2009-05-21 / News

Abandoned and unwanted horses find a home at Horse Play

By Adrienne Downing

Two abandoned horses have found a temporary home and learned to trust again at Horse Play. Photo by Caitlin Downing Two abandoned horses have found a temporary home and learned to trust again at Horse Play. Photo by Caitlin Downing People are not the only ones being affected by the slow economy. Animals are also feeling the pinch when owners who can no longer afford their care surrender or abandon them.

While cash-strapped owners may be able to find homes for small animals like cats and dogs, horse owners do not always have as many options, especially when the animal has behavioral or health issues that delay their sale. Unfortunately, a lot of those horses end up on transports bound for slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada.

Fortunately for the horses at Horse Play in North Kingstown, they have a guardian angel in the form of Deidre Sharp, the founder and CEO of the non-profit horse rescue.

The sanctuary, located at 143 Gilbert Stuart Rd. in North Kingstown, is currently home to 18 horses Sharp has rescued. Two other Horse Play horses are living in foster homes, but are still under Sharp's care.

Since starting the rescue in 1999, Sharp and Horse Play have helped over 100 horses who would have otherwise been neglected, mistreated or slaughtered.

One of those horses, Red, is a grandson of Triple Crown winner Secretariat. "Red came here two years ago. He had raced until he was nine years old and won almost $1 million in prize money," Sharp said. "He was then bought for a kid who basically had no interest in him and he ended up being left at a boarding facility with no one working him or paying attention to him."

When Red was brought out to show to some potential buyers he appeared to be lame, Sharp said. "He actually was not lame, he really just needed his feet cleaned up. So we brought him here, cleaned him up and worked with him. He is a great horse, very friendly," she said.

Another former racehorse, Rasa, was rescued just four hours before being shipped to a slaughter house. "She was raced at Philadelphia Park where she was bought in a claiming race for $280. Her new owner took her to New Holland and sold her for $550 to a broker who was going to take her to a slaughter house," Sharp said. A rescue group was able to purchase the horse, but had no place for her to go. "The broker was there waiting for the transport truck to come pick her up and we literally got her four hours before the truck arrived."

Sharp said the horse arrived so sick with a bacterial lung infection that she almost died. "The sad thing is that horse meat is considered elite meat, but they were going to slaughter this very sick horse and feed that to people," Sharp said.

Racehorses are not the only ones being cared for at the farm. There are also mustangs, working horses and family pets. The horses are cared for by Sharp and a dozen volunteers who feed, groom, ride and clean up after them.

Nearly 80 percent of the horses that come to Horse Play are adoptable. Sharp makes sure that potential adopters and horses are a good match for each other by arranging as many as 10 to 12 meetings between the two before a horse is allowed to leave the farm. "These horses have already been abandoned or surrendered at least once, some of them many times, so we want to make the best match possible so they have a stable home," Sharp said.

The sanctuary currently has nine horses on its waiting list and Sharp said she anticipates even more requests as long as the economy stays sluggish.

Although the farm is run mainly by volunteers, the rescue effort is not an inexpensive one. The $250 a month per horse cost is funded through camps, riding lessons, and mainly donations.

To assist in their fund-raising Horse Play will hold its annual open house this Saturday, May 23, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the farm. There will be raffle prizes, a silent auction, food, drink, live music and vendors. Visitors will also be able to meet and greet the horses and attend demonstrations on natural horsemanship, bareback riding, trailer safety and T'ai Chi.

For more information on Horse Play, to donate, or volunteer, call Deidre Sharp at 294-3565, e-mail horseplayri@msn.com or visit www.hptrc.org.

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