BENTON CITY, Washington. – An Eastern Washington woman saves orphaned horses out of the kindness of her heart. His selfless actions bring to light a larger problem regarding a growing feral horse population in the state, as well as the impending effects of inflation on current horse owners.
The passion for horses has become a vocation for Suzanne Thomas. She has dedicated her life to giving young colts like Ginger their chance at life.
“I’m doing this because I couldn’t say no, I couldn’t turn my back on them,” Thomas said.
She rehabilitates feral orphan horses rescued from reservations like Yakima, Colville and White Swan. Thomas takes care of the foals at home sugar shack horses rescue in Benton City. Most foals arrive at Thomas malnourished, injured and clinging to life. It is his delicate care that gives them a chance of survival.
“These guys, they have a future. Even though they’re orphans right now, and it’s sad, and they come here and they’re sad. By the time they leave, they’re happy babies and babies healthy,” Thomas said.
She began rescuing wild orphan horses in March 2022. So far, Thomas has had around 30 babies who look to her for motherly comfort during their healing period.
The foals were separated from their feral horse families in central and eastern Washington, where officials said the feral horse population was getting too large. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls the feral horse population on state lands through sterilization injections. However, Reservations does not have the resources to make this process work. So they resort to dubious methods to round up the horses themselves. This often ends with foals falling behind their mothers – injured and lost from the herd.
“The worst thing about babies being rounded up is sometimes when they get caught, they get tied up and tied down, and they can be left tied up for a considerable amount of time until they go back into a trailer,” said Thomas. .
Horses that are rounded up are either sold at auction or sent to a feedlot for possible slaughter. For some orphans, they are bought by horse dealers who contact people like Thomas to rehabilitate them. She makes sure they have veterinary checkups and are fed regularly. The only thing is that Thomas is not paid for his work.
“I pick them up, and it’s on an IOU. He sets the prices, they come here and get the love and care they need. And then when they get a house, he gets his money” , said Thomas, referring to his partnership with a horse dealer.
While earning money would support her efforts, Thomas said that’s not why she’s doing this kind of rescue. She said she had time to invest herself in this labor of love, helping helpless animals get a fresh start. Much of what Thomas does to his rescue relies on donations. This money helps fund milk, blankets, feeders and other tools needed for the job. sugar shack horses accepts donations to support the cause. Rescue can be reached by phone at 509-528-2471 or by email at [email protected].
In reference to the overall management of feral herds on federal lands, the BLM is seeking to invest millions more in its fertility control programs as part of its 2022 budget. In the meantime, Senator Diane Feinstein of California called on federal land managers to conduct a survey to determine how many feral horses captured on public lands in the western United States end up in slaughterhouses.
In situations like this, Thomas said she needs to keep her emotions in check for the young horses’ sake. She said it’s always infuriating when foals that once belonged to her are delivered to her rescue, sick and thin. She fears foals in similar conditions are a sign of the times, much like what she saw during the 2008 recession. With hay prices rising 100 per cent due to inflation, Ms Thomas said that ‘she expects more people to neglect their horses because they can’t afford to care for them.
“You’re going to see a massive amount of horses being dumped in the wild. And the domesticated horses, they don’t do well in the wild. They’re not going to join the herd. They’re beaten and torn apart by the stallions,” a said Thomas.
That’s why she’ll take all the orphans she has room for – to protect them and raise them to be good horses in their new forever homes. Almost all of the foals she has cared for have been adopted.
“It’s rewarding work. And I love the updated photos of those who pass through here. They’re doing great and thriving. It’s just awesome. And knowing they won’t end up in a massacre, it’s worth it,” says Thomas.
She also understands that not all foals can be saved, including a horse abandoned by its owner that she spent hours caring for, even sleeping in the same stable with him. As hard as they tried, Thomas said the vet said he was septic and had low brain function because he and his mother were starving at the hands of the previous owner.
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“I know it has a lot to do with the economy, high hay prices, people can’t afford it. If you can’t afford it, call a rescue or sell it, or do whatever is right by the horse before you starved him to death, because not only did mom starve to death last night, but so did the baby,” Thomas said, shedding tears.
There are other orphans who need a fresh start. This is what motivates Thomas to fulfill his calling.
“Little babies like that, that’s what drives me to do it,” Thomas said. “I’m still hopeful. I’ll never give up, I just won’t.”