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Agriculture

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

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“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.

Agriculture

151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot

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VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.

The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.

The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.

“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.

He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.

An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.

A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.

James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.

Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.

“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.

James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.

“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”

James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.

Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.

The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.

“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”

James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Agriculture

China uses arbitrary detentions as ‘tool’ to achieve ‘political goals’: Trudeau

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justin trudeau

OTTAWA — China uses arbitrary detentions as a tool to achieve its international and domestic political goals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

He called that a pressure tactic that is worrying not only to Canada, but to its western allies.

Trudeau offered that assessment during a meeting with the editorial board of the Toronto Star, where he was asked to respond to the latest upbraiding of Canada by the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.

Asked earlier about Trudeau’s appointment of business consultant Dominic Barton as Canada’s new ambassador to China, spokesman Geng Shuang said Canada needs to reflect on its “mistakes” and immediately release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on a U.S. extradition request.

“We look forward to his positive efforts to help bring China-Canada relations onto the right track,” Geng said in translated remarks posted on his ministry’s website. 

“Lately China-Canada relations have encountered serious difficulties. The responsibility lies completely with the Canadian side, and Canada knows the root cause clearly. We urge the Canadian side to reflect upon its wrongdoing, take China’s solemn position and concerns seriously, immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and ensure her safe return to China.”

China has imprisoned two Canadian men, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, on suspicion of spying in what is widely viewed as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

“Using arbitrary detention as a tool to achieve political goals, international or domestic, is something that is of concern not just to Canada but to all our allies, who have been highlighting that this is not acceptable behaviour in the international community because they are all worried about China engaging in the same kinds of pressure tactics with them,” Trudeau said at the end of a meeting with Toronto Star journalists, which was livestreamed. 

Trudeau said he doesn’t want to escalate tensions with China, and noted Beijing gave speedy approval to Canada’s request to appoint Barton as its ambassador.

Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have routinely branded Kovrig’s and Spavor’s incarcerations as arbitrary, and have marshalled broad international support from several dozen countries, including the United States. That coalition-building has angered China, which has banned imports of Canadian canola and blocked other agricultural products.

Trudeau said Canada has no choice but to engage economically with China because it is the world’s second-largest economy but has to be “clear-eyed” about that.

“China plays by a very different set of rules and principles than we do in the West. And making sure that we are able to make those points clearly and forcefully and as much as possible constructively is going to be really important,” the prime minister said.

“We are engaged very strongly in the issue of Canadians, in the issue of the canola and the beef and pork issues, but we are engaged in a substantive way that highlights to the Chinese government that we are concerned about their behaviour,” he added.

“We’re very concerned about the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong right now, but we are going to attempt to be constructive in ways that end up being good for Canadians and ultimately, hopefully, good for the Chinese people.”

Daniel Schow, a spokesman for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, reiterated his party’s view that Trudeau has been “bullied and pushed around by Beijing.”

“There’s a difference between not escalating tensions and doing nothing to stand up for Canada. Trudeau’s weakness and dithering on Canada’s relationship with China is costing Canadians.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she and Barton met Wednesday and the plight of Kovrig and Spavor was the first thing they discussed. She said that in the regular consular visits that Canadian diplomats have with the two men, they are told, among other things, of the government’s efforts to secure their release. She said that is a “source of solace” for the two.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


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september, 2019

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