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Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley

Posted: December 7, 2009 03:16 PM

Time to Pony Up for Your Daughter's Dream Gift

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So here it is, Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and once again, the only thing your daughter wants for Christmas is a pony. And so, for the umpteenth time, you are going to disappoint her when you give her something less expensive, like a diamond bracelet or a new car.

Or are you?

Make this the Christmas you finally buy your little girl that horse she's always dreamed of -- at a price that's practically giving it away -- and in the process you'll be benefiting a great cause, saving an equine life, and maybe even helping to smooth out a bumpy patch in my friend's marriage.

Here's the scoop: I ran into my old buddy ZZ and his family the other day, and we got to talking. Turns out ZZ's wife Mary is involved with a charitable organization called Aspen Valley Horse Rescue, which saves mares and foals that would otherwise be sent to the slaughterhouse.

It seems there is a drug called Premarin that helps women manage the symptoms of menopause. One of the main ingredients in Premarin is PMU, which, I kid you not, stands for "pregnant mare's urine." How anyone could figure out that the urine of a pregnant horse is good for treating hot flashes and mood swings is beyond me, but apparently somebody did it.

As a result of Premarin's popularity and the need for PMU, at one time there were about 400 PMU ranches in North America, mostly in North Dakota and Manitoba.

Each ranch had dozens, if not hundreds, of mares whose sole purpose was to get knocked up and start peeing. As soon as they gave birth, they were quickly impregnated again, and the cycle started all over. It was kind of like the family on TV with 19 kids, only less creepy.

Subsequent studies have shown, though, that Premarin may cause cancer in women. Unsurprisingly, its popularity has waned just a tad since that little morsel of information went public. In the last few years, more than 300 PMU ranches have closed, leaving perhaps 40 still in operation. When all those ranches shut down, thousands of mares and foals suddenly found themselves without homes.

The most common fate for the PMU horses was to be sold at auction to buyers in Canada, where selling horse meat is still legal, slaughtered, butchered and then resold for human consumption in places like Japan and France, where people eat weird things and house pets.

When she learned about this nefarious trade, Mary was so moved that she immediately decided to see what she could do to help. Recently, she and a group of other like-minded individuals formed Aspen Valley Horse Rescue to try and save as many horses as they could from the slaughterhouse.

The first shipment of 24 foals from North Dakota arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley on Oct. 17, and since that time, many more have arrived while another 60 have been sent to a ranch in Montana. At the moment Mary and ZZ have roughly 30 foals and 20 mares on their property in Missouri Heights, north of Aspen. This is what has led to the bumpy patch in their marriage.

Oh, it's not that ZZ isn't proud of Mary and doesn't think it's a worthy cause or anything like that. It's just that he's allergic to animals, particularly horses. The poor guy can barely stand to live in his own home. Oh, and a large portion of his income has recently started going toward the purchase of oats and sugar cubes.

That's where you can help. For about $500, you can adopt one of the horses yourself or send one to Montana and get it out of ZZ's yard. If you're really kind but poor, you can donate whatever you can afford to Aspen Valley Horse Rescue to help defray the cost of feeding and caring for all those horses.

To learn more or contribute, please visit aspenvalleyhorserescue.org or call Mary Bright at (970) 948-2331 or Kathy Raife at (970) 319-1635. You'll be doing a great service, not just to a bunch of horses who would otherwise end up in someone's belly in Tokyo, but also to a beleaguered husband who's had the sniffles and itchy eyes for the past month and a half.

Plus, if you don't call and help out, we'll tell your daughters that you had the chance to spend a mere $500 and finally get them what they wanted for Christmas, but you were too cheap.