Once feared to be prime candidates to be sold for slaughter, retired Danada Equestrian Center draft horses Rosie and June may get to live out their days together at the Wheaton forest preserve after all.
DuPage County Forest Preserve Commissioner Shannon Burns has proposed creating an ambassador program that would allow certain retired horses, particularly Rosie and June, to remain housed at Danada, with their expenses paid by a charity fund overseen by another group such as the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
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Matrons of the Danada herd, Rosie, 19, and June, 17, have been on the adoption market since summer. But Burns said retired draft horses have little value to anyone because they typically can't be ridden and can no longer do even light work.
"By the time they retire, they're essentially just big, pasture pets," Burns said. "A retired draft horse can live as long as 10 more years after retirement and they spend that time standing around eating and looking beautiful."
Danada volunteers have suggested keeping the pair on as ambassadors for some time, but Burns said she needed to figure out a mechanism to fund their well-being.
"We can't spend tax dollars supporting horses just because we don't want to separate them. We have bigger obligations," Burns said. "So I'm hoping we can create a resolution that acknowledges, from time to time, we have animals that have a special relationship with Danada and we need to keep them around."
Burns said she also believes Rosie and June can help clarify and redefine the district's mission at Danada.
"We need to have big, beautiful horses just standing around so kids can see them," Burns said. "And 15 years later those kids can come take riding lessons. If we're going to create a love of horses, we need to have them in the public eye."
Fellow commissioners, stressing the proposal is in its early stages, support the idea of making Rosie and June the faces of Danada.
"It's a great idea. The public likes to see horses in the pasture and it would be a nice aspect to welcoming visitors that come to Danada," said Commissioner Linda Painter. "And I think if we put a little cash donation box outside and told the story of Rosie and June, people would contribute."
Commissioner Marsha Murphy said there is work to be done on the proposal before Burns brings it to the commission on Nov. 5, but she likes the idea.
"Those ladies worked hard for us and they deserve a good home in the end," she said "I think they'd be great ambassadors."
Both Murphy and Commission President D. "Dewey" Pierotti, Jr., however, stressed if the program is approved it must be capped at two horses.
"We're not a zoo so I don't ever want to see a situation where someone comes to take riding lessons and we've got 14 ambassadors standing out in the pasture and no horses to ride," Pierotti said. "If we can nip that in the bud right away, I think the rest of it is a good idea for Danada."