Shelley Grainger is a responsible horse owner.
That’s not as common as you may think.
“Based on their treatment of horses, some people should not be owners,” she said. For instance, in Canada more than 1,700 horses are killed every week for overseas horse meat markets. Grainger is adamant that this is an unacceptable solution for unwanted horses.
A lead administrator at Compuware’s suburban Toronto office, Grainger has found her purpose in life in promoting horse welfare. She works with The Responsible Animal Care Society, a nonprofit charity dedicated to the kind and compassionate treatment of all living beings. In addition to hands-on rescue work and crisis intervention, the organization actively promotes public awareness in areas where animals are exploited for profit, abused or denied natural conditions.
Grainger spends 30 hours a month doing volunteer work for the charity in the Ontario horse community. An important part of her work is to attend equine fairs to help educate people about the responsibilities of horse ownership.
“I remind people that horse ownership is a long-term commitment,” she said. “Horses can live up to 30 years. For owners who don’t plan to keep a horse beyond five or even 10 years, they should plan for a safe transition for the animal after their ownership. They should network through people they know in the horse community or with a horse rescue. Otherwise, horses eventually can be sold through rural auctions to horse dealers whose only business is to fill their contracts with the slaughter plants that supply horse meat to Europe and Asia.”
The danger of horses falling into the hands of horse dealers also means that the industry needs to change its thinking about responsible breeding of the animals.
“It is known in horse circles that some breeders feel they have to breed 20 horses to get one great one,” Grainger said. It only means that another horse born may eventually end up at an auction where the only buyer will be a horse dealer. “This ‘disposable’ mentality should no longer be acceptable. There are many wonderful horses available to buy or adopt without becoming responsible for increasing an already adequate horse population.”
One of Grainger’s favorite sayings is: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
“To me, that encapsulates what I feel,” she said. “Just because things are the way they are, especially when you know it’s not right, doesn’t mean it’s the way it has to be. Work for what you know is right, even if that means trying to create a new way of thinking or a cultural shift.”
Although a cultural shift has begun to take place, Grainger said there’s more work to be done.
“Horse federations and industry must plan for the lifetime of the horse, and promote this way of thinking. They need to provide funding for after-career care and enhance adoption programs for horses,” she said.
She added: “I know we all have to have purpose in our lives. I’m very fortunate to have found my cause.”
Grainger, of course, plans to keep her 14-year-old horse “Riva” for her lifetime and will not be breeding her. She’s living the new way of thinking that all horse owners would do well to adopt.