Horses are the purest souls. To see the little grey hairs on my Maestro’s dark legs are soft reminders of his age and the many years we have spent together. I am so thankful that Maestro has his forever home with my family; I only wish that so many other equine senior citizens could share the same comfortable retirement. I recently came across a post on Facebook by TamMar Equine Rescue & Transport about a new program that really struck a chord with me. This program is TamMar’s “Compassionate Care Program” and it aims to provide horses with the end of life care to pass away with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Too often, you come across elderly horses and horses with permanent physical damage advertised to be re-homed or coming through auctions from owners that feel they have no other option. It is painful to think of the future of these horses, as it is often filled with mistreatment, starvation, abuse or slaughter. Few horses in their circumstances are so lucky as to end up with a wonderful home for the time that remains for them.

TamMar Equine Rescue and Transport’s Compassionate Care Program, run by Tammy and Marvin Sauder and Melissa Caccamo, recognized this problem and decided that more needs to be done for these horses “end of life” journey. The team at TamMar states: “This is a three-fold program that supports horses through their numbered days and offers them a soft place to have their final landing when they say goodbye”.

I loved the idea of this program so much that I just had to get in touch with the team behind it at TamMar Equine Rescue & Transport to ask them a few questions:

How does the Compassionate Care Program work?

The program accepts horses that require palliative care until they are ready to pass. They may have months or even only days, but for this time we will secure these horses a comfortable lifestyle, providing them with the care they need. We will be there to hold their heads during their last breaths and tell them that they are valued and appreciated. In doing this, we believe that we can give the horses dignified ending. The program also aims to help people understand that there are other options than sending these horses to auction when they feel they have no other choice but to find their senior horse a new home.

Photo Credit: TamMar Equine

This is a three-step program:

      1. Locating and assessing horses in need.

2. Providing the compassionate care that the horse needs, at our farm or a foster home.

3. Provide the horse with a dignified end of life.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the program?

The biggest thing that we cannot stress enough is the need for a program like this. For too many years, the equine industry has had a problem with too many “unwanted” horses. The reason behind this issue is hard to pinpoint, as there are so many contributing factors.

The two factors that we are focused on attacking are unnecessary breeding and the lack of resources/help offered when people can no longer care for their horses. Long term, we feel that it is possible to influence promote change within the industry pertaining to these issues by laws and regulations. In addition to accepting horses that are near the end but not necessarily there, we are also organizing “gelding clinics” across the country (Canada). For those who run their studs with the rest of their herd, cannot afford the procedure or would like to rescue a stud but do not have appropriate housing, these clinics are for them. We have already had multiple vets offer to do a full day of gelds (likely 10 horses per day per vet), for those who qualify at only the cost of sedatives and travel. There is an application process to ensure the horses that are accepted into the gelding clinics are in real need to ensure the resources are given to those who need it most.

What horse inspired this program?

Our rescue began with two Clydesdales, Austin and Apollo. We found the two of them at the Ontario Livestock Exchange (OLEX), absolutely emaciated.

Oliver, Austin and Apollo
Photo Credit: TamMar Equine

Combined, they weighed as much as one underweight quarter horse. They were young, both under 5 years old. Not knowing if they’d make it or not, I paid $86 total for the pair. Day by day, we nursed them back to full health. Looking at them today, you’d never know they lacked a pound. While they are the iconic boys that represent our rescue well, it was a horse named Oliver that pushed me to get this program started. Oliver has been through OLEX ten times and has been subjected to starvation three times in his life. He is a 30-year-old stud, well broke to ride. He is a gentle boy, sweet as could be, but had been dealt a terrible hand in life – yet he keeps fighting. I took Oliver home, and put weight back on him. Oliver is soon moving into a foster home and has a sponsor dedicated to helping support his bills each month in exchange for updates, pictures, and the occasional visit. He will never see injustice again.

Since Oliver, there have been 3 other horses that have entered the program and gained sponsors and foster homes – and the program has only existed for a matter of weeks.

What do you need?

We are in the process of building a small committee of people spread out across Canada that can handle initial intake inquiries and assess the horse. We are also looking to build a database of foster homes that would be willing to take a horse, knowing that their time is limited, but committed to providing the highest quality of love and care during that time.

We have many crew-members at the rescue that care for the horses each and every day, a fantastic team of professionals including our veterinarian Dr. Tee, and many angels looking out for us and supporting us. Marvin transports horses coast to coast to support our costs. What many people don’t realize is that Marvin and I pay for all the horses costs ourselves. We adopt them out for exactly what we pay for them, and that translates into our ability to save more horses. Every donation helps us offset the costs and save more horses, and we appreciate every dollar that people send our way. This program will not come at a light cost, so we will be looking for sponsors and donators and volunteers to run fundraisers so that we can handle the cost of compassionate care horse and covering the cost of euthanasia and related costs such as removal after euthanasia.

In 2016 we rescued 214 horses. In 2017, only 20 days in, we’re already at 31 horses. While they do quickly get adopted out, we need outside support for the Compassionate Care Program to keep it running. Three fundraising events will be held in the upcoming months, with bigger things to come in future.

You can learn more about the Compassionate Care Program and contact TamMar Equine Rescue and Transport at