The following is a partial transcript of the show.
Some of us, if not all of us, at some point in our lives need a helping hand and/or a second chance. Today on By The Love Of Horses we welcome Mike Grenier. Mike is the Executive Director of a not-for-profit organization called A Horse Tale Rescue which is found outside of Montreal. The organization is in the business of taking in horses that are in need of a new home. It is a rather special place.
We should note, though, before going too far, that the word “Tale” in the name “A Horse Tale Rescue” is spelt T-A-L-E. The idea is that each horse has a story, each horse has a tale to tell. That story tells us something of the life that the horse has lived. It tells us about the kind of experiences the horse has had. So, this organization is respectful that each animal, as each person, has their own story that they have lived and that story needs to be listened to, recognized and honoured.
This all underlines, too, that listening and understanding are important aspects of the idea of rescuing. There are, of course, some sad parts to these stories. It is sad that the horse had to come to the organization’s attention in the first place. But the whole idea of A Horse Tale Rescue is that the horse’s story doesn’t have to end there. The organization becomes part of the horse’s story. It provides a temporary or even permanent home. The ultimate happy ending would be, of course, where the horse is placed with its own new family.
All of this got me thinking about what it means to rescue a horse or other animal, or a person, and give them a second chance. It is the generous and kind heart that so willingly, often at significant cost to themselves, offers second chances. But what we often lose sight of is that the benefit of offering someone a second chance often works both ways. Kindness begets kindness. A pure act of compassion can bring its own reward.
Sometimes it happens that when I go to the barn to ride Bud, I meet an animal that I’ve never met before. And I say to it, “Well, hello, there and who might you be?” It happens more often than you might think. And the funny thing is that the new animal, on many occasions, is not a horse.
One day, for example, I walked into the barn and went to gather up my equipment in the locker room and then headed down the stairs and made my way towards Bud’s stall. As I was approaching Bud, though, I noticed an adult goat that I’d never seen before. She was brand new to our barn family. This was a goat we’ll call Gretchen.
Later on, two more goats arrived. One we will call Gertrude and a third goat, who was about to give birth, we will call Gretel.
Gretchen was unfortunately rather ill. She was so overwhelmed with her situation that she wouldn’t even look at you. The barn owner put a mattress down on the floor of the stall for Gretchen to lay on to make her more comfortable. She laid there for a long time, hardly moving at all, and just gave out the occasional bleat. I watched Gretchen over the weeks as she slowly got better.
So now there are a total of five goats.
Because they are content, and well-mannered, they have the freedom to move about the barn and barnyard. They basically come and go as they please.
The good news is that Gretchen is all healed now. Just the other day I saw her come up to the owner and give her a kiss as if to say “Thank you for rescuing me. I know what you’ve done for me and I’m so grateful I’m going to give you a kiss. And I’m busy now, so I’m off. Goodbye.”
It is the epitome of a successful rescue, I think. There is the save itself. There is the healing. There is gratitude. But there is also a departure. The crisis is over, so now Gretchen can go off and live a happy goat life.
So, the call list for the barn, for this equestrian centre, at the moment goes something like this:
3 Goats and 2 kid goats
All of this happened because the barn owner where I ride is a very kind and generous woman. She has a heart of gold as you might say. She has come to have a reputation in her community for taking in animals that are in need of extra love and care or who need a new home. Sometimes I would swear that she has a 1-800 number stamped on her forehead which reads: 1-800-PLEASE SAVE ME.
Maybe some people like my barn owner are born rescuers. They see a situation and they think, “This one needs some help. This will take some doing,” and then they roll up their sleeves and get to work to it get it done.
The people at A Horse Tale Rescue seem to be that kind of people, too. And what is also interesting is that they are not just in the business of reaching out for horses in need of second chances, but they also reach out to people in the community who need to benefit from their equine assisted program. The note on their website suggests that these are individuals with “mental health, physical or other special needs” from “community support organizations, learning institutions and select frontline professions.”
The interaction of individuals with the horses often takes place on the grounds of the organization’s farm. But where it is difficult for individuals to come to them, they also take the horses out to where they are needed. The A Horse Tale Rescue Experience is constructed as an opportunity for someone to enjoy simply being in the presence of a horse. The organization’s website suggests that:
“The Experience program is an opportunity for A Horse Tale Rescue and the rescued horses to give back to the community. The benefits of simply being around horses is invaluable. Horses have a natural ability to sense our emotions. Building trust with this large and sensitive animal is a great mindfulness experience.”
The A Horse Tale Rescue organization is looking to expand their program to seniors’ residences and palliative care homes whereby they would take the horses to those in need. The organization recognizes that the horse has a treasured place in our collective memory. And by bringing horses to seniors, they bring with them a great deal of comfort and joy. But let’s hear more about this from Mike Grenier himself.
When we think of the act of rescuing an animal, we often think mostly about the act itself. We think of those first few moments or hours or day when a tragedy was averted, when some animal, or person, was saved from harm or loss.
I spoke earlier of the perfect rescue, wherein the animal, in our case, a goat called Gretchen, is saved, is healed and then goes off to live happily ever after. But let’s not forget that Gretchen is still at Bud’s barn living this happy goat life. As demonstrated by both A Horse Tale Rescue and by my own barn owner, rescues are not just contained in a moment in time.
Sometimes, maybe even often, the rescue needs to go on and on. They do so because the person or animal really has no other option, which is why they needed rescuing in the first place. And maybe it is here where the true generosity and love of an organization like A Horse Tale Rescue is made plain. It is made plain by the commitment to look after a horse going forward, for as long as it takes to find another home, if one is ever found. Sometimes they simply stay at the A Horse Tale Rescue farm forever.
And it is in this on and on, in this sometimes never-ending rescue, this helping of horses that are older and perhaps ill, horses that can’t even be ridden, that the true magnanimity of an organization like A Horse Tale Rescue, and people like my barn owner, is made plain.