Knightsbridge Farm
Knightsbridge Farm

In February 2005, we purchased a group of 89 Spotted Draft mares from two brothers who live in central Canada. Most of the mares were descendants of decades of breeding by the patriarch of the family who bred Spotted Drafts long before anyone really called them Spotted Drafts. The horses were used to work on the family ranch as riding horses, to pull wagons, plow the fields and haul farm equipment. The mares were bred for their temperaments, willingness to work, conformation and color. Some of the offspring were kept while others were sold to neighboring ranchers. The two brothers continued their father's breeding program when they went into business as PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) ranchers.

In a PMU ranching operation, the mares are kept pregnant so that their urine can be collected and processed into the prescription hormone replacement therapy drugs often taken by women to combat the symptoms of menopause. The mares stand for countless hours in a small stall hooked up to a urine collection device. Often deprived of water to increase the concentration of the urine, it is a very hard life for them. Many break down mentally after years of service. They eventually refuse to “stand quietly in the barn” as the ranchers put it and as a result are then often sent to slaughter. The foals are simply a by-product of the industry. Fillies are sometimes put back into the program where breeding begins at the age of 2 years old. Those fillies that are not needed and the colts, which are of no use on a PMU ranch, are usually sent to slaughter.

In 2002, the PMU Industry was delivered a blow. The National Institutes of Health halted its trial of combination hormone replacement therapy - citing a number of serious long-tern risk factors such as increased risk for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. As prescriptions for the drugs plummeted, the pharmaceutical manufacturer, Wyeth-Ayerst, began canceling contracts with the PMU ranchers. Suddenly, thousands of mares who had been standing on the PMU lines were no longer needed.

While Wyeth-Ayerst has mounted a public relations campaign to lead the public to believe otherwise, thousands of these mares were sent to slaughter. The Company has often interfered in the attempts by rescues and sanctuaries in the U.S. to place PMU mares and foals by saying that they do not need rescuing. It is shameful that they place their public relations agenda ahead of the welfare of these horses who have provided them with the means to reap billions of dollars in revenues.

When the two brothers who owned the Spotted Draft mares lost their PMU contracts, they kept the mares for an additional year, bred all of them (we aren't sure why) and then, when they were just 10 weeks away from giving birth, sold them to a horse trader who had consigned them to an auction not far from the slaughter plants in IL. When we learned that the 89 mares were former PMU mares, many of whom had served on the urine collection lines for 20 years or more, we felt it was important not only to save them from the horror of horse slaughter but we also wanted to honor their work. We came to agreeable terms with the horse trader literally 10 minutes before the mares were to be loaded on the liners and sent to auction.

When we brought the group of mares over to our Farm in Alberta and had a chance to observe them and study the paperwork on their ages and pedigrees, we learned that this group was really one enormous family. Throughout the spring and summer of 2005, our mares gave birth to over 50 colorful foals. It was fascinating to watch as they seamlessly blended in as an integral part of the natural world around them. They really live as a herd of wild horses would utilizing all that exists in their environment to their advantage. The difference is that they come when we call them! While we had always planned to keep the older mares and provide them with sanctuary, we had originally hoped to put some training on the younger mares and foals and find them loving homes. In fact, we spent the better part of the past 2 years working towards this goal. But in time, as we came to know them better and shared in the joys of their daily interactions, it became apparent that we should simply provide them with sanctuary. Many of the foals were sold to loving homes. The remaining group, now 2 years old, will be sanctuaried with their herd family group.

We want to emphasize that some of the PMU ranchers who lost their contracts have made a sincere effort to find homes for their PMU mares and many of the foals. The Ark Watch Foundation and many other wonderful organizations in the U.S. have helped to facilitate this process whenever possible.


We have two short videos of our girls on the Farm that we thought our viewers might enjoy. In the first video, our manager Jennifer calls to the girls to come in. As they approach, it turns into a bit of a stampede and a few terrifying moments for our videographer. Click Here

In the second video, the group is headed back out to pasture.  Fatima, a lead mare in the herd and one of our chocolate dappled mares (not to be confused with Felina, our other chocolate dappled mare), trots back from the group to call to a mare that has been left behind.  Before Fatima leaves the group, she puts two of her "assistants" in charge of her baby, Cosette.  As the straggler mare Cari, approaches, she raises her tail and trots past Fatima quite proudly, handling the whole situation like a bit of a diva.  Fatima then makes haste, galloping back to Cosette.  As she approaches, Fatima lets out a playful buck and Cosette responds with one of her own. Click Here

For more photos of our mares, click here.



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