William Thompson enjoys gazing out his window. His view differs from most, however, as when he looks out, he stares upon a pasture of retired horses saved from slaughter and offered sanctuary at Fieldstone Farm Foundation.
“People have their horses; and when they get older, they’re not as useful—so they give them to me,” says Thompson, founder of Fieldstone Farm. “The horses are all very content—it’s a beautiful place.” Located in Elsberry, Fieldstone has been offering aging horses a proper retirement community since 1994. Literally being sent to green pastures, horses at the farm graze happily with one another while they age.
Thompson is so dedicated to the care of these animals that he has set aside a fund to care for the horses, should anything happen to him. He says financial support for the organization comes in response to his annual holiday newsletter, which helps fund necessities like food and property maintenance. Horses living at the farm receive not only veterinary and blacksmith care, but shelters, complete with fans, to provide protection from the elements, if needed.
To be sent to the farm, horses must be at least 18-years-old. But with some horses living into their 30s, this can mean a lengthy retirement. Thompson says new horses are weaned into the Fieldstone Farm environment by initially being kept separate, then integrated with other horses. Once they begin mingling, he says the animals tend to get along well. As horses are accepted from across the country, few are visited by their former owners; thankfully, they get a lot of attention from Thompson and his volunteers. Many of the horses presently at Fieldstone Farm also are former show horses, although Thompson notes he welcomes any kind.
A childhood pet—or rather, how his family acquired a childhood pet—served as some of Thompson’s inspiration for Fieldstone Farm. His father adopted a circus horse named Alleyoop, after reading about its upcoming retirement in the newspaper. The original organization began in Clarksville, Mo., with three horses—Spotty, Bonus, and Dukie—but later upgraded for quality and quantity of space. It is estimated that 70 horses have been served at Fieldstone Farm since 1994. After passing away, the horses are buried in the equine cemetery—the pasture upon which they peacefully enjoyed their retirement. When compared to the all-too-common alternative, it’s hard to image a more peaceful end of life experience for these loyal animals.
“People send me their horses because they don’t want them to end up at a slaughterhouse,” Thompson says. “For me, it’s really pleasing to see them out in the pasture.”
For more information about Fieldstone Farm Foundation, call 573-898-3245 or visit fieldstonefarmfoundation.org.
Volunteer Spotlight: Donna Hart
Fieldstone Farm Foundation has found a great volunteer in neighbor Donna Hart, who has worked with the organization for some 13 years. Before retirement, she spent 25 years working professionally in animal advocacy, making the foundation a natural fit.
“Of all the animal welfare issues, I think what has happened to horses has not been accepted by the American public,” she says, explaining that more than 100,000 horses—some young and healthy—are shipped to slaughterhouses each year. “The plight of horses has not been addressed very well.”
While volunteering at Fieldstone Farm, Hart says she is normally focused on administering medication and medical attention to animals who need it. She remembers a horse with a foot problem, and how she and her husband, Al Bruns, had to get rubber boots over its hooves. While she notes the constant need to assist medically, “wonderful memories of horses getting better” are also present.
“Being around them is such a pleasure. They have such distinct personalities,” Hart says. “There are two Arabians over at Fieldstone Farm. If I walk over there, they run to the fence. Pet me! Pet me! It’s so obvious. I wish each one of them could have the constant attention they want.”
Hart explains that she wishes more owners would realize their commitment and, should they get rid of the animal, make sure the horse is sent to a facility like Fieldstone Farm. “What is important is that we never think of an old dog or old cat as a disposable item. We realize we’ve made a commitment and we’ve got to see it through. It concerns me that we don’t always think about horses like that,” she says. “They, too, expect people to take care of them, and love them.”