Are you a person who loves horses, but does not own one? There’s a way you can have a horse of your own, without having your own farm – and these horses really need someone who cares about them.
Named the 2019 winner of Horse Canada’s Heroes of the Horse Award, A Horse Tale Rescue has been rescuing unwanted horses since 2013, shortly after its founder Kerri Fenoff was able to save 15 Appaloosas scheduled for slaughter because their owner had fallen ill and could no longer sustain his farm. The foundation, located in Vaudreil-Dorion beside the border with Hudson, now has more than 300 members and volunteers dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable and loving environment for all of the horses that pass through its gates.
“The organization is completely run by volunteers,” notes Mike Grenier, Executive Director of A Horse Tale, adding approximately 80 of the members are ‘hands-on’ volunteers. “Three feeds a day, 365 days a year, all the feeds are handled by volunteers.”
Volunteers perform multiple tasks in addition to feeding, including grooming, medical care, maintenance and cleaning out the stalls and paddocks. Many also help out with the foundation’s numerous programs and committees.
“If we can find them a forever home, we will”
There are currently 14 horses on the property, most of whom are older animals or have some sort of health issue. Six of the horses were working in downtown Montreal in the caleche industry, becoming expendable when the City of Montreal banned horse-drawn carriages as of December 31, 2019. Others were abandoned for various reasons – either because the owners were no longer able to care for them, or even more tragically, because they were no longer wanted.
“Some have suffered injuries and the owners no longer want to keep them, because (the horse) doesn’t meet their needs anymore,” Grenier explains.
All of the horses are available for sponsorship, and some will eventually be adopted into loving homes. Photos and biographies of all of the animals in A Horse Tale’s care can be found on the organization’s website https://ahtrescue.org/en/our-horses/.
“If we can find them a forever home, we will,” says Grenier, noting most of the horses taken in by A Horse Tale can no longer be ridden. “We try to change the perspective and show there’s also a way of having a horse in your life without having to ride.”
The foundation goes through an extensive qualification process for anyone looking to adopt. Once approved, staff follow up at regular intervals to ensure the adopted horse is receiving good care.
“We always retain an eye so that they don’t get lost in the system and they don’t fall back into the same situation they started off in,” Grenier assures.
Sponsorships for individual horses begin at $20 per month. Sponsors receive a welcome package with a photo and biography of their horse. While visits are currently restricted due to Quebec COVID-19 health restrictions, under normal circumstances weekend visits are available on a regular basis. For 2021 A Horse Tale is setting up specific visitation weekends and friends days to allow individual sponsors to see their horses.
While sponsors pick their own horse to support, Grenier says the funds are used to support all of the animals.
“All of the horses receive the proper care,” the foundation’s executive director explains. “The sponsorship creates a relationship in that you’ve made a friend and you can follow along on how their story is evolving.”
‘Sunny’ supported by Vankleek Hill residents
One does not have to live right beside the property to help out, or to visit A Horse Tale, and there are multiple ways to make supporting a horse even more affordable. Kelly McKinnon, who lives in Vankleek Hill, is part of a sponsorship group of seven women who support Sunny, a 16-year-old who is one of the newer arrivals at the facility. The group has three members from the Vankleek Hill area – others are from Ottawa and Montreal – who are sponsoring Sunny in memory of a dear friend.
“A friend of mine had visited and she said the experience she had was unbelievable – it had been so good for her,” recalls McKinnon, of how she first heard about A Horse Tale.
The Vankleek Hill resident says her three-year-old daughter has been enthralled with Sunny and the updates sent out by the organization.
“His picture has been on my fridge for the past year and every time my daughter sees it she says ‘there’s Sunny!’,” McKinnon laughs. “They also keep us up to date on where our money is actually being used and what it’s being used for, so you see a direct impact, which is also very rewarding.”
Beverley Greeley, who grew up in Hawkesbury and now lives in Laval, is another long-distance sponsor of a horse at the foundation. She and husband Brian Johnson decided just a few months ago to sponsor Maya – an 18-year-old Belgian cross and former Montreal caleche horse – after originally contacting the organization about donating apples from the tree in their backyard.
“They take the best care possible of the horses – it’s really a wonderful place,” says Greeley, who visited Maya in early April and describes her as a “sweetheart” with a very gentle disposition. “She’s been paired with Zack, who is a bit of an anxious horse. Maya has a very calming effect on him, so that’s why they put them in the same paddock.”
Experience Program for individuals with special needs
For those who might have difficulty accessing the property, the foundation offers A Horse Tale’s Experience Program. The program for groups which support individuals with special needs and challenges allows participants to interact with the animals in the organization’s care.
“There are a lot of individuals who don’t have the luxury – either due to physical or mental disabilities – to be able to come out and visit,” says Grenier, adding the foundation sets up special days for group visits from various organizations and also takes horses to private care residences. “Rusty, one of our mascots, is an ex caleche horse and we’ve visited two residences already and have four others lined up.”
“We’ll go there for a few hours just so the residents can come out and see Rusty, smell him, touch him, get a picture taken and just change up their mindset.”
More information on how to sponsor your own horse is available by visiting A Horse Tale’s website at https://ahtrescue.org/en/. The foundation also hosts a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AHorseTale.