A horse rescuer who saves thoroughbreds headed to slaughterhouses
Near Philadelphia, Erin Hurley finds adopted homes for retired race horses, saving them from a trip to the slaughterhouse.
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This provides about $15,000 a month, TFH director Barbara Luna says, which she uses to place horses for adoption. She finds homes for 10 to 12 horses every 30 days and has a two-week waiting list.Skip to next paragraph
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"I don't know where this program would be if I hadn't made the connection with Erin," Ms. Luna says. "Before I knew about her, I worked with a couple of others and they drove me nuts because I could never find out where the horses were, who had them, and what kind of shape they were in."
"A horse that's rescued must be rescued for life," points outs Mike Ballezzi, executive director of the horsemen's association at Philadelphia Park. "That's why follow-up is so important."
Both Luna and Hurley have kept track of all the horses that have moved through SJTR&A. Six months after adopting, the new owner must present them with a veterinarian's report on the horse's current health and well-being. Hurley herself inspects boarding facilities and makes sure the horses are properly shod to maintain foot health.
Tara Weston-Brick is one of the happy horse-adopters. "I adored horses as a girl and got a mare for my 13th birthday. I rode her until I was 18 and went away to college," Ms. Weston-Brick recalls. But her parents couldn't afford to pay for college and keep a horse.
"I always knew I would own another horse one day and told my husband to be prepared for it when we were first married," she says. She saw a local TV news item about the TFH program. "That Friday, I went to see [a horse], and one look was all it took," she says. "He's given me a new beginning with horses; he's just a really great horse."
Though many racehorses still end up as horse meat, Hurley feels she is making a difference. "I would like to save them all," Hurley says, "but that's just not possible. You have to be realistic about the process. It has to be run like a business, because it is."
"I am just amazed at how efficient [Hurley] is," says Debbie Whitesell, who owns a farm in Moorestown, N.J., that is leased to SJTR&A, where horses wait for adoption. "I am so happy to see [our] paddocks full again, and this is such a wonderful cause."
Most horses are adopted within a week of their arrival, some within 24 hours. Those whose careers ended because of injury may wait longer because they are first treated and given time to heal.
Veterinarians devote volunteer time to the program, too. They include Patty Hogan, who gained national fame as the equine surgeon who treated Smarty Jones, the racehorse who won two legs of the Triple Crown in 2004 after severely injuring his skull in a training gate accident as a 2-year-old.
"I am fortunate to have an incredible core of volunteers who work with me, and a supportive husband and kids," Hurley says.
• To learn more about Hurley's work, visit www.sjtbadoption.org. To contact Turning for Home, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.