A Safe Haven for Horses

A Safe Haven for Horses

By Kathryn Finegan Clark

Rescuing a horse from slaughter and finding a good home for the animal is actually what she lives for. It’s also a happy ending, although a bit different, from a wish she had as a child – a pony.

Now Laurie Wuchter and her husband, Dan, who shares an enduring passion for horses and ponies, own Chincoteague ponies named Apple Jack and Brownie, and a constantly changing family of horses the couple has saved from slaughter. That’s in addition to the nine they have placed in good homes – their “forever homes,” as Laurie calls them. Their horses have varying backgrounds – one purchased from an Amish boy at auction, a pair of old horses who once pulled wagons, a handsome thoroughbred that won $145,000. When an injury forced an end to its racing days, its owner “just threw it away,” Laurie said.

Sad stories all, but that’s where the Wuchters step in. They own and operate Mountainview Horse Rescue Safe Sanctuary in Lynn Township, Lehigh County.

Near New Tripoli in sight of the Blue Mountains, it’s a non-profit rescue dedicated to preventing the inhumane slaughter of abused, neglected and unwanted horses. Its green pastures offer a place for the animals to be fed and cared for and loved until new homes can be found for them.

Laurie’s dreams took root when she was growing up in North Carolina and her older sister owned a horse. Laurie wanted a pony and year after year the word “pony” topped her Christmas list. When she was only 10, she worked with ponies at local carnivals and fell in love with them – a love that still burns bright. She didn’t get her pony then, but she got Chad, her first horse, when she was 15.

Laurie spent her teen-age summers and weekends at a horse farm cleaning 80 stalls in exchange for Chad’s board. “I watered the horses, I fed them, I let them loose and I brought them in. I loved every minute of it,” she said.

Laurie and Dan founded the sanctuary in 2011 because of that rare love and respect for an amazing animal. Her heart was broken when she discovered every 10 seconds in the United States, an animal is beaten or abused.  She and Dan decided to do something about it. She said, “Last year more than 170,000 horses were taken to slaughter for human consumption in other countries. Keep in mind these horses did not feed the starving or hungry of the world. Their meat is sold at top prices and served as a delicacy.”

Her heart was broken when she discovered every 10 seconds in the United States, an animal is beaten or abused. She and Dan decided to do something about it.

Most of the horses are trucked to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada. “The transport and actual slaughter are both so inhumane,” she said. The horses are hauled to their fates in double-decker trucks where their heads bang against the sides of the metal stalls. They are neither fed nor given water during a trip that can last eight or nine days.

Laurie said she was appalled to discover the horses are put to death with a captive-bolt pistol which shoots a steel bolt into their brains. It then retracts and resets to be used on the next animal, but often it only stuns the animal, which may be eviscerated while still alive.

“I understand that in my lifetime this is not something one person like my husband or myself can stop. We have the ability only to rescue a few at this time. My mission is to raise awareness and someday ultimately this inhumane transport and slaughter must stop. The horses haven’t the voice… we have to speak out for them.”

That’s why Dan gets up at 5 o’clock every morning to feed and water the horses at the sanctuary before he drives to work at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Allentown and why when Laurie is not working there she frequents horse auctions hoping to outbid meat buyers for animals she believes she can save.

Laurie said at auctions the gavel drops at various prices, some a few hundred dollars, some less. “I’ve seen an entire yard filled with horses selling for $60 each. They’re so pitiful, so sad. Many of them are bruised and scarred or half-starved with their ribs sticking out. They have such sad eyes.”

One of her big triumphs was a horse she named Noel who became a little girl’s Christmas present. Laurie and Dan have named all the horses and have posted photographs and stories about each on their website, mtviewhorserescue.com. “We even named one Tom Reilly after our lawyer,” said Dan. The Wuchters are very close to the horses and find that sending an animal off to a new home leaves them with mixed emotions. They’re happy they’ve found a good home but they’re sad to see them go.

So far, Dan and Laurie who own D & L Concessions, which operates the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market, have provided all of the funding for the sanctuary but the financial burden has become heavy.

Veterinary bills, medications, farrier bills and feed burn up the cash quickly. “Hay alone costs $4.50 a bale and we go through eight or nine in a day,” said Dan. The Wuchters have applied for non-profit status for the sanctuary and are awaiting the final paperwork. When that comes through they can begin accepting donations and staging fund-raisers, such as barn dances at the farm, a perfect setting for that type of event. “I want people to come and see the horses and get to know them,” Laurie said.

In addition to the acreage they own they lease pastureland and farm buildings on other parcels. The horses have plenty of room to graze and run and there’s a ring for exercising and training.

Training can be a special challenge, Laurie said. Abused animals, often have trust issues, but Laurie was glowing the day of the interview because that morning one of her troubled charges had actually approached her. It was the first time the horse had done that and it represented a milestone in the rehab process.

So far, Dan and Laurie have handled all the work at the sanctuary with the help of a driver and a single volunteer. Now, though, they need more volunteers to feed and groom the horses and others to mend fences and perform other maintenance chores.

Those wanting to help may contact the Wuchters at the sanctuary, 4808 Winding Road, New Tripoli or telephone Laurie at 610.217.2535.

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