Saturday, June 23, 2012

Horse Racing's Dirty Little Secret

I first found out about nurse mare foals, when I watched a video about a woman who is trying to save the foals who would otherwise be killed or sent to slaughter.

<CLICK HERE> to see the nurse mare foal story I watched.

The woman in the video is Victoria Goss from Last Chance Corral in South Athens, Ohio.  I decided to call her to learn about the nurse mares foals and what happens to them.  Ms. Goss was busy with the babies she had just rescued, so I spoke with the Barn Manager, Leni and asked her all my questions.  Here's what I found out:

Victoria Goss first found out about nurse mares about 20 years ago when she was out west at a gathering.  She saw hides of babies for sale and asked where they had come from.  As soon as she found out, Ms. Goss knew she has to do something to save them.  She started small and went to Kentucky and brought her first babies home right in her vehicle.  

When I asked Leni why she thinks Ms. Goss likes to save horses, she said that Ms. Goss feels fulfilled to help save their lives and give them good homes.  She also thinks that to be a good "horse person", you first need to give back to the horses you love so much.

Nurse mare foals are essentially bred to die.  A nurse mare is made pregnant so she can make milk, but the milk isn't meant for her baby, it's meant for a foal of higher value than her own (typically a thoroughbred foal they hope to race someday).  When an expensive mare has a foal, the nurse mare is brought in to feed that foal so the mare can get pregnant again and produce another foal.  Farms lease out nurse mares to make money and keep the mares pregnant so they stay in milk.  But what happens to the nurse mare foals?  They are taken right away from their mothers which is very stressful on the nurse mare who is looking to nurture her baby and protect it.  The nurse mare foals are sold for slaughter and Leni told me some are even just bashed in the head and thrown in the manure pile or even just simply left to die without food, water or shelter.  

When the foals arrive at the Last Chance Corral, they are traumatized and confused and it usually takes awhile to get them to even take a drink.  Sometimes they also get sick and are extremely nervous around people .  It takes awhile for them to trust people and feel safe.

At Last Chance Corral, Ms. Goss rescues both adult horses and the foals during foaling season.  From January to June, she focuses on rescuing nurse mare foals.  During foaling season, she spends most of her time working to try to find people who want to adopt the foals and who are good owners and a good fit so the foals can live a long, happy, healthy life.  The foals need to be adopted or she cannot rescue more because she has limited space.  This foaling season, she had to turn away from foals she found because she didn't find adopters in time.

I asked if Ms. Goss had a favorite horse and Leni said they are ALL her favorites.  Each horse comes with an interesting story of their own and they are all special.  She does have a soft spot for a polo pony mare she saved from slaughter.  Ms. Goss used to play polo and found the mare in Virginia after the mare somehow made her way from Argentina.  There is also a 30 year old retired US Army horse who served our country, at her rescue.  He was retired when his rider retired at the age of 80 and could no longer take care of the horse.

Last Chance Corral is a non-profit organization which runs on it's adoption fees and donations.  They are always looking for good volunteers who just want to help - you don't need to know anything about babies or even horses, you just need to have a love for them in your heart and they will find something for you to help with!  They are also always excepting items such as hay, oats, shavings and even tack for their annual tack sale.  

Click here for more information on Last Chance Corral.

And here for more specific information on nurse mare foals and what it takes for Last Chance Corral to save them.


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