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EFC members organize annual events such as the Sandy McNabb trail ride near Turner Valley, Alta. Photo courtesy of EFC.

Group backs equine health at grassroots level

The Equine Foundation of Canada (EFC) may be small, but in the past four decades, this grassroots group has managed to accomplish great things in support of horse health care in Canada.

The volunteer organization has raised nearly $890,000 in donations that have supported a variety of organizations, people and projects in the past 30 years. The list of recipients includes Canada's five veterinary schools, individual veterinary students (scholarship recipients), and organizers of educational clinics and youth projects.

More recently, the EFC has extended its support to help establish Alberta's Livestock Emergency Response Unit program.

"It's just all about the love of the horse," explains EFC president Eldon Bienert. "I was involved in getting the foundation organized, and our main goal was to help out with the good and welfare of the horse and to do something that would benefit all horse breeds across Canada."

The EFC was founded by George Wade, a businessman and horse owner in Kentville, N.S., who served as the organization's first president until his death in 1997. His successor was Bienert, his longtime friend and a fellow breeder of Morgan horses. Beinert has operated Dawnville Farms near Leduc, Alta., with his wife Peggy for more than 40 years.

Bienert is proud of the accomplishments of their dedicated group of volunteers from across Canada who have found unique ways of raising money to maintain the foundation and its various programs.

With events that have ranged from bake sales to trail rides and quilt raffles, members of the horse community have used their ingenuity to contribute to the organization. The group also relies on memorial donations which can pay tribute to people or pets and are published on the foundation's website.

"We are strictly a volunteer group," says Bienert. "Nobody gets any pay and we don't spend any money on advertising. We have brochures that we give out, but it's pretty much word of mouth, so we can certainly use all the publicity that we can get."

While the amount of money raised by the registered charity varies from year to year, its eight-member board has endeavoured to donate to the universities by purchasing items such as equipment on a rotating basis.

"We ask the university, ‘What's the number one item on your list of needs for your veterinary students or your research?'" Bienert explains. "Sometimes we can only pay for some of it, but our goal is to purchase something that will last."

Because of a sizeable memorial donation and a unique matching program developed by the Heather Ryan and L. David Dubé Foundation, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine has greatly benefited from the EFC which has donated more than $80,000 toward equipment purchases and research and another $120,000 in scholarships in the past 40 years .

That's gratifying for Bienert who has particularly enjoyed the opportunities to visit the universities and see what they've done with the money they've received from the EFC.

"It's been really nice to see the equipment and to see how they work with it. You meet a lot of interesting people, and I think it's a highlight when you get to talk to the people face-to-face and see what the foundation has bought first-hand."

Visit www.equinefoundation.ca for more information about the EFC's donations and activities.
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