I recently visited a wonderful place of hope and transformation, The Eagle Hill Equine Rescue Center in Culpepper, Va. not far from Fredericksburg. Eagle Hill provides a home for discarded horses, which are given a home, brought to health and sociability and then if possible adopted out. The non-profit rescue center started by Annie Delp and her husband Steve, is many things to many people, including being a place anyone can volunteer and enjoy the companionship of beautiful, gentle fellow creatures, and where each horse can blossom and be recognized as having worth simply for being themselves.
Eagle Hill’s mission is particularly poignant to me in that many of the horses were there due to the exploitation of female horses and disregard for their natural bond with their young . This is because the center rescues foals (baby horses) that are by products of the thoroughbred racehorse industry. Just days old they are taken from their mothers immediately after birth so that their mothers can nurse expensive thoroughbred foals who were taken from their expensive mothers so that those mothers could quickly be rebred. Somehow the picture of a female thoroughbred racehorse, perpetually pregnant and denied the opportunity to bond and nurse her child, contrasts with promotional photographs of retired male racehorses, relaxing in their gently rolling pasture.
Other female horses there had been raised and kept pregnant to provide hormones for estrogen for the medical industry, a process which again produced both discarded babies and, after demand for their hormones lessened, discarded mares. I wonder, is there any correlation in a culture between respect for the bond of motherhood in animals and respect for women?
The good news is that the rescued foals are given a chance to bond with loving people and enjoy the companionship of other horses at Eagle Hill. While there, we mingled with a group of about seven of these shy young horses, several weeks old while they frolicked together and drank from a big tub of milk. Some were comfortable being petted; others were experimenting with just being near people. However it is these sorts of daily interactions with volunteers and visitors that socializes and provides a sense of security. There were also older horses in the fields each with their own history of how they came to the rescue center. All are treated lovingly by Annie, members of her staff and volunteers. To learn more about the center and about how the horses came to be at the center, visit their website and visit or volunteer.
On another horse-related note, equine assisted therapy is available in the Fredericksburg area as well as at Eagle Hill, providing physical and emotional benefits for children and adults. Horses, being herd animals are sensitive, communicative, and intuitive, traits we’d all like to see more of in our human companions. A relationship without words, questions or judgments, based on mutual trust with a responsive animal friend can provide a welcome relief from more demanding interactions. The relaxing rhythm of riding and the sensory pleasure of a horse’s shiny coat and sun-scented smell bring the blessing of simple pleasure in oneself, another and the natural world. Look around and see the horses….