WINDSOR - The man behind West Hants’ herd of wild horses is overwhelmed by the response a call for help issued on his behalf received.
Ralph Morash, a Wentworth Road resident in his mid-70s, says people he didn’t even know stepped up to help him relocate a herd of 14 horses that roamed free along a vast piece of undeveloped land near the neighbouring Fundy Gypsum facility.
“I didn’t believe there was those kind of people in the world,” said Morash.
“There seems to be so many people to cause you trouble but not generally so many that would help as there has been.”
Morash, who is often spotted cruising along in a tractor with his canine sidekick, Sissy, says his heart sank when he learned the horses were at risk of being destroyed if the herd was not promptly moved to a piece of privately-owned property.
“I couldn’t sleep nights,” he said.
In addition to the demands that the herd be relocated, Morash also had to deal with complaints that the horses were breaking past the fencing that once prevented them from wandering onto his neighbours’ properties.
He says the horses aren’t dangerous, but representatives of the Municipality of West Hants received complaints that the loose horses were a nuisance and a threat to public safety.
Horse lovers offer help
Morash knew relocating the horses was a task too great for one man to tackle, but he had no idea so many people would volunteer to help when word spread of his dilemma.
A Facebook group called “Save Nova Scotia’s Wild Horses” was started to rally support. Horse lovers from far and wide offered $5,000 in bids in an online auction launched to raise money for such costs as gelding the stallions and installing or repairing fencing.
The horses are not used to being handled by humans. Some will eat bread out of their owner’s hand, and approach him for a few gentle pats, but they’ve never been used for riding.
“I bought them because they were good horses and I didn’t like to see them go to the slaughterhouse,” he said, referring to the two horses the herd has evolved from in the last 40 years.
Morash says experienced horse handlers Collette and Sterling Gates were largely the brains behind relocating the herd, and John Swinamer helped haul the horses with a trailer.
“We put a roll of hay in it and put the corralaround it and when they go in and eat the roll of hay all we do is close it,” he said, noting that the horses are used to him feeding them in the winter.
“They get a little hungry when the snow is on the ground and you can kind of suck them in for something to eat.”
Twelve of the horses have already been moved, leaving the moving crew with two more mares to rein in.
“We’ve got them all moved but two and they were two of the mothers that were quite quiet but they didn’t seem to want to load on the trailer,” said Morash.
“They’ve never been out of there in their lives and they don’t wanna leave.”
The plan is to keep the mares and stallions separate until the studs are gelded.
Morash says he will be able to breathe easy when all of his horses are home, in a place where no one has any desire to cause them harm.
“I would like to get the last two horses out of there, and get them gelded so everything is going fairly smooth.”
Morash says he will forever be grateful to the people who heard his story, and offered to help his horses in some way.
“I think they’re soon going to be safe.”
Compassion comes with a price
Morash’s compassion for animals comes with a price. He works 365 days a year, morning through to night, producing hay, tending to cattle and feeding his horses.
“I’m going to look after them anyhow. That’s what I live for,” he said.
He admits he did not intend for the horses to multiply so often.
“It really isn’t all that easy to get a colt gelded after it gets some age on it and you haven’t got the facilities to do it,” he said.
“And I’m not a cowboy, so I can’t rope them.”
Morash stopped in to visit a mare and stud he is keeping in a neighbour’s field the afternoon of March 18 to discover the pair, inseparable mates, had a little surprise for him.
“He’s contented to be here with her and she’s contented too, so that’s what happened I guess,” he said, pointing to a “baby” he guessed to be four to five hours old.
He knows the newest addition to the herd is another mouth to feed, but says he can’t help but feel excited to see the foal.
“That’s just the kind of person I am,” he said, staring at the clumsy newborn with one of those ear-to-ear grins.
Morash says he will forever be grateful to everyone who made it possible for the horses to be moved this winter.
“They saved the horses’ lives.”