Vancouver Island ‘horse hero’ vying for Horse Canada prize

Paula Leweke rescues 10 horses a year from slaughter

A Metchosin horse rescuer was a finalist in a competition to determine Canada’s ‘Hero of the Horse.’

After being nominated, Paula Leweke is one of eight finalists in the Horse Canada competition, which doles out $2,000 and 12 horse blankets to the finalist who receives the most online votes. The retired nursing instructor quietly rescues about 10 horses a year from slaughter, purchasing most at auction in Alberta and transferring them to her four-acre Metchosin farm to be rehabilitated and trained.

In Canada, dozens of live horses are sold for meat or are shipped out of the country each year to be slaughtered and eaten in other countries. Many of them, often in terrible health, are available for sale at auction beforehand. That’s when Leweke steps in.

READ ALSO: B.C. Horse Angels battle ‘kill-buyers’ to stop horse slaughter

Leweke doesn’t see the mangy fur or hollow ribs on the “throwaway horses” that come to her hobby farm. She invests thousands of dollars in their health and training, slowly revealing the shining coats, powerful muscles and gentle natures of horses once destined for slaughter.

“Just because they’ve been thrown away does not mean they aren’t athletic and beautiful horses,” she said. “They’re skinny and beat up, so I rehab them and get them what they need. Every horse has an individual plan.”

With no official rescue name, Leweke refers simply to her animals as “Paula’s horses.” She sells them to good homes – some going on to become show jumpers, others to quiet hobby farms like her own – and aims only to break even so she can keep rescuing more. She relies primarily on her pension, but notes the high cost of operating – it can cost up to $1,000 per horse to have them shipped onto the Island, and some rack up tens of thousands in vet or training bills. Receiving $2,000 would go straight to the hay fund, Leweke said. And 12 new blankets is as good as another $2,000.

READ ALSO: Duncan horse rescue centre needs help to keep doors open

Despite the cost and stress, Leweke said one thing keeps her going: “My love of horses, and the fact that so many don’t make it.”

Voting closed Sept. 15.

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