Sunday, June 28, 2020 started off as a wonderful day in the Okanagan. However, with one phone call, the day changed from one of joy and relaxation to one of abject misery for everyone involved. The call was from a resident on what is known as the West Bench, a small community located between the city of Penticton and the Penticton Indian Reserve.
The person calling was asking if I could help with a horse that had shown up that morning with a broken leg. As can be seen in the photo below, he appeared to have other issues such as starvation and perhaps a broken jaw which would explain why he was so thin.
For those who do not know what goes on in the Okanagan Valley, we have what are known as feral/wild horses. The problem is that these horses actually fall more into the category of neglect.
They are “owned” by certain Penticton Indian Band (PIB) members who round them up when convenient to either sell for bucking stock to rodeos or to slaughter for human consumption.
A few are occasionally sold to interested people as riding horses, but those are the exception, not the rule, and usually have no training.
PIB horses in a front yard. The brand of one of the band members is clearly seen on the roan horse on the right.
While they are loose on the range, roadways, and neighbourhood lawns, no care is given to them at all. No food, no vet care, no compassion except for the few people who live in the community that admire and cherish the sight of a small herd of horses.
I say few because a lot of the residents are not pleased with having 1000 pound animals decorating their lawns and eating their gardens. Some have taken to acts of cruelty such as shooting them with pellet and paint guns to deter them, but I always say hunger trumps pain and they keep coming back.
The life of a horse on the West Bench and area is not easy or kind, and their ultimate end is usually one of fear and pain in a kill box.
But I digress, back to my story. I called a friend to meet me at the location and headed out. When I arrived, I was told that someone had contacted the PIB and that there was someone on the way to take care of the situation.
Having dealt with similar events in the past, I realized that we needed a backup plan and put in a call to the RCMP. We did try to call the “owner” of the horse, who promptly hung up on the woman calling without even asking what the call was about. I’m pretty sure he already knew.
Thankfully, my call to the RCMP was much more effective. In a very timely manner, a police car pulled up and a Constable got out. It turned out that he was very knowledgeable about horses and quickly agreed that this horse needed to have his suffering ended, there was no cure for this unfortunate stallion.
The Constable was very compassionate and took action quickly. As difficult as it was to witness, and as sad as it was, we all knew this was the right thing to do. One may ask why a vet was not called to have the horse euthanized, but, unfortunately, most of these horses have never been handled and that was just not feasible.
Once the horse had taken his last breath, my friend and I went down to where he lay and laid our hands on him and said a few words of love to him. I know he was past being able to feel or hear us, but I wanted him to know that there were some people who truly did care about him, and we did the best we could to end his suffering.
In total, we were there about 2 1/2hours and when we left no one from the PIB had yet arrived. Not sure anyone ever did come to take care of the “situation, meanwhile, the horse was left to suffer.
Please reach out to federal MP Richard Cannings, NDP, to help resolve this issue.
If you wish to pursue this on a provincial level, here’s contact info that might help.
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) was involved with the band at one point trying to come up with a solution.
When the horses are not on band land, they are on RDOS land or the highways and roadways. The horse who had the broken leg was on private land in the RDOS region, which is probably why the RCMP officer was able to shoot him and put him out of his pain.
Please contact the RDOS and ask them to work on resolving this situation
The local MLA is Dan Ashton. His contact is dan.ashton.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Toll Free Phone: 1-866-487-4402
Theresa Nolet O.A.T.S Horse Rescue
Look back at our struggle for freedom,
Trace our present day’s strength to it’s source;
And you’ll find that man’s pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of the horse.
"I’ll be in touch tomorrow to donate to this important cause. How cruel and unnecessary Horse slaughter is. Modern society was built on the back of the working horse - and this is how we repay them. Classy."