A tale of two horses
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
Two Percheron horses named Max (left) and Freddy, formerly used to pull calèches, arrived at Vaudreuil-Dorion’s A Horse Tale Rescue January 24 to enjoy a well-deserved retirement following Montreal’s January 1, 2020 ban on horse-drawn carriages.
Max and Freddy have found a new home, and they’re taking to it like they’ve stumbled upon an equine Elysium. The two former Montreal calèche horses are taking their retirement from the carriage-towing business to live out the rest of their days in comfort at A Horse Tale Rescue (AHT) in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
With the ban on horse-drawn carriages in the Old Port of Montreal coming into effect this month, there are a lot of horses that are suddenly in need of new homes, and AHT is happy to be able to provide that for this spirited pair. While the ban has brought out strong voices both for and against, AHT Executive Director Mike Grenier has no time for the debate – a herd now grown to 12 rescued horses is more than enough to keep him occupied.
“We’re not here to pass judgement or take sides in any argument” says Grenier, “we’re just here for the horses. It there’s a horse that needs our help, we want people to know our door is open.” The not-for-profit organization has helped many horses over the years, including a couple of other former calèche horses and one horse named Maggie who came to them completely emaciated because her teeth don’t line up and she wasn’t able to eat properly with the feed she got at her former home. Grenier and his team put her on a diet of soft food, and now she’s thriving.
It takes a big team
That kind of care can’t be managed alone.
“We have a big team – we have 260 members and 80 active volunteers who come in to help with all the feeding and grooming, mucking stalls, everything that needs to be done” says Barn Manager Caroline Handy. The entire organization is run by volunteers and all of their expenses are covered by local sponsors and charitable donations. Says Grenier, “We couldn’t do it without the amazing community we have here in Vaudreuil-Dorion and the surrounding area.”
PHOTO BY MIKE GRENIER
Five-year-old Freddy is jumping for joy in his new home.
Not only do they have a lot of volunteers to help with the work, many are part of a free guided equine exposure program they offer where groups can come in for the experience of working with the animals in a soothing setting.
“We have groups that come to us from retirement homes, spouses of military personnel who have suffered from PTSD, the MS Society, veterinary students, adults with special needs, you name it,” says Grenier. There are volunteers who come twice a week who have Down Syndrome or are on the Autism spectrum and benefit tremendously from working with the horses. “When these people first come in they may be very nervous, or have noise or tactile issues, but after a while they get comfortable and they start to really come out. It’s amazing to see the effect the horses have on people – we’re here to help the horses but in a way it’s really the horses that are giving to us.”
Time to grow
With about 25 requests a year to rescue horses, A Horse Tale can’t keep up with demand. “We’re at full capacity right now” says Grenier, “and we need to raise funds to expand.” They are diligent about providing the best care possible which means sufficient indoor stall space for every animal on site, and enough room outside for them to get exercise, as well as making sure they have enough money for food and inevitable veterinary care. They have plans for the near future to grow into the property next door, including possibly adding a ring and some more indoor space for the human caregivers, which will mean they can help even more horses down the road.
But for now, their two newest residents have no complaints. It’s easy to see as Max and Freddy snort and leap and roll gleefully in the snow that they’ve been given a new lease on life. To learn more or help out visit: ahtrescue.org/en/how-to-help/, or drop by their open house this Saturday from 2-4pm at 27 Chemin Murphy in Vaudreuil-Dorion.