Havens for Horses
By Jesy Odio '15
Published Jun 1, 2014 8:00 AM
“Without horses, where would we be?” writes Edward Rothstein in the New York Times. Certainly, UCLA’s Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden would be missing Deborah Butterfield’s sculpture of a solitary mare, and Allison Milionis‘02 and photographer Karen Tweedy-Holmes would not have produced their beautiful book Horse Sanctuary.
Horses have had an ancient relationship with mankind and have advanced human history unlike any other domestic animal. Yet, during her seven years of research for the book, Milionis, who rode and showed horses as a child, saw many--from polo ponies to race horses—in crisis, under psychological distress and suffering physical mistreatment.
Milionis’s aim in writing the book, however, was not to expose the atrocious acts sometimes committed against horses but to celebrate the happier side of the story. Horse Sanctuary showcases 13 equine rescue organizations across the country, establishments dedicated to rescuing and caring for castaway horses and sometimes rehabilitating them for adoption or new careers. Milionis was careful to include only facilities that were legitimate and strong and known for “good, solid practices.” Each chapter of the book focuses on a different sanctuary and includes stories from workers and photographs of rescued horses. The book was published by Rizzoli, known for beautiful books worthy of any coffee table.
Exquisite photography was a must for Milionis, whose own background is in art, architecture and art history. “I wanted clear, honest depiction of the animals,” she says. In The Sun magazine, she spotted the work of Tweedy-Holmes, who, as it happens, is also a horse lover and animal welfare activist and whose work is widely exhibited in museums and has appeared in National Geographic, Time and the New York Times.
“I wanted my project to become a visual experience,” Milionis says. “When I came across Karen’s photography, her work really resonated with me and I thought, ‘that’s what I’m looking for.’”
One of the sanctuaries the book profiles is at the Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington, Kentucky, one of ten correctional facilities that has partnered with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF). Through their program, Second Chances, TRF has turned the Blackburn Correctional Complex into a healing and therapeutic place for both horses and inmates. One of the rooms in the barn serves as a classroom where inmates learn about horse behavior, anatomy, health and care. They develop skills that could help them land a job when they are released.
“The men take their work to heart,” says Milionis. “It is a kind of badge of honor. for example, to be able to properly wrap an injured leg.” In talking with the inmates, she learned that they found working around horses to be calming, even after they return to their cells.
“Every sanctuary we visited is doing exceptional work,” Milionis says, “but the program at Blackburn stood out, in part because it’s a sanctuary not just for the horses, but also for the men who care for them.”