When I was in high school in Watervliet, New York, I had friends who lived on Easy Street in Maplewood, a small enclave of the town populated mostly by Russian-Americans. (It was because of this delightful community of Eastern Europeans that my school was one of only two, I believe, high schools in New York State that offered Russian as a language option.) But I digress, per usual. (Hey, cut me some slack: it's the holidays, and I'm in the process of my annual hibernation. I can't physically just curl up and sleep 'til the first day of Spring--which, in my world, is Opening Day of Belmont's Spring Meet--so I start sentences about one topic and meander through the woods, always ending up where I intended to go...but the circuitous route seems more interesting when I'm weighed down by the heaviness of Winter's spiritual and physical saddlepack.)
Ah, yes. Easy Street. I wanted to live on Easy Street. Who didn't? Easy Street is the mythical place where life is sweet: all needs are met. Love abounds. Friendships flourish, and there's always a helping hand. Many Americans work like dogs for 40 years, hoping to at least retire to Easy Street, if they can't figure out how to do it earlier in Life.
If you're a horse, getting to Easy Street is often harder. When you don't have thumbs, you have to depend on the kindness of others to provide for you. Birds are lacking that fifth digit, but they manage to forage and build cozy nests and find all the food they need. But horses are another story. For some reason, many humans feel a need to starve, beat or otherwise be cruel to horses. Why, I've so often wondered angrily, are so many people intentionally rotten to God's most beautiful creatures? We've heard entirely too many stories recently of horses in the hundreds, found starved to death or near-death. Horses who've been beaten with chains, left to bleed out. I believe, truly, that animal cruelty of all kinds--but most notably on the part of those who torture or abandon horses--stems from an innate jealousy of the archetypal Horse.
And many humans, incorrectly believing the myth that they are in some way "superior" to these magnificent creatures--and knowing that they will never, ever live up to the archetype of the Horse--have a twisted need, an actual craving, to debase and injure that which is superior to their own miserable souls.
And then there's New Holland. Don't get me started on New Holland. The infamous town in Pennsylvania where horses who no longer "serve" those who own them are dumped and auctioned off to killbuyers. (An even lower lifeform, those humans whose souls are so broken that they think nothing of making a boatload of cash from the process of buying horses at auction and selling them to slaughterhouses on behalf of flesh purveyors in Europe and Asia.) (For the uninitiated: It's illegal for USDA inspectors to inspect horsemeat in America, so American slaughterhouses are closed, until Montana figures out how to skirt the law.) Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses are too-often the end for many of these most-kind of animals. This is wrong on so many levels, starting with the fact that any human, anywhere, chose not to love and care for their horse, but rather to "dispose" of this creature that represents the light, love and innocence of Heaven, itself.
These horses never found the route to Easy Street.
The majority of horses I know are well-loved, admired, adored. Just today I loved up on an old mare named Treasure. And a treasure she is, indeed! Old, wooly and a tad sway-backed--but the glory of her heritage could be felt there in her lovely stall...and her eyes. Oh, her eyes. I felt Wisdom and kindness in those eyes. I thank God that I met Treasure, and got to take in her remarkable spirit.
Treasure is one of the blessed ones, a horse who is lovingly and gently retired and living out her days with a bellyful of sweet Timothy; lots of humans around who love her and the charming company of 60-something llamas, those adorable alien-like, Seussesque creatures who elegantly own the land surrounding Treasure's warm barn. Treasure is appropriately-named, and blessed. But many horses are not so fortunate.
Many horses do have have pensions that will assure that, after their careers on the track, field, arena or county fair--they will be lovingly cared-for for the rest of their days.
But for those horses whose human connections have abandoned them to starvation, illness or outright being left out in the cold (literally), for whatever reasons--there's Easy Street Horse Rescue.
Easy Street Horse and Barnyard Rescue, Inc., grew out of the hearts and souls of Nina Bellinger, the Founder and Director, and her devoted husband, Paul (webmaster extraordinaire). Incorporated in 2006, this non-profit has achieved so much in three years that I am astounded. Even a cursory glance around their website (www.easystreetrescue.org) shows scores of photos of horses in various stages of sadness upon arrival, all the way through healing, fattening-up and successful adoption. (Even the late, great Paul Newman's Double-H Hole in the Woods Ranch adopted Blacky and Chelsea for their very special children to ride.) You really must look at Easy Street's 'site to see the before-and-after shots. Even these two magnificent critters, whose destiny it was to work for the noble Newman's wonderful, therapeutic ranch, came in emaciated and down-trodden, like so many others who, thank God, find their way to Easy Street's wide-open gates.
Arriving at Easy Street's beautiful farm outside Amsterdam, New York, new residents intuit--for horses are nothing if not consummately intuitive--they know that they are finally safe, and will be loved, well-fed and given the medicines and therapies they'll need in order to become whole again. Arrival at Easy Street for so many horses means the end of one long journey, a deathmarch for which no end but that of more pain seemed inevitable.
Then in step Nina, Paul and their remarkable crew of dedicated volunteers--and the light once again shines in the eyes of the horses. They go by names such as Boo, Thor, Babe, Blacky, Blacky II, Earl, Frostlin, Lady, Archer. They represent many breeds of the magnificent equine species: Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians, Haflinger Pony, Paint. No breed is turned away, no horse sent packing for lack of room or ability to meet that particular horse's need.
If a horse needs genuinely tender loving care after a rough time in the awkward hands of another--Easy Street is there for them. With open arms, kisses, hugs and peppermints, new residents quickly realize that they can breathe a sigh of relief--and that they have a Home. Easy Street may become their Forever Home, or it may be the place where they're healed and restored, to then be adopted by someone who is carefully screened, a new owner and friend who will love them until their natural ending.
Whether the equine residents of Easy Street Horse and Barnyard Rescue, Inc., end up living out their days at the farm just outside Amsterdam or learning a new job for a loving new owner--all horses are carefully evaluated; given meds that meet their needs and given the chance to live just for the sake of living. The rest of the world may require that a horse "prove" themselves, somehow. Prove that they're worth keeping around. Prove that they can be "useful" somehow. Prove that they're "worth" more than the 400 bucks that a killbuyer will shell out.
The rest of the world may lay that burden of proof on a horse, but once a horse steps onto the sacred ground at Easy Street, nothing is required but that the horse take a deep breath and just exist. Horses should be loved and revered simply because they exist. They give love, acceptance, Wisdom and solace--tremendous gifts beyond monetary value--to those in their circle. If people are too stupid to realize this, too dense to know that they are privileged to have a horse in their life, they don't deserve that horse. Horses are gifts from God--and the mighty souls who founded and run Easy Street treat them with the respect that they deserve. All a horse need do is live happily--this is all the reward that Nina and company require.
I enthusiastically recommend Easy Street Horse and Barnyard Rescue, Inc. to you. If you're looking for a worthy equine charity, one where you know where the money's going and that the horses are treated with deep love--then Easy Street should get your vote (and your contributions). I'm not one to beg anyone to donate money to a cause--there are so many great causes out there. The ones that get my attention are always equine-related. So I'm not going to tell you to give money to Easy Street. I am going to say that, if you need a place to give money or services, a place where you know that the horses are loved and brought back to life after a painful existence--then you should consider this most-worthy of causes. Every dollar that goes to Easy Street is judiciously used for the care, feeding, housing and veterinary needs of the horses. The horses need us--and we, we frail, mere humans--we need horses even more. Without horses, life would be lacking a spiritual dimension that is reached only through the portal on the sides of a horse's head--the deepest eyes in all of Nature.
And when these life-giving eyes are smiling, as they are at the Bellingers' farm--human hearts benefit. If you want to feel good about yourself, donate to Easy Street Horse Rescue. The reward you'll reap is tax-deductible, yes, but far more than that--you can visit the beneficiaries of your kindness anytime you like, and get a kiss directly from a grateful equine heart.
And what's more rewarding than that?
[Easy Street Horse and Barnyard Rescue, Inc.:
[OH, and if you happen to be near Amsterdam, New York on Monday night, November 30th at 7PM, come to the monthly meeting of friends and supporters of Easy Street. I'm the guest speaker, I might actually say something vaguely interesting. (Grin.)