Tuesday, January 24, 2006

 

Carriage horses retire to life of leisure

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times. Shannon Byrne, 11, gave a farewell hug to Maureen, an 18-year-old mare who is retiring to a nonprofit animal sanctuary in Middletown, N.Y., after seven years of pulling carriages through the streets of New York City.


In honor of January 24th.......the most depressing day of the year according to those who have nothing else to do but designate days senselessly........here is a great story to boost your spirits.


August 23, 2001

Carriage horses retire to life of leisure By Sara Whalen and Stephen Aronoff Goshen has a distinctive and colorful history as the home of the original trotting horse mecca. As far back as 1801, a horse named Imported Messenger brought fame to this town with his unique gait. Later, one of his descendants, Hambletonian, had such an influence on trotters that all Standardbred horses trace their lineage to him. Today, less than 10 miles from Goshen, Timmy, a former racehorse, strolls around his paddock at Middletown's Pets Alive animal sanctuary, grazing calmly and occasionally nuzzling his equine companion, Mabel. Timmy's story goes back all the way to Hambletonian, but includes a few detours that may remind you more of the tale of Black Beauty. Even with the best backgrounds, few racehorses are still considered valuable after their first losses. Timmy, a "loser," soon found himself at a slaughter auction. Not many people think about the options for horses who can't prove their "usefulness," but the results are usually sad. Thousands of horses every year are slaughtered for the meat markets, and thousands more end up on Premarin farms or in research labs, or toiling to their deaths. Luckier horses might find a loving companion in the equestrian sport world, or with a kindly carriage driver. Yet, as they grow older and weaker, these horses often face the fate of the auctions. Timmy grew up proud and daring but simply wasn't competitive enough for the racetrack. Soon he was being weighed and shown at an auction in Pennsylvania. Luckily, he struck the fancy of the Byrnes brothers, who run one of the most humane carriage-horse facilities in New York City. For many years, Timmy, always the devoted gentleman and steady worker, enjoyed excellent care and attention. But when Timmy got older, the workload became too difficult. Fortunately, the Byrnes brothers refused to send him on to become a plow horse or worse. At the time, Pets Alive was just establishing its carriage-horse project at Pets Alive, and Timmy found his permanent home there as one of our first retirees. Many people in the mid-Hudson are sincerely concerned about the welfare of horses. There have always been horses at the Pets Alive sanctuary, and in 1998 we purchased additional property to expand our equine facilities. We at Pets Alive wanted to do something that could focus more attention on the problems that horses face, and we wanted to provide a safe and loving retirement for them. Pets Alive can't save every horse, but by focusing on one group and showing that it's possible to set up, staff and fund a long term care program, it proves that options other than slaughter are viable. Pets Alive is now negotiating for an adjacent 55 acres, in order to build more paddocks for the carriage horses on our waiting list. We are hoping that the Carriage Horse Retirement Home will join the Goshen Historic Track and Harness Racing Museum as popular equine places to visit in Orange County. We are also hoping that horse lovers in the area will join our team of dedicated volunteers who can give TLC to our equine ambassadors. As for Timmy, these days you can find him leaning over his fence at the Carriage Horse Retirement Home, whinnying for an extra pat along his neck. His coat is sleek, his stomach full, and he ambles off to continue grazing – that's his full-time job now and forever at Pets Alive. To help ... Plans are in the works for a benefit to raise money to build more paddocks. To help, or for more information, contact: Sara Whalen, executive director, Pets Alive, 363 Derby Road, Middletown 10940; or call 845-386-9738; or visit http://www.petsalive.com/. Sara Whalen, the founder and executive director of Pets Alive, has been rescuing animals for 30 years. Stephen Aronoff, a member of the board of directors, is an accomplished equestrian.

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