Just east of Sylvan Lake south of HWY 11A on Range Road 10 sits a quiet farm with several horses crowded around a lone wintery bail of hay. The horses stand close together to break the wind of a cold December day.
Past the horses sits the barn which houses two young ponies who were recently given the gift of escaping the slaughter house after being adopted through Painted Pastures Rescue Horses – an operation run by Stephanie Schmidt and her mother, Laura Schmidt.
“We offer horse boarding and small-volume rescue,” Stephanie said. “The horses come from all walks of life. Some of them are owner surrendered who can’t take care of them anymore and some of them come from auction. Some of them also come out of slaughter houses.”
Horse meat, while faux pau in Alberta, is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and Canada exports the product to suit this alternative market.
“There is a lot of export to Japan and Quebec,” Stephanie said. “We try to get as many as we can out of there.”
The passion for rescuing horses came after the family adopted a horse for Stephanie from Bear Valley Rescue. Horse rescue is an expensive operation that requires the necessary equipment and land, as well as an expertise in equine care. Stephanie estimated there are around six horse rescues in Alberta. Considering the cost, Painted Pastures does appreciate donations to help cover the costs of feed and veterinarian bills.
“Any donations are appreciated, it doesn’t matter if it is just a couple dollars or larger volumes,” Laura said.
Many of the horses the rescue takes in require rehabilitation depending on their previous circumstances. One of the horses currently at the rescue, Chance, was 500 lbs. under weight, with a veterinarian suggesting euthanasia as a neccessary measure. Chance is now living a full and healthy life under the Schmidt’s care.
“Its nice the horses have a home and a job,” Stephanie said. “The reward at the end is seeing them go off to their forever home.”
She added many of the horses are ready to go to pasture and retire, however some can continue to work – including one of their rescue who now works as a trail riding horse in Lake Louise.
Since Painted Pastures is a small volume rescue – it can be difficult when the Schmidt’s go to rescue new horses.
“It can be very hard to say no – especially with the younger ones,” Stephanie said.
With more donations, the Schmidt’s could rescue and care for more horses – meaning the horses can live out happy and cared-for lives. Donation and adoption information can be found through the Painted Pastures Rescue Horses page.
“We actually put it out on Facebook and we usually get quite a few donations from the public,” Stephanie said. “Other rescue groups will share our posts as well. Most places are very reliant on donations to fund the upkeep of these horses.”
If you would like to donate to Painted Pastures or you know of an animal that would be suitable for their rescue, you can contact the Schmidt’s through their Facebook page.
Laura added that if you have other livestock in need of rescue that are not horses, they would likely be able to point you in the right direction as well.