At the end of 2011, Federal legislation was passed that would again license horse-kill facilities to produce horsemeat for human consumption. Coupled with the economic recession forcing many owners to sell or otherwise dispose of their horses, the need for horse rescue facilities has intensified.
Around that time, I heard about Queen of Hearts Farm in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. I live in Nashville, which is just 50 miles up the road, and I wanted to see what a rescue farm might be.
But on the way there, I had my doubts. I thought, “Rescues, these will be old and/or infirm animals. What will they look like? What can they be? These will be horses that ought not to be ridden.” I was expecting to discover sort of an assisted living facility for horses.
I was shocked at what I saw! A herd of 24 horses generally in peak physical condition. Later I learned that one of the Farm’s most recent rescues was a five year-old Thoroubred mare, registered, with papers. She was on her way to slaughter, and they bought her for the price of her meat. The only visual clue that this was a rescue ranch was all the different breeds. Most ranches specialize in one breed of horse; Appaloosa’s, Quarter Horses, Arabians. But at Queen of Hearts, I saw a diverse mix of breeds.
Queen of Hearts Farm is also a full service riding stable. They teach riding, and they train and board horses.
A remarkable woman, Karen Bielecki, is the owner and head honcho at Queen of Hearts. Regarding life at the farm she said, “… Horses here live as they were born to–in large mentally stimulating pastures with trees, grass, and ponds. They are able to exhibit all of their natural behaviors such as grazing in open fields, foraging for leafy edibles in the woods, and rolling in sand and mud to relieve itches and protect against insects. The horses have created their own trails throughout the property, carefully avoiding rocks, trees, and other natural areas. They live in groups and have formed friendships. This is vital to their physical and mental well-being.
Zoos have enclosure designers whose job is to create the most dynamic and stimulating environments possible for captive animals. Horses, however, often live alone in small cramped stalls and stables turn them out, if they are lucky, in mind-numbing pens. Consequently, the horses are lonely, bored, and often become resentful of their jobs. They are also likely to develop unhealthy behaviors such as pacing the fence line, weaving, cribbing, and pinning their ears at their handlers.
At Queen of Hearts Farm, large man-made shelters are in every pasture, giving the horses protection from rain, snow, wind, and sun. Horses are fed free-choice round bales of barn-kept (clean and nonmoldy) mixed-grass. They have access to fresh water and salt blocks. To supplement the horses’ hay and pasture diet, they are given free-choice access to all-natural vitamin and protein tubs, which I purchase at Bonnie’s Barnyard in Triune, TN.
Horses in training live in open-air 13’ x 13’ bedded stalls, which are cleaned daily. Weather permitting, horses are turned out every day either individually or with compatible pasture mates.”
“Gee,” I thought, “If I were a horse, this is where I’d want to be.”