“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” – Dalai Lama
I can’t quite wrap my head around how anyone could intentionally hurt another being … ESPECIALLY a harmless, helpless one. I ask myself how this could be more frequently than I’d like to, but the fact remains that it still happens. Chances are good that we almost always can’t prevent the abuse from occurring, but we can help those who have been neglected and have suffered and learn from those who have survived.
Nothing fascinates me – or quite puts things into perspective for me – as spending time with another being who has struggled and still persists; it’s humbling and inspiring. Up until now, it’s been other humans who have had this effect on me. I’ve come to realize that this response can come just as easily from animals, too.
My mom stumbled upon a beautiful farm on the way back from my niece’s ballet recital at Ramapo College in Mahwah a few weeks ago, and just as my mom would, she pulled right over and started asking questions. She made an appointment for a tour, as required (they ask for a donation in exchange), and brought us all back with her on a recent, beautiful, sunny Sunday. One of the Bergen County Horse Rescue’s volunteers, Karen (who has been around horses her whole life), walked us around the grounds and enticed some of the horses with peppermints so we could meet them and get a closer look. She told us how quickly time passes there when she volunteers at the BCHR.
We learned so many fascinating things about these beautiful animals during our tour of the grounds. One of the things Karen said that struck me the most was that the volunteers often make assumptions on what a horse’s upbringing was like based on how they interact with other humans and animals. Some don’t react well to men and these horses below in particular were visibly excited to see the kids coming, leading the volunteers to believe they must have been around children often in their “past lives”.
The rescue, founded in 2016, is currently at their maximum capacity; it houses 23 horses … and even a donkey and some goats. These animals have been rescued from all over the country from neglect, abuse, being euthanized or sold to become horse meat (they’ve had to outbid proprietors). At the BCHR, the horses receive love and comfort from other humans and can mingle peacefully on the 17 acres of farmland with other horses.
Most of the horses on the farm belong to the rescue, but some belong to individuals who fund their maintenance. Since the rescue is run with donations and volunteerism, money is needed to pay for their care, and supplies are also greatly appreciated. Last year, all but one of the horses suffered from the flu and the veterinary expenses were astronomical. The goal of the rescue is to rehabilitate the horses (this includes earning their trust) and get them ready for adoption. This is in no way a quick or easy process; it takes a lot of time, work and patience.
So, what can we learn from a horse who has struggled and managed to survive? There is an undeniable unspoken peacefulness that comes from looking into their eyes, but If these horses were able to talk, I think they’d tell us:
1. Everyone … and everything … deserves a second chance.
2. When we care for others, we are helping ourselves the most.
3. Don’t ever give up hope.
While it’s difficult to imagine how someone could harm an animal, our trip to the BCHR was a more meaningful reminder to me about how wonderful people can be. There are currently 30 volunteers that give their time to the rescue and care for these animals so that they can have another chance at life. It’s definitely not glamorous by any means, but certainly gratifying, to say the least.
The Bergen County Horse Rescue operates on donations and volunteerism. Consider a trip solo, with your family, Daisy troop … whatever … just get there! I promise that you won’t regret going. In fact, you’ll be better for making the trip. Our family will certainly be back.
Have you ever visited somewhere and left better? Some places speak to our souls and leave significant imprints on our hearts. The BCHR was certainly one of those places for me … what special place has had an everlasting effect on you? Tell me in the comments below.
P.S. Want to learn more about the Bergen County Horse Rescue, including ways in which you can help? For more information on the BCHR, visit their website. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.