe.
When I left that farm, it was without Uncle King. Before I knew it, it was just me and Leah. Over the next year or so, Leah and I became closer. I was boarded at a new farm, and Leah was there almost every day to train me to ride. We worked for months doing ground work on the lunge line – with and without tack. We watched other riders, and I knew it was not going to be long before we were going to be riding together too.
One day we went into the arena, to do what I thought was going to be the usual training session. I saw a familiar face – it was Destiny’s owner, Emily!! She was there to ride me for the first time! Leah led me around to the mounting block, and Emily slowly and carefully got on. It was wobbly at first, but it soon felt comfortable. After a few circles around the arena, Emily instructed Leah to unhook the lead shank. I’ll never forget the feeling when she gently squeezed me into a quiet trot, while Leah looked on with tears in her eyes. We were all so proud of ourselves!
After that, Leah felt courageous enough to ride me herself. The stable I was at had a nice big riding arena, but there was no place to ride outside. I’m glad Leah moved me to a barn where we could do more exploring around the property. I was unsure about moving, but Leah was always there to help me ease into any new situation.
The next stable I moved to was only for a short time. It hadn’t been long that I was at this barn when a new horse moved in. She was put in a paddock alone by herself, and she began running back and forth and calling out loudly. It was Destiny!! I called back and she recognized my loud whinny! I saw Destiny’s owner Emily and felt excited to see her too. Leah and she were happy to see each other, and hugged. It quickly felt like home there.
The next day Destiny and I were turned out together, and our owners looked so pleased as we ran off bucking together into the field. They were happy times, and my memories of my Mother and Uncle King had faded over time.
Our time together there at that farm was the last time I saw Destiny until many years later. It’s difficult to remember, but what I do recall was that Destiny had a choking episode, and Emily was concerned for her care there. It happened rather suddenly, but Destiny was pulled from the field one day, and next thing I knew, she was gone. A sense of loneliness and sadness took over – I felt so alone.
It wasn’t long before I was moved again, and over the years, there were few more relocations. I became rather used to it, since Leah was always there to take care of me. I know other horses are not as lucky. Horses live long lives – more than 30 years sometimes. I realize that circumstances change, and that planning to look after a horse for that long takes a huge commitment. I am one of the fortunate ones to have stayed with a loving owner for almost 20 years.
Many summers and winters passed, and I made many new friends over the years. As I became older, my need to dominate in the herd became less important. I sometimes saw the young horses vying for a higher place in the pecking order, but it became less important to me, the older I got. All I wanted to do was get along! Horses don’t ask for much – hay to eat, water to drink, and shelter from extreme weather. Daily grain feedings, and the extra powders and herbs I think have made me feel younger than my years. My sore joints don’t feel as sore anymore. Leah also gets the barn owners to soak my hay so I don’t cough. She puts horse blankets on me when it’s cold and rainy, and throughout the winters. I know she loves me, and I love her!
The barn I’m at now is a lovely, peaceful place. The owners are kind and work hard looking after the horses and their property. The farm is on a quiet, dead-end dirt road, and sits high overlooking a big valley full of farms and wilderness. The warm breezes from the west gently blow across the fields and over the farm. Leah likes to take me out towards the end of the day, and ride in the field while the sun sets.
One day there, when Leah had me on the crossties getting ready to go riding, she was talking to the owners. I didn’t hear the whole conversation, but Leah was saddened to hear about their daughter-in-law, who was very sick. Leah said it was many years since she had seen her, and said she would say a prayer for her, as she wiped tears from her eyes. After we rode that day, she gave me a big hug and some extra treats. I could tell she was still sad.
Then the next time we were together, a strange thing happened. We went out to the field to ride, and I saw a horse there, being led by a young woman. I’d seen the mare before here – a slow walking, older mare – with a distinctive limp. I kept looking at her, as there was something familiar about her face. She almost reminded me of my Mother, but no – that couldn’t be.
Leah got talking to the girl, and I looked intently at the mare with her. Where had I seen her before? Then we got closer and touched noses. We breathed in each other’s breath and I suddenly squealed! It was Destiny!! We both got so excited – Leah had to dismount and get me under control – I was so happy and excited to see my old friend!
Every time I saw Destiny after that, this other young woman was tending to her. From what I heard and understood, Destiny’s original owner Emily had passed away, and the farm owners promised to take care of Destiny. She is in their safe hands, and the young woman with her now, Anna, grooms and cares for her, and takes her for long walks. Destiny always walks with a limp now, and she suffers from long-term lameness, so she’ll never be the amazing athlete she was before.
I’ve longed to go on a hack with Destiny, and maybe next spring we’ll see that happen. We aren’t turned out together, as she is in with a quiet, older group of mares. I’ve been fortunate enough to keep healthy and active, so I’m turned out with the younger, energetic mares.
In some ways I feel sorry for Destiny. I know she misses Emily, and her past glory days as a flashy, successful jumper. But I also know that she is very fortunate to have a loving family that will care for her for life. Not all horses are as lucky as Destiny and I. I’m so happy to be back with my dear old friend Destiny at the farm on the hill down the old dirt road.