JILL STARR, President, Lifesavers Inc.
Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. That’s the name I gave this organization 16 years ago at the very beginning of it’s life. I named it Lifesavers because our mission would be to save the lives of as many horses in jeopardy as possible. Horses being abused, neglected, and in danger of being sent to slaughter. Horses from auctions, killer feedlots, abandoned in backyards with no food or water, tossed on the sides of the road left to make it on their own. Horses whose families gave up on them, were forgotten and unappreciated, many just needed love and compassion.
And the life savers would be not just myself and our dedicated staff and volunteers, but all the generous people who would give from their hearts and their pockets to make sure that we could feed and care for the lives we ultimately saved. Those people, including you, have become the backbone of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue allowing us to stand strong and walk tall as the largest wild horse rescue and adoption organization to date.
But – somewhere along the way, through the years, I started realizing that the tables were beginning to turn. The lives that were being saved were, in fact, the very people who reached out to help these horses. The ones who in even a small way built a relationship with the rescued ones either in person or from the photographs and stories we shared with them.
I’m not exaggerating when I say the horses became the Lifesavers.
We have seen miracles happen when horses and humans come together. We’ve seen people who were depressed find that long lost sparkle in their eyes. Veterans with PTSD recovered measurably and began to see the light in that dark tunnel that for so long had blinded their hope. And children who suffered from trauma and abuse – who were afraid to come out of their shells – afraid to have a voice – just plain afraid, put their fears aside for the time they spent with our horses and transformed into beautiful butterflies of courage. Then there were those who battle addictions and found strength and resiliency from partnering with our rescued wild horses and were able to gain power over the habits that controlled them so insidiously.
These horses saved my own life years ago, for if I hadn’t found this purpose I may have still been traveling down a very dead end road – or worse I may have found the end of that road by now. But they saved me when I saved them.
We have seen the magic and the healing that horses give to people. They are like sponges that absorb our fear and pain. They are like mirrors that reflect the ugliness we carry around so we can see what we need to change. They are like good friends with compassion and understanding of our doubts and shortcomings – and they forgive our mistakes over and over again.
I also know that 80% of Americans, the ones who are aware of this issue, and probably even the ones who haven’t been educated yet, want to stand against the horse slaughter industry. They want to see horse slaughter abolished in and out of this country.
So how is it that just 20% of the American public are able to push their blood thirsty initiatives through our Congress and convince our legislators that this country needs to slaughter horses…again. They are pushing it in Oklahoma and New Mexico. And other states are too salivating and sharpening their cleavers waiting to cut that first innocent throat. Greed is a powerful motivator.
It is no wonder to me why the ancient civilizations who had relationships with horses thought them to be sacred and holy and gifts from God. As the old Bedouin saying goes “the breath of God blows between the ears of the horse”. And our own Lakota Native Americans called the horse “Tashunke Wakan” which translates to “holy dog” or in more modern language “sacred horse”.
So why is it that horses get treated so inhumanely by so many humans? Why are they treated like the tissue you blow your nose on and quickly throw into the waste basket. Something to use and dispose of when it has served its purpose. Why – when they are clearly so good for us, do we as a nation, cause them such great harm and suffering? Why do we not respect and honor them for the wondrous ways they inspire us and teach us? Why do we slaughter them in a cruel and barbaric fashion and then feed their meat to people in other countries who are not starving and do not need to eat our horses to survive? Why?
I don’t have the answer to that and it bewilders me because I know that the very people who are trying to make US horse slaughter legal again have seen themselves in the eyes of the horses they want to kill. I can’t imagine that they like what they see.
But I am not giving up the fight. On behalf of myself and this horse rescue organization, I will continue to defend this country’s horses – this planet’s horses – our life savers.
A new piece of legislation has been introduced into federal Congress. It is called H.R. 1094: Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2013 and you can read more about it here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1094. If passed it will effectively make it illegal to slaughter American horses in this country and outside of it for the purpose of human consumption. It was introduced by Representative Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania but is co-sponsored by many others.
The bill focuses on the dangers of toxicities contained in typical horse meat from common drugs that horse owners give to their animals for pain relievers and other health management purposes. In light of the recent scandal in the UK where they found horse meat in their processed beef foods, the timing is right to pass this bill through the House and Senate.
It was announced last week that the EU (European Union) has banned American horse meat imports due to the toxicity and lack of inspection issues. But I fear this is just a speed bump and we really need to get a law in place that will hold up over time to protect our horses from being bought and sold for slaughter.
Take a look at this bill and if you agree with it, please contact your representatives and either ask them to support it, or thank them for supporting it if they already do.
This could be our last chance to stand up for the horses we love.
Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue has rescued more than 1000 horses in its lifetime so far and we are caring for more than 500 right now.
Please help the horses in two ways.
1. Contact your federal representatives and urge them to be on the side of horses and public health and vote for HR 1094…and
2. Give Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue a donation of whatever you can right now to help us feed, care for, train, find homes for, and give sanctuary to the rescued horses that we now know are the real Lifesavers.
Your donation will be put to immediate use in one or more of the following ways:
- — Hay costs $14 per bale and we feed more than 40 bales of hay per day
— Veterinary care is expensive and frequently needed
— Gentling and training our rescued horses is the best way to find them permanent loving homes. Good horse trainers need to be paid for their specialized services
— Expansion of our California sanctuary is needed to make room for more un-adoptable horses. We are trying to acquire additional 20 and 40 acre parcels one parcel at a time
— We also want to develop our “Wild Horse Canyon” concept at our California sanctuary. This will be a destination for tourists who will spend time among the horses in a retreat type environment – rest, relaxation, and healing
— Our South Dakota sanctuary, where 200 of our horses live on 6000 grassy acres, is soon to be a place of healing programs as well, offered to Native American youth and others. This location is called Zuya Wild Horse Sanctuary because it means “life’s journey”. We are preparing to host some programs and workshops there this summer.
— Our educational clinics and classes are offered to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of horse care and handling. In offering these classes we hope to reduce the number of horses that have to be rescued later because we show people how to really partner with their horses and create lasting bonds.
Yes we have a lot of irons in our fire and this is why we need your continued support. Lifesavers has been a nonprofit organization since 1997 and we are not going anywhere. We are a social investment you can believe in and be proud of.
Please help us with your most generous donation and know that you are an important member of our group of Lifesavers, both the human and the horse kind.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.
Jill Starr, President, Lifesavers Inc.
All images of horses © Lifesavers Wild Horses Rescue and used here with permission.