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Agriculture

Valour… the amazing story of an Alberta horse with an incredible will to live

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11 minute read

“They survived a horrible, horrible situation. They survived on nothing; on twigs and leaves.” 

From Alberta SPCA

Watch Valour’s Amazing Story

 

The large, male horse runs with vigor when called for breakfast. Valour lives at an equine-facilitated healing ranch northwest of Edmonton where he doesn’t have to worry about food. When the human clients arrive at Infiniti Trails 4 Healing, Valour and the other horses on the ranch offer their soothing equine talents to help people relax and move energy around their bodies. It is a stress-free life for a horse that has endured his share of distress.

There was a time not too long ago when Valour could never count on his next meal. The Alberta SPCA was called out to a property in April of 2018 because neighbours had discovered skinny horses tucked away on a winter pasture far from the eyes of passersby. One horse was already dead and the others were in poor shape. Valour was one of those horses.

Valour at Equine-Facilitated Healing Ranch

“The first time I saw him, he walked up to me and put his head in my chest and he sighed,” says Alberta SPCA Peace Officer Karen Stevenson, who was the first to see the stallion.

Peace Officer Karen Stevenson

Peace Officer Stevenson found four horses that were still alive, but Valour was in the poorest health. She classified his body condition to be a one out of nine. He was so weak, Stevenson lead him out of the deep snow to conserve his energy.

“I was worried if he went down he wasn’t going to get up,” says Stevenson. “Valour stopped and placed his head on my chest and my heart broke. I knew this horse would probably die.”

The Peace Officer immediately started formulating a plan to get the horses out of the situation, but it takes a team of people and the right equipment to load and transport horses, and she didn’t have that with her. Stevenson had to hope Valour could survive one more night on his own.

“I took a minute and rubbed his head and he sighed,” recalls Stevenson. “I told him, ‘Fight like you have never fought before. Give me one more night, I will be back tomorrow with a lot of good people who are going to get you out of this nightmare’.”

Stevenson then started walking back to her truck. As she did, she looked back at the horse who was clearly heartbroken to see his new friend leaving.

“When I turned back, Valour was looking at me for a while and then he just dropped his head as if he was going to give up,” Stevenson explains. “In my five years with the Alberta SPCA, this was the hardest time I’ve ever had walking away from animals.”

Valour – April 2018

Valour Taken Into Protective Custody

A team from the Alberta SPCA arrived at the property the next morning to seize the horses and get them help. However, Stevenson’s heart sank when she first arrived and couldn’t find Valour. She was convinced he hadn’t made it through the night.

“I walked the field and then I saw the saddest picture ever,” says Stevenson. “He was standing in the willows trying to eat twigs and dry leaves.”

The next challenge was figuring out a way to get the horses into the trailer as the team did not know if they were halter broken. However, all it took was a pail of grain and a whistle and the horses came stampeding over.

“I had to run through the snow. I thought they were going to run me over. I have never seen horses so hungry.”

The four horses were transported to an equine veterinarian to begin the road to recovery. For Valour, however, the prognosis was still very dire. The paint horse was in rough shape.

Valour In The Days & Weeks After Being Seized

“They went right to the feed and it was four of them,” explains Dr. Melissa Hittinger, a veterinarian contracted by the Alberta SPCA. “But by that afternoon [Valour] went down and he stayed down for over a month, on and off.”

In the process, Valour developed extensive rub sores all over his body, and he was losing hair. Often in situations like this, horses are euthanized, but Valour seemed to have a fighting spirit. The medical team attached a harness to the stallion and would lift him back to his feet, hoping that he just needed a little time to regain his strength.

“In our experience with them, once they are down, they are done.”

“In our experience with them, once they are down, they are done,” explains Dr. Hittinger, referring to horses that go down. “With him [though] it was like, ‘Oh, thanks, I needed that,’ and then he just tootled off.”

There were a few times it seemed Valour would not recover. But each time the team contemplated euthanasia, they would find Valour on his feet. He was not willing to give up, so neither were they.

And slowly, Valour started to regain all the muscle he had lost. Slowly, the weight went back on. Slowly, the strength of a stallion came back and the personality of a vibrant horse emerged.

Valour’s Progression Over The Summer of 2018

Valour Heads To New Home

Valour’s impressive recovery meant that he was now ready to move to a permanent home. The decision was made to send him to Michele Keehn to use at her equine-facilitated healing ranch. The horse who embraced the help of so many people was now ready to start paying it forward.

“He’s very aware. He’s… always watching what’s going on,” says Keehn. “He’s very vibrant and strong, curious, but very sure. He’s got this sureness about himself, this confidence.”

Valour During Equine-Facilitated Healing Session

On this day, Valour has a special visitor. Peace Officer Karen Stevenson has come to see the horse she rescued, and the environment he now lives in. She is fighting back tears as she sees a horse that is very different than the one she feared would not survive the night one year earlier.

Emotional Reunion

As Stevenson walks out of the barn, she slowly walks up to Valour and puts her arms around his neck. She whispers to him, “Hi buddy. I told you I would get you better. I told you to fight hard and that we would get you a better life. You did so good, you did so good. You did it.”

This is a surreal moment for the veteran Peace Officer. She rarely gets to see the animals she saves once they have arrived at the caretaking facility. Most animals are gifted to organizations that find new homes for them and Alberta SPCA Peace Officers are not a part of that process. Stevenson is soaking up this opportunity to see how much her efforts make a difference.

Karen & Valour – April 2019

“They survived a horrible, horrible situation. They survived on nothing; on twigs and leaves.” 

“They survived a horrible, horrible situation. They survived on nothing; on twigs and leaves,” recalls Stevenson.

And while this moment is both emotional and rewarding, Stevenson is quick to deflect the accolades.

“It wasn’t just me, it was everybody [at the Alberta SPCA],” Stevenson says. “It was everybody who comes to work every day. It was everybody who puts in hours and hears sad stories and just works tirelessly to get this result.”

On this day, Valour appears proud to be showing off his new home. At one point, he lies down and rolls in the dirt, and then quickly pops back up. It’s a bold reminder of how far Valour has come, from a horse so thin and weak he could not stand, to a horse that jumps to his feet with ease.

He seems to be soaking up the attention. And Stevenson is enjoying watching him live his best life.

“I can guarantee you that every peace officer who starts their day tries to make stories like this happen,” says Stevenson.

And she whispers to Valour, “Enjoy it buddy, you deserve this. You fought so long and hard. Enjoy it.”

It’s clear Valour has every intention of doing just that.

Before & After

April 2018 Shortly After Being Seized
April 2019 at Equine-Facilitated Healing Ranch

Make A Donation Today

The care and recovery for neglected horses is expensive. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to support the important work of the Alberta SPCA.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Agriculture

Why Canadians Should Care About Land Loss

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Why Canadians Should Care About Land Loss

Developments are increasingly taking over Canadian farmland. Farms once took up much of Canadian land. However, that case is not true today. Only about 5% of Canada’s land is considered prime farmland. This prime land borders one of Canada’s fastest-growing regions, and once suburban development overtakes it, Canadian farmers will have a challenging time providing food for the cities.

Farmers in Canada make their livelihood by planting, growing, harvesting and distributing food to the Canadian populations. Without land, both farmers and the rest of those living in Canada will not get fresh, Canadian grown produce.

Here are some reasons why Canadian farmers should care about land loss:

  1. Farmland Provides Food

While this is an apparent reason, it’s an essential one. Prime farmland in Canada produces food for major Canadian cities. As farmers continue to lose land, they have to rely on a smaller acreage to make the same amount of food — if not more — for the growing population.

Over the past 10 years, almost 1 million hectares of agricultural land has diminished due to development and growing populations. Agriculture continues to adapt to land loss. However, further technological advancements must first take place to grow enough produce vertically rather than horizontally.

  1. Land Preservation Will Help the Economy

Farmland preservations come with a wealth of economic benefits. Agriculture contributes to the economy through the following ways:

  • Sales: For the economy to survive, there needs to be consumer demands and sales. Almost everyone purchases produce, so there will always be a demand for those goods. Without land to grow agricultural products, no sales will be made, and the economy could suffer.
  • Job opportunities: Less than 2% of Canada’s population works in the agriculture industry. While it’s not much, that’s still over 750,000 people. Preserving farmland shows a commitment to the industry. Land loss would create job loss. However, maintaining the farmland — and even reclaiming it, along with pastures — could boost the sector and, therefore, the economy. It would provide unemployed people with job security.
  • Secondary markets: Farmers are just one part of the food business. Because of farmers and farmland, secondary markets can thrive. These would include processing businesses, restaurants, schools, grocery stores and even waste management companies.

Canadian farmers should care about land loss because standing back and allowing companies to overtake the farmland could seriously affect the economy.

  1. Farmland Benefits the Environment

Wildlife often depends upon farmland for both food and habitat. Various types of farmland create diverse habitats for many different species. Without land protection, these habitats and food sources would be destroyed, leaving many animals without a place to survive. Many would have difficulty finding a native habitat.

Additionally, growing crops helps eliminate some of the carbon dioxide released into the air. Air pollution could decrease for Canadian cities as long as no more farmland is used for development.

One major problem occurring with Canadian farmland is desertification. This happens when the soil loses nutrients and becomes barren. The urbanization of Canadian farmland is the primary contributor to desertification, which speeds up climate change and harms the environment. Keeping farmland as-is will slow down climate change.

  1. Land Loss Affects Farmers’ Jobs

Perhaps the main reason why Canadian farmers should care about land loss is because their livelihood could be taken away. If they don’t have the means to keep up with technological advancements in the agricultural industry, they will not be able to continue their jobs if they experience land loss.

Agriculture is an essential industry. Not everyone can pick up the skills needed to grow their own food, and so many people depend upon farmers for nutrition and goods.

Take a Stand to Preserve Farmland

Farmland is a worthwhile and precious resource for many people. Reduction in farmland acreage will hurt Canadian farmers and the rest of the population, the economy and the environment. Taking steps to prevent more land loss can slow the rates of destruction and keep natural habitats thriving for both humans and animalls.

Click here read more stories by Emily Folk. 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

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Agriculture

Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

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Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

It’s no secret that agriculture has contributed to climate change through various means. For example, you may know that livestock generates greenhouse gas emissions due to how farms process it. That said, it’s now clear that farmers have found sustainable ways to offset those contributions. In Canada, it’s all about energy use.

Here’s how Canadian farmers have become more efficient as they raise crops and livestock, setting a standard the world should follow.

Energy Demand and Consumption Have Fluctuated

The demand for energy has increased across the agricultural sector as a whole. However, it’s key to note that farmers have begun to use less energy despite that fact. That points to more efficient practices. The farmers who complete their work productively save time, money and energy. As a result, Canadian workers have reduced their energy consumption per dollar by 17%. That’s thanks to sustainability.

The most common energy sources include fuel, gas and electricity. It’s how farmers use those resources that counts. Combined with technology choices and new practices, it’s clear that efficiency is more achievable than ever.

What Contributes to This Phenomenon?

It’s crucial for people in agriculture to explore eco-friendly alternatives. The grasslands that many western Canadian farmers cultivate contains excess carbon, so you can imagine what the country as a whole holds underneath its surface. Farmers have now adopted new methods to adjust how they harvest their crops. These systems are better for production, as well as soil and seed health overall.

The agriculture industry has gone through many changes, too. There are fewer farms — but those that still operate have employed agricultural technology to be as efficient as possible. These tools include different equipment that cuts down on time to increase proficiency. Plus, it’s now more common to use solar power as an alternative to traditional energy solutions.

Why Accuracy and Precision Matters

It’s a lot easier to be energy efficient when you don’t waste your resources. The means farmers practiced before they used specific innovations often created a time deficit. If you have a smaller machine, you likely need to do twice as much work. However, when you have access to equipment that fits your field, you don’t have to be as wasteful. The accuracy and precision created by technology make this a reality.

Soil Conservation Is Led by Ranchers

Many farmers have looked to ranchers for help. It’s a native part of ranching to preserve topsoil and other elements that are inherently sustainable. As a result, it seems like ranchers have been leading the charge against climate change for decades. The tactics they use to avoid tilling soil, for example, help preserve the amount of carbon that lies underneath the Earth’s surface.

The “no-till” practice is efficient in its own right. Rather than till your soil to plant a new crop, you simply leave behind what’s already there. This method is much better for soil nutrition, and it can keep carbon exposure at bay. As a result, you have much fewer carbon emissions. In general, the idea of soil conservation isn’t a new one, but old tricks can still work alongside modern technology.

The Future of Agriculture in Canada Looks Bright

If farmers continue on this path, it’ll be clear that climate solutions are at the forefront of their minds. These efforts create more benefits for them as they save time and money. Plus, there’s always the responsibility of maintaining the planet’s health. After all, without a strong ecosystem, agriculture would suffer. Through means that are more accurate and conservative, Canadian farmers have been able to become more efficient. Click here read more stories by Emily Folk. 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

 

 

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