Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From Rescue to "Champion of the Day"

By Paula J. Owen CORRESPONDENT Worchester

Julia P. Connell and Monzelle go over a jump at Cornerstone Ranch.

PRINCETON — Monzelle, a spirited, young horse, was headed to slaughter before being rescued and went on to take the highest post in a horse show at the Cornerstone Ranch just three days after arriving at his new home.

The fate of thousands of horses each year — deemed worthless for a variety of reasons by their owners — is heading to auction where they most likely will be sold for slaughter using practices considered inhumane by many rescue organizations and animal groups.

Lucky for 5-year-old Monzelle, volunteers at Another Chance 4 Horses Inc., headquartered in Pennsylvania, spotted him and began working on finding him a home. For more than a decade, the nonprofit organization has been rescuing horses that are often slaughtered for their flesh and shipped overseas for sushi and steaks — their meat considered a delicacy. Some are racing thoroughbreds that run a few seconds too slow — a shortcoming that makes them almost worthless to their owners barring a few hundred dollars from a middleman who will take them to auction to be sold for meat.

Monzelle's life, however, would be spared, eventually getting matched with a family that would love him and find him useful. where he would be useful and loved at the Cornerstone Ranch.

Another Chance 4 Horses searched for weeks for a home for Monzelle, said Cornerstone Ranch owner Susan E. Connell, until she and her daughters saw him on the organization's Web site.

Little was known about the horse other than he was a “good mover” and had rearing issues, she said. That did not deter or alarm Mrs. Connell in the least. A determined, compassionate woman who founded the Worcester County Riders Association, she puts “problem” horses on a 60- to 90-day plan at the ranch and does not give up until they can be ridden successfully and safely by her children and students.

“I grew up in Holden where my dad was a horse trainer,” she explained. “Growing up we always wanted to work with horses that had issues and then we would sell them as horses for children. That kind of broke my heart so I vowed I wouldn't do that to my kids. We keep them all.”

Keeping them all has added up to a dozen horses at the 24-acre ranch in less than 10 years.

Several have come from an auction in Agawam, she said, where people who can't find homes for their horses take them.

“I don't go there directly,” Mrs. Connell said with a big smile. “I would be dangerous there with a horse trailer. I would be divorced.”

The horses the Connells have taken in would have had grim futures otherwise, Mrs. Connell said. At the Cornerstone Ranch, she and her daughters Julia P. Connell, 11, and Mary J. Connell, 13, work with the rescued horses and turn them around for use in riding lessons and shows at the ranch. Both girls have been riding since they were 2.

Julia Connell and Monzelle have hit it off since he arrived three weeks ago.

“It makes me sad to know people slaughter them,” she said. “I love horses and love to be around them. It's hard to believe such a beautiful horse like Monzelle could have been slaughtered.”

Before Monzelle, she was riding a 10-year-old Appaloosa named Ginger who she described as a great lesson horse, but not-so-great show horse. Though Ginger is still her favorite, she said, she loves Monzelle's “show-ability.”

“I wanted to take a step up because there was only so much I could do with Ginger,” Julia said. “Me and mom were looking for other horses from riding stables on the Internet and we found Monzelle in Pennsylvania. He was a really good price — only $25.”

She said she was a little nervous owed to Monzelle's rearing issue, but wanted to help the horse.

“I was nervous, but still wanted to get him so I could help him,” she explained. “Mom rode him for a couple of days before I did. Then my older sister rode him and then I tried. He never reared with me.”

Three days after she got him, she and Monzelle took “Champion of the Day” in a show at the ranch — the best you can do in a horse show, she said.

“He didn't rear with me, either,” said Mary Connell of her experience with Monzelle. “He only rears with mom because she pushes him.”

Mary Connell said it saddens her when she knows a horse may be slaughtered owed to issues it may have from a possible abusive owner. She said people should educate themselves before getting a horse to make training it easier.

“I think it is people not knowing what they are doing,” she said. “They don't know any better. It's really an awesome feeling when we are able to help a horse. You get this really good feeling when you know the horse has a good home and you rescued it from being slaughtered.”

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