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Horse cruelty story has happy ending

On the virtues of working rural

By Cindy Filipenko

After working at a large municipal detachment for some 10 years, I decided to experience Mountie life in a small rural atmosphere. I must admit it took me some time to get used to the “subtle differences,” which included people waving to me (with more than one finger), remembering my name, and just generally being nice.

Those words open a piece written by Pemberton RCMP Cpl. Paul Vadik due to be published in three RCMP magazines later this spring: The Quarterly , The Pony Express and The Leading Edge . The story recalls the role the RCMP and the community of Pemberton played in rescuing 20 abused horses from a farm/horseback riding facility in Birken.

One morning, an older cowboy in town came to see me regarding 20 horses that were being mistreated, malnourished and living in poor conditions. The SPCA were contacted however were busy with other issues and were not available to immediately assist.

Even the cowboy’s description was not enough to prepare the former Nanaimo vice cop for what he saw.

I remember seeing patches of hair, skin, and ribs… lots of ribs... on each horse. The neighboring field, however, was full of long green grass. There were 15 adult horses and five foals looking sad and weak. I thought, “Horses look like that in war torn countries… not in Canada.” After taking photographs, I called the horses over to me in the other field. Part of me wanted to cut the barbed wire and let these starving animals eat.

Six months later, the officer still sounds emotional when he discusses the sight.

“My grandfather always said that, ‘Eyes don’t lie.’ You know when you look into the eyes of a dog when it’s sad? I looked into these horses’ eyes and they were sad. They needed me to help them, to go that extra mile,” explains Vadik. “Go the extra mile, it’s not crowded.”

The RCMP quickly found other community members willing to also travel that extra mile.

Two phone calls were made to community members who could rally key people with expertise. Once that chain started, the momentum was incredible. Before long, community members were donating hay and delivering it a no cost… large water bins were delivered and set up in the field... a farrier arrived and trimmed hoofs that were larger that saucer plates and cracking.

Photographs were sent to the SPCA who immediately dispatched to investigators the next day. It was one of the worst situations they had seen. In short order, statements were taken and the process put in place to obtain a search warrant to seize the animals.

Experts who saw he horses after they had been removed from the farm, were of the opinion it was unlikely that all would survive. The horses proved the experts wrong. Today, the animals are in new homes, including three that have now become a part of Wendee Cristante’s The Canadian Clyde Ride Team. One of those adoptees, Princeton, was a 13-year-old Clydesdale considered to be in the worst physical condition of the entire herd. This year he will be making his parade debut at the Calgary Stampede.

“I’m so impressed with the involvement of the community. A lot of people were involved,” says Cpl. Vadik. “I want to give the community a pat on the back.