By Tim Ellis
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.07.2007
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains east of Amado lies a sanctuary for horses cast off by the pharmaceutical industry. It’s the Jumpin’ Jack Ranch, where Karen Pomroy and a half-dozen volunteers with Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary save horses and foals from the slaughterhouse after they’ve been used to help produce a substance called Premarin.
That’s the trade name for a hormone-replacement medication prescribed to women suffering from physical problems caused by menopause — a medication derived from pregnant mare urine, or PMU.
The urine is harvested through a process that requires up to 50,000 mares to be impregnated annually and kept in small pens for seven months, until they give birth.
The mothers then have two to three months to wean the foals before they are separated and sent back to the rows of urine-collection stalls. All but a few of the mares and foals are sent to the slaughterhouse, where they’re processed into meat and their hides are harvested for cordovan leather.
Pomroy and many others nationwide are determined to save as many of the horses discarded by the industry as possible — and get the word out about the process to which the animals are subjected.
“Shutting down the Premarin industry — that’s my main issue,” she said.
Pomroy reckons she and her volunteers have saved about 160 horses since she established the nonprofit organization in 2004.
Equine Voices buys the horses that the PMU farmers no longer want to keep, then pays to transport them here from the Canadian farms.
Room for 30 to 35 horses
They’d save more, if they had enough money and space. But she can board only 30 to 35 horses at a time on the 10-acre ranch off Canoa Road, south of Green Valley. There are 33 there now, many of which are in the process of being adopted.
Six of those are now “sanctuary horses” — those that are either too old, ornery or beloved.
Those include Gulliver, a big Clydesdale-Belgian mix and Equine Voices mascot, his “clan” — “pals,” Deuce and Spanky, and Bella Luna, his “girlfriend.”
“If I had 100 acres, I’d have lots more horses,” Pomroy said.
Pomroy established Equine Voices in 2004, and operated the nonprofit out of her home on the ranch. But now there’s a double-wide that serves as the office and visitor center, and there are several corrals and stables.
One is for newborn foals and their mothers. That’s where the two newest additions to the fold can be found: Desert Truffle, a 2-week-old Belgian draft, and Firefly, a 1-week-old quarter horse.
There’s also a small playground dubbed Freedom Park, which Pomroy eventually would like to use for a program to teach children and youths how to care for horses.
“We’ve done a lot over the past two years,” she said.
Eight volunteers help keep the Jumpin’ Jack operating, and about 130 others around the Tucson area help raise money for the ranch.
“The support from the people of Tucson is really incredible,” she said. “It’s a very animal-oriented community. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the good people here.”
First official staff member
One of the Equine Voices volunteers, Audrey Caprio, has just been hired as the organization’s first official staff member. She’s the adoption coordinator, which requires her to match people who’ve inquired about adoption with an appropriate horse.
“We’re always looking for loving homes for our horses,” said Caprio, who lives in the Corona de Tucson area, where she keeps a couple of horses that she adopted from Equine Voices.
She, like Pomroy, has worked in sales and marketing, so she helps with the business end of the operation.
And Caprio, like Pomroy, shares her passion for saving horses from the pharmaceutical industry.
One of her recent rescues is Mama Cass, “a huge Belgian draft — the epitome of Premarin mares.”
Big horses like Belgian drafts are favored by the industry, she said, because they produce a lot of urine. And they are a relatively docile breed that seems more able to handle long periods in small pens more easily than other breeds.
Mama Cass weighs nearly a ton now because she’s pregnant. She’s due to foal anytime now, said Geniece Baer, who adopted her.
“She was impregnated and for some reason, they didn’t want her,” she said, referring to the operators of a PMU farm in Canada that formerly owned Mama Cass.
Baer, a lifelong horse-lover, said she decided to adopt after she and her husband, Matthew, bought horse property in Vail.
As a teenager and 4-H member, she rescued and rehabilitated a racing horse with a broken knee.
“I’ve been with horses all my life,” said Baer, a fourth-grade teacher at Liberty Elementary School in the Sunnyside School District.
She said she was attracted to Mama Cass “partly because she was a PMU rescue.”
But there was something else to Mama Cass that attracted her.
“I came across Equine Voices on the Internet, and I saw her picture . . . and there was just something about her. She called out to me.
“When you pick a horse, that’s the thing you go with, your gut instinct. It’s kind of like picking a mate.”
You can help
Equine Voices welcomes cash donations and volunteer help.
Donations to the nonprofit organization are tax-deductible.
Sponsorships: For those who would like to support a rescued horse but cannot board it, Equine Voices offers $50 sponsorships. Sponsors are given a photo of the horse they’re supporting, and a story about its life. Sponsorships and volunteering can be arranged online through the Equine Voices Web site, or by calling or writing the phone number and addresses below.
For more information: To adopt a rescued horse, or to find out more about Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary, call 1-520-398-2814; write to P.O. Box 1685, Green Valley, AZ 85622; e-mail or go online to www.equinevoices.org
To learn more:
To find out more about the pregnant-mare urine industry, go online to:
- The Humane Society of the United States, www.hsus.org, and enter Premarin in the search box in the upper left corner of the home page.
- Equine Advocates, www.equineadvocates.com
- To find out more about Premarin, go to the Web site of New Jersey-based Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: http://www.wyeth.co.za
This story first appeared Thursday in the Star’s East Side and Sahuarita weekly sections. Contact reporter Tim Ellis at email@example.com.