If you think about a single problem long enough, and hard enough, you will eventually come up with a solution – often many solutions; some rational, some feasible and some completely outrageous. I have thought long and hard enough about the problem of the unwanted horses so I now have solutions that fall into rational, feasible and outrageous. I am not sure which category my latest idea falls into but it’s worth exploring regardless.
LANDFILLS. You might wonder what Landfills and equine rescue have in common. The current answer is nothing. Yet. I came to a fork in the trail on my morning mountain bike ride. Normally I would turn left, but today the morning sun and cool air inspired me to ask “I wonder what happens if I turn right?” After two hours of pedaling through overgrown trails, I learned the answer. “I get lost if I turn right.” After literally bush-wacking through the woods I came to a gigantic field of rolling hills and green grass. WOW. The kind of field that equestrians dream of – and probably horses and donkeys dream of too….
It was the landfill two miles from my house. As I made my way down the hill a familiar lightbulb went off…That crazy lightbulb that drives me to do crazy things: like start the Equine Rescue Network to save horses/donkeys from slaughter, or start MiniTherapy to use rescued the donkeys for disabled and veterans with PTSD, or pursue the Board of Directors at Atlas Air to get them to stop shipping horses to Japan for slaughter…
The Equine Rescue Network has learned that “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure”…. The horses we rescue have been discarded by the horse community the same way a bag of trash is discarded in a landfill. Yet the horses we save are convert from unwanted to wanted. Why can we not convert a vacant landfill of unwanted trash to a vibrant sanctuary for unwanted equines?
There are a plethora of examples of landfills repurposed for recreational use. For example:
- Tifft Nature Preserve is a 264 acre landfill three miles from downtown Buffalo that has been repurposed as a wildlife sanctuary and recreation park.
- The Miller Street Dump is home to 40,000 trees, shrubs, and vines from around the world and a lake filled with koi and turtles. The 64 acre landfill was cleaned up and naturalized to offer tourists and locals a stroll through Seattle’s Japanese Garden.
- Mount Trashmore Park attracts more than one million visitors per year. It is situated on top of mounds of compacted trash covered in clean soil since 1974. The park contains two playgrounds, lakes, and a world-famous, 24,000-square foot skate park.
- Mile High Stadium in Colorado which is the football stadium for the Denver Broncos was once a big pile of trash in a landfill.
- Columbia Point in Massachusetts, home of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum also sits on a landfill.
Why not add a few new scenic landfills to the list? I imagine an equine sanctuary as a peaceful hillside full of horses that deserve a soft landing. A place where owners can retire their horses locally. Horses of this sanctuary would also be retired lesson horses from community stables where they safely taught local children how to ride, care for horses and be compassionate towards animals. Or perhaps carriage horses from the nearby city that certainly earned green grass and open space in their elder years.
I imagine pathways of fence lines where local residents could visit the horses. Frying pans would allow residents to feed the horses grain that is stored in metal barrels (by putting grain in frying pans, horses don’t bite little fingers). There would be benches along the pathway, each dedicated to extraordinary horses worthy of recognition. And large run-in sheds to protect horses from the weather.
The nay-sayers of this crazy plan would argue that horses bring liability and responsibility. I will address both.
First Liability. Horses are considered livestock. As a result, most states have passed “Limited Liability Laws”written to provide owners and professionals with protection from lawsuits that may arise if an individual is injured from livestock. A sign must be posted and visitors are not allowed to enter the pastures for horses.
Second Responsibility. Taking care of a herd of horses in several large fields would require some oversight. There would be adequate shelter with run-in stalls, fields of green grass, and large water troughs available for drinking. However, it would require someone to visit the landfill sanctuary daily to clean manure, water troughs, feed hay in the winter months, and generally keep a watchful eye on the herd. This would be a perfect job for a U.S. Veteran. There are unemployed veterans in every community. The landfill sanctuary would mean there would be one less unemployed veteran in that community.
Not all horses are eligible. The landfill sanctuaries would offer a natural retirement for horses. That means horses that are accepted into the sanctuary are kept organically with the exception of maintenance (trimming, worming and vaccinations). Owners are required to fill out an application for any horse they wish to live at the sanctuary. Owners would pay a small fee per month to cover the cost of maintenance and pay a $400 end-of-life fee which would cover the cost of humane euthanasia and removal. When a horse appears significantly uncomfortable and at the end of their natural life, the decision would be made to humanely euthanize.
The U.S. has 3,091 active landfills and over 10,000 old municipal landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s reported that landfills cover roughly 560,000 acres. The life of a landfill is between 30 and 50 years. Once closed, the land may be reclaimed for other uses like recreation or equine sanctuaries.
There is a 127 acres of landfill, closed in 1974 within a half mile of my home. I am hoping some day that will be a peacefully resting place for deserving horses. Perhaps there is a landfill near you?