by George Looby, DVM
There are many instances that certain horses have found themselves in circumstances well beyond their control with owners who have neither the time, the talent, the disposition or the resources to care for them. Every year there are heart-wrenching stories of horses that are rescued by regulatory authorities after having been found in deplorable conditions. Many of these animals, given the chance, have useful lives ahead of them. It is a matter of matching those in need with the right prospective owner. Some younger horses have never been properly trained and as such are not suitable for matching with the casual horse owner. They need an experienced trainer who has the knowledge and willingness to take on a prospect with a somewhat dubious background.
To address the special needs of horses that fall into the draft group came Dr. Stacey Golub, an equine veterinarian from East Hampton, CT. Dr. Golub owns and operates the Connecticut Valley Equine Veterinary Services LLC, a mobile equine practice. While a student at Cornell she adopted her first horse and later, as she began her career, she adopted her first drafter, a Clydesdale whose quiet gentle nature turned her into a lover of draft horses. This love affair blossomed and in due course led her to establish a rescue program for drafters, which was her way of giving back to those animals that have had a significant impact on her life.
In November of 2010 Dr. Golub and some friends learned of a Shire mare in the hands of a slaughter broker in Pennsylvania. The mare’s plight prompted the doctor to enlist the help and support of some likeminded friends to set out on a rescue mission and save the mare. One friend offered to provide quarantine space, another offered to truck the horse to that facility while several others offered funds via Facebook to pay the fee to the Pennsylvania packer. It was not too long before a party came along to adopt the mare, and it was at this point that Dr. Golub and her friends decided that they would like to explore the feasibility of rescuing more drafters.
It was not long after that the Connecticut Draft Rescue was born and in February 2011 it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization and became a registered charity in Connecticut. In October of that year it leased 68-acre farm in Haddam Neck. Unfortunately, it was short lived as the ownership of the property changed hands, which resulted in the lease being terminated. Fortunately, the group was able to enter into a lease agreement with the owner of a property located on Chestnut Hill Road in East Hampton with an option to purchase. This 20-acre parcel met the needs of the organization and was named Autumn Ridge, commemorating a Clydesdale who passed away in 2016.
The land was an abandoned hay field grown up to brush and it was with the hard work of the volunteer staff that it was cleared and transformed into the workable facility that it is today. It is important to emphasize that this is an all-volunteer operation with 40 people of all ages contributing to its operation. As presently configured there are a series of two horse shelters with paddocks arranged to allow for easy access. A large new metal storage barn stands at one end of the property designed primarily for hay storage but, as is the case with most farm operations, oftentimes the original purpose is over ridden by current needs. As time goes by, money must be raised to cover the cost of a down payment on the property. Over $20,000 a year is spent on hay alone. With this sort of a financial burden it is easy to see that fundraising is a critical part of the operation and to accomplish this, a series of fundraisers are held throughout the year including a golf tournament, an Octoberfest and a Holiday Open House. Direct contributions are welcomed.
In addition to the work with horses, the organization also educates people regarding the proper care, training and responsible ownership of horses. It also organizes “gelding clinics” which address the problem of unwanted horses and promote and support equine effort and animal rescue in the times of natural disaster.
At this time, there are 15 horses in residence, which includes one team of white Percherons that are the official promotional team for the group. They volunteer their combined time and talent in exchange for room and board. Among the current residents there are a variety of various ailments, the majority of which are treated as needed by the volunteer staff under Dr. Golub’s watchful eye. Some of these animals are not candidates for adoption due to the severity of their conditions.
One of the supporters of the program is Andrea Steele of Durham, CT, who has produced a series of videos relating to horsemanship and various conditions affecting the horse. She has collaborated with recognized authorities in various areas in producing these videos designed for anyone who works with horses at any level. Steele was present at the Open House and offered some interesting insights into the program and its history.
This group has a long road to travel before they achieve all of their goals but if they persist they can do nothing but succeed. For more information visit the organizations website at www.ctdraftrescue.com.
The Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue
by George Looby, DVM