Open Letter to Animal Rights Activists against Working Horses by Emma Rickenbach

Emma is a barn manager at Blue Star Equiculture, retirement sanctuary of carriage, logging, plough, police and pack horses from all over the northeast.


Dear Animal Rights activist,

To the ones who sped past our carriage, and screamed at us from doorways in a fit of rage yelling nonsense  “Horses don’t belong in the city asshole!” The sun was shining down brilliant and warm on a beautiful February morning in the city I am learning to drive horses, the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. With shocked smiles on our faces we said “have a nice day!”

You must truly know little which begs me to ask What do you know of your history? Maybe you call yourself “a progressive” Fighting what you believe to be the good fight, there are no good fights.

But lovingly I tell you, that to be progressive is to embrace that from which you came and seek common ground. To restore the ancient bond with some of our closet friends and helpers, the Horses.

Draft breeds are dwindling down with each passing year, of the five draft breeds that came to help build America, three are on the endangered list now. The mighty Shire, the great Clydesdale and the Suffolk Punch and that is because we deem them unimportant, or without use in these “modern” times.

You yell that you want these horses to be off the streets. You say horses belong somewhere running free.  Did you know that average life span of a wild horse is half that of a working horse at the very best.

In that hopeful, uneducated statement of “setting them free” Holds a weight unbearable to hold and too painful to bear if you are a Horse, who is more and more marginalized as we decide they are not fit to live in the world we created with their help.

Of the nine million horses in America, nearly one third of that population are homeless, neglected and at risk for a horrible three day ride to be brutally slaughtered without the compassionate concern for what they are experiencing. They are unable to get the care they deserve and badly need, the partnership, the commitment to their lives and well being.

Stripped of a connection that has been theirs for over six thousand years or more. Our shared history.

They need their purpose..

Just as we so badly need ours.

I have personally learned  from taking care of a retired, disabled and homeless work horses that without purpose they get depressed or become weak and unable to lift their great bodies off the ground when they grow older, not having the structural strength they need and develop doing the job they have been bred to do, pushing loads.

Without purpose or much to do they get depressed or develop neurotic behavior much like we do.

The work horses on our farm remain close to the barn, even with their acres of pastures because they want to be close to humans and that daily life of productive partnership. When the older horses watch the young horses go out to work they watch expectedly that maybe they will be chosen next, some kicking the fence begging to be chosen for a job.

Over one hundred thousand horses are sent to slaughter each year in Canada and Mexico and both destinations are merciless prospects for them as is the trip to those sites with no food or water, crammed in stock trailers not designed for them.

92.3% of them are in good condition, able to live long healthy, productive lives if given a chance.

Did you think or know this?

How can you consciously commit them to life of marginalization and boredom. How can you strip them of their purpose without knowing them at all?

These magnificent spirits wish to continue to work alongside us. They wait for us to wake up and see their strength and courage and ability and allow them to help build a new way of life, a better more connected future.

They are our future. A real sustainable lifestyle could be ours with their help.

So dear animal rights activist,

Please do your research and spend time with these beautiful beings.

Restore the sacred bond

Reconnect to the natural way with spirit and by peace and love.


Your Friend,

Emma Rickenbach

February 22, 2017 Palmer, Ma. Blue Star Equiculture



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5 thoughts on “Open Letter to Animal Rights Activists against Working Horses by Emma Rickenbach”

  1. “Free the horses!” To where? To the dwindling government lands where they are rounded up with helicopters so that the big beef companies can graze their cattle? To the struggling and bankrupt farms of rural America, where taxes and big business drive more generations into the factories and off the land? To where?
    To working horsemen and women. To people who know and cherish their spirit. To those who care more deeply than you can imagine. Free the horses, indeed. Free them from the idea that theirs is a life of laziness and pointlessness. Free them to be the magnificent and inspiring friends and companions and partners that put smiles on the faces of countless children in the parks. Free them to continue to connect us to nature, despite ourselves and our insitence on “progress”. We domesticated them. To turn them out now is not care, but cruelty. It is not activism, but abandonment. Your good intentions are welcome with just a little more understanding of the real threat to our equine friends. Please use your voice to stop slaughter and shipment to countries where horse meat is a delicacy. Because if you drive them out of the parks, that is where they are bound.

  2. Thank you Emma for being a clear voice of reason for REAL Animal welfare speaking Truth about Draft Horse compassionate care including their exercise needs to promote their long term health.
    Its great that you touched on the longing of the older drafts to get their chance to pull a carriage.
    I enjoyed your writing style. Good job!

  3. Very well written Emma!!! Thank god for friends like you and BlueStar!!!! You all do a remarkable job not just taking care of these wonderful beast but the True Love ❤️ you all give them is so truly amazing !!! Yes more humans should witness just what goes on at Blue Star and the devotion you have !!! Love you guys!!!!❤️❤️

  4. Spent half a lifetime working Belgians and Belgian crosses on the streets of our small town and in the woods. Was a business but also a hobby. I purposely bought aging horses from the sales in PA. Most were in their twenties and all but one went into their thirties. Once I had to put a 33 year old back in service due to two others developing an injury. Out the door he went without missing a step. People have to understand just how much these horses love to go to work. Before you ask the thirty year olds mostly worked two hours a day. Everyone was fit and happy. Goons like the ones yelling just don’t know a dam thing about horses.

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