Equine Sanctuary takes advantage of education opportunity
By Logan Hall
Americans seem to be used to discarding things that they no longer need. All too often, this includes the life of a living creature. In particular, horses that are used for sport are often sold for slaughter once they’ve passed their athletic prime. Many of these horses are then used for human consumption.
One organization has taken the reins on the issue. The Equine Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates professional sport horses who have lost their athletic edge, and are tossed aside like an empty beer can. Alexis Ells, founder and director of the sanctuary, has dedicated her time and energy to help as many otherwise doomed horses as she and her team of volunteers can.
“We take in performance horses because no one else will,” said Ells. “These horses are pieces of equipment to the industry, and they see them as disposable. We have had enormous success working with these horses.”
The sanctuary sits on about five acres on the East End of the Ojai Valley. There, Ells and her volunteers rehabilitate and care for many horses at any given time. With horses ranging from racers to jumpers, there is always something to keep the crew busy at the sanctuary. Many of the animals require intensive rehabilitation to help them recover from traumatizing lives as competitors.
“Oftentimes the horses are not good with other horses or people because of the way they’ve been treated throughout their lives,” said Ells. “Most of the time these horses are not good for regular horse owners. That’s the challenge, and that’s where we come in.”
Ells and the other volunteers at the sanctuary aren’t the only ones who agree with the sanctuary’s philosophy. B. Dawson, animal herbalist and owner of Noah’s Apothecary, has good things to say about the sanctuary. “Alexis and the volunteers at the sanctuary are amazing for doing this for these horses,” said Dawson. “To stand up for them is just incredible.”
According to Ells, the alternative for many of these horses would be a trip across the border to Mexico or Canada, where horse slaughter is legal. Next, the meat would be processed and shipped overseas to many countries where horse meat is viewed as a delicacy. Ells also says that the method used for slaughter is often brutal and inhumane, seemingly causing the animals great pain and discomfort.
Ells has used the recent showing of the film “Secretariat” at the Ojai Playhouse to help spread the word about the sanctuary’s cause. She says she has been at the theater for every show; she and some of the sanctuary’s volunteers have been handing out brochures and inviting people to sign up for a tour of the facility. Ells says that they have horses at the sanctuary that are related to Secretariat, so hopefully the film will spark some interest in people to help the organization.
“The tours that we offer are a great educational thing for families and groups like schools or churches,” said Ells. “We’ll design tours for specific groups and cater to specific interests.”
The sanctuary would not exist without help from contributions from the public and, perhaps more important, volunteers. “People need to help support the sanctuary any way they can,” said Dawson. “It doesn’t take a lot of skill to brush a horse or walk them around the ring a little.”
Ells says that the sanctuary is her passion and she will always strive to help animals that are in need and can’t fend for themselves. “Horses have such great intelligence and compassion. They have so much to teach us,” she said. “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing until my last dying breath.”
Tours of the Equine Sanctuary are by appointment only, and can be arranged by calling 453-4567 or logging on to theequinesanctuary.org.