Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today, we recognize The Golden Carrot, an equine sanctuary in Anza, California.
The Golden Carrot is a one-woman show in Anza, California, owned and operated by Casey O’Connor. Casey kindly took some time to answer our questions.
HN: What is your formal mission statement and charity status?
CO: The Golden Carrot is a 501c3 public benefit charity, formally since 1998 and for about 6 years prior to that. Our mission is to provide a foreever home, sanctuary for older and managebly disabled horses. That means we don’t adopt these horses out, as they are too old or damaged to serve the needs of humans; instead, we provide a last stop, including a herd experience during the day, as a reward for a lifetime of service.
HN: How did you get started at The Golden Carrot?
CO: My dear Bobby Sox, a pony graduate of the LA riding stables, inspired me. He was 16 or so when I got him, and died at age 42. A pony who had been there and done that, well trained and sound to his final days. He started me wondering what happens to a horse when people are “done” with them, and I was horrified to find out the facts in that regard. Finding out about auctions and slaughter was a pivotal moment for me. The injustice of it was unbearable.
HN: Where do your horses come from?
CO: Almost all of them have been owner surrenders. I want to encourage owners to look at other options than auction. Going from an owner directly to sanctuary saves transport costs, quarantine costs, the “bail” at auction, and the terrible emotional trauma of the kill pens. I have also taken a fair number of horses from Animal Services in LA, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties. Finally, in an effort to help my fellow rescues who adopt horses out, I will take an older or damaged horse that they save and then determine it can’t be placed — leaving them room to rescue another.
HN: Please describe your facility and your staff.
CO: At present, we are stuffed into about 10 acres of a 27 acre property that does NOT belong to The Golden Carrot. We’re using what we’re allowed to. We have 44 in-and-out stalls, so each horse goes into their own stall at night (which is very helpful for our older slower eaters). Each day, they are let out to wander the 10 acres, which has many open cleared areas, and some brushier hillier areas where they can get away from each other, or enjoy the breezes and shade of the brush.
I am the staff: despite efforts over the 16 years here, I cannot find reliable help for even the simplest tasks. So I clean, feed, water, doctor booboos, fix fences and stalls, organize vet and farrier visits, organize feed deliveries; raise funds; keep up the website and Facebook pages and whatever else. I have had volunteers at different times, usually for a few hours one day a week, but we’re far enough out here that the investment of time and gas makes it difficult.
We desperately are looking for one of two things — either a donation of 30 to 40 acres of land (raw land would be okay), hopefully not too far from where we are now in Anza, CA; or a large corporate sponsor who could donate enough money to buy such a property outright. With more land, we could not only help more oldsters, but we could provide a quarantine or layup facility for our fellow rescues — ALL horse rescues suffer from a lack of space. We could do a LOT more with the land that horses need. Any land purchased or donated here would be in the name of the Golden Carrot, providing a forever sanctuary for these horses should something happen to me. My fellow rescues would then continue to use the land for the benefit of the horses.
HN: How are you funded?
CO: We rely on the kindness of strangers! Some publicity over the years and Facebook have been largely instrumental in getting our mission and horses into the public eye, which has found for us the people who support this mission. Sadly, too many people feel these horses are “too old and useless” to support, but I’m grateful for our base of sponsors and donors who keep us going. I apply for grants when I can find them, but honestly too many of the larger grantors don’t want to provide money for what they call “operational” expenses — feed, vet, farrier, etc. And recently, they won’t grant money for materials for maintenance of the stalls and fences either. It seems that the grants are given to adoption programs, which we don’t do. And since we don’t adopt horses out either, we don’t get adoption fees — so without our donors, we would be lost. The past couple of years, we also had a Christmas auction, but I’m not sure we’ll be doing that in the future.
HN: What’s one thing you wish people knew about running an equine sanctuary?
Sanctuaries suffer from bad press. Sadly, it’s almost always a sanctuary that is found overcrowded, horses suffering from lack of feed or basic care. Recently one that literally took in over a million dollars, whose board members were all millionaires, was closed down with only 40 or so horses, all suffering from unbearable neglect. There is a perception that sanctuaries are just hoarders – mental cases. I’ve worked so hard not to get overextended, but it IS hard. I have to say NO far too often.
People will often not support because in a case like ours, they see these horses as “safe”. They are often inveigled into donating massive amounts to rescues who support the slaughter pipeline by raising thousands every month to pay to auction houses, irresponsible and indifferent owners and kill buyers — all in the name of saving those horses from stepping onto the slaughter truck. God, we ALL want to stop that. But if those rescues would take owner surrenders (for FREE!), they wouldn’t end up at auction requiring so much donated money to be raised to pay the very people who make their living sending horses to die in Mexico and Canada. Once saved, then what? Those horses often have issues that made them difficult for their owners to place — who will support them now? Saving horses from slaughter, without being willing to support them after that, does not save them.
I try to bring our horses to life to our supporters and the public. If we think of them as children, it all becomes simple. Like children, we have to feed and care for them, educate them, get them to the doctor and buy them new shoes — the basics. And that will go on for their whole lives. They are living beings, not equipment. I personally believe we have an obligation to care for the elderly; that, sadly, has become less of a priority in our youth-worshiping society. Old humans have a lot to teach us and so do old horses. But even if they had nothing for us now that they’re old — they’ve been restricted and controlled every minute of their lives, trying to comply with human requirements. We at the Golden Carrot try to offer them as much normal horse life as we can, as a reward, expressing our appreciation for their kindness and tolerance of the crazy naked apes in their lives.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.