Draft horse rescue farm opens doors
By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Hampton - posted Mon., Dec. 5, 2011
“It breaks your heart to think of the ending they could have had,” said Dr. Stacey Golub, as she talked about the horses that were quietly feeding in a fenced field at her farm on the East Hampton/Haddam Neck border. A mobile equine veterinarian based in East Hampton, Golub is also the founder of Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue, a nonprofit charity that was incorporated in February of this year, with the goal of rescuing some of the nearly 140,000 draft horses sent to slaughter every year in the United States.
“They [draft horses] are the working horses of the world. They built this country,” said Golub of the horses known as the “gentle giants” of the equine world, which include the well-known Clydesdales seen in certain popular television commercials. Draft horses are still used in various parts of the country to haul materials and plow fields, unfortunately often being seen as nothing more than a piece of farm equipment to be discarded when they become less useful. Others are surrendered by owners who can no longer afford the feeding and upkeep of the sturdy horses.
“A lot of these horses still have a lot of good years left in them,” said Golub, who travels to auctions where the horses are sold for meat to be shipped to European and Asian countries where horse meat is eaten. Many of these horses, said Golub, can be repurposed for pleasure riding and various competitions. One of her rescues, a Percheron named Marshmellow, appears in the wedding photos of one farm volunteer, decked out in a fancy harness. Another Percheron, Minnie, performed in the cart classes at the Goshen Fair only five weeks after rescue.
“Our goal,” said Golub, “is to set them up with a forever home.” She is also working with a local trainer, David Bradham, to develop a therapeutic riding program at the farm, saying that it “is ideally suited for therapeutic riding.”
Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue was originated in November 2010, when Golub, who raises and breeds Shires – a draft horse whose roots go back beyond medieval Europe – learned of a Shire mare due to be slaughtered in Pennsylvania. Rallying friends, both personal and virtual via Facebook, Golub rescued the mare and found an adoptive home for her. “We got such a wonderful response,” said Golub, that she and her friends decided to continue rescuing as many draft horses as possible.
Currently, Golub’s 68-acre rescue farm, which she just purchased this past fall, is home to eight horses, with another three at foster homes, where they are being trained. “This farm was built for draft horses,” she said. Thankfully for Golub, about a dozen hard-working volunteers help provide for the horses.
“She thought we were going to get pedicures,” said Nancy Stickler of her daughter, Stacey Randall's involvement with the horses. “We've been here ever since.” Stickler and her daughter are two of three generations of family volunteers at the farm, along with Randall’s son, Hunter.
“You get addicted,” said Randall.
“There’s something therapeutic about stall cleaning,” said Golub, adding that working at the farm is also great for people who love horses, but don’t have the space or money – feed for each horse runs about $250/month - to keep their own. “They can come here and borrow one,” she said.
Later, Golub repeated a saying that she said is the informal credo of horse rescuers. “You can’t save the world by saving one horse. But for that horse, it makes a difference,” she said.
To celebrate the move to the new farm at 15 Rock Landing Road, Haddam Neck, Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue will be hosting an open house and barn-warming party this Sunday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., where people can meet the horses, see driving demonstrations and much more. There will also be information for those interested in donating and/or volunteering at the farm. For more information about Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue, go to www.ctdraftrescue.com or www.facebook.com/ctdraftrescue to see photos of the farm and some of the horses.