This lovely story is told from the viewpoint of two aging nurse
mares about to give birth, and the trials they go through. It tells
us of Sadie and her friend Nellie and is accompanied with
charming dialogue (both speaking and thinking). The plight of
these animals is described in empathetic detail.
After enduring years of breeding and loss, the older nurse mares
must face the auction with the promise of being slaughtered, as
they have become too old for breeding and thus unable to be
rented out as nurse mares to feed the foals of the high-dollar
Do they accept their fate, or will there be another ending for the
nurse mares that have given everything and received little in
A Touching, Informative Story Inspiring Change
The Nurse Mare’s Tale is told from the perspective of a horse named Sadie, who is placed in servitude to feed other mare’s horses with her milk. Like many of Marta Moran Bishop’s stories, this book takes an unflinching look at the problematic things we sometimes do in society in pursuit of profits. In this case, it’s the equine industry and the practice of using nurse mares.
Nurse mares are bred for the sole purpose of providing milk to more “desirable” foals, such as racehorse foals. Their own foals are often treated as throwaways in the industry. The industry maintains that the practice is necessary, while equine rights activists condemn the practice. Throwaway foals are sometimes slaughtered, and the mares themselves are often repeatedly re-bred with little opportunity to properly heal. There is a huge profit incentive for thoroughbred farmers to use nurse mares in raising their foals.
Before reading The Nurse Mare’s Tale, I knew a little about the industry and the lengths it goes to in order to maximize profitability, pushing the boundaries of humane animal treatment. Mares are sometimes kept under artificial light 24/7 early in the spring to influence their reproductive cycle, for example. Bishop’s book raised my awareness of issues to a new level, and at times, it was difficult to continue reading for that reason. Horses are sentient beings and treating them as if they aren’t is disturbing.
It’s important reading, however, because it raises awareness of the treatment of these beautiful creatures on whose backs fortunes are made. Awareness of the issues is the first step in cultivating positive change.
Bishop’s book is beautifully written, and she weaves in factual information in such a way that it comes across as a natural narrative. The lessons she presents are artfully delivered through Sadie’s eyes.
Readers who are sensitive to the plight of animals or who want to know more about the horse industry will find this book deeply moving. At times, it is touching, and at other times, it’s sad. Regardless, its message is an important one.