Rescued Foals Transform Lives
May 05, 2015 10:49PM
● By Jennifer McDermott
Ocho With Foster Mom Patty Reilly
It might seem surprising that a horse welfare article should find its place in an issue devoted to women’s health but the two are actually intimately connected through both tragedy and triumph.
Women experience many mental and physical milestones in life, including puberty, fertility, childbirth and menopause. The modern world offers a variety of coping mechanisms and aids; this is where the horse comes into play for one particular milestone. Since 1942, Premarin has been the go-to hormone replacement drug for many women transitioning through menopause. This drug comes from PREgnant MARe UrINe. A sad reality of this industry is the by-product of many unwanted living, breathing foals. However, there are people changing the future of these foals and, in exchange, these foals are transforming the lives of humans.
Mares must be pregnant in order to secrete the hormone needed into their urine. Instead of grazing in green pastures through their pregnancies as the pharmaceutical manufacturer has shown in commercials, these migratory animals actually spend their gestation period of eleven months strictly standing in a straight stall unable to lie down, hooked up to a “pee bag.” Often the mares are denied water so their urine will be more concentrated. When it comes time to give birth, the mares are turned out to pasture and remain with their young until winter arrives when the foals are subsequently weaned and the mares’ life of confinement begins again. Scores of diligent people fought successfully to get Premarin “pee lines” out of the U.S. and are now working to get them out of Canada; the bad news is the practice continues in other countries despite availability of both natural and synthetic alternatives to Premarin. Scores of foals continue to be born to uncertain, mostly unpleasant fate; many of them face slaughter but the fortunate are rescued at kill auctions or are bought directly from the backs of farmers’ trucks. A lot of horse rescues take them in even though their space is limited. While the quest for manufacturer accountability and humane practice continues, the people rescuing these foals have some inspiring stories to tell.
In 2004, Adaire Hiestand saw a photo of a Premarin colt destined for a kill auction and saw something special. Hiestand saved him and started training him. By age 5, the colt’s ability to pick up and retain new tasks was clear. He went to train with Karri McFadden, a dressage rider. Fynn, the little Premarin colt, rose swiftly to the top of the dressage world; he and McFadden made it to Prix St. Georges in 2011 and Grand Prix in 2012. Within two competitions, Fynn earned the scores McFadden needed for her U.S. Dressage Federation gold medal. It was then equine veterinarian and equestrienne Candace Platz saw a photo of Fynn lying down with his head in McFadden’s lap and thought, “That’s my horse,” and bought him. Because of their mutual talents the two have risen to compete at the highest levels of dressage; Platz and the untraditional “American Warmblood” Fynn show their competition what the synergy of mental agility and focus looks like in the dressage arena. At age 9, Fynn and Platz have achieved the ranking of third in the U.S. National Dressage Finals, Grand Prix AA, USDF Gold Medalist, and USDF Regional Champion AA Grand Prix.
Holistic horsewoman Anna Twinney, founder of the ROTH method (ReachOutToHorses.com), was first exposed to the Premarin foals in 1998, when she held the position of head trainer at Monty Roberts’ Flag is Up Farm in California. She realized the great need for gentling and behavior modification for these youngsters, who were considered rogue by many experts.
In 2010, while filming her Foal Gentling series at Ray of Light Farm (RayOfLightFarm.org) in Connecticut, that she saw the potential of a “mutual students” clinic model. Ray of Light, run by Bonnie Boungiorno, has placed more than 70 Premarin horses in adoptive homes during the last eight years. Twinney pairs untouched Premarin foals with students that have completed her Holistic Equine Studies Program. It is hard to quantify the karmic magnitude of this union. The horse becomes desired and adoptable while the person walks away with a set of equine skills that can serve them in most gentling and basic behavior modification situations. The foals – or PMUs, as they are called – who stay on at Ray of Light continue to aid people in the advancement of horsemanship skills through a series of How Horses Think classes. This coursework supports Ray of Lights main objective, which is to provide an opportunity for people to have “a positive connection with life” through work with equines.
It is a wonderful thing when life presents a surprise package in a little colt, but it is the person who must make the lemonade out of lemons and not the other way around. Candace Platz’ quote about her experience with Fynn sums it up best. “I can’t say it’s a dream come true,” says Platz. “This dream wouldn’t have occurred to me.”
Jennifer McDermott’s exploration of horse energy began while rehabilitating horses in Fairfield County over 12 years ago. With her equine Reiki practice and passion for preventative health, she has embraced the three-pronged approach of foundational rehabilitation: nutrition, bodywork and positive reinforcement teaching. She now lives in Guilford and devotes herself to the rehabilitation of the Off the Track Thoroughbred.
How You Can Help
Two Connecticut farms currently actively rescue and adopt Premarin foals. To adopt a foal or donate to help them, please contact the farms directly:
H.O.R.S.E. of CT
43 Wilbur Rd, Washington • 860-868-1960 • HORSEofCT.org
Ray of Light Farm
232 Town St (Rte 82), East Haddam • 860-873-1895 • RayOfLight.org