The world of horse rescue isn't easy for anyone to take day in and day out. For volunteers who frequent horse auctions along the Canadian or Mexican borders, bidding against agents for meat processing plants, the constant onslaught of confused, homeless horses can be enough to make them lose faith in the world.
Photographer Sarah Andrew sees through the dark and dusty barns and with the help of her camera lens, unexpectedly captures hope.
Andrew is at the Camelot Horse Auction in Cranbury, N.J. each week, photographing for the Camelot Horse Weekly Facebook page. The page seeks to network horses with rescues and individuals across the country to save them from kill buyers.
As of 2012, Camelot Horse Weekly (which has 60,000 members) had found homes for close to 3,000 horses and donkeys. It's that type of response that inspires Andrew as an artist and keeps her going as a volunteer.
“The people who purchase the horses from the auction, sight unseen, based on an online photo and a description, take a big leap of faith,” said Andrew. “They had hope. And it's their hope that renews the hope of the volunteers, and it makes all our work worthwhile.”
At the end of each of the past few years, Andrew has collaborated with Gina Keesling of HoofPrints.com to produce a new edition of the 'Horses and Hope' calendar. The calendar features images from the auction and the horses' subsequent second careers.
“There is so much negativity in the world, and there are so many sad stories; our goal is to share the stories about people doing inspirational work and the exceptional horses who touch our lives,” Andrew said.
All profits from calendar sales fund One Horse at a Time, a Kentucky-based nonprofit that funds horse rescue and rehabilitation efforts, networks for horses in need of homes, and helps host gelding clinics.
Each calendar is focused on a theme. The 2014 edition is centered around the concept that “every horse has a story”—a fact that Andrew knows well.
In addition to owning her own off-track Thoroughbred (a gelding named Wizard), Andrew played a hands-on role in the rescue of Indian Delight, a mare who came through the Camelot auction in 2011 with an inflamed knee. The mare had once finished fourth in the Grade 3 TCA Stakes behind Sugar Swirl and was beaten in an allowance contest by Life At Ten. At Andrew's urging, the staff of the Thoroughbred Daily News pooled their own money together to buy the horse's freedom and found a permanent home for her at Fallbrook Farm in Versailles, Ky.
Indian Delight's story is like many of those encountered by volunteers at the Camelot auction.
“The unwanted horse problem is a very big one, and there's an awful lot of info relating to it that is overwhelmingly sad and negative,” said Keesling, who works with Andrew to pair images and words to inspire and educate calendar purchasers. “Sarah and I are trying to give folks a way to make a difference – one horse at a time – with the vehicle for doing so being a lovely calendar full of happy ending stories that ended that way for that exact reason – one person doing something for one horse. When you add that all up the numbers are truly impressive. And encouraging.”
Producing a calendar that would be both attractive and tell a story was no easy task—to start with, the environment of the auction house is anything but conducive to a photographer's trade. The dust and difficult lighting pushed Andrew to capture images in new ways.
Combining auction photos with pictures of adopted Camelot horses in their new homes resulted in so many powerful photos that Keesling started the task of laying out this year's calendar with 100 images.
“I had no idea I was capable of a project like this until I tried it. I cannot begin to describe the heart and determination of both the people and the horses I've met in my travels,” said Andrew. “When I'm surrounded by dedicated people and when I see horses make such incredible physical and mental recoveries, I can't help but put everything I can into helping them.”
When Keesling and Andrew produced the first calendar in 2012, they hoped to sell “a few hundred” but instead sold thousands, raising around $40,000 for One Horse at a Time. This year, the goal is $100,000.
The Horses and Hope Calendar is available online for $19.95.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.