While the Bureau of Land Management considers euthanasia the only option for horses or burros with infirmities – dubbed as an “act of mercy” even when the condition is non-life threatening – Carol Johnson, founder of End of the Road Ranch Horse Rescue in Silver City, has a totally different perspective. Instead, she opts to perform deeds of compassion and her tremendous success speaks for itself when you visit the ranch and encounter nothing but serenity among the horses and burros who have been given the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe and loving environment.
Like many girls, Carol loved horses at an early age – a passion that did not wane with age. Instead, it grew stronger as she dreamed of someday being able to provide a haven for horses and burros in peril. in 2005 her dream become a reality; compelled by the plight of PMU (pregnant mare urine) mares – female horses kept in a constant state of pregnancy to produce the estrogen rich urine needed for hormone replacement drugs such as Premarin – and their foals. When no longer able to conceive the mares were routinely sent to slaughter along with the unwanted foals. Determined to provide refuge for these horses and other at-risk equines, End of the Road Ranch Rescue was conceived.
Today, one of the original PMU mares and two foals rescued still call the ranch home along with 29 other horses and a burro. Each one has a unique story, but all share the same common bond of previously being unwanted.
Most horses at End of the Road Ranch are obtained from the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) after being seized, due to neglect or abuse, or found abandoned. The ranch is one of 11 rescues inspected and licensed by the NMLB to provide sanctuary and care for these horses who might otherwise have been auctioned off at a sale barn. They typically arrive with physical and mental challenges, emaciated or terrified of people, and require strict personalized regimes to help them regain their health and confidence.
Elderly horses are provided with the proper nutrition and supplements. Those with severe tooth loss are prepared special diets. Arthritis is treated with beneficial medications and those suffering from blindness are placed with a buddy and monitored. Time and patience helps abused horses overcome their mistrust and training is tailored to the horses’ needs by local “gentle tamer,” Pat Buls. Although these requirements vary there is one remedy that is universal in the long and challenging road to recovery – never-ending fortitude and kindness.
It is also important to remember that neglect comes in many forms, and at times it is unintentional and often stems from lack of knowledge. Some horses are taken in after the passing of their longtime owner while others are surrendered by individuals who, due to financial or physical hardships, can no longer care for them properly. These instances can be avoided by making the proper arrangements in advance or reaching out for assistance to prevent the animal from ultimately becoming “unwanted” and in need of rescue.
With a perpetual commitment to the horses, and the support of their local community, End of the Road Ranch Rescue, will never stop with their mission to care for their current residents and maintain the ability to provide a safety net for other horses and burros at risk. While there is always a need for help with the daily fundamental chores, the ranch’s greatest wish is for more volunteers to spend time with the horses providing the interaction and love that is so instrumental in the healing process. With the desire, and some basic training and education on proper care and natural horsemanship practices, almost anyone can perform these tasks where both the animal and the provider benefit enormously. If volunteering is not possible, you could consider sponsoring a horse or burro of your choice or donating to help defer feed, veterinarian and farrier costs. And, there is always the possibility of providing a forever home for those horses that have been rehabilitated and are ready to be rehomed.
We, as kind human beings, know the options available to help animals in need are endless.
If you would like to visit the ranch please contact Carol at 575-313-5714 or Endoftheroadranchrescue@gmail.com. Address: End of the Road Ranch Horse Rescue, PO Box 370, Silver City, NM 88062. For emergency feed assistance contact: Animal Protection of New Mexico, 505-803-3770; epf@apnm.
Laurie Ford lives near Glenwood in Catron count. Photography and horses have always been her passion. For the past several years she has been travelling around the west, camping in wild horse areas to observe and photograph the animals in their natural environment.