July 2011 Newsletter

Blue Star Equiculture Newsletter July 2011

Blue Star Equiculture
July 2011
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
DAPNET and Animal Powered Field Days
Join the Herd!
Viridian Fundraiser
Photo of the Month
Working Horses
News from the Herd!
Horse Care Corner
Hello, Goodbye!
Summer Workshops at UMass
Volunteers and Donors
The Boys of Summer
Horse Quotation of the Month
If You Love Horses, You MUST Watch This Video
If you love horses, you must watch this video
If you love horses, you must watch this video

100,000 horses from the United States are slaughtered for human consumption every year, and they're NOT working horses.  Find out how you can help end the slaughter and draft a better future for horses.


It's called "teamwork."

Your support helps horses in need!

Blue Star Equiculture cares for up to 30 rescued and retired horses at one time.  Our horses, many of whom have special needs and to whom Blue Star has made a commitment for the duration of their lives, require feed, hay and regular veterinary and farrier care. 

If you would like to donate to Blue Star Equiculture to support our mission to help horses, humans and Mother Earth, a $ amount and click on the donate button below.


Or, text "HORSES{space}[your donation]" to 27138 to donate over the phone using Mobile Give.  (msg/data rates may apply)

Blue Star Equiculture is a 501(c)3 charity.


Upcoming Events
Blue Star Equiculture

Bring a dish to share and join us down by the Peace Pole for a summer fun celebration.  Cool off in the Swift River, too!



with Bill Darnley and Justin Morace, Saturday and Sunday 8/6/11  - 8/7/11
10am - 4pm both days
UMass - Hadley Farm
Sign up here


UMass Amherst
August 12-14, 2011
See website for details and schedule.


with Bill Darnley and Justin Morace, Saturday and Sunday 8/27/11 - 8/28/11
10am - 4pm both days
UMass - Hadley Farm
Sign up here

Blue Star Equiculture is proud to be a member of the Draft Animal Power Network (DAPNET). 

DAPNET, like Blue Star,  is dedicated to working draft animals in enterprises that support sustainabilities of local communities and vital land-based economies.


We hope you'll join us at DAPNET's annual Northeast Animal Powered Field Days, held this year in conjunction with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)'s summer conference, August 12 - 14 in Amherst.

Please visit DAPNET's website for more information.


Blue Star Equiculture:
Your Horses, Your History, Your Future

Show it off!

Blue Star Equiculture has THREE new t-shirt designs available at the very affordable price of just $12!  Available in S/M/L/XL


"Going Green takes REAL horsepower."


"It's time to put the HORSE back in HORSEPOWER."




Where else can you get amazing equine educational workshops and hands-on horse experience with gentle giants, all while helping support the rescue or retirement of working horses? 


Where else can you answer the question "Have you hugged a draft horse today?" with a resounding "YES!"?


Why send money off to some huge or distant organization whose direct works you may never see, when you could be helping horses right here at home in your community, and whose activities are publicized constantly on facebook, the internet, and the press?


Blue Star Equiculture welcomes everyone to be a part of the life of the Herd.


Blue Star Equiculture is calling upon ALL of our supporters to "Join the Herd" and become a Blue Star Equiculture Herd Member for as little $10 / month.


Blue Star Equiculture is now offering Herd Membership at six different levels, starting at just $10 / month.  Sign up for a level of support that works for you.


For more information or to JOIN THE HERD,

visit our website

Blue Star Believes
Blue Star Equiculture Credo

We believe that the draft horse is a national treasure. 
We believe that horses and humans fundamentally belong together.

We believe that all horses deserve loving homes where their physical and social needs will be met.

We believe that "work" should not have a pejorative connotation.

We believe that in these troubled economic and environmental times, working horses offer a sustainable means of equine husbandry. 

We believe that every working horse deserves to have his needs taken care of for the duration of his natural life.

Great Homes!

Jetta is waiting for a forever home.

Are you looking for a new member of the family?  (Or two?)  Let us know what kind of horse you're looking for and we'll see if we can play matchmaker and find the perfect home for one of our horses (or one of the many horses on our waiting list). 

When you adopt from a rescue, you help save two horses - the horse you adopted and the horse for whom there is now room at Blue Star.

Contact us or stop by the farm to begin the adoption application process.

Going Green with Viridian to help REAL Horsepower!

Switch to Viridian today to start helping horses with your electric bill.  (Currently available in PA, NJ, NY, and CT - COMING SOON TO MASSACHUSETTS!)

Quick Links

Join Our Mailing List

Dear Blue Star Supporter,

Blue Star Equiculture's tag line, for lack of a better word, is "Drafting a better future for horses, humans and Mother Earth." The horses and Mother Earth parts - those are the easy ones! Sometimes, particularly when horse rescue gets involved, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the humans involved.

It's incredibly tempting to judge harshly the humans who we see as having "failed" a horse, while forgetting to examine how society, the economy, and even a community can be the ones who let down not only the horse but the people who have tried their best to right by them. Horse owners often face an uphill battle against economic forces, lack of resources, and lack of education and equine awareness. Indeed, Blue Star Equiculture, whose mission includes "bringing education, equine awareness, skills and healing to the community," exists to help humans in their relationship with horses. In helping horses, we help heal ourselves.

We know that one of the hardest things to do can be to ask for help, and so we're grateful when horse owners put their egos aside and reach out for our help in the best interest of the horses in their care. And so its a big responsibility that Blue Star Equiculture takes on - an responsibility for helping our community's horses and educating the community about the care horses need and the appreciation they deserve as one half of the most sacred and significant inter-species partnership.

Help support us in preserving and protecting that partnership, and in assisting both parties in that partnership - horse and human alike.


Conor, Dawson and Henny Penny grazing
Conor, Dawson and Henny Penny at Blue Star Equiculture. Henny has been adopted by Anna. Conor and Dawson are looking for their forever homes!


Photo of the Month

Tom Too, Mark, Charlie D. and Carter giving rides at Belchertown's 250th Anniversary Town Picnic, on July 2nd.

Work and Working Horses

Work is not a four-letter word.

That sentence in all its silliness is supposed to make you think about a serious subject: work. Work is serious business. It's a fraught concept. It comes with baggage. And the mere word "work" or the phrase "working horse" has caused more misunderstanding and confusion that we could have imagined possible.

It's such a little, tiny word: work.

Yet it holds so many meanings that the Oxford English Dictionary lists 63 different definitions for the noun form and over 100 different definitions for the verb form. So much of the controversy over what we mean when we say "our horses work" says far more about our society's relationship to work and labor than it does about what our horses are actually doing.

Let's turn to Blue Star Equiculture's Credo. We're very clear here.

Blue Star Believes:

We believe that "work" should not have a pejorative connotation.

When we speak of "working horses," we are speaking of what these horses do. "Work" can and should have a positive meaning. "Work" for horses in the context of meaningful, productive partnership with humans should never be equated with "slavery." (We find slavery to be morally repugnant, and as such, slavery should not be a term thrown around cavalierly to describe the domesticated horse.)

We believe that in these troubled economic and environmental times, working horses offer a sustainable means of equine husbandry.

We hope to create other opportunities for working horses to have meaningful jobs in addition to the carriage industry and in limited use on farms. We hope to initiate new uses for working horses in urban environments, such as watering urban gardens, collecting recycling, or making deliveries. We hope to expand the use of horses in organic agriculture, and spread awareness of using animal traction (that is, real horsepower) instead of hydrocarbon energy to power agricultural implements.

Work is a productive partnership. It is simply what the horses do. It is good for their minds and their bodies, just as work is good for ours.

There's no reason why "work" has to be a bad thing. In fact, for most all of its history in the English language, work has generally had a good connotation - a meaning implying practice, a journey, progress. As Pam pointed out in her blog on the subject of work and working horses, in the Bahai faith "work is a prayer."

Of all the definitions of work in the Oxford English Dictionary, I think my favorite of all is 3. d.: "To 'make,' obtain (a friend)." This definition is now 'obsolete' and rare, but I think it helps understand the true benefit of working with horses.

When we work with horses, we're connecting. We're connecting with the past and the generations of horses and humans who have worked together - who have created our civilization together. And we connecting with our own true selves.

The path of this organization, Blue Star Equiculture, has been a lot of work, too. But it has been work in the journey sense of the word. The work we are doing with horses is helping the world become a better place, with horses by our side.

Join us Wednesday, July 20th at 6 PM for our annual potluck picnic!
News from the Herd:

Happy Birthday, Peggy! Peggy turns 3 on July 22nd!  Peggy has been battling a leg infection from a pasture accident (she's been on antibiotics) and a bruised foot, but she's feeling good - a little too good, as being frisky is what got her into trouble!  Peggy has been through a lot in only 3 years of life...  She came to us in April 2009 at 8 1/2 months old, having battled salmonella and having lost her tail to a dog attack.  She's had her ups and downs (including needing to be rescued by the Bondsville Fire Department on New Year's Day, 2010), but she's certainly grown up into a fine young filly!  Here's a look back to when she came to Blue Star, compared to where she is now. 

History for a Historic Weekend! Blue Star's big boys, Mark, Tom, Carter and Charlie had a busy 4th of July weekend.  On Saturday, July 2nd, they were in Belchertown to celebrate its 250th Anniversary at the town picnic.  Blue Star had two wagons running around the town common providing history tours, and raising money for the horses.  On the Fourth of July, the boys were off to Mount Tom Reservation to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of Eyrie House atop Mount Nonotuck in 1861.  Blue Star gave rides to and from the main parking area up the hill to the parking area near the summit of the mountain, while sharing the history of Eyrie House.  There is a lot of horse history at both Belchertown and Eyrie House - proving once again that human history is written in hoof prints!

Read to Feed Horses in Need! Belchertown's Clapp Memorial Library is again running its summer reading program for local children.  This year's theme is "Read to Feed Horses in Need" and will support Blue Star Equiculture.  Bud and Peggy helped kick off the event in late June with a visit to Clapp Memorial Library, and since then, we have welcomed children and parents to the farm to meet the horses and read to them.  Recently, volunteer Donna McArdle hosted a children's story time in the barn. "Read to Feed Horses in Need" continues through August and will conclude with special events both at the library and on the farm.  For more information, visit Clapp Memorial Library's summer reading program webpage. Click here for more pictures.

New England Equine Equestrian Showcase July 16th saw Blue Star Equiculture in Athol at the New England Equestrian Center (NEECA).  There, Blue Star's Mark and Tom Too provided wagon rides around the equestrian center, while other exhibitors provided demos and clinics on a wide variety of disciplines and horse breeds.  Of course, Blue Star was there to talk about working horses and our programs at UMass.  We also enjoyed getting to see some of our friends from UMass's mounted police department.

Cupcake gets a job! Look out world!  Cupcake is back in harness and this time he has a special garden cart / manure wagon.  Cupcake is going to show everyone that mini horses can be working horses too, as he helps tidy up after the big boys in the parades or helps out around the farm taking supplies out to the garden.

Billy and Bob - Puttin' on Weight Brothers Billy and Bob, who arrived at Blue Star on June 5th, have put on a lot of weight and have made a lot of progress!  The simple act of being brought up to the barn for breakfast and dinner and having their flymasks taken on and off  has done a lot to ease their worries about people.  Bob has always been much easier to handle and catch, and now he's quite outgoing and friendly.  Billy seems to be taking a cue from his brother and is learning to not be so shy about being handled or touched. 

Sponsor a horse
Do you want to be a part of a horse's life at Blue Star?  Help us care for the horses on the farm who are here for long-term care, as permanent sanctuary horses, or in retirement!  Sponsor a horse today!

Horse Care Corner - What it takes for horses to Join the Herd

Did you ever wonder what has to happen when a horse arrives at Blue Star Equiculture?  The answer is, A LOT!

Every horse at Blue Star Equiculture has their own personalized care plan, that includes their histories, medical records, and current needs, as well as a plan for their future (whether on the farm or in a new adoptive home).  Once their paperwork transferring ownership to Blue Star is in order, incoming horses are welcomed on the farm.  All incoming horses require quarantine - depending on their risk of transferring disease to the Herd (for instance, horses arriving from an auction are at much greater risk of harboring pathogens or having a compromised immune system) the horses will be isolated from the rest of the Herd for some period of time, to assure everyone's health and safety.


Lady getting checked out by Dr. Purdy and Justin

Within the first few days of arrival, horses are seen by a vet, either our vets at Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic, or by Dr. Steve Purdy, a Blue Star Equiculture board member and executive director of animal management at UMass. At the exam, the horse receives routine vaccination and is given a complete physical exam, noting his or her condition and vital statistics.  A rating of the horse's body condition on the Hennecke Scale is done.  This 1-9 scale is used by equine vets and rescues to gauge a horse's weight and health relative to an ideal body score of 5.  Horses such as Lady, Manny, Buford and Billy and Bob, who all arrived scoring between a 2 and 3 on the Hennecke Scale would be considered "thin" to "very thin."  Routine worming is also a part of the vet exam.

Buford gets his teeth floated.

As part of their intake exam, horses arriving at Blue Star also get a visit from our equine dentist, Nicole Lombardo.  She makes sure that there are no dental problems preventing the horse from thriving, and takes measures to file down any sharp points or hooks on the horse's teeth to help them properly chew and digest their food to get the most of their nourishment.  This filing is called "floating."  (Horses at Blue Star see the dentist every 6 months for check ups and maintenance.)

Incoming horses also receive routine or corrective farrier care.  Many incoming horses have not seen a farrier for a trim in quite some time, and so a good balanced trim can do wonders for their comfort.

All this, coupled with the cost of daily feed and hay, means that intaking a horse into Blue Star is a major undertaking and a major commitment, as every horse that becomes a Blue Star horse will be tracked, monitored and guaranteed a safe home with Blue Star or a contract adoptive home for the rest of their lives. 

Hello, Goodbye!  Some Non-Draft-Horses Get Rescued

Hello, Lady, Buford and Manny! Blue Star Equiculture's most recent arrivals are good examples of the crisis America's horses and horse owners are facing.  Blue Star received a call from a horse owner nearby asking if we could help him with his horse, Lady.  Because of his own health issues, this gentleman was looking for a home for Lady, whose own condition he had begun to worry about.

Lady gets her sores cleaned shortly after arriving at Blue Star. Fancy Dan wants to be friends

Lady is an approximately 25 year old Arabian mare.  She came to us very underweight - about a 2.5 on the Hennecke Scale.  She also has pressure sores from lying down and getting stuck, and - being a grey horse - she has several melanomas around her face, ears and tail.  Lady is enjoying her new stall and turnout at Blue Star, and is getting all the hay she can eat.  Time will tell about her prognosis with the melanoma, but, despite her age, she should bounce back well from her malnourishment.

After Lady's arrival, Blue Star was concerned about two other horses that were living in the same barn.  A couple days later, with the help of Lady's owner, the owners of the other two horses, Manny and Buford, agreed to surrender their horses to Blue Star in order to get them into better, more appropriate living conditions. All three horses had been largely confined to their stalls, due to lack of maintenance / supervision at the barn, and all three were underweight.

Buford was glad to see Lady.

Manny is a Saddlebred gelding in his teens.  He is, like so many of his breed, extremely people-oriented.   He is very friendly and he loves attention.

Buford is an approximately 20 year old Appaloosa gelding.  He is a former lesson horse who was retired to his previous owner when he began to develop a bit of arthritis.  Buford is quite attached to Lady, and is also a talker!  He whinnies rather vociferously for his friends, his food and all within earshot.

Both Buford and Manny are cribbers, a behavior not uncommon among horses who receive very little turnout.  Hopefully their new living situation with abundant turnout, free choice hay, and low stress will lessen their propensity for this bad habit.

All three horses, once rehabilitated, will be available for adoption (in the meantime, they could use sponsors!).  If you are interested in providing a forever home to Lady, Manny, Buford or any of Blue Star Equiculture's resident horses, please contact us!


Buford, Lady and Manny accompany Justin to see Dr. Purdy for their intake exams.



Goodbye, Dakota! Dakota has found his forever home with the Cripp family, where he moved on July 3rd.  His new owner is a lifelong educator (who has specialized in working with autistic children), recently retired.  She had been looking forward to her retirement so she could spend all her free time with her previous horse - unfortunately, he recently passed away in his early thirties, so she was looking for another horse to go on grand adventures with.  (Both she and her husband, who has his own horse, do historical reenactments and go on lots of trail rides.)  Pam, who has known Dakota since before Blue Star was founded, knew that this would be the perfect home for him.  Dakota is not the friendliest of horses; he demands the attention of a single person, which has been hard for him at Blue Star where there are constantly different volunteers, who are busy tending to the basic needs of 30 horses.  Dakota is loving his new home (which, serendipitously, makes him a neighbor of longtime friend Pete in his new home).

Jesse looks out from under the barn at his new home.

Official goodbye, Jesse! As his fans and followers all know, Jesse went to "summer camp" at Nicole Birkholzer's farm, where he could be fostered on pasture, without being pushed around by some of the younger, more brazen members of the Herd (we're looking at you, Duke!).  Jesse fit right in at Nicole's and it quickly became his home and he a part of Nicole's family.  So, Nicole asked if he could stay.  We can't imagine a more perfect home for the grand old man - and so Jesse has been officially adopted by Nicole!

(Nicole says that her mares don't appreciate Jesse's intrusion into "their" barn, but Jesse goes where he wants, when he wants, and doesn't take guff from anyone!  And he demands his lunch promptly at 1 pm.)

Hello again, Goliath! Goliath is back at Blue Star after flunking out of police horse school. Before Goliath came to Blue Star, he and his buddy Jack had been living together, just the two of them.  Goliath was very bonded to Jack - he forms close bonds very easily - and when Jack was adopted and Goliath went to UMass, Goliath quickly bonded with another horse in the mounted patrol program.  The problem was that Goliath couldn't work at all without a partner on the beat!  Most police horses work in pairs, it is true, but Goliath could not stand to be separated from his partner.  So, now Goliath is back at Blue Star, waiting for a forever home with a best friend.


Summer Workshops and Courses with BSE Horses at UMass-Hadley Farm

Driving Draft Horse Teams (2-Day Workshop)

With Bill Darnley and Justin Morace

August 6th-7th, or August 27th-28th


Pre-registration required 1 week prior to workshop

The workshop is limited to 8 hands on participants to ensure plenty of hands on learning.


This workshop is for the beginner to intermediate driver. In this workshop, learn how harnessing and hitching works, and how to do it safely with Blue Star Equiculture's most professional draft horse teams. The students will get hands on experience with driving teams, and expert instruction from teamsters Bill Darnley and Justin Morace.

In this 2-day workshop you will learn about:

  • Work Harness/Harness Parts
  • New England D-Ring Harness
  • Vehicles/Vehicle Parts
  • Hitching a Team to a Vehicle Safely
  • How to Use Your Hands Effectively
  • Driving a Team

Cost: $199/person for the full 2 days

This workshop will be held at the University of Massachusetts Hadley Farm, 111 North Maple St, Hadley, MA 01035

Click here for more information.


Volunteer and Donor Spotlight


Blue Star Equiculture is an all-volunteer organization, and we certainly could not do what we do without the support of those in the community.

Recently, Blue Star Equiculture volunteers Donna McArdle, Karen Keirstead and Heidi Feather started a volunteer fundraising group that exists outside of the very busy volunteer staff and Board of Directors.  These ladies have been working hard planning several exciting events and fundraisers for the next few months, including a tag sale in August, workshops on herbs and lavender, a Halloween festival and a Holiday Craft Bazaar.  To volunteer to help with fundraising at these fun-filled events, please contact Donna McArdle on facebook or contact us and we'll put you in touch.

Fans from one of our fans!

We also wanted to thank big supporter in New York state for her very generous donation of her hitch wagon to the Blue Star Belgians.  This beautiful wagon was sitting in storage, but now, it will soon be out and about with our four-horse or six-horse hitch of working Belgians who call Blue Star home.  Serendipitously, this hitch wagon is already painted UMass red and white!  Look for it on campus this fall.

And thank you to one of our anonymous volunteers who donated 6 fans to the barn to help keep the horses cool when they're inside.

There's always ways to help Blue Star in our mission - just use your imagination!  Whatever way you can help, large or small, is always appreciated.  It can be as simple as switching your electricity provider to Viridian or signing up for a Friends of Dave's Card at Dave's Soda and Pet Food City. Donate Triple Crown Feed proofs of purchase.  Sell things on eBay or at our tag sale.  Sign up your friends and family as Herd Members and help us grow stronger and sustainable, for the future of horses, humans and Mother Earth.
The Boys of Summer

In honor of the 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game contested last week I thought we'd have a fun history post about America's favorite pastime and America's favorite non-couch-sitting animal.

Recently, in talking with my carriage driving friends, I learned that Teddy the carriage horse and his driver Kim took Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel for a ride as part of "The Charlie Manuel Show". Last month, NYC driver Declan gave Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett a carriage ride. Two days later, in his next start, Beckett shut out the Yankees 6-0. Coincidence? I think not! In Beckett's next start, in interleague play against the Phillies, he lost, giving up multiple runs (Cliff Lee was the one dealing the shutout). I think he might have fared better if he'd visited the INHP for a carriage your through Society Hill before the game. Baseball players are notoriously superstitious, and of course we'd love to start a "carriage rides before pitching" good luck charm. ;). Horses and baseball.

Watching a baseball game, Rochester, NY, 1909.

Now, of course, it would stand to reason that a sport invented in the 19th century would exhibit its fair share of horsiness in its early years, when horses were a ubiquitous part of the urban scenery. Still, I'll point out a couple if early horse-related anecdotes.

The great Honus Wagner was well-known and much admired in Pittsburgh for his regularly driving his horse and buggy himself to the ballpark for home games.

And one of baseball's most storied ballparks held horses implicitly in its name: the Polo Grounds, home to (variously and sometimes simultaneously) the NY Giants, NY Metropolitans, NY Yankees, and NY Mets (before their move to Shea Stadium. The Polo Grounds had four incarnations, the last three on the same location in Harlem. Many people assume from the odd oblong shape of the field at Polo Grounds II, III and IV that it got the name because it was used for playing polo. Not exactly. (That field was also used for football, and the long shape was also dictated by topography.) The only one of the "Polo Grounds" used for polo was the original ballpark located between 110th and 112th Sts, adjoining the northeast corner of Central Park. The Giants were forced to abandon Polo Grounds I when the city built 111th St. (The state legislature in Albany granted the Giants a variance that would have given the Polo Grounds and exemption from the grid streets, but the City, annoyed and offended by Alvany's intrusion into Manhattan, went ahead with the construction of 111th St.) Although they left the original polo grounds, horses were still frequent visitors at the new stadium location. In the picture below, horses and buggies are shown parked beyond center field, with Polo Grounds III shown in the background.

Spectators at Brotherhood Park, better known as the Polo Grounds (third incarnation).


And here's Babe Ruth, driving a team of draft horses, for good measure.

Horse Quotation of the Month

Trust in God, but tie your horse. ~Anonymous

Thank you for your interest in Blue Star Equiculture.  We hope to see you soon at the farm at one of our events or workshops, or out on the road as we clip-clop by!  Until next time, remember that "going green takes real horsepower!"


Pamela Rickenbach and Christina Hansen
Blue Star Equiculture
About Us

Our mission is to provide retired working horses a sanctuary and homeless working horses the opportunity to be useful and positively improve their lives, while bringing education, equine awareness, skills and healing to the community and the environment.

Blue Star Equiculture is a vision born out of the hearts of like-minded individuals who feel the need to respond to the current, increasingly dire situation facing both the environment and homeless horses.

Blue Star Equiculture is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization. We rely on the donations of individuals and organizations in order to do our work.

We welcome contributions in time, materials, money, or knowledge.

All of us, equine and human, are part of an interconnected web of life.
Blue Star Equiculture
PO Box 7
Bondsville, Massachusetts 01009
Blue Star Equiculture

Site Map | Printable View | © 2008 - 2016 Blue Star Equiculture