30 ponies rescued as province sees lull in horse-related surrenders

Equine groups say pandemic hasn't lead to noticeable surge in horse abandonment or surrenders.

Equine groups say pandemic hasn't lead to noticeable surge in horse abandonment or surrenders

Bear Valley Rescue Society hasn't had this many horses, or ponies, surrendered in some time. (Submitted by: Bear Valley Rescue Society)

According to the Alberta SPCA, this past year has been relatively quiet on the horse front. 

Caring for and owning horses can be a costly endeavour, so some in the equine circles were concerned with pandemic job losses in Alberta horses would be given up. But, surrenders and SPCA seizures haven't gone up since the pandemic began — in Alberta they've gone down. 

It's not clear, Dan Kobe, media relations manager with the Alberta SPCA, said, if that's because of financials or because of the weather. 

"The two winters prior to this one, it was quite a bit colder, quite bitter," Kobe said. "So far this year, we just know that we haven't had as many large horse files as we have in the past few years." 

It's tough to pinpoint why things are quiet. He said it's also possible that because many are staying closer to home, reports from the public have gone down. Or, horse owners are closer to home over the winter and able to monitor their team better — upping feed if needed to keep the animals healthy over winter.

Northwest of Calgary, The Bear Valley Rescue Society near Sundre, Alta., was surprised this week with 30 ponies needing care. 

"I think somebody was in a bit of a hoarding situation and the person passed away," said president Kathy Bartley. "The people that are left behind don't know what to do with them." 

Information on their life before arriving at the rescue is scarce. When horse dealers call with animals needing rescue, they can be tight-lipped about the horses Bartley said, for fear of being held responsible for any misinformation. 

WATCH | Watch a stampede of 30 little horses rescued in Alberta:

Watch a stampede of 30 little horses rescued in Alberta

CBC News Calgary

3 months ago
These little ponies were recently taken in at Alberta's Bear Valley Rescue Society in one of the largest rescues the group has undertaken. 0:23

Often they don't know what sex to expect, and in this case, Bartley added, several of the ponies appear to be pregnant. 

"They're quite flighty like they don't seem to have had a lot of interaction with people," Bartley said. "There's a lot of young ones that probably have not been handled at all."

All in all, Bartley noted, the ponies came to her in good health for the most part, with a few who seem underweight. 

The biggest challenge now is that these skittish little ones need to be comfortable enough with humans for further examination and eventual adoption.

Ponies still need to be examined

"We haven't had this many in one shot, probably in several years," Bartley said. "the biggest thing is they're not handled. So that kind of makes it more difficult right off the bat … you have to work on getting them calmed down and being able to handle them, which is always a time-consuming process."

Several of the ponies are spoken for, and some will be headed to rescues in British Columbia to help spread the burden of caring for the animals.

The SPCA confirmed these ponies are not part of any open investigations or files.

"Typically we would only get a phone call if the animals were in distress," Kobe said. "We're not an agency that deals with stray animals or even abandoned animals unless there's a risk of distress.

Equestrian group creates grant to ensure horse security

Sandy Bell, the Alberta Equestrian Federation president, said the fact that these ponies are finding homes quickly and other groups are stepping up to ensure their care is a testament to the generosity of Alberta's equine community.

When the pandemic hit, Bell said the organization feared horses would be lined up for rehoming. So, they launched a fund known as The Alberta Equine Partners for the Herd and were quickly flooded with applications and donors 

"We did hear lots of stories about how people were running into hardship, caring for their own horses," Bell said. "We wondered if they hadn't reached out to a program such as ours and gotten some support if they would have had to surrender their horses."

Ponies, like horses, can end up in slaughterhouses prematurely Bartley said, especially when they are unhandled and not easily taken in by a family — which is why her group stepped up to lend a hand.  


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