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A Visit to Duchess Sanctuary

by Alexandra Gritta

  • Alexandra donates the proceeds from her book sales to horse rescue organizations like Duchess Sanctuary. Mary Gritta

  • A horse gave Alexandra a friendly thank-you nudge as she presented sanctuary manager Jennifer Kunz with a donation check. Mary Gritta

  • Help horses by buying a copy of "Mystery at Silver Key Stables" (available from Powell's, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble). Alexandra Gritta

In July 2011, I had the privilege of visiting Duchess Sanctuary, which is owned and operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States. Duchess Sanctuary is a 1,120-acre facility in Oregon, established in 2008 as a safe haven for horses.

My interest in the horses at Duchess Sanctuary originated from the fact that the majority of the horses were rescued from pregnant mare urine farms in Canada.

I had done personal research before my visit, and was aware that PMU mares were kept in a constant state of pregnancy for years, so that their urine could be collected and used to manufacture hormone therapy drugs for women going through menopause. Their foals, seen merely as by-products of the urine production process, were usually slaughtered. It was a horrible life for any animal.

I was not sure exactly what to expect on my visit to the sanctuary. I knew what horrors these PMU mares had suffered at the hands of human beings, and did not anticipate being able to have any close interaction with them.  

What I did encounter was nothing I could even have imagined. The horses at Duchess Sanctuary were healthy, happy, calm, friendly, well cared for, and some of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. Entering the pasture where the herd was grazing, I found myself instantly surrounded by the gentle, inquisitive creatures. The very last thing in the world I expected to see, considering their background, was the trust that I saw in the horses’ eyes.

Being at Duchess Sanctuary that day left something behind in my heart that had not been there before my visit. If I had to try and describe it, I would say that it feels like a combination of hope, happiness and relief, all rolled into one.

I am amazed and thankful to know that there are organizations like The HSUS and individuals like Duchess Sanctuary’s ranch manager, Jennifer Kunz, who speak out and act on behalf of these beautiful animals who have no voices, yet have so much heart.

The time I spent at Duchess Sanctuary was only a few hours, but it changed my life in ways I am still trying to understand. I am proud to be able to support the Duchess Sanctuary with proceeds from the sale of my book, "Mystery at Silver Key Stables." Please feel free to visit my website, alexandragritta.com, and order a color illustrated copy (from amazon.com) or a black-and-white illustrated copy (from barnesandnoble.com) today!

For the love of all horses,
Alexandra Joy Gritta

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