Saving Pregnant Horses

 PMRF founder Lynn Hummer, on the left, and Carolyn LaCoe, who operates its Gilroy satellite, with two of the results of the group's animal welfare work. The pony with Hummer, Trixie, is the foal of a neglected mare confiscated in San Martin last year. La

In a world where just about every pet critter seems in need of rescuing, pregnant mares are no different, but what they need saving from is—the slaughterhouse.
That’s what brought together an unlikely pair of horse lovers, a one-time big band songstress and a childhood barrel racer.
Founder Lynn Hummer, 60, and Carolyn LaCoe, 47, make up most of the energy behind the Pregnant Mare Rescue Foundation.
The Aptos-based non-profit recently opened a satellite facility in Gilroy.
When Hummer stopped singing to make a big life change, it was with the kind of motivating knowledge that creates crusades: 150,000 horses are sent yearly from the U.S. to foreign slaughterhouses for human consumption.
That many are pregnant mares is what really got to Hummer, who grew up around stables but never owned a horse.
“I was horrified,” she recalled recently at the small family ranch LaCoe and her husband, Larry, operate off New Avenue.
The women met in 2014 during a now infamous animal cruelty case in which dozens of horses were found starving and neglected in San Martin.
“There were 39 in just one pasture, two had starved to death,” Hummer said.
LaCoe knew everything about each of the animals, according to Hummer, even before Santa Clara County Animal Control officers investigated, farmed them out to rescue groups, including PMR, and charged the owner with animal cruelty. He spent three months in jail and paid restitution to the rescuers.
It was a high-visibility case that opened the public’s and the authorities’, eyes to the extent of the problem locally, the women said.
“I actually met Lynn when the horses were taken into Animal Control custody,” she said. “I called about nine horse rescues and met with several to take horses.”
About16 of the 39 were with foal, she said.
“I took three pregnant mares, Lynn took two, another rescue took three,” LaCoe said. “One delivered twins, they were born dead, it was awful,” she said.
So impressed were the rescuers with her horses savvy that several asked LaCoe to join their ranks.
“I decided to go with Lynn because I thought with my many years of experience I’d have a lot to offer,” LaCoe said.
“Carolyn is a wonderful horsewoman, she has a lifetime of experience,” Hummer said. “She has raised babies from the bottom up, and besides being a rider she is a wonderful trainer.”
Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Berryessa area of San Jose, LaCoe began riding at age 12 and by 15 had a horse. She grew up barrel racing and on cutting horses and became an expert in corrective training problem horses.
Years in the saddle have taken a toll on her back so she rides less now, devoting herself to her rescue work.
“I don’t go on vacation or anything like that, it’s hard to get people who can come in and take care of the horses,” she said.
For Hummer, it’s all still seems like a wonderful surprise turn in a life she had planned out quite differently.
The daughter of a golf pro at the Desert Springs club, she grew up in a world peopled by the likes of Frank Sinatra, his famed Rat Pack and Big Band music. And music became her passion and profession.
“I quit college to join a rock ‘n roll band but I really wanted to be like Barbara Streisand,” she recalled.
From rock she became an orchestra singer, playing swanky gigs at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco.
Along the way she met stars like Shirley Temple Black and entertained thousands, but things did not go as planned. With a self-imposed deadline for fame approaching, she saw instead a less than fulfilling future crooning her life away in bars waiting to make it big.
After eleven years on stage she walked away and began a search for more in life.
“I turned 50 years old and wanted to make a huge lifestyle change; I wanted horses back in my life. I thought it would be a good idea do something good for them,” she said.
The year was 2006, Hummer recalled, and the idea didn’t exactly resonate with her suburban, Silicon Valley family, which included two children.
“I had to buy my husband a Harley Davidson to convince him to let me do it; I surprised him,” she laughed.
“We moved from Campbell out to the country and started from scratch, it was all new to me. It was quite a task. I have a nice husband, he is very patient.”
Now, with PMR’s 11th anniversary upcoming in May, the three-acre Aptos facility is home to perhaps a 10 mares and foals at any given time, another handful are with LaCoe and a second satellite in Scotts Valley keeps others – in all a small herd of perhaps 15 animals, former pets and abandoned or neglected critters.
The goal is to care for the moms and foals through weaning then to adopt them out; none is put down unless illness makes it necessary.
The toughest to find homes for are what they call the “sanctuary” mares, horses that because of ill treatment don’t interact well with people but still need to live out their lives with good care and dignity.
Two years ago, PMR received the Red Cross’ Central Coast Animal Hero Award, and Hummer and LaCoe look forward to the day when PMR has its own land, a legacy facility to take its work securely into the future.
And perhaps to more and more happy endings, like the one depicted in the movie they will screen in the near future as a fundraiser, Harry and Snowman.
Said Hummer, “It’s about a slaughter-bound horse that gets pulled off the truck and ends up winning the Grand Nationals.”
See PMR’s website at www.pregnantmarerescue.com.
Hummer can be reached at (408) 540-8568; LaCoe is at (408) 859- 3269. -30-

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