ERF is a small equine welfare association based primarily in the Dordogne and surrounding areas. We set up in the summer of 2007 to help effect changes in the lives of neglected and unwanted horses in our area. There have been many highs and lows in the journey we embarked upon, including a steeper learning curve than any of us anticipated. Our experiences to date have helped us decide the change of direction for 2012.
One of the hardest pills to swallow was the realisation of the enormity of the problems facing unwanted horses in Europe. We set out hoping to raise awareness of the bigger issues alongside rescuing some individual equines. Very soon it became clear that funding the dealers by buying a horse to ‘rescue’ simply encourages them to buy or breed more. The dealer doesn’t care whether his income comes from a kind hearted person or the abattoir.
During the last decade, a new kid on the French horse-dealing block arrived in the guise of ‘Rescue Forums’. The opportunity was seized to translate these to the UK with a link up to a transporter to ship them over.
Several of these ‘rescue’ sites sprang up, and a few transporters jumped on the bandwagon, seeing profit margins in cramming lots of horses into their already illegal wagons. Pleas to save ‘the poor baby’ from ‘the bad lorry’ (the transport to the abattoir) had people buying these horses through these sites via paypal or similar without even leaving their living rooms. Many of the internet photographs hid the terrible problems that had destined these horses for the abattoir. Most had no meat value at all, even so ridiculous money was being paid at the height of the scam as the dealers, rubbing their hands in glee, upped the prices to con soft hearted Brits. Hence we saw a spate of unfit horses being exported to the UK, in most cases illegally papered, and illegally transported, under the guise of ‘rescue’.
Some horses died in transit or had to be PTS on arrival in the UK. Some were bought by dealers and sold on immediately for a large profit. Some were discarded to whatever fate – left in fields, neglected and dying, or sent to dealers who move horses across Europe to slaughter – when the owner/dealer tired of them, or couldn’t pay for/handle them. Many are now taking up precious places in UK rescue centres, denying a UK horse in need.
Fortunately ERF managed to stop the mass exodus of these poor horses. In total, near to 1,000 horses went to the UK. We believe that less than 10% of these animals can be traced, and all bar one of the UK ‘rescue’ forums no longer exist. There are so many heartbreaking stories about the suffering these horses were put through in the name of ‘rescue’ – unfortunately the word now holds a different meaning than we intended when ERF was formed.
Monitoring the French sites, close scrutiny revealed unwanted UK horses being shipped to France, en route to Italy, for meat. In one French farm, horses were unloaded and left there until sufficient numbers accumulated to fill a lorryload going to Italy for slaughter. In the interim, these horses were put onto a French ‘rescue’ site. The horses displayed on it were also shown on one of the UK ‘rescue’ sites. They imported the biggest proportion of horses, as their transporter was frequently in France.
Corran Ard was found discarded in this particular farm. To our disgust, we discovered the transporter importing the rescues for the UK was the very same transporter who shipped them out in the first place.
This showed us the lack of protection for horses classed as ‘leisure’ animals, who end up on the slaughter journey, and is a major issue that ERF wish to help address.
Closer to home, we have 40 equines under our care, most of whom are with guardians. At the moment we have no option but to accept that this number is the limit of our capability. Excluding exceptional circumstances, we sadly cannot take on any more equines.
For various reasons, Mimi, Grace, Ruby and Ebony, and Accord are back into our care.
Grace is rising 4, has been handled from a very early age and has spent the last couple of years in a farm environment so is used to all animals and regular coming and goings. She is used to children and will make a lovely riding/driving horse. She is not yet broken, but has a fabulous temperament. Grace is near to Civray, 86.
Ruby and Ebony are mother and daughter. Ruby is a chestnut roan mare, about 12.2hh, although not sure of her age we’d guess about 14. We don’t yet know if she’s been ridden. Ebony is Ruby’s daughter. She is rising 5 years old, jet black, also about 12.2hh, and has just started to be broken. She is taking to it like a duck to water, so that bodes well. She is a natural jumper, and will make a cracking pony for a decent child rider. Ruby and Ebony are near Sarlande in 24.
Accord unfortunately returned to us in extremely poor condition, so we are rehabilitating him to be assessed for rehoming in the spring.
We also have Mimi, who has her own page on Facebook!
This is a ‘warts and all’ diary of the tears, tantrums and tiaras (ok – headcollars!) involved in mastering Mimi. With pictures! Please read and enjoy!
Please help us to change the future for these horses that have no other voice. We survive solely on donations, and every euro helps.