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A Matter of Heart and Hay

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This is not a story about menopause symptoms, hormone replacement therapy, the WHI study results in 2002 as to the benefits or lack therein on estrogen replacement, or the subsequent debates as to the positive or negative effects on women’s health.

This is a story about my friend’s 51st birthday present. This story also is driven by the fact that she is an ardent protector of all things living and breathing. Outside the windows of her office is food for the squirrels and passing lizards. During a recent conversation, she mentioned Willie Nelson’s efforts on behalf of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act; and she talked about the mares. 

It is 2,073 miles from an office we share in Winter Park, Florida, to Tubac, Arizona. Established in 1752 as a Spanish fort, Tubac is midway between Nogales, Mexico, and Tucson, where I hang my hat on occasion.  Tubac is a collection of funky shops with great Mexican pottery and tchotchkes, dozens of artist studios, galleries, the old mission and the church—all lining dusty streets. The weekend I was there, one of the galleries was hosting Hearts and Hands for Horses, a fundraiser for Premarin (PMU) mares and an organization called Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary. The perfect gift for my friend’s birthday: sponsor a horse in her name.

I went to the Jumpin’ Jack Ranch in nearby Green Valley to write a check; I left and wrote this story.

Before buying the 10-acre ranch, 44 – year – o l d Karen Pomroy was a business graduate who had worked in sales and marketing in Los Angeles and volunteered at a horse sanctuary. “That’s where I learned about the Premarin issue,” she says.

Premarin, an estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy developed in the 1940s, is made from pregnant mare’s urine (PMU). “Although most women know the origin of the drug, they certainly don’t know that 90 percent of the babies created by the process go to slaughter, as do the mothers when they are done with them,” she explains.

Karen found a farmer on the Internet who had lost his contract with the pharmaceutical company and was trying to place the foals before they were sent to slaughter. “There was one baby who was big and ugly, and no one wanted him because he was part Clydesdale and would gain a lot by the  pound and cost more to maintain,” she says. Thus, Karen found Gulliver…and Spanky, Deuce and Bella. She founded Equine Voices in 2004. 

At one time, there were more than 450 Premarin farms in the U.S. and Canada; the number has been reduced to 75 in recent years because of the decline in sales of the drug.

PMU mares are different from other horses or mustangs because of the way they are treated. Many are older—15-plus years—and have been constantly pregnant since the age of two or three, hooked up to urine collection cups in concrete-floored stalls for 10 months of the year. Often, they are water-deprived so their urine will be more concentrated. Head trauma is frequent, making the process of introducing them to a halter more difficult. Foals are taken from their mothers within weeks. According to the Equine Voices brochure, there are 20,000 stallions, mares and foals without “work” and in threat of slaughter.

A self-described health nut, Karen learned about herbs, equine massage and other natural modalities in California and committed to caring for the PMU mares with natural care. Her approach results in earning the trust of her animals and adopting out many companion animals as well as pleasure and competition horses, showing in dressage and other events.

Equine Voices runs a sponsorship program ($50 per month to sponsor a horse) and natural horsemanship clinics to fund her organization. Often, many of the “diehard cowboys” in the area leave her classes with a new understanding, having seen the immediate positive results she has achieved working with the horses. Jumpin’ Jack Ranch is a stop for grandmothers bringing their grandkids to see the horses, and people of all ages who want to show—with a loving pat and a few dollars—that they care.

Karen often finds her charges at auctions where she is forced to compete against foreign companies searching for horses to claim for meat. It was at one of these auctions in Dallas that she found Little Miss, a skittish eight-year old mare pregnant at the time with baby, Joy.

Karen readily found a home for Joy when the foal was ready to leave her mother. Little Miss was returned to the ranch, the scars from her PMU days a bit too deep still. The mare allows Karen to gently rub her neck, but foot problems from standing on concrete floors and other health issues keep the mare on the ranch. A beautiful 1,600-pound, latté-colored Belgian cross with soulful eyes and a bright white muzzle, Little Miss recently found a sponsoring mother—a 51-year-old Ardent Protector of All Things Living and Breathing.

Jeanie Linders is the creator and editor of me* Magazine.The publication was created initially for audience members of Menopause The Musical® of which Jeanie is the writer/producer.She is also founder of The Entertainment to Empowerment Foundation, a non- profit organization providing assistance to women in the U.S. and world wide.



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