Are they Royalty? Many think of the horses that spent the last couple weeks in temporary stalls at Cascade Stables as Mardi Gras royalty. But while they ride in many parades throughout the season, unlike true Carnival kings and queens, they have a less certain future.
Dorson and the Humane Society of Louisiana, which he founded three decades ago, aim to change that. For the second year in a row, the Humane Society is working to find homes for the horses purchased for temporary leasing during Mardi Gras.
While some of the horses you see in Mardi Gras parades are owned by individuals, others are rented from Cascade Stables, located at Audubon Park, which buys them for the season. Until 2017, the stable would sell some of the horses again when the season was over: The facility simply isn’t big enough to maintain the number of horses Carnival requires.
Cascade still buys additional horses, but now the Humane Society seeks out good homes and families to adopt them through an online application process, in an effort to stop them from being sold back to horse brokers. Those brokers, Dorson said, present another question mark in the animals’ lives, which can lead to caretakers without the means of providing good care, or even a trip to a slaughterhouse across the border in Mexico or Canada. (Slaughtering horses is outlawed in the United States, Dorson said.)
“Horses get traded around so often in life,” Dorson said.”Some horses can go through 17 owners in their lifetime. … (Owners) move, they swap, they change them out, so these poor horses never have a stable life.”
The Humane Society, Dorson said, has gotten more and more calls in recent years about mistreatment of horses, something he didn’t expect when he first started the organization.
“Most humane societies are cats and dogs — companion animals — but most of what we’re seeing is an enormous horse problem in the state,” Dorson said.
The lives of Mardi Gras horses have gotten more attention in recent years, thanks, unfortunately, to videos of some being mistreated cropping up on the Internet. Just a few weeks ago, a man was cited by the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after a Facebook video showing him hitting and kicking a horse was shared hundreds of times.
This year, in 2018, the Human Society needed homes for 19 Mardi Gras horses. By Monday (Feb. 12), eight of them were already spoken for, including a pretty chocolate brown and white mare. She’ll find her forever home on 35 acres in Folsom, said her new owner, Elizabeth Sprang.
“I learned to ride right here,” Sprang said, eying her new horse from across the temporary stalls set up on a covered paddock at Cascade Stables. “My mom taught me. This is a tradition — riding — in our family.”
Sprang will continue that tradition with her own son, thanks in part to encouragement from her mother.
“My son has changed (the horse’s) name at least a dozen times,” Sprang laughed, noting that their new adopted horse wouldn’t be keeping the name — Stoli — already attached to her stall. She pointed out the other name panels in the ring, which seemed to evoke the party they’re adopted for: Jose, Cuervo, Malibu.
Sprang smiled, watching her son and her mother pause to take a photo with the horse, excited about the new family member they were bringing home. She recalled watching the Humane Society adopt out the horses in 2017 and hoped she’d be able to take one home this year.
“My mom just made it a reality,” she said.
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