Ontario's horse rescue centres looking to be rescued themselves
LONDON, ONT. -- It’s an organization which prides itself on rescuing and rehabilitating horses. Now it’s 'Behind the Bit' that needs to be rescued.
“Every other week we’re wondering if we’re going to make it another week,” owner and operator Lauralynn Gibbons says Behind the Bit takes in horses that have been abused or were destined to be killed after not being purchased at auction.
She says those horses often end up in pet food or for human consumption in other countries.
“All of our horses come from kill pens, slaughters, neglected, abandoned. Not everyone willfully neglects their horses. Some just don’t have the knowledge or skills and decide they want to get an animal and don’t realize the work that goes into a horse.”
The organization runs with minimal overhead. Behind the Bit, located near the village of Mossley, southeast of London, Ont. uses a barn and pasture at no charge on a property rented by another family.
Supporters will donate cash or items that can be used for fundraising, but the primary source of revenue is horse training and riding sessions for children, held during the spring and summer months.
That’s what brought Nicole Dodge to Behind the Bit about a year and half ago, “My son and I come. He’s just turned 12. We’ve been volunteering together for that long. It’s his passion.”
With the new COVID-19 restrictions in place, the sessions can’t be run and the donations have slowed, but Gibbons says the cost of caring for the horses remains.
“Our hay expenses a month are easily two thousand dollars. Our grain expenses for the ones who need it are easily three or four hundred dollars.”
There are other expenses, including the cost of medications, like the ones required for a rare Newfoundland pony being care for by the rescue team.
It’s believed she became caught in a fence, suffering a number of injuries, including extensive damage to a rear leg.
Another horse, Brayleigh-Phoenix, was rescued from a kill pen.
Once she arrived at Behind the Bit, she had a growth the size of a tennis ball removed from her hind end. It’s expected she’ll be completely rehabilitated and the re-homed soon.
Amy Dopking is part of the management team with Behind the Bit.
Looking out over the pasture containing just over a dozen horses she says, “These guys, this is like their last chance. I believe that is very important.”
Gibbons insists the children’s training sessions can be run in a COVID-safe manner, and she’s hopeful the province will open up that opportunity.
However sessions have already been cancelled and parents have found other options.
Gibbons says at this point behind the bit will need some form of government supports, or an influx of donations to keep the operation afloat until COVID-19 concerns subside.