A Year of Heroes #1: Horse Rescue Ontario & Sanctuary (for 20 equine)

spencer and goatEveryone loves Spencer, even the goats. He’s literary the poster boy for the Horse Rescue Ontario Sanctuary in Waterdown, Ontario, Canada.

Spencer is red Paint rescue horse who oozes personality and charm. After being injured as a yearling and unable to support a rider, Spencer’s spent most of his 18 years here at Horse Rescue Ontario, a registered non-profit equine sanctuary run by Debbie Brown and her daughter Courtenay Brown on their family farm north of Hamilton, Ontario.

What started in 2002 as the Alberta Horse Crisis organization (answering the call for help during a drought crisis in Alberta when horses were literally dying in fields), Horse Rescue Ontario is now a sanctuary for 18 horses, one mini named Pippin and a miniature donkey named Chico, Pippin’s best buddy.

Chico the donkey“When Chico arrived, he was wild.” Debbie Brown says. “He’d been abused and I couldn’t go near him.” Today, he’s in Brown’s back yard, beside his regular paddock with Pippin but a bit separated from the activity – it’s the annual barbeque fundraiser and open house for the organization and Brown’s on hand to greet guests, many friends, and answer questions about the horses that now permanently live here.

“Everyone has a story,” she says. “None of them are rideable and won’t be rehomed. I’ve given horses to other people and sometimes they end up giving them away. Then you never know what happens to them.”

Pippin gets a carrot

Who are the horses here?

  • Desiree is a 14-year-old blind horse.
  • BJ is a 36-year-old Morgan living out his golden years.
  • Cruiser is a 25-year-old former show jumper.
  • Chance, an Appaloosa in need of socialization, is the latest resident who arrived in 2016 after a ‘colourful’ previous owner threaten to euthanize him.
  • Sophie is a 26-year-old thoroughbred, and one of the first residents, came from the feedlots in Alberta.

In 2002, Alberta experienced one of the worst droughts in 120 years and hay was expensive or unobtainable. Brown formed the Alberta Horse Crisis and brought five shipments of horses – about 160 in total – to Ontario saving them from slaughter.

Most were rehomed. A few like Sophie found their forever pasture on Brown’s property.

Unfortunately, Horse Rescue Ontario can’t take any more horses (but they can take loki the goatdonations). “My insurance limit on the farm is 20 equine,” Brown says. “Also, I’m currently battling cancer. My daughter is doing much of the work on the farm until I get better.”

There’s about 17.5 acres of paddock and grazing area for these “horses to be horse,” Brown says. And there’s just enough room in the barn when necessary.

“We plan to add one more run-in shelter this year,” she says. “It’s in the budget.”

Despite obvious challenges, the Horse Rescue Ontario annual two-day barbeque and fundraiser went off without a hitch June 2 and 3, 2017. Debbie and Courtenay Brown greeted hundreds of friends, family members, curious public (like me) and even radio reporters. Volunteers sold raffle tickets and flipped burgers on the grill (my dog Victor got a hot dog).

Personable Spencer willingly interacted with guests, accepting carrots from adoring fans – and kisses from goat Loki who lives in the front paddock with friend Forsetti, both rescues too. www.horserescueontario.org

 spencer and the Horse Rescue Ontario herd

Horsetrotting.net is four years old in June 2017!

Footnote: This post is one of a series of 12. I’ve accepted the challenge delivered by business coach and BlogPaws keynote speaker Kathleen Gage. Gage challenged BlogPaws attendees to implement twelve ideas in twelve weeks.

So for the next twelve weeks I’ll be visiting and writing about a horse rescue – then publishing each once a month for the next year. I love even numbers.

What better way to celebrate the horsetrotting.net five-year anniversary?   



  1. What a great rescue! Glad the horses are just getting to be horses.


    1. Yes, these really are the lucky ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your blog, Sherri.



  3. […] aren’t just lucky to be rescued, they are very lucky to be rescued here. (Check out our other rescue post […]


  4. […] Friends is part of horsetrotting’s A Year of Heros: 12 Rescues in 12 Months series. Check out Rescue #1 Ontario Horse Sanctuary and Rescue #2 Whispering […]


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