Lifestyle

Horses' rescuing angel

Amanda Vella holds Jet a rescue horse who has lost an eye. Amanda is the founder of Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times
Amanda Vella holds Jet a rescue horse who has lost an eye. Amanda is the founder of Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times Claudia Baxter

IN A corral at the slaughterhouse sales, a bony mare stands watch over her foal, an equally skeletal heap, as its protruding ribcage heaves with each breath.

Amanda Vella's horse sanctuary is already full, but the sight of this pair brings her back to the yards with a float in tow later that week.

She is able to buy the mare, but the foal has been killed ahead of transport to another site. Many foals are injured in transit, Ms Vella said, so this practice makes death slightly cleaner.

This is just one of hundreds of cases Ms Vella remembers vividly - this foal, along with the hundreds of horses she can't afford to save, the animals too starved to digest food even if she does take them home, are all evidence of human cruelty.

"Horses usually go for between $50 to $400 at sales, depending on what they'd be worth in meat," Ms Vella said.

"There are a lot of ex-racehorses, horses from farms, and trail riding ponies that people don't know how to care for."

"With pets like dogs and cats there are rules to make sure they're treated humanely, but horses at these sales are mostly emaciated and often injured, and they're often slaughtered in front of each other and die slowly - there's nothing humane about that.

"Horses can be used to ride, race, do work on the farm, and they're pets, too, and then they can also be taken out into the backyard and shot, or sold for met."

Rescue horse Chyanne grazes in a Thagoona paddock. Amanda Vella founded Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times
Rescue horse Chyanne grazes in a Thagoona paddock. Amanda Vella founded Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times Claudia Baxter

Ms Vella said the practice of neglecting and then slaughtering horses was widespread, but not widely prosecuted.

"The RSPCA treats extreme cases of neglect that are reported to them, but if there's more than 10 head of livestock the responsibility goes to the DPI (now the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry), and it seems to be accepted that once the horses are at slaughterhouse yards they're going to die anyway, so what's the point?"

Outrage at this quietly but widely conducted slaughter of horses motivated Ms Vella not only to rescue and rehabilitate the animals, but also to advocate for stronger horse ownership and slaughtering regulations.

Ms Vella does this work under the banner of Save A Horse Australia, a self-funded project she began in 2002 that's since become a registered charity supported by hundreds of people across Australia.

The charity's critical cases are now sent to a newly founded Thagoona sanctuary before being assessed and fostered or adopted.

"Since starting, we've got 503 horses that are in our care or have been adopted out," she said.

"There are too many to rescue all of them though; once, over five days, we turned down 18 horses and accepted one.

"Most of our horses are now surrenders; we don't go to sales as much anymore because we're already full.

"We've also lost 27 horses we've tried to save - we've had to put some down that have severe injuries, and some have died a couple of days after we've got them because their bodies have started to shut down."

A wound heals on Promise's hind leg while she and Jet graze in a Thagoona paddock. Amanda Vella founded Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times
A wound heals on Promise's hind leg while she and Jet graze in a Thagoona paddock. Amanda Vella founded Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times Claudia Baxter

Ms Vella said it was heart-rending to accept that only a small number of horses could be saved.

"It drains your energy," she said.

"You have to focus on the ones you save."

The animals recovering at Thagoona help to affirm Ms Vella's mission.

Chyanne, aged 38, and Jet, 33, are the veterans of the sanctuary.

The two old horses won't be adopted out because of their age; instead, they'll live at Thagoona and help to calm down new arrivals.

"Jet's also missing an eye... when we got him he had an eye ulcer that was really, really deep and the vet said it would be best to take the whole eyeball," Ms Vella said.

Most of the other horses will only be here temporarily.

"Promise has been here since October. We paid $180 for her at the Gympie sales," Ms Vella said.

"She's got a deep wound on her leg and bone damage, so it'll take up to a year until she's healed."

Once rehabilitation is complete, horses are adopted out on a welfare contract and checked every three months.

The adoption cost is less than each animal's initial vet check, Ms Vella said.

"It costs about $11,000 a month to feed and treat all the horses in our care," she said.

"Horse ownership isn't cheap and there are lots of different costs, and our costs are even greater because of the extra vet care the animals require."

Find out more about Save a Horse Australia at saveahorseaustralia.blogspot.com.au.

The charity will also host a stall at Riverlink today and tomorrow.

Amanda Vella strokes rescue horse Chyanne. Amanda is the founder of Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard.
Amanda Vella strokes rescue horse Chyanne. Amanda is the founder of Save A Horse, a horse rescue and sanctuary charity who rescue poorly treated and emaciated horses from the slaughter yard. Claudia Baxter

Topics:  thagoona, the big read




Man secretly stalked, filmed children at water park

New Zealand national used videos to satisfy his own sexual urges

Allison Baden-Clay would want you to show kindness

The late Allison Baden-Clay.

Day honours the late Allison Baden-Clay

Patient stable after shed fire at Eastern Heights

photo Lea Emery / Fraser Coast Chronicle

Emergency crews were called to the site shortly after 2am

Latest deals and offers

Lindsay Lohan 'calls off engagement'

Lohan reportedly called off her engagement to Russian millionaire

Rob Kardashian 'neglected' by Blac Chyna

Friends say they are now 'back in love'

Isla Fisher: I don't like talking about my private life

Isla Fisher shut down TV hosts when they asked about her husband

Mariah Carey: I 'can't believe' Prince has gone

'Prince was one of the best people I've met'

Joe Jonas' 'tough' pals

Joe Jonas' pals are 'tough' with his potential partners

Australia Post to open at Orion

Australia Post.

Service to open to customers in late August

Town with 'unique country flair' will be ruined: resident

Jonathan Emms of Rosewood is concerned about a proposed townhouse development for this John Street block of land.

Residents concerned by high density development proposal

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

72-year-old Coast developer set to start new project

GREEN LIGHT: The Cosmopolitan has been approved for development at Cotton Tree.

Meet the Canberran set to deliver another chapter for Coast suburb