Tony the horse has a new home and a new herd after he was rescued from behind the wildfire line this past summer in Williams Lake.
“He’s already made some friends and I think he’s quite happy here,” said Hillary Schneider, owner of Epona Rise Retreat Centre in Heffley Creek.
The large white equine arrived at the 80-acre property just north of Kamloops two weeks ago.
In July, the BC SPCA rescued Tony and another draft horse, who were in danger due to wildfires raging throughout the Interior. The organization said the horses could barely walk when they were discovered, due to the poor condition of their hooves. Horse hooves require regular maintenance, usually needing to be clipped every six weeks or so.
Left uncared for, bone health deteriorates, impacting the horse’s ability to walk. The worst cases can be fatal.
“It’s very imperative,” said BC SPCA senior manager of cruelty investigations Shawn Uccles.
Asked whether Tony’s neglected hooves could be due to his owner or owners being evacuated, Uccles said residents had only been evacuated for one week when the animals were found. It would have taken more time for the horses’ hooves to grow that long, he said.
“Way beyond that,” he said. “Way, way beyond that.”
Many animals were left behind during wildfire evacuations, which displaced thousands of people over the summer months. During that time, the provincial animal welfare organization visited communities and fed the animals. The strategy differed from the one implemented during the 2003 fires, when the organization took over the KXA in Kamloops to shelter animals.
Uccles said most animals were not in danger, so they didn’t need to be moved, but at least four horses were rescued, including the pair of draft horses.
“They were in so much pain they would have had difficulty trying to flee from the fires,” said BC SPCA senior animal protection officer Eileen Drever in a press release at the time.
“I hate to think about what would’ve happened if we hadn’t found them.”
Once their hooves were cared for, Tony’s other half, Poppy, was adopted quickly — but Tony still needed a home. In late October, the BCSPCA went online to share his story, which went viral, shared hundreds of times on social media.
Schneider was tagged nearly a dozen times by people who knew she had a home for Tony.
The Epona Centre is home to almost 20 horses living out their days as a herd on the acreage.
“His story kind of pulled at me,” Schneider said.
Schneider has adopted from the SPCA before and also saved horses bound for the slaughter house.
Her centre uses the animals for therapy, not riding.
She adopts inured and elderly horses, that roam in a herd on her property. Schneider hosts retreats and sessions for private and corporate clients, noting horses offer valuable lessons in leadership.
“They’re [horses] partners and teachers,” she said.
While she’s still getting to know Tony, she said he has much to offer in the way of learning. He is still getting over anxiety issues around people, she said, but he sensitive and has already bonded with another horse in his new herd. His feet are healing but still look rough, she said.
She has started a GoFundMe campaign, with the goal of raising $6,500 for Tony’s first year of care at Epona. The page can be found online.
“He’s a horse that touched a lot of people,” she said.
The BCSCPA is wrapping up its investigation and will likely be recommending animal cruelty charges.