Why do we rescue horses?

Poland is a country of Lancers and a land with a powerful and beautiful tradition. Unfortunately we are currently also the European leader in the number of horses annually sent to slaughter. More than 100 thousand horses a year that go to abattoirs feed a multimillion-dollar business. Since 2006 the Centaurus Foundation has been working for horses whose fate seemed to have been sealed. With the support of hundreds of thousands of benefactors we try to give horses a peaceful life until the rest of their days, often following many years of their service to people.

In Poland, as in many other countries, horse is a slaughter animal rather than a companion. This means that at any time an owner can sell his or her horse to slaughter, regardless of the condition or age of the animal (pregnant mares being the single exception).

In many countries owning a horse is a very expensive pleasure. The costs include not only the daily feeding and grooming, but also veterinary care and riding equipment. It is therefore often much easier to simply get rid of a horse for some time and then buy a new one, rather than keep an animal that either does nothing, can’t be temporarily used or falls sick.

A healthy horse that is suitable for mounting and riding can be bought for 500 GBP - 1000 GBP, and the market is filled with offers. The monthly cost of maintaining a horse is 120 - 700 GBP (lodging alone). That's why many people decide to get rid of a horse that temporarily fails to serve its purpose. Such a horse usually goes to an agent who either finds a new owner or sends the animal to slaughter (the agent also doesn’t want to cover the cost of maintaining a horse, so decisions are made within a few hours or days).

The activists from our organization repeatedly witnessed situations where worn-out horses were sold to slaughter without so much as batting an eye. As little children, there was nothing we could do about it. Now that we're adults, we can finally work towards change and provide care to horses that need it. We manage to save only a small percentage of horses, but this small percentage is changing the world. And such is our everyday mission.
Where do horses intended for slaughter come from?

The horses that we take care of every day are usually former sport horses, horses previously used for breeding or animals with a history of many years of hard work for their owner (sports centres, recreation, tourism). There is no shortage of horses from private individuals who used to have a horse for their own use and kept it in a pension for horses. Sometimes a child grows too big for a horse, sometimes the horse owner gets bored or a teenage horse owner grows up and goes to college. The horse becomes a burden and is quickly gotten rid of, so that it does not generate costs and doesn’t consume the owner’s time.

In our stables there are a lot of state licensed broodmares and stallions that were once extremely valuable. Unfortunately the institutions that reap the benefits from using the animals during their best years often forget about their responsibilities when their glory fades away (horses from such institutions need to be purchased or are sent to us free of charge).

Another reason for overcrowding in the horse-traders’ stables is the influx of horses that nobody wants to cure. It is a known fact that veterinary care is very expensive. The cost of a horse’s stay in an animal clinic that lasts a fortnight and includes surgery (e.g. Intestinal torsion, fracture) can be as high as 10 thousand PLN. Maintaining a horse suffering from asthma (a very common ailment in warmer climates and with closed stables) is an additional cost of about 1000 PLN per month throughout the entire life of the animal. Therefore many people make their decision based on a simple calculation.

In many countries horses are also bred specifically for slaughter. Those are specially adapted centres and specially selected horse breeds with a powerful mass. There are currently more than a dozen such horses under the care of the Centaurus Foundation.

As the prices of slaughter horses are very high in Poland, animals from many different countries are sent to us to be sold here in order to increase profits.

Poland also hosts one of Europe's largest horse fairs, ironically called the "Feast of the Horse". Skaryszew or Bodzentyn are places where thousands of horses every year are loaded onto trucks and transported to Italy and France. Few private individuals purchase a horse for themselves, and 90% of the animals leave the market with one purpose.

There is an endless number of reasons why people decide to send a horse to slaughter. We invite you to read a few survival stories of horses on our website. It is, however, only a fraction, as life itself writes thousands of stories.

Horses from racetracks don’t have much luck either. Often, shortly after the first training, the ones that did not perform as well as expected are immediately loaded onto trucks and sent straight to the slaughterhouse. Sometimes the horse’s racing career is suddenly interrupted by an injury, like in the case of the famous Charmander (a fracture ended her career).

Many horses are also so-called breeding waste. The powerful, state-owned stud farms sell horses that did not prove to be crucial for s particular breeding line. When these animals reach the market (as utility horses), they lower the value of the breeding line, which spoils the market itself.

One of such horses is our Mischka, although it is just one of many examples.

What is the cost of maintaining a horse in the foundation?

The cost of keeping a horse always depends on the animal’s fitness and health, but it amounts to anything from 500 PLN all the way up to 2 000 PLN in case of horses with chronic diseases that require constant medication (e.g. Ventipulmin for horses suffering from RAO). In addition, every 8 weeks a blacksmith visits our horses and a hippology specialist sees them several times a week.

Horses receive concentrated feed (2 times a day or 3 times a day in case of old females), access to hay on the open-air run and around the clock in the pit. In addition, we select individual vitamins, supplements and medicines, as well as herbs, feed additives and specialty muesli (e.g. Dodson & Horrel, Hoveler).

Apart from standard treatment our horses receive acupuncture, energy therapy and massages, as well as solarium and bioresonance treatments.

 Who funds the foundation?

Centaurus Foundation is independent from any political or religious influences. We fulfil our mission only thanks to the support of our benefactors, who include individuals, as well as private companies and institutions. We receive no grants or subsidies from the state for any form of our activity.

Since 2006 we have received support from around 400 thousand donors from around the world. It is only with their support that we are able to do what we do and bring relief to the animals that most need it.
What do our horses do?

Absolutely nothing. Our horses don’t do any work and are not used for recreation purposes or riding lessons. We believe that only a true emotional bond with the horse can foster respect for the animal, which is essential for it to be cared for in a responsible manner.

That is why we are constantly looking for wonderful adoptive homes for our horses. While waiting for a new home, the animals remain in pastures or paddocks and don’t do any work whatsoever. Only un-backed and healthy horses go through some preparations before adoption. We teach them how to interact with people and give them saddle training.

It is also worth remembering that the vast majority of horses that Centaurus takes care of are unable to work. They are older and often ill and/or traumatised. Regular training is not an option in such cases, and these horses represent 90% of our residents.

What is the location of the Centaurus rehabilitation centre?
Since 2013 the main Centaurus Foundation rehabilitation centre is located in southern Poland, 70 kilometres from the city of Wrocław. It is funded from 1% tax donations (a scheme that lets Polish taxpayers choose the organisation they wish to support with a fraction of their annual income tax). That is how the Szczedrzykowice Farm was established.
The farm features outbuildings with a total surface area of some 4 000 square metres, which Centaurus adapted to the needs of the animals. Amenities include more than a dozen hectares of open-air runs, an isolated stable, as well as a picturesque park intended for horses suffering from lung diseases (such as RAO). There’s also a dedicated run for ponies and donkeys and a miniature farm animal reserve. The premises are also home to a historic palace, built in 1882, which is currently undergoing slow and gradual renovation work. The palace is home to stable workers, as well as the foundation’s cats and dogs.