Just when it seemed nothing but happy trails awaited retired Danada draft horses Rosie and June, a miscommunication may force the DuPage Forest Preserve District to hold its horses.
Forest preserve Commissioner Shannon Burns told colleagues Tuesday that representatives from the Midwest Horse Rescue Foundation had begun the process of adopting Rosie and June, two longtime residents of the Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton looking for a place to spend their golden years.
Burns said she was encouraged by the group's interest because the husband and wife from Pittsville, Wis., wanted to keep the horses as pets rather than adopt them out.
The 18- and 20-year-old draft horses recently were retired from the equestrian center after nearly 15 years of hauling hay and pulling sleighs.
"They (the Wisconsin couple) have an affinity for draft horses and had two as their own personal pets until they lost one to cancer and the other a year later. They've been looking for another bonded pair to take in as their own personal pets," Burns said Tuesday. "Even though they own a rescue (organization), they're looking for their own personal draft horses as pets because that's their affinity. They (Rosie and June) will stay on that property and be cared for individually."
Not so, said the group's Midwest Director Scott Bayerl when reached Wednesday. Bayerl said he was very clear when contacting the district that his organization rehabilitates horses and adopts them to responsible homes while maintaining ownership of the horses.
"My wife and I do have a soft spot in our hearts for draft horses, that's for sure. But we're not looking for pets," Bayerl said. "We called them about Rosie and June after we read about them being up for adoption, but I never figured it would go anywhere. Why would one organization give me their horses, just so I could adopt them out? It didn't make sense but I'd love to have them in our pasture."
Burns said Wednesday she may have misunderstood Bayerl's intentions but she expects them to be made more clear when the equestrian center receives the adoption application Bayerl says he mailed last week.
"We'll see what happens but if they're just going to adopt them out I'd rather Rosie and June live out their days at Danada where they're adored in the community," Burns said. "I was kind of excited about (the Bayerl's application) because I thought they would treat the girls as their pets."
Whether or not the adoption goes through, Burns plans to continue her push to change the center's adoption policy to create an ambassador program that would allow retired Danada horses to remain at the facility as greeters until they can be placed in good homes.
Mike Palazzetti, deputy director of operations, said retired horses always have remained in the pasture as part of the herd until adoption but there's never been a formal policy.
"It's always worked that way. We just haven't expressed it properly to the public so they think there's this gap in between," he said. "But really. if the horse doesn't get adopted out, they're still there."
Palazzetti said staff members will be more diligent about rotating retired horses to the front paddocks so they can greet visitors.