Two retired racehorses are finding that the grass really is greener on the other side, having been adopted by Dreamcatcher Meadows.
The multi-award-winning Pemberton-based dressage stable owned by John Dingle and Jill Giese brought the thoroughbred mares, which previously ran in Hastings Park in Vancouver, to their ranch on May 14.
Giese said the pair would be integrated into their surrogacy-breeding program, carrying embryos from their champion competition Hanoverian dressage mares.
The thoroughbreds carry a dressage embryo on average every other year, and Giese said they would live out their lives at Dreamcatcher Meadows in conditions far less stressful than had they remained in racing.
Other horses they've rescued are used as "schoolmasters," to train riders, she said, because they have calm temperaments for new riders and are well enough to carry riders.
"When you bring any animal into the world, whether it's a litter of kittens, puppies, whatever, you need to be responsible," Giese said.
"Some of the horses, I've discovered once I've done my research, were once champions. It's heartbreaking when they have given so much that they've been put on the scrapheap. It's shocking; it's the Black Beauty story. Most just are physically unable due to injury to continue in racing but sadly there is no one that wants an unrideable horse."
One of their rescued animals is a descendant of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew in 1977 and Secretariat in 1973.
Giese said that in their own breeding programs they ask themselves, "is there going to be a home for what we're creating?"
She said they were expecting another horse soon to arrive from New York State and they could take dozens if money was no object, the need being that great.
People have abandoned animals at races and meet events, Giese said, and they had been warned by other competitors to lock their horse trailers at riding events after some owners returned to their trailers only to find an abandoned horse inside it.
Nicole Berthelot, Dreamcatcher Meadow's breeding herd manager, has been caring for the two former racehorses since they arrived in the Pemberton Valley. One is a three-year-old mare with a leg injury and the other a five-year-old that was "too old and not winning anymore."
She said: "In reality, a lot of these horses cannot be ridden again because of their injuries or because of psychological damage they've experienced. What we do here is take these mares from the track, bring them home and rehabilitate them so they get fitter again."
She described Dreamcatcher Meadows' breeding program as a win-win situation because the rescue mares have a new life while also carrying implanted Hanoverian embryos, which will allow their champion dressage mares to carry on competing and not be removed from events for a year or longer.
"And they are such wonderful, calm animals. We're really happy to be able to give them a second chance." Berthelot said, scratching the nearest on the neck.
Ballerina DMV, one of Dreamcatcher Meadows' champions that is owned by Earls Restaurants founder Bus Fuller, was recently confirmed as having the highest-ever median score for any Hanoverian in all age categories and levels at 88.5 per cent. Her first foal was born from a rescue horse surrogate in March.
If Ballerina carried the embryo to term herself, she could be out of competition for over a year.
Horse rescue organization New Horizon Thoroughbred Foundation (ottb.org) has been operating for a year; this is the first time the Chilliwack-based non-profit has found horses for Dreamcatcher Meadows.
Organizer Marion Khule said while fewer horses were now being bred, there was still a great need to place those no longer considered useful by the racing industry.
"We are looking for good homes for horses. We do follow ups to make sure they go to a good home and we match the horses to the people," Khule said, adding they had found homes for five in recent weeks. "They're not breeding as many racehorses as they used to but there are many available."
Khule said they hoped to have a presence at Dreamcatcher Meadows, as competitors bike past the ranch during Ironman Canada on August 25, telling attendees about their work and about horses available for adoption.
Giese said they were looking for up to four other mares with the temperament, health and other qualities needed to be part of their breeding program. They don't have to be thoroughbreds, she added.
Meanwhile, Dreamcatcher Meadows is having their annual Hanoverian inspection by the breed's head organization, the Hannoveraner Verband from Verden, Germany on July 29. Giese said they would like it to be an open day and is inviting members of the community who want to see their horses and learn more about dressage.
Due to insurance requirements, names of those intending to come must be taken and Giese wants anyone interested to get in touch via their Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/DreamcatcherMeadows