There's a saying 'if you want to keep your kids out of trouble, get them into horses because they won't have the money to get into any trouble' and while horses are a blessing, caring for them can be a curse sometimes.
Which is where Helping Horses Heal, a newly registered local non-profit dedicated to the health and welfare of crippled, injured and abandon equines comes in, offering long term care, advanced hoof care technologies, and physical therapy with farrier Ron Arnett and life-long equestrian Dee Lambert spearheading the organization.
“Lower limb lameness in horses is the leading cause of equine retirement and in many cases euthanasia,” Ron said Nov. 8. “The unfortunate part is that in many cases, advanced modern hoof care techniques can save the animal and return it to pain free and productive life.”
Ron has been working with horses on a professional level since 1981, as a farrier and remote wilderness guide for 25 years before shifting his career into the specialized fields of equine podiatry and kinesiology.
“It takes time, commitment and an acute understanding of the biomechanics and musculoskeletal system but with an anatomically correct approach, the outcome can be nothing short of miraculous,” he said.
He has been working under the company name Rafter J Specialized Hoof Care, named in honour of his grandfather Jack Wulff, and handles up to 3,000 horses a year providing his specialized services to lame and disabled horses across three provinces and the Yukon.
“I met Dee in the mid-summer of 2014 at which time I took over the responsibility of Dee’s horse’s hoof care needs,” said Ron. “Since, we have forged a wonderful friendship surrounding our shared passion for horses.”
Dee has spent her entire life with horses and has vast valuable information when it comes to breeding, showing, and training horses, not to mention her decades of experience dealing with horses and open wounds.
In May 2020 while donating his services to an animal rescue in the Peace River Country, Ron discovered a middle-aged Arabian mare whose feet were in critical condition.
“The mare required immediate acute care in order to save her life as the internal bone structure in both her hind hoof capsules was visible through huge holes left by rotting and detaching sole,” he said.
Instead of calling the veterinarian to euthanize the horse he elected to adopt both her and the Welsh pony she was being penned with and immediately contacted Dee telling her of his horrific discovery.
“After 40 years of horses, I’ve seen my share of things happen and certainly seen my share of wounds and when it comes to acute care of open wounds, I find Dee’s experience and knowledge invaluable,” said Ron, knew if I was going to help the mare recover, I needed the best help possible, so I contacted the most experienced person I knew.”
Dee happily opened her barn to the mare so she could be nearby and kept indoors. Although they didn’t know it at the time, that’s exactly where it began; their partnership in the goal to help as many horses heal as they could.
“Together we worked to stabilize the mare and help her begin her slow and precarious road to recovery,” he said. “Her feet were trimmed using advanced hoof care technologies and then wrapped twice daily. The only dressing used the entire time was unpasteurized honey and today, some seventeen months later Hope, as she is now named, has seen a complete recovery, and has managed to completely regrow a solid hoof capsule.”
At the time Ron made several posts on his business Facebook page about Hope, her situation and recovery and within a few days another owner of an acutely lame horse made contact.
“Things took off at that point as horse owners reached out from across northern Alberta seeking help with acute lameness and long-term wound care,” said Ron.
And if the owner must surrender the animal, they are taken in at no charge. If the horse is to be returned, the group asks for some sort of aid to offset the cost, from money to feed to medicine, all are welcome as Ron and Dee work to help the horse heal.
“It’s for the love of the horse, not for any type of profit and with COVID having such a significant impact on people’s incomes it just doesn’t seem fair to make
specialized health care unaffordable and unobtainable for injured horses,” said Ron.
Through the summer and fall months of 2020 Ron and Dee helped eleven horses on their road to recovery, several of which required adoption to offer the proper care.
“The idea of forming Helping Horses Heal soon developed and Dee took up the task of creating the society while I undertook the task of planning and developing a 110-acre equine refuge and rehabilitation centre,” he said.
Now there are over 30 equines of different types and sizes being cared for at the refuge, each one of them with their own story and needs. They receive twice daily care and are kept in a tranquil wilderness setting with plenty of room to relax and just be a horse.
“It's all for the love of the horse.”
To donate, or to receive help with your equine, you can contact Helping Horses Heal through their Facebook page of the same name or their website, a work in progress at https://helpinghorsesheal.com. They are always looking for donations of feed.