So today is Mother’s Day – at least in Australia and the US. It has other dates around the world, March in the UK, November in Russia, but for us, waking up in the southern hemisphere, the second Sunday in May is the date that is nominated as the day we celebrate ‘mothering’.
Now, mothering is itself, particularly in these days of non-traditional families, a bit of a flexible notion, and for me Mother’s Day is an honouring, not just of our literal mothers, but of everybody in the world who ‘mothers’ in whatever shape or form. Of course this extends out beyond human mothering as well, to the unconditional love that warm-blooded mammals offer to their young, and even, sometimes, to different species or to offspring not their own.
I would like to honour some very special mothers today – the first of those being Amanda Vella, the powerful and extraordinary woman whose vision of ‘helping’ horses began when she was as young as five-years-old. Her lifelong commitment, passion and dedication saw, as we all know, the establishment of Save a Horse Australia, which has been responsible for saving 1500 horse lives. Amanda, and our wonderful foster-carer Jennifer Malloch, a mother and now grand-mother herself, who has nurtured many of SAHA’s babies, have rescued and rehabilitated so many horses that being a ‘mother’ to the horses is really the only correct way to describe the continuous commitment Amanda and Jen have to the importance of horse lives and the value they have placed on those horses who would otherwise have been discarded and lost.
One of the more contentious issues in horse rescue is, of course, the question of horse racing. But often the dark side of racing, the wastage, the break-downs and the lack of post-race career options for horses, is balanced by the most extraordinary people – trainers, owners, jockeys and strappers – who endeavour to do their very best by their horses.
One of those women is long-time dedicated SAHA supporter, Karin McNab, whose careful nurturing of her young ones has meant that her most recent winning mare, Thieving Minx, had only had three starts by the age of four, and a win just a few weeks ago. Not only does Karin make sure that all her horses retire to wonderful homes when they have finished their race careers, but her winnings are donated to horse charities, with SAHA often being a lucky recipient.
“Thieving Minx has already helped save four other horses,” Karin told me recently, “and for me to able to look after, nuture and gently bring along my horses and then have them help save other horses is a wonderful circle of life.”
In the best of all possible worlds, with tighter breeding regulations, and racing itself paying for post racing care, we would see many more beautiful off the track thoroughbreds re-homed, and many less with a one-way ticket to the saleyards. My son and I have personally rehabilitated six off the track horses, several of which were rescues, and he continues that work today. When another career manifests for these magnificent animals, you see them in all forms of equestrian disciplines, living lives as everything from pleasure or trail-riding horses, to competing in the Olympics. We are very lucky to have supporters like Karin, who are also active in the racing welfare movement, which is obviously something about which SAHA cares deeply.
For many of the mares, particularly the successful ones, motherhood beckons, but sometimes, as with our beautiful Pluto, that journey can go wrong, and Pluto who had retired from racing to become a broodmare, lost her foal, just at the same time that little Memphis, a baby Clydesdale who could not feed from his mother, came into SAHA’s care. Memphis had to have blood transfusions, and began to successfully drink from a bucket, and even though he was unable to feed from Pluto, she became his foster ‘mum’. Later once Memphis was older, she took on the job of ‘nanny’ mare again, with the lovely Freddie, also now successfully adopted. At this time Pluto and Rupert are just beginning a friendship, so that the horse ‘mum’, can teach the baby horse his manners.
What I’ve discovered over a lifetime with horses is that often there is a strange synchronicity attached to the outcomes of rescues and rehabilitation, and that it seems to me that even the horses themselves can be involved in some universal level on creating an outcome for themselves. (Watch the wonderful Harry and the Snowman if you are in any doubt about that.)
Well, recently such synchronicity happened with Pluto and our very first official corporate sponsor, Mystic Medusa. Mystic, known to me for many years, wanted to sponsor a horse – but a horse with an, if you like, inter-galactic twist! Enter Pluto, whose race-name was Cosmic Wanderer. A perfect pairing if ever there was one, and so we are delighted to welcome Mystic to the SAHA family. No doubt she’ll be keeping a close eye out on Pluto’s planetary alignments. You can read about Mystic here: https://mysticmedusa.com/2017/05/horse-named-pluto/
In a way what I saw in this was once more different ways of mothering – from horse to human, from Jen Malloch’s hand-on day-to-day care of horses, to a universal notion of support for our beloved four-legged friends, because, of course, financial support as all of you know is the life-blood of any charity.
(In fact what I see now from my connection with SAHA is mothering of the horses, of the charity of each other, happening every day, and I would like to personally say a huge thank-you to Rachel Daniels, Helen Hayes and Amanda Arnell-Smith – and to all our wonderful staff, foster carers, and volunteers for their commitment to SAHA and the horses.)
To talk, just for a minute of my personal journey with learning about horse mothering – one of the greatest moments of my life was watching my beautiful Palomino mare give birth to her paint foal. It was quick, and easy and uncomplicated. He was born in November, (a little Sagittarius) between some massive electrical storms, and so as soon as his four little hooves were on the ground, he was named – Storm. Within 10 minutes he was staggering around, getting his first cuddles from my young daughter and her friend and drinking from his Mum who took it all in her placid Quarter Horse stride, while his older half-sister looked on over the fence with great interest. Watching Stormy grow, teaching him to lead, to float, to lunge, to take a saddle and bridle, to starting him ourselves, and finding him a brilliant home, was a deeply personal horse journey for me that I will never forget. Glimmer’s care of her baby was an unfolding delight, and the way she combined love with gentle correction, a stellar example of mothering.
Of course, there’s our human children too – whether they are our personal children, or step-children, or other people’s children. It really doesn’t matter. I love these words Karin McNab posted recently (and if someone can find their source I’d be interested to know):
What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want you. I want you to keep coming around, I want you to bring your kids around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help. I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries, your kids, your fur babies. I want you to continue sharing your life with me. Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me, I don’t care. Hearing you laugh is music to me.
I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work.
Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I want you to spend your money making a better life for you and your family, I have the things I need. I want to see you happy and healthy. When you ask me what I want for Mother’s Day, I say “nothing” because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. I want you.
Although to be brutally honest, I wouldn’t mind the occasional gift as well! Maybe a Horseland voucher 🙂
Which also reminds me – don’t forget to enter our wonderful raffle with prizes donated by Horseland Underwood. saveahorse.org.au/event/horseland-raffle/
At the moment we are also running an urgent fundraiser to keep us on top of the massive costs of caring for 115 horses, running three sanctuaries (two from the end of May), paying staff and looking after our equipment and machinery. If you’d like to donate to this week’s fundraiser this is the link:
or you can SMS donations. To donate $5 or more simply text the word HELP to 0459 114411
In the meantime, whatever mothering means to you please do have a wonderful day.
If you are interested in coming on board with us as a corporate sponsor, to have your logo on our website and be advertised on our Facebook page, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help you help the horses!
Candida Baker – President