Montreal’s retired carriage horses granted a new lease on life

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Rusty trotted the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal for two decades, fighting traffic but thrilling tourists, clop-clopping around Montreal’s 378-year-old heart with carriage in tow.

For the past year Rusty has ambled instead around the countryside just west of Montreal, the Belgian’s blond mane flowing as he gambols around a farm. He still thrills visitors, but without harness and carriage or any load.

One year ago, Montreal banned the trademark horse-drawn carriages that once parked in front of Notre-Dame Basilica after a years-long campaign by animal rights activists. Since then, at least half a dozen of the horses have gone to farms either for retirement or to newly adopted homes.

Over the past year, five of those horses including Rusty, Maximus, Freddy, Ulysses and Blanco arrived at A Horse Tale Rescue, a charitable rescue stable just west of Montreal.

Every Tuesday morning Rusty greets Darlene Job as she arrives to muck out his stall at his Horse Tale retirement home. Ms. Job is an educator in Montreal’s child protection system. She comes to Horse Tale to shovel manure and get away from it all.

“When I’m there, I’m just in a different space. I’m shovelling [manure], touching horses. Today I groomed them, cleaned up a stall, moved hay out of storage,” Ms. Job said. “I get outdoors. I’m a farmer at heart, so being around the barn, the horses, the sounds, the smells, it relaxes me.”

Ms. Job started volunteering regularly earlier this fall when Horse Tale started calling on workers in high-stress roles related to COVID-19 response to spend time with the horses. Not everyone shovels manure, like Ms. Job. For many it is as simple as walking or petting the horses.