By Shelley Wigglesworth, Sea Coast Online
Marika (Clark) Ruppe grew up in the Kennebunks in the 1970s and 1980s, attending local schools in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel before graduating from Gould Academy in Bethel. No matter where Ruppe lived while growing up, she was always surrounded by horses. Little did she know then that her love affair with horses would turn into a life-long passion and career that would take her all over the United States.
The 46-year-old explained her progression, and eventual immersion, into the field of working with and saving horses for a living. “I never considered horses as a career until I was hired by United States Equestrian Team member Larry Poulin, who at the time was five-time national champion and two-time world champion in driving pairs. Larry was encouraging and he trusted me to work, help train and care for his horses and he had me run his barn when he was out on the show circuit. Working for Larry gave me the confidence I needed to take the next step in my life, which was to be the first equine manager for the Libra Foundation’s Pineland Farms Equestrian Facility in Gray,” Ruppe said. She added. “Working for the Libra Foundation was an incredible honor and they taught me the development, management and leadership skills that would literally change my life. After working there for three years in program start-up and development, I decided to start my own farm business and worked part-time for Equine Veterinary Services with Tom Judd (DVM) training as an equine-tech to expand my knowledge as an equine caregiver.”
It was during this time that Ruppe’s life mission began to unfold before her very eyes. “After spending practically my entire life working with horses at some capacity, I finally learned about horse slaughter. I was completely overwhelmed at the thought that such magnificent animals could face such a terrible fate. Even worse, Maine was one of nine ports of entry for horses destined for slaughter in Canada.” She added: “Reasons cited for sending horses to slaughter are: the animal is old, lame or unhealthy. I learned that many of these horses did not fit into this category. In fact, horses are often sent to slaughter to feed the for-profit overseas horse meat market and are healthy, between the ages of 6 and 10 years old. Sometimes horses are discarded after a racing or show career because they weren't fast enough or didn’t jump high enough. These horses are sold to the highest bidder and are processed in border countries.”
Devastated by her personal findings and fueled by passion to do something about it, Ruppe decided to create an equine rescue that would be funded by her farm business. “I wanted to, in some way, prevent as many horses from going to slaughter as possible. As fate would have it, my life took a much different course though. I was shortly thereafter recruited by The Humane Society of the United States to work in their Equine Protection department.”
This recruitment allowed Ruppe to still be involved with the prevention of horse slaughter – but on a national level. Now she works as an equine welfare consultant nationally and is currently contracted by the Native America Humane Society (NAHS) to develop and launch their tribal wild horse and burro program to help maintain healthy wild horse and burro populations through the utilization of humane birth control options as well as training and adoption programs - therefore dramatically decreasing the amount of wild horses in the Western parts of the U.S. from going to slaughter. Ruppe’s efforts to stop the horse export for slaughter through her home state of Maine have not been forgotten either. “In 2013 I worked with fellow Mainers and proposed a bill to shut down the transport and export of Maine horses to slaughter. The bill passed in the House but died in the Senate. I’m not giving up and when I’m back in Maine will work to push the bill through again. I won’t rest until Maine’s beloved horses (and others) are no longer sent to slaughter.”
To learn more about Marika Ruppe’s work across the board and how to help horses, go to: Equine Welfare Consulting Services: www.equineme.com