B.C. Interior Horse Rescue Society (BCIHRS)
By Amanda Batchelar
Down a winding road, around a crystal reservoir is a long, sandy laneway that leads to an old, wooden barn with a picture of a horse on the side. As I walk towards the barn, I am greeted by the nicker of a black, Arabian horse; his low, rumbling purr lets me know that he is pleased to see me. I reach over the wooden gate and scratch under his forelock. He nuzzles my hand and I caress his large, grey and white, speckled cheek, remembering a month ago when he arrived how his thin frame and chiseled, protruding bones were his only armour against the world, and how his frailty made me nervous. He was guarded then, reserved and cautious; daunted by change, tense and uncertain.
Today he is relaxed, almost tranquil, his body softened with a layer of fat and confidence, his complexion luminous in the rays of the Okanagan sunshine. While he’s a seasoned horse, his age is cleverly concealed by the mischievous sparkle in his eye and the vigor in his step. His name is Dancer, and he has been given a second chance at life.
The B.C. Interior Horse Rescue Society (BCIHRS) is a non-profit organization and a sanctuary for horses in need. Since 2009, our mission has remained clear and unwavering: To improve the lives of horses in BC through rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming programs and through a curriculum of horse husbandry education. True to our direction, the BCIHRS has helped over fifty horses find homes to suit their very exceptional needs and requirements. The BCIHRS is dependent on donations, volunteers, members and sponsors to continue this important work each and every day.
The central location that the horses call home is affectionately and aptly named “The Hub.” If one has never visited The Hub, it can be difficult to explain its benevolent climate and unwittingly cultivated atmosphere of acceptance, unity and peace. It’s a visceral, impassioned place that cannot truly be defined or labeled in just a few words. It is as much a site of transition and evolution as it is a steadfast and permanent home.
Upon the arrival of each and every new horse who graces the paddocks of The Hub, the primary challenge is to address their physical needs. The horses are often plagued with aggressive thrush in the hooves, joint problems, lameness, hunger and sometimes open wounds and infections. In order to provide the horses with the care that they need, we look to our community for financial and practical support.
Each horse is given an initial assessment, a care plan is then developed and carried out over the coming weeks and sometimes months or even years.
Aside from the physical concerns, our horses often carry extensive and profound emotional baggage. In order for rehabilitation to be truly successful, it is essential that those needs are also addressed. Quality time is spent getting to know each horse. Our volunteers make, at the very least, a six-month, one day per week commitment, so that the horses have a sense of stability and a consistency of care. New volunteers are always welcome at The Hub.
Much like human beings who have undergone tragedy, hardship, or change, horses carry their memories like road maps, each with highly scrutinized opinions of themselves and established perceptions of the world around them. If a horse has been abused, for example, he might have little self-confidence and expect further abuse. Sometimes a friend is all that is required for the healing process to begin. A kind word throughout the day, a walk up the laneway, a kiss on the muzzle.
Other times, emotional scars, much like physical, can form tough calluses that require patience, time, and understanding to heal. The horse left alone and neglected in a pasture, painfully overridden by neighbourhood children, learns how to accept love and finally find peace. The ex-racing horse whose career has ended due to lameness, struggles to find his new purpose in life. The pampered horse, accustomed to rigorous training and constant one-on-one time, whose owner sadly can no longer afford him, must learn how to be part of a herd and exist in a more natural environment. Our sponsorship program aims to assist those horses that need extra tender, loving care to succeed. Drawing a new road map takes time.
The Arabian named Dancer is currently in need of a home. Dancer is a gelding in his late twenties or early thirties, and was surrendered in the spring of 2014. He was quite underweight when he arrived but is steadily improving. Recent dental work has revealed that Dancer is missing quite a few teeth and cannot properly chew and digest hay. Therefore, he requires soaked concentrates and supplements twice daily.
Dancer is otherwise a very sound and happy fellow (if not a bit cheeky), and would be a perfect companion or light riding horse. Inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the BCIHRS, we are not commissioned by anything other than a love for horses and a passion to help those in need. We do not receive payment for the work that we do in the form of money, but we are abundantly awarded with gratitude. We are reliant on the community of Kelowna and surrounding areas as its venerable trees whose roots extend deeply into the earth. We are always humbly accepting assistance in the form of members, volunteers, monetary donations, used tack donations and sponsorship. The caring people of our community are our root system. We do what we do, always, for the love of horses.
For more information on the society, please visit our website – bcihrs.ca.