Winter is typically a challenging time for horse rescues. Many owners find they can't keep up with the rigors of caring for a horse in the cold and the snow, and make the decision to give them up. But this COVID winter, many more owners have lost jobs and income, and have to find a new home for their horses.
US Horse Welfare and Rescue in Avon has been inundated with calls. Executive Director Susan Mitchell says she filled her stalls, added more stalls, converted other buildings to stalls but still didn't have room for all the horses. So she put out a call for help on social media and got an immediate response.
"Enough," Mitchell says, to rehome all the horses she was trying to place. But the story doesn't end there. It's only a part of a much larger story, about the horse meat trade, and the treatment of horses slaughtered for human consumption.
Mitchell is a former nurse who turned to rescuing horses in 2013, after seeing a story about a teenager reunited with her horse after being separated for nine years.
"She had trained this horse to do tricks," Mitchell says, "and so when she walked in the stall with the horse, and she said the horse's name, the horse started to bow to her."
That story and what it means about the mind and heart of a horse is what convinced Mitchell to dedicate her life to their safety and welfare.
"They identify with people," Mitchell says. "They have personalities, they have love, they have passion, they connect with you, they're part of your family."
Mithcell says horses without a family, or a home or a use, rarely ride off into the sunset.
Thousands are sold to what she calls "kill buyers" who ship them overseas to be slaughtered for human consumption. They are brutally killed and eviscerated, sometimes while conscious. All of this document, she says, by a 900 page USDA report she has linked on her website.
"It's staggering what these horses go through," Mitchell says.
That's what she's trying to save horses from. She passionate about it, and wants others to share her passion. So Susan is trying to drum up more than foster homes for horses during the pandemic. She's raising awareness of the horrors of horse slaughter, and sending out the message that you don't have to have stables and a pasture to save a horse. Just get involved.
"It's kind of a national issue," Mitchell says. "We need to come together as a nation and say we can do better than this." If you want to learn more, check out Susan Mitchell's website.