Most of us choose a first husband and a first horse in a state of blissful ignorance. Not surprisingly, many of these relationships do not stand the test of time.
Husbands are a lot easier to re-home than horses. The secondary market for spouses is brisk — getting dumped is not the end of the world. When a human-horse relationship ends badly, however, the four-legged partner frequently faces a grim future.
The dedicated volunteers at the Langley-based Horse Protection Society of B.C. have decided that the best way to prevent the growing number of equine abuse and neglect cases is to educate prospective horse owners, before they choose their first equine partner. Or before a parent says yes to a Christmas pony.
“We are seeing people buying horses like they would a puppy. And then when they realize the enormity of owning a horse they often either abandon them, send them to auction, simply don’t care for them, or they call a rescue to take them on. We want to offer people a course that can help them understand the huge responsibility it is to own a horse,” said Sharon Wells-Ackermans, managing director of the society.
The non-profit has developed a program where people can come for riding lessons using some of the rescue horses in their care. While the course material can be tailored for children as young as 10 years old, the majority of students at the moment are adults. The program will take students through four levels, each with a practical and written test, and will most likely take about a year to complete. Students can come once or twice a week.
“Currently in our full program we have a 60-year-old housewife who is realizing a long time dream and a woman whose career has been computer-related and who has always dreamed of experiencing horses. We have a girl here who hopes to one day take the course — she is an animal tech student. We have a single mom and daughter team who are currently doing a part lease on a horse and taking lessons when they can. We hope to find funding to help them out.”
According to Sharon, their riding program is more comprehensive than the average school can offer. In addition to riding lessons offered by a professional instructor, the volunteers will provide hands-on training in all areas of horse care and handling. In addition to covering barn management, feed and nutritional needs, students in the horsemanship program will get advice on purchasing suitable mounts and planning for their future.
“We will also show people some alternatives to buying their own horse, if that suits better, like leasing or just continuing on with riding lessons,” said Sharon.
For more information on the Horse Protection Society of B.C. and its horsemanship program, go to www.horseprotectionsocietyofbc.com.
On another note, members of the Anderlini family want it made clear that the property bordering the horse trail where an elderly woman was accidentally shot by hunters — once owned by a relative — was sold before the incident occurred. The family is in no way connected with this incident.