The Big E: Embracing the Working Horse

West Springfield, Mass. (WGGB) — If you’ve seen the parade at The Big E this year, then you’ve probably seen or even met two of its biggest stars.

Behind the Avenue of States in 2 very large stalls, a couple of The Big E’s largest and tallest guests have lived there for the past two weeks.

While you really can’t miss them at the fair, you may miss the importance of the Palmer farm where they live.

Executive Director, Pamela Rickenbach says one of the horses is named Mario. He’s a 6 year-old Percheron and he’s at the fair with his 2 brothers and sisters.

Mario and one of the other horses, Mark, are two draft horses taken in by the non-profit Blue Star Equiculture.

The organization is a horse sanctuary and organic farm in Palmer and it specializes in draft horse rescue and retirement. The majority of horses there are up for adoption.

“We’re trying to get the community interested again in its homeless horses,” says Rickenbach.

Rickenbach says their herd of thirty is made up of retired police horses, farm, and New York City carriage horses, “There’s thousands of horses becoming homeless in this country every minute because of the economy.”

Blue Star Equiculture recently was recently thrown into national headlines after taking in a horse named ‘Oreo’.

Spooked, Oreo ran through the streets of Manhattan.

Rickenbach says many were disturbed by the image seen below. She says it was taken after police had tranquilized him.

“Those really graphic images of Oreo on the ground, that’s after the accident,” explained Rickenbach.

The ‘Working Horse’ is something the organization encourages. By giving its horses occupations useful in today’s society like animal powered farming, hauling water, or giving wagon tours, they hope someone will adopt one.

“We have really wonderful trained horses that are older. We have younger ones that are in training,” says Rickenbach.

Meeting thousands on the parade route each day, owners hope promoting the working horse will draft them a better future and Rickenbach adds, “This is really all of our responsibility. America owes a great debt to its horses.”

If you’re interested in what Blue Star Equiculture is all about or want to volunteer or even adopt a horse drop them a call at 413-289-9787 or visit their website by clicking here.

Oh, and the carriage horse Oreo? He was just adopted by New York Yankees President Randy Levine’s wife.







  • DrLDMGrant

    Thanks Julia! Pamela, Paul and so many others work so hard, giving their hearts, souls, brains, and bodies to the wellbeing of as many horses as they can assist..I know you probably got a hint of it, just by being around them for the interview, but the people of Blue Star Equiculture are some of the most amazing, dedicated, loving people you will ever meet. I really hope you take some time out some Sunday afternoon for a tour of the farm and an opportunity to unwind and spend some quality time in the presence of this incredible group of people and of course, the herd…You will not regret it and I know you and anyone you bring will be welcomed with open arms.

  • jimcosenza

    Thank you Julia for taking the time to interview Pam. The article was top notch and really has made the day to day efforts of Blue Star Equiculture at the Big E so worth it. There have been learning curves each and every day but one thing we learned yesterday with this interview is “it’s all worth the effort”. Thank you and hope to see you at the farm for a tour some Sunday! :)

    Jim Cosenza
    Blue Star Volunteer & Herd Member