Let’s Kill Them All

I’d like to write today about a topic that has been weighing on my mind. Well, not just recently, but enough at this point that I feel the need to speak about it.

As the Draft Horse Rescue Resource page hones in on 25,000 follows, I know that our little community of draft lovers must be as different and diverse as a city, with as many opinions and points of view as there are topics to discuss. I’ve never censured my own opinions on hot button issues, nor have I banned or censored those who expressed opinions different from my own.

I first conceived of the concept of DHRR years ago in high school. It was a thought and a dream to create an online network and resource; to connect those interested in helping draft horses in need with those horses that needed them. This was back before Facebook was a thing and I thought it would be a website. Despite my rather pitiful tech skills, around five years ago I jumped in one day, creating the Facebook page, and eventually muddling through setting up the website. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do and it has been far better received than I could have possibly imagined. As nearly 25,000 people are testament to.

Now, though, I’m going to touch on a couple subjects that may very well lose the page some of those followers, because they will not like what I have to say. And that’s fine. I’ve never been in this for the number of likes. I’ve never been in this to spread an agenda or convert others to my beliefs. Because I respect that other people will always have opinions and beliefs that differ from my own. Unless they are actively out there causing grievous injury, I cannot wish them harm simply because they think differently.

That’s the point I want to make, and the issue that’s been occupying my thoughts. It’s the hate, the vitriol, the violence I see every day, espoused in the written word, on my page and elsewhere. I cannot understand or accept it. I have not censored it on DHRR, despite the fact that I’d like to delete many an angry comment that’s calling for blood.

Here, then, is my confession. I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. I am a secular-humanist who does not believe in organized religion. I am a woman and believe in all women’s rights. I think all lives are of value, but I am not a vegan. I do my best to eat meat that only comes from local, sustainable farms, but it doesn’t always happen. I believe everyone, human and animal, should have access to affordable healthcare, quality education, and healthy food. And I believe that life is made up of shades of gray. There are very few absolutes. And little to none of that has any bearing on horse rescue.

There you have it. If you no longer wish support DHRR because my personal beliefs differ from yours, that is your choice and I will not be the one to deny you it. I avoid politics and drama on my page to the absolute best of my ability because I can’t stand either and believe they do nothing but divide and muddy the efforts of rescue. Politics, on the micro or macro scale, have no place in horse rescue.

This morning I was accused of being an “anti-Trumper” and a “liberal bleeding heart” on a post relating to the recent photo of the NY City carriage horse laying in it’s stall. Well, yes, I am those things, but what the commenter seemed to completely miss was that I agreed with her! I personally didn’t see anything I would consider abuse. And why on earth should my political leanings have anything to do with my opinions on horse care? I realize there are others that think differently; who feel that photo showed blatant abuse. And many of those same people are calling for bodily harm of the carriage operators. How can you justify advocating injury on one life as recompense for the supposed injury to another? I posted about the horses being live-shipped to Japan for slaughter. Numerous people are calling for bombs to be dropped on Japan, for the entire country of Canada to be boycotted, for any person on the planet who eats horse to be killed. How is that ok? I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around it.

I can understand the difference between the Westboro Baptist Church and every other Christian in America, or that ISIS isn’t representative of every Muslim on the planet. Can others not? Why should an entire country be blamed for the actions of just a few?  People in India could say they hate the entirety of America because we eat cows. There are cultural differences in the world! And many countries have eaten horses since long before they were domesticated. I don’t have to like that fact, and I’d prefer the US not ship horses abroad for slaughter, since culturally we don’t eat horse meat, and I personally would never eat it if offered in a place that does, but I’m not going to call for harm on an entire culture or country!

I do my best to avoid generalities. I sometimes make them when discussing the Amish, because it’s easy to lump them all together. I know perfectly well there are good Amish and bad, shades of gray just like in everything else. I’ll continue to make the effort not to demonize an entire group of people. Practicing what I preach. I think working to educate those Amish that are open to it, while simultaneously not exempting them from the laws, is a good way to start. Change will happen from within their society, not from being forced by those outside it.

And I’m going to respectfully ask the followers of DHRR to do the same. Please don’t wish that horror and bloody harm befall entire groups, be they Amish, or carriage operators, or people who might breed, or anyone whose opinion may differ from your own. Try not to make sweeping generalities. Honestly, I’d just like to see the threats and promised violence for every little thing toned down. It’s so easy to get worked up and angry, and cathartic to instantly post that scathing response. Instead, channel that feeling into trying to make an actual difference. There are many, many small and large things you can do to help the horses, which, I’d like to think we’re all here to do. Perhaps I’m naïve. Maybe I am just that bleeding heart, political leanings aside. But I choose to believe in the inherent good in people.

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10 Things YOU Can Do To Help Stop Slaughter

In light of this morning’s report from Animal Angels on the massive money-making complex that is the US slaughter network (and my intense feelings on it), which you can see HERE, I’ve decided to make a list of some ideas for how each and every one of us can help put a stop to it. Because its going to take a MASSIVE concentrated effort with everyone doing their little part. I know it’s overwhelming, and you’re thinking “how can I possibly make a difference?” but know that you can! If everyone who loves horses and wants to see slaughter stopped does just one or two little things, I simply know, grassroots-style, that we can institute change. So consider this my rallying cry!

10 Things YOU can do to help!

1) STOP sharing killpen horses. Heartbreaking, yes, but in doing so you are providing free marketing to the killbuyers. YOU are their unpaid employee.

2) Share out horses for adoption at rescues. Just because a horse is “safe” in a rescue doesn’t mean they don’t need a home, or deserve to be forgotten about. When a horse is adopted from a rescue, you’re freeing up a spot for a new horse, in essence helping two. Rescues are full and forced to turn away horses daily, with those horses often ending up in auctions and killpens. While at the same time, donations have been drying up since all the money is going straight into the killbuyers’ pockets.

3) Share sale ads for horses at low (at-risk) prices and for small local and private farm auctions. These are the places killbuyers are sourcing from. Help their owners get them sold to homes before they get desperate and hand them off to a local dealer or send them to auction. This is where the whole process starts.

4) Donate toward legitimate, 501(c)3 registered non-profit rescues. (Not the ones that simply exist on FB and are constantly being busted for cruelty.) Take the time to investigate who you’re giving money to, and ideally stick with organizations that are local to you which you can visit. Yes, I know its far less exciting to donate toward a hay drive than to “saving a horse before the truck comes” but think about WHO that money is going to.

5) Just because you may not have money to donate doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills that a rescue needs. Can you help them groom their horses? Take pictures/video? Keep their website/social media updated? Build a nice website in the first place? Put some training into their horses so they’re more adoptable? Take on a foster? Man a table at a local fair? Print and post fliers in local businesses? Know anything about grant writing?

6) Help rescues with their marketing! A good photo/video will go a LONG way toward helping a horse get a home. Sadly, people pass judgement in the first 5 seconds they see something. If all a rescue has are pictures of muddy horses in a field, then they’re going to get overlooked. Take a horse at a rescue, groom her, stand her up, take some good pictures, and a video of what she knows how to do, and WHAM, instantly more interest. I’ve provided examples below. Horse on the top looks far more valuable than the one on the bottom, correct? It’s all about perception. If the horse is marketed as muddy in a field, then it looks like it has no value, and people won’t place as much value on it. Whereas, if a rescue’s horses look like a million bucks (or like those at high end farms) people will automatically place more value on them and be more interested. Business school 101.

An example of a good ad for adoption/sale. The horse is clean and set up correctly.


An example of a poor adoption/sale photo. The horse is filthy, standing in a weird position, and loose in a field.

7) Volunteer at, help organize/facilitate, and donate toward Low/No-cost euthanasia and gelding clinics. Less horses equals less supply for the killbuyers. Post fliers EVERYWHERE if a clinic like this is happening near you. Many people just don’t know they exist.

8) EDUCATE! Make sure you talk to people about slaughter and their options. Make sure they know what happens when horses are sold at low end auctions. Suggest anyone selling a horse do so with a contract (though it’s not a guarantee, it can be a deterrent to those with less than honorable intentions.) Discourage back yard breeding. Discourage people from supporting (ie: purchasing) for big breeders that breed and dump dozens of horses a year.

9) ADVOCATE! I’m not just talking about at the Federal level, but within industry and breed organizations. It’s a well known fact that the AQHA is a big supporter of slaughter. That’s because they encourage their breeders to over-breed, thus getting more registration fees, and then dump their “culls”. The AQHA registered almost 76,000 new horses in 2016 alone, and that doesn’t even count all the unregistered ones. Does anyone really believe the horse market can support numbers like that? Papered QH’s in killpens are a dime a dozen. Who gives a damn if the horse had a famous sire eight generations back if not a single one since has done a thing and the latest looks like it will be crippled by age 3? If there’s a breed you simply love, then let your feelings be known to the breed organizations! Ask them what their policies are. Ask them if they’ll consider supporting good causes. Hell, I’m a huge fan of required inspections for approval to breed, like they do with European Warmbloods. Don’t see many of those in the killpens, do you? Because there simply aren’t as many around and thus they hold their value better! Supply and demand. Business 101 again.

10) Take care of your own. If you own horses, you may have every intention of keeping them until death-do-you-part (as I do mine) but none of us know what the future brings and we can never be sure a situation won’t arise where our beloved animals will need to find a new home. Make sure you have a will/living-will, IN WRITING, that states what is supposed to happen to your animals should the unthinkable happen to you. Mine are to go to a trusted friend. Just because you love your horses like children doesn’t mean your family members feel the same. If you’re selling a horse, require a contract and screen the people buying, don’t just send your horse off with the first person who hands you cash. Killbuyers/dealers will answer ads and visit with their kids in tow. And for the love of all things holy, put training into you animals! A horse that doesn’t know anything is killpen fodder, no matter how special you think they are. Not to mention, think long and hard before you breed any horse you may own.

Feel free to share this far and wide. Lets start a revolution!

Falling Through the Cracks: How Good Horses End Up in Bad Places

On Monday, August 10th, 2015, Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue was notified by a supporter that a neglected and malnourished Clydesdale gelding was at the notorious killer auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania. The rescue responded immediately and the horse, now called Duke, was purchased and transported to CT for rehab.

Duke the former Budweiser Clydesdale, rescued in neglected condition from New Holland auction on 8/10/15.

Duke the former Budweiser Clydesdale, rescued in neglected condition from New Holland auction on 8/10/15.

Two days later, it was confirmed that Duke was once one of the famed Budweiser Clydesdales, who had been sold several years back to a private individual. We may never know Duke’s journey from equine royalty to killpen nobody, but his tale is a cautionary one for anyone who believes that great bloodlines or accomplishments will, in and of themselves, protect a horse throughout their lives. I’d like to relay the stories of a few horses that were not as lucky as Duke.

1986 Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand

1986 Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand

In 1987, the Thoroughbred racing world celebrated the awarding of Horse of the Year to Ferdinand, who had won the 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeder’s Cup. Ferdinand was retired to stud in 1989, and in 1994 was sold to racing breeders in Japan, during a time when that country was expanding and enhancing their own thoroughbred breeding. Unfortunately, Ferdinand proved to be a less than stellar stud, and in 2002, without ever bothering to contact his breeder or former owners, the champion stallion was slaughtered for meat.

Champion Thoroughbred Exceller

Champion Thoroughbred Exceller

Another Thoroughbred racing great was Exceller, who despite never winning any major awards, beat two Triple Crown winners in one race! During his career, Exceller raced in France, England, Canada and the US, earning over $1.65 million. When he first retired to the breeding shed, his stud fee was $50,000. Like Ferdinand though, his offspring did not inherit their sire’s greatness. In 1991, he was sold to stud in Sweden, and after a few years was diagnosed with an infection that side-lined his breeding. Some time thereafter his owner went bankrupt and yet another elite thoroughbred died on a slaughterhouse floor. The sad fate of Exceller led to outrage amongst race fans and the founding of the Exceller Fund. It had a catalyzing effect on rescue, just as the death of Barbaro did a decade later.

It’s not just race horses that end up in these situations though, and it’s not just foreign slaughterhouses where they end up. Here we have the stories of two unrelated champion cutting horses that were neglected to death, or close to it.

1990 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Open winner

1990 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Open winner Millie Montana

First we have Millie Montana, a famed Cutting Horse champion who earned close to $140,000 in her career. She was retired to be a broodmare, and several years later was discovered on the farm of her former rider, dying from severe health issues caused by neglect, among nine other horses that died in the August Texas heat with no food or water. Millie’s condition was so severe she was euthanized a week after her rescue. Thankfully her caretakers (and I use that word loosely) were charged and convicted of neglect.

Champion Cutting Horse Stallion

Dual Peppy, Champion Cutting Horse Stallion (before)

Dual Peppy, upon discovery in a large neglect case.

Dual Peppy, upon discovery in a large neglect case.

Similar to Millie, is the recent case of Dual Peppy, another World Champion Cutting Horse and high end sire. He was discovered in Colorado last year starved, standing in a manure filled stall, surrounded by the skeletons of his deceased barn-mates. In that case nine horses survived, but 14 did not.

And then there are the horses that are Champions to their owners, though they may not be famous. This is the story of Faith, who was rescued from auction last year by Birch Hill Farm, a rescue in West Virginia. The owner of the rescue had been attending a tributary auction frequented by kill buyers with the goal of saving a few lives. One of the lucky souls she bought was a uniquely colored pony mare, who was sold as an unregistered, unbroke broodmare. As it happens, she was the furthest thing from it.

Faith, reunited with her owner Emily thanks to Birch Hill Farm WV

Faith, reunited with her owner Emily thanks to Birch Hill Farm WV

Pictures of the pony, miraculously, were seen on Facebook by her former owner Emily, who had been searching for the mare ever since she learned that the woman she’d been sold to had gotten rid of her (despite a buy-back agreement). The pony had only been sold in the first place due to Emily’s father’s health issues. Faith was not an anonymous broodmare but was, in fact, a registered Quarter Pony and accomplished show hunter. Emily picked her up from the rescue a couple days later. In this circumstance, the Universe aligned perfectly to bring these two back together, but how often does it not? This just ties right into my last post, about permanent identification. It’s far too easy for horses to lose their identities, especially on the auction circuit, and that’s when they fall through the cracks.

There are millions of horses in the United States, and millions more around the world. The American Quarter Horse Association, the most commonly slaughtered breed, had 85,146 new registrations in 2014. The Jockey Club had an estimated 22,000 last year as well. That’s actually half of the 44,000 registered thoroughbreds born in 1990. Budweiser, on the other hand, breeds 30-40 horses a year. Yes, they do sell the horses that don’t fit into their breeding program, but they are generally worth quite a bit. Unfortunately that didn’t help Duke. I doubt we’ll ever know what led to his neglected condition and appearance at auction. At least, however, he is now safe, and it looks like Budweiser will contribute to his care.

While not everyone agrees with the online posting and purchase of killpen horses, it has led to the identification of a lot of horses that were missing or stolen, or that were seen by former owners or breeders who thought they were safe in forever homes! It’s hard to argue with that. Even with buy-back and first-right-of-refusal and adoption contracts, even with royal bloodlines and champion ribbons and big winnings checks, there is no guarantee that an owner might not go bankrupt, or get divorced, or end up in a psych ward or six feet under; and the horses end up starved or sold at auction. There are really no guarantees in life in general, and just like children, you can’t keep every horse in a bubble for their own protection.

Last week the Jockey Club announced that all new registered foals will be required to be micro-chipped by 2017. I think this is an excellent idea, and will hopefully lead to similar requirements in other registries and change for the horse industry as a whole. I hope it means that chip makers will streamline and coordinate their equipment so that all chips can be read by any scanner. And I hope that increased demand will bring the cost of scanners down and that every auction house and feedlot will be required to scan every horse that comes in. I hope that Stolen Horse International will be able to have an online database that those auction houses and feedlots will be required to cross-check against. And I hope that every responsible breeder and owner will have their information tagged on their horses’ chips, so that, should one of their horses end up in a bad place, they are contacted so they can help. These are the things I hope for and the things I will work toward.

Sources:

http://www.quarterhorsenews.com/index.php/cutting/cutting-outside-the-pen/10631-1990-futurity-open-champion-among-possible-neglect-victims-.html

http://www.quarterhorsenews.com/index.php/cutting/cutting-outside-the-pen/10684-keith-hall-re-arrested-on-felony-animal-cruelty-charge.html

http://www.krdo.com/news/Dual-Peppy-s-supporters-arrive-ahead-of-decision-in-Black-Forest-horse-abuse-case/34687654

http://www.bridleandbit.com/artman/publish/article_37788.shtml

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_(horse)

http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/17051/death-of-a-derby-winner-slaughterhouse-likely-fate-for-Ferdinand

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exceller

http://www.jockeyclub.com/default.asp?section=FB&area=2

Who is This Horse? Tattoos, Brands and the Future of Equine Identification

There are currently over 9 million horses in the United States. In an average year, somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 US horses are sold to slaughter, most passing through various auctions and feedlots along the way. A significant percentage of those horses come from some working segment of the horse industry: racing, showing, Amish horses, bucking stock, cast off breeding stock, and the list goes on. Most, by the time they reach the auctions and feedlots, the end of the line, have lost their identity and any knowledge about them that could increase their market value and consequently keep them from the slaughter house. Kill buyers receive piles of registration papers with the horses they buy which are simply tossed in the garbage. As the saying goes ‘you can’t ride papers.’ Though this is certainly true, being able to keep track of a horse’s identity and accomplishments is of huge value, to both their horse and horse owner.

Mustang with freeze brand used for military funerals.

Mustang with freeze brand used for military funerals.

Some breeds/disciples permanently mark their horses with brands and tattoos. In the case of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, these are unique to the individual horse allowing one to track all the data about that horse throughout their racing career, and sometimes further. American mustangs are freeze branded with a code that identifies the specific herd and year in which that horse was captured. PMU mares, during the Premarin industry’s heyday, were often branded with a collection of numbers that specified year of birth and sire. Some breeds, particularly European Warmbloods, go through an inspection process to determine their quality, and if approved for breeding, are branded with the logo for that breed. Similarly, large stock breeders in the American west have traditionally branded their horses with the farm/family/ranch’s logo. It is common in those same western states for ‘brand inspectors’ to oversee sales of stock to make sure stolen animals aren’t being sold. In some cities, such as New York, carriage horses have a ‘license plate’ number carved into their hoof. And finally, in recent years, advances in technology have led to use of micro-chipping, though it has yet to take off in the equestrian world.

Number carved into a carriage horse's hoof.

Number carved into a carriage horse’s hoof.

There are pros and cons to all of these methods for identification, and there will always be those unscrupulous characters that don’t want their animals to be identifiable. I believe, though, in making breeders and owners accountable for the animals they choose to bring into this world and keep for their benefit and pleasure, as the horses certainly don’t get a say in it. Some may see it as big government oversight or an infringement on their rights and privacy, but, while horses are indeed considered property in our society, they are still living beings. And every car on the road has a VIN number; every person (supposedly) has a Social Security Number. Why should there not be some means by which to identify, and retain, the personal identities of horses?

Ex-PMU mare with multiple freeze-brands.

Ex-PMU mare with multiple freeze-brands.

To be most effective, there really needs to be a consensus and a consistent means of ID chosen. With all the different industry organizations that is probably a pipe dream, unless federally mandated, but one can hope. Personally I think the best methods are freeze branding and micro-chipping. Lip tattoos notoriously fade and become illegible as the horse ages. Carved hoof tattoos will grow out with the hoof each year. Unlike hot brands which are extremely painful when applied, freeze brands are virtually painless, and mirco-chip insertion is little worse than a regular shot. The upside to freeze brands is that are highly visible and can be read without hands on the horse. They also don’t require a scanner the way micro-chips do. I feel a combination of the two would be best.

Thoroughbred lip tattoo.

Thoroughbred lip tattoo.

Some people claim that freeze brands are unsightly and disfigure a horse, making them less attractive for the showring. You know what? I consider slaughter unsightly and disfiguring to the horse, particularly as it results in them being dead. There are plenty of successful show horses with various brands. This is not a valid argument. What about cost? Currently the cost varies by location, availability of a technician, and need to purchase custom irons. However, if it becomes common practice across the horse industry, the cost will come down and more people, likely vets, can and will be trained to apply them. It already costs less than a set of papers from most registries. Not that I think horses shouldn’t be registered. I’m a huge advocate of registration, and am a particular fan of inspections. I just wholeheartedly disagree with breeding dozens and dozens of horses that have no skills and nothing going for them other than a famous stud eight generations back (yes I’m looking at you big Quarter Horse breeders).

Freeze brand on a Standardbred race horse.

Freeze brand on a Standardbred race horse.

No method will ever be perfect and fool proof, but I honestly believe permanent, individual IDs for all horses would significantly change the horse industry for the better. To be able to walk into an auction, write down the brand numbers of the horses in the killpen, and run them through one’s tablet right there (or hiding in the parking lot if necessary) finding out who each horse is would be invaluable. It would be invaluable for anyone buying a horse anywhere! Imagine, no more trying to match horses and markings to papers that can easily be lost, no more DNA sampling and petitioning breed registries to issue a new set of papers. One would only need to run a search on the brand to know exactly who the horse is. I hope this is the future. I see this as the future. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take us to get there.

50 Shades of Cruelty: Gaining Some Perspective

50 Shades of Cruelty: Gaining Some Perspective

There are a lot of things wrong in our world. These days it seems like there’s more hate than love going around. It saddens me every time I turn on the news to see the atrocities people are committing against each other, animals, and our planet. No one individual can fix everything, and every day I have to face the fact that I’m just one person and there’s only so much I can do. I do the best that I can with limited time and funds for the causes that speak to me most. Believe me, there are many, many causes I champion, but to be most effective, I recognize the need to focus on just a few. I’m a huge advocate for the earth, and consequently I have built my own business around helping and educating people on making their homes and businesses as green, healthy and energy efficient as possible. I grew up on a working farm in Central New Jersey. I do my part to support my local farmers that grow sustainably, humanely and organically. I’m slowly working on growing more things on my own farm each year. And I’m passionate about animals and their welfare, particularly horses, and most especially draft horses. That’s how the Draft Horse Rescue Resource came about. I don’t have the time, money, or know-how (yet) to run an actual rescue. This is my way of contributing to a cause that means a lot to me within the bounds I can currently handle. I certainly hope I’m helping.

I’ve had horses in my life for over 25 years now, and I’ve been both a spectator and participant in the rescue world, since my parents bought me my first horse of my own in my early teens. Calypso had been a New York City carriage horse earlier in his life and he had more personality than any horse I’ve ever come across. We did everything together, from H/J showing to fox hunting to dressing up as characters in a haunted hay ride. I loved that horse more than life itself, and he lived well into his 30’s. Calypso introduced me to both draft horses and the rescue world. That being said, he was not abused, and had no lasting damage from his tenure as a carriage horse, other than being utterly bomb-proof and prone to stealing unattended food that was questionable for horses to eat (he liked ham and cheese sandwiches.) So my next horse, whom I purchased at 19, was an ex-Amish Belgian gelding, whom I still have. I bought him because his owner was considering taking him to auction and I didn’t want to see him sell back to the Amish or for meat. He was only 5 years old and had severe trust issues due to prior abuse. It took me years to get him over most of his issues, and to this day he remains a nervous, neurotic kind of horse, despite the fact that he lives a cushy lifestyle with 24/7 pasture and virtually never gets ridden due to my lack of time.

Me, with my first two rescues, Bacchus and Calypso.

Me, with my first two rescues, Bacchus and Calypso.

Since those first two horses, I have rescued and/or fostered numerous others. I have been hired by people to help train their problem horses, particularly those overcoming abuse. Am I the most knowledgeable horse person on the planet? Certainly not. I learn something new every day, and I try to keep an open mind about most everything. I am a perpetual student and a keen observer. And now we come to my point. There are too many issues with the world to count, and I personally feel that many of these problems can be fixed if likeminded people would focus on the core, root causes and the most blatant abuses, and, once those are fixed, move on to fixing the next tier of problems, and so forth and so on. By miring ourselves in squabbles over the minutiae, we divide ourselves hopelessly and lose track of the big picture. We miss the forest for the trees. When it comes specifically to horses, no one is ever going to agree on everything. However, I think we can ALL agree that there are certain abuses that need to be stopped. The following are examples of cruelty I’ve come across in just the last week. These are far from complete lists

Things that ARE abuse:

  • Starving a horse until it’s skin and bones.
  • Beating a horse with a whip, chain, 2×4…
  • Dragging a horse down a road behind a vehicle.
  • Packing live horses into crates so tightly they can’t move and Fedexing them to Japan for meat. (Video)
  • Soring a horse’s legs and wrapping them in chains to make them step higher purely for show. (Video)
  • Neglecting a horse’s feet until they grow into elf shoes and/or the bones warp and rot.
  • Keeping a horse locked in a stall 24/7 with no access to exercise, or conversely, keeping them out in all weather with no access to any kind of shelter, be it a shed, barn or trees.
  • Turning horses loose on the mines in West Virginia to fend for themselves because you don’t want them anymore. (Video)

Conversely, the following list are things from the last week that are NOT abuse:

  • Lightly adhering a piece of duct tape to a horse’s nose to distract them while they have their feet trimmed, get shots, are clipped, etc.
  • Letting a horse have a JOB, be it police work, carriage rides, working stock, giving pony rides, professional competition, dude ranch rides, pulling farm equipment, hell, even racing. Horses have had jobs for thousands of years, ever since they were first domesticated. If they couldn’t do jobs, we’d be eating them like cows and pigs! A JOB is not abuse. Mistreating the horse while it does that job IS. For example, drugging a horse so it can run a race or compete, working a horse while it’s injured, or beating it to make it work. Most horses enjoy having something to do.
  • Letting a horse stay outside in bad weather. If the horse has the option to go inside, and they choose to stay out in the rain or snow, it’s not abuse. It’s their choice and no one is forcing them to get wet. I generally figure they know what they like better than I do.
  • Using a whip as a cue or extension of your arm, be it at liberty, driving in harness, or doing dressage. So long as you’re not beating the horse with it, it’s not abuse. Look at all the big name natural horsemanship trainers. They all have special “sticks” for directing a horse while working with them. Watch this Video and tell me if those horses look afraid of the whip.

And then there are the things that a horrible and need to be stopped, but cannot be classified as “abuse,” including but not limited to dumping entire herds of unhandled pregnant mares and youngsters at feedlots to ship to slaughter and selling a horse at an auction where it is purchased by a kill buyer while signing EID papers when you know the horse had been given plenty of drugs.

Where do we draw the line? How do we pull together all the people who want to help horses and not have them get side-tracked by the tiny things that do nothing but distract and divide the overall cause? I hate it when I see one group of animal rescuers attacking another over differences of opinion on the best way to rescue horses, or any kind of animal. So you don’t like the idea of buying killpen horses? Ok. Don’t buy killpen horses. Put your effort into helping horses coming into rescues from neglect situations. No one is holding a gun to your head and demanding your wallet to purchase a feedlot horse. But is it necessary to attack, smear and shame those who choose to spend their money or put their effort in that direction? It’s utterly counter-productive. We all want to save horses and there are plenty of different situations they need to be rescued from. Go with the one that speaks to you. Don’t waste your time, and everyone else’s, attacking those that are on the same side as you and have the same end goals. It does nothing but harm the overall cause, which is to eliminate as many sources of abuse as possible. Real abuse. Do you really want the police taking your horses away because they’re a couple weeks overdue for a trim or because they had a piece of tape stuck to their nose for 10 minutes? Are stopping those things more important than stopping soring or tripping?

And so I ask everyone to stop and take a step back. Breath. Look at each situation from an objective perspective. Before you forward that picture or youtube video that comes across your wall while screaming bloody murder, look deeper and think about what is going on. Is it really abuse? Or is it something you just personally don’t agree with? I don’t personally like tail docking or scotch-bottom shoes. You do not, however, see me posting about them with flashing neon signs calling it abuse. That’s because there are many more important things to focus on. When the day comes that all slaughter is stopped, when no one over-breeds, when people aren’t causing horses significant pain to win a ribbon, when we’re not finding farms with dozens of dead horses starved to death, then we can focus on phasing out the less desirable aspects of traditional of horsecare. Until that day though, let’s work together. If we do, I have no doubt we can eradicate the real abuses in the horse world. Horse lovers are a powerful group and we’ve accomplished many great things. I look forward to accomplishing many more.

Welcome to the Draft Horse Rescue Resource

Here at the DHRR, we seek to aid and network draft horses, mules and ponies in need all over the US and Canada (and occasionally further.) The horses we post are not our horses as we are not a rescue. We seek to put those looking for horses in touch with those who have them. We do not discriminate against where the horse is coming from and post both horses for adoption at rescues as well as those at auctions and feedlots. Please visit our FaceBook page for a current listing of horses.

We also regularly post related articles and Op-Ed pieces. In certain situations, we will help private owners place horses. Please email us if you have a horse you need to rehome.