Horse rescue labour of love

HOME: Clydesdale horse Budweiser (Buddy) has found his forever home at Kehsarra Clydesdale Rescue in Tarpeena. Picture: BRITTANY DENTON

“THE tragedy was a bonding experience and it was a turning point for all of us,” Kehsarra Clydesdale Rescue owner Lynn Brierley said, speaking to The Border Watch six weeks on from the devastating loss of three beloved horses – killed instantly when they were struck by lightning.

“It doesn’t feel like a workplace anymore – we are a family.”

A small team of five volunteers manage the property at Tarpeena, where they care for unhealthy or unwanted Clydesdale horses.

During a freak storm in November, Ms Brierley witnessed a bolt of lightning hit a paddock at the property – two rescue horses and Ms Brierley’s own young Clydesdale were “dead before they hit the ground”.

She said while she was haunted by the memory and continued to mourn the loss, some good had come from media coverage of the unlikely tragedy.

“The story was circulated nationally and the response was overwhelming,” she said.

“Someone had read the story and asked if we would be interested in taking two new horses on, so we have Budweiser and Crystal with us now.

“Phoenix was sold to us a week or so later, she is the same age as my horse was and looks very similar to Ellie – the mare we lost a month earlier.

“Buddy and Crystal were quite neglected and underweight when they arrived here but they have settled in really well.

“We lost three, four including Ellie, but we have since gained three and they have found their forever home here.”

Ms Brierley opened Kehsarra Clydesdale Rescue in 2015.

“I have always loved Clydesdale horses and always owned them myself – coming from England, it’s a big tradition over there,” she explained.

“I didn’t really think there would be such a need for rescuing these guys, but a lot of people buy them not realising how much work they are.”

Team member Melissa McIntosh said the charity organisation finds adoptive homes for the gentle giants, while horses unsuitable for a second home live out their “golden years” at the property.

“Phoenix will be one of our new therapy horses, but it will be another 12 to 18 months before she’s ready to do it,” Ms McIntosh said.

“One of the three horses we lost was our previous therapy horse.

“Eventually she will be going out to Boandik and likely Gordon Education Centre.

“There will be a lot of groundwork with her – we are trying to make her less sensitive to noises, crowds and people.”

Ms Brierley said Clydesdale horses were often helpful for people with post traumatic stress and anxiety.

“We are exploring options to expand our therapy services,” she said.

“We have 12 horses at the moment, five rescues left and possibly another on the way and finances is what holds us back really – we are self-funded and just fork everything out ourselves.

“Gambier Earth Movers donated their time and equipment to help us bury the three horses that were killed and they were so professional and very caring.

“They had never had to do anything like that and I know they were quite upset by it – we were so grateful.”

She said donations were always welcome and a 2018 calendar was available for purchase.

“We will have t-shirts for sale soon too, designed by a graphic designer from Edenhope who donated her service to us,” she added.

“The funds mainly contribute to vet fees, which are fairly constant.

“We are always grateful for produce donations – generous locals occasionally see Lisa at The Produce Store on Margaret Street and pay for feed for us.”

The property has been registered as a refuge for all horses during bushfire season.

“We are now registered on a national database to assist in relocation for horses during extreme fire conditions,” Ms Brierley said.

“We have paddocks ready and abundant extra feed.”

Between rescue operations and maintaining the property, Ms Brierley works in aged care and has almost completed her nursing studies.

“I only have six weeks of placement to go,” she said.

“I work in aged care at Boandik – when I have a bad day at work I come home to the horses and this is my happy place.

“I’m lucky we have a really good team here and everyone is as dedicated to the cause as I am.”

BLUE-EYED BEAUTY: Kehsarra Clydesdale Rescue owner Lynn Brierley with blue-eyed Clydesdale mare Crystal, one of three new horses adopted by the charity following the tragic loss of three horses struck by lightning in November. Picture: BRITTANY DENTON