Sturgeon Woman Helps Retire Horses

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STURGEON -  Horse slaughtering has been illegal in the United States for the past five years and during that time, unwanted older horses were sold and trucked to Canada or Mexico to be butchered.  After President Obama signed a law last week, lifting the ban of federal funding for horse meat inspections, horse slaughtering has been making a comeback in the United States.  The law would essentially open the door for horse slaughtering for the sale and consumption of horse meat. 

Older horses typically fall into the unwanted category, heading for the slaughter houses, and one Sturgeon woman is trying to help those animals peacefully live out the rest of their lives.  Jeanne Lindley owns 20 acres of land, tucked back in the Sturgeon countryside.  She likes to call it "God's Country," but it's official name is "El Regalo" farm; that's Spanish for "The Gift."  "It's a gift for me to enjoy the horses and also, for them to be out here for their golden years," said Lindley. 

The farm currently houses four horses- Tiger, Romeo, Roney and Prince.  You could call them Lindley's family.  "My kids walk on fours, definitely," said Lindley.  She calls them kids, but the horses have been around a long time, each with a different story to tell in old age.  Roney is 35-years-old.  She is from the Columbia area and her career consisted of being a school horse and teaching children how to ride.  Prince is an 18-year-old Tennessee Walking Gelding.  Jeanne was only supposed to foster him, but she fell in love with him and took him in for good.  Tiger, or "Tiger Lilly," as Jeanne like to call her, is 34-years-old.  Her career consisted of having babies because her grandfather was so famous and everyone wanted that lineage.  Romeo is the character of the bunch, he can do all kinds of tricks.  Horses are expected to live, on average, from about 28 to 30-years-old.  Just by looking at Romeo, you would never guess he is 34-years-old.  "I'm going to start eating their food, because they go running through the pasture, kicking up their heels, and I'm just like, where do you get the energy," said Lindley.

But at El Regalo, it's not about how they spend their energy, it's about how they spend it.  Lindley does something a lot of people probably do not know exists.  She runs a retirement home, for horses.  "A lot of people say to me, what do I do with my older horse?  It's not like a dog, you can't just keep them out in your backyard or in your house, you have to pay board and vet care," said Lindley.  And that runs about $400 dollars a month, and if you're living in a big city, you'll be paying even more.  "Horse owners would tend to want a horse that they can ride and if they cant you know, if they get too old, they will get a second horse that they can ride, so now you're looking at board for two horses," said Lindley.

It was nearly 20 years ago when Lindley was faced with a similar dilemma, deciding what to do with her 27-year-old horse, Tony.  "I was starting my senior year in college, and my folks said, Jeanne, you know when you graduate you are going to move around and you're not leaving us with this horse, and I didn't know what to do with him and I didn't trust anybody else with him, so I had him put to sleep and that was hard because he wasn't ready," said Lindley.

Typically, when horse owners can't care for their older horses anymore, they have them euthanized or send them to a sale barn.  But Lindley says at their age, it is not always guaranteed they will end up with a new family.  "There's a good chance they will not be purchased and will end up in the slaughter house," said Lindley.  That's what lead her to her passion.  Now, decades later, she's trying to give these horses something she never got the chance to give Tony.  "Just getting to see these guys everyday and to see them just retire, to be happy, relaxed, not having a care in the world, it's just really cool," said Lindley.

But keeping the farm alive gets expensive.  Between the feed, hay, vet expenses and other necessities, Lindley spends anywhere from about $125 per month, per horse, to about $250.  "It really depends on the individual horse and what their needs are feed wise," said Lindley.  El Regalo depends on donations to keep the farm running.  "The donations really help out, it gives me a little bit of breathing room, knowing that, okay, the piggy bank is full, I can get the items that I need and when the donations are a little short, then I move money over from my account to the farm account so that I can make the purchases that I need," said Lindley.  "I donate money for my children for Christmas gifts and we decided this was a good place after visiting the farm they were very impressed with the way she treated the horses and the setup and everything," said El Regalo farm donor, Dina Charlton.

Keeping the horses happy is what it's all about.  "It's not the quantity of years, it's the quality of years, if they're here 1 day, if they're here 5 years, you know at least they had that time and it was good time," said Lindley.

El Regalo farm is a not-for-profit organization.  To make donations, visit the farm's website,