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Oakley’s Rescue Ranchito provides sanctuary for ailing horses, education for residents

Oakley’s Rescue Ranchito equine refuge provides a home for horses and mules that might otherwise be slaughtered. The rescue educates locals on the darker side of the horse industry.

Erin Brown's first horse was a thoroughbred adopted and rescued straight off a racetrack. About 10 years ago, her second Lola was adopted from Washington State where she was waiting to be auctioned off for slaughter. Lola's plight opened Brown's eyes to the reality that thousands of horses face the same fate each year.

"She was sort of the impetus for us going down the rabbit hole of the horse industry can were quite devastated to hear what was really happening with horses throughout the States and around the world," she said.

That need prompted Brown, a longtime Park City resident to start Rescue Ranchito in 2023. It's a sanctuary for horses and other equine animals who have been cast off and deemed worthless due to age, illness, injury or other concerns.

“Usually it's that that horse, mule or donkey no longer performs for humans," she said. "So they're considered sort of worthless to the human and then send to auction."

She said the three-acre sanctuary on Weaver Canyon Road and Oakley is currently home to four horses and a mini mule. Three more horses are living on donated pasture space in Heber City.

According to brown the last us slaughterhouses closed in 2007. But horses can still be transported across the U.S. borders to Canada or Mexico, where they are butchered for use in commercial products such as glue, paint brushes, and in cosmetics, as well as for human consumption as meat or jello.

Brown said in 2022, some 17,000 horses were trucked out of the US for this purpose. So that's where brown steps in all of Rescue Ranchitos animal residents were adopted from auctions, some will remain at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives. But when possible Brown and trainer Lizzie Lynch try to rehome the horses sometimes as gentle rides for children, or as pasture companions to other animals.

Rescue Ranchito operates entirely on donations, and Brown said there are multiple ways to give. Those include volunteering or a monthly sponsorship that pays for an animal's care this summer. Brown will host fundraising events where kids and adults can bond with the animals, including educational days, and horse bathing pasture dining events.

"We get to just go out into the pasture and spend time with the horses and it's pretty special," she said.

Visit Rescue Ranchito's website for more information on how to get involved.