Unwanted, Part 1

The equine community struggles to deal with the growing numbers of neglected and abandoned horses.

The equine community struggles to deal with the growing numbers of neglected and abandoned horses.

The unwanted horse problem is a growing concern in the equine community.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

On October 28, 2008, the Sisters Ranger district of the Deschutes National Forest received a troubling phone call.

Hunters reported finding a horse roaming a fairly remote area on Cache Mountain. While it isn’t uncommon for escaped livestock to wander on to the National Forest, this report was of special concern because the animal was reported as being badly injured, according to Fred Perl, a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer.

Fred was immediately dispatched to the area where the horse was last seen. When he found the 6-year-old gelding, the animal’s lead was still on. The horse’s face was covered with dried blood, and its left leg had a bandaged wound.

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Soliciting the help of the local equine community, Fred arranged to have the gelding led three miles through the forest, loaded into a trailer and taken to the Bend Equine Medical Center where he was treated for his injuries. The injured horse, nicknamed “Trooper” by rescuers, had been wandering in the forest for a couple of weeks with two gunshot wounds to its head and a badly infected leg injury.

When found, Trooper was thirsty and hungry and approximately 150 pounds underweight. A bullet fragment had shattered Trooper’s lower jaw, making it painfully difficult for the animal to eat. What amazed rescuers about the gelding was his gentle disposition. Despite the pain and suffering he experienced, Trooper remained calm as volunteers led him out of the forest and while veterinarians tended to his wounds.

“Oftentimes, the media can be a great help with solving crimes,” Fred says. “We took Trooper’s story to the media, and the exposure generated lots of tips. A farrier recognized Trooper as a trail and lesson horse from nearby Camp Tamarack.”

According to a press release from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department, a 27-year old wrangler from the youth camp in Sisters, Oregon, was arrested later that month and charged with crimes surrounding the shooting and abandonment of the gelding. Police think the wrangler made an independent and unauthorized decision to shoot the horse, so the camp wasn’t charged.

The Cost of Freedom

Just how big is the problem of horse abandonment in Oregon and elsewhere?

While officials expected to see an increase of abandoned horses in Oregon, they didn’t anticipate the number of horses being dumped, says Gary McFadden, wild horse specialist with the Bureau of Land Management in Burns, Oregon.

“I think the problem in Oregon is bigger than the ‘dumps’ we currently know about,” Gary says. “It’s probably much bigger than that. We recently found 10 (horses) released in a wild horse herd management area; six head abandoned on a nearby parcel of state land; and seven head released in a BLM area that had no water.”

Typically, released geldings stay together and remain close to the road, and so are easily found and reported. However, mares are often taken up by wild stallions and disappear within the herd. According to Gary, those horses aren’t discovered until the agency gathers wild animals for holding and finds the domestics in the herd.

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There are many reasons National Forest and BLM lands are targeted by owners abandoning animals. First, the remoteness of these areas allows them to commit the crime without being seen. Second, many of the owners release horses in these areas thinking they’re making a compassionate move, allowing their horses to run free with the wild herds.

“Wild horses have bred to survive in rugged areas. Conversely, domestic horses are bred for speed, looks and ride, and so don’t have the genetics required to survive in these rugged areas,” Gary says.

Domestic horses illegally released on federal lands consume forage set aside for wild animals and cattle.

Currently, the BLM is operating about 5,700 animals over the appropriate management level for agency-managed lands.

Normally, the BLM would gather excess animals and move them to holding facilities where they are fed and cared for, while awaiting sale or adoption. Unfortunately, those holding facilities are at or near capacity with approximately 30,000 wild horses and burros.

The cost to feed and care for animals in holding facilities is about three-fourths, or $27 million, of the BLM’s wild horse and burro program budget. The BLM doesn’t have the money to gather and move many more animals off the range and into holding facilities.

Roll It!

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“If we don’t gather, our ranges are in danger of being decimated. Our horse herds increase by 20 to 25 percent each year,” Gary says.

“Despite our advice and warnings, wild-horse advocates successfully lobbied to have the rendering and kill plants closed,” Gary says. “The removal of the humane slaughter option has greatly increased the number of unwanted horses. That, in turn, has decimated our market, just as it has the domestic horse market. Basically, they have cut their own throats.”

30 thoughts on “Unwanted, Part 1”

  1. You should be ASHAMED! All you want is to continue to breed outlandish numbers of horses so you can collect fees and dump the rest off to a cruel death. There never was and never will be a “humane” slaughter option for as exquisitely sensitive prey species such as horses.

    “The slaughter defenders cannot allow the problem to be seen to be over breeding because breeders pay the registration fees that support the American Quarter Horse Association, and other pro-slaughter breed registries. And it is these registries that fund the lobbyists, the public relations experts, the publicists and the phony welfare organizations that defend horse slaughter.

    The UHC was formed by experienced professionals who understood that he who controls the vocabulary controls the battle, and one controls the vocabulary by generating and continuously repeating carefully crafted definitions and catch phrases.

    In the hands of the less sophisticated, attempts to float terms like ‘horse harvesting’ look heavy-handed and buffoonish. But this is not the case with the UHC and its promotion of the ‘unwanted horse’.

    And the definition game does not stop there. For example, there have been countless articles and stories about the terrible problem of abandoned horses. In trying to substantiate these stories, a team of our researchers called hundreds of state parks, county animal control agencies and sources listed in the stories.
    Almost every story was false or distorted beyond recognition.

    Nine horses reported in a story in the Oregonian as being abandoned on a ranch turned out to be an unconfirmed report of a single stray horse made by the rancher’s granddaughter. Horses reported as having been turned loose on a reclaimed strip mine in Kentucky turned out to belong to a riding stable. State parks in Indiana reported to be counting horses entering and leaving the park to assure they were not abandoned turned out to be horses counted entering (only) so that a fee could be charged.”


  2. You make a good point about unsubstantiated stories. It would be good if you would substantiate your own stories. Can you give reliable references? And, also, AQHA writer, can YOU substantiate your stories about horses being dumped, etc.

    However, there are many horses that people just can’t get rid of. I know that for a fact, at least here in the area in which I live. So, we are stuck with horses that cannot be sold, and often cannot be given away. We recently put down 2 horses that were unusable. We offered to donate them as food to a place that had tigers and lions. They refused it, saying their cats would know the difference between cow meat and horse. It’s okay to shoot a cow (a humane and merciful death, by the way, much moreso than a shot) but not a horse? What’s the difference?

    I agree that slaughter houses are not a thing I care to think about. But I hate worse the idea of a horse slowly starving to death. To put them down quickly is a much better end for them than slow starvation. And again, I’ve seen many of those cases happening here in our area.

  3. I live in north central Texas about 2 hours west of Ft Worth and 2 hours east of Abilene. We are a very rural area with lots of horse owners. It’s been my experience that ever since gas prices went up a few summers ago lots folks are finding themselves in the unfortunate position of not being able to care for their horses properly. How do I know this? Well, I have found myself in the “can you find a good home for my horse” business. People email me info or pics of their horses and I then try to match them up with someone that will be able to take care of the horse. I make sure that the new owner knows the cost of taking care of a horse (vaccinations, farrier, hay, feed, etc…) before I set them up and it is with the understanding that if things don’t go right the horse comes back to then be matched with someone else.

    No, I am not a horse rescue and I do not do it for any fee. I do it for the horses. I’ve only heard of a couple of “unsubstantiated” dumpings. Unfortunately we have seen several “substantiated” cases of 20+ horses being rescued because they were starving and being allowed to breed at will. Often the offspring of such matings are stunted and not fit enough to be any kind of riding horse.

    Face it,not many of us can handle the extra cost of yard ornaments. Even the cost of euthanization has increased in the past three years. I suppose the vets are fast filling up their landfills. The horse killing factories have shut down but killer/buyers just buy the horses up for pennies on the dollar at horse sales and then haul the horses across the border. Think it doesn’t happen? That illegal crossing can go both ways for horses and humans.

    I’ve only had one bad experience so far with matching and that was because the horse had been raised in pipe fencing of horse wire pastures and the person I sent her to had barbed wire. Yes, she got injured but I have had her retrieved and she is getting treatment. Once she is well I will start looking for a new home for her.

    Myself, I have 4 and 1/2 horses; 3 AQHA mares, 1 two year old filly out of an unknown sire and one of the AQHA mares (yes a rescue), and a mini (also a rescue). The filly and her mother (Zevis bloodline) were rescued and then rescued again and then given to me along with a papered gelding (Zevis) and a papered palomino mare (Hollywood Gold) because the last rescuer could not feed them. It matters not what the background, horses are in dire need of more homes.

    Euthanization? I don’t know what the answer is. I have one yard ornament and that issue has come up between my husband and I but we have had that lovely yard ornament for 15 years and also have her half sister. Those two old mares graze with their noses 2 inches apart. She’s earned her rest.

    What is the answer? Realistically I don’t know. One of my friends got a rescue horse to buddy their active horse a couple of years ago. Pretty Boy has a bad hoof that constantly needs farrier, vet, and my friend’s medical attention. He is always in pain. I wonder if the rescue outfit that “saved” him ever gave a thought to the extent of care, pain, and money this one horse would consume. I’m sure there are many back yard bred horses in those rescue facilities.

    People are desperate and horses are suffering. Yes, they are often well meaning and ignorant of what it takes for a horse to survive in the wild. As with the horse that was shot and lived, there is a right way and a wrong way to shoot a horse. Maybe we should educate folks on the correct way to do a humane shooting.

    Maybe we should have forced castrations for unregistered horses. It’s not like domesticated horses can open the gate and go looking for love…well not all horses can do that. Maybe we should be taxed on our horses…well not me…just you. Until someone comes up with the answer we will just have to keep trying to educate the horse public about the responsibilities that go along with breeding, the length of time it will be before they can ride that horse, and the age horses live to be.

    I am soon to be 58. My children are not horse people. One day my daughter asked me how old horses lived to be and I told her, “About 30 years” but I seem to remember a registered quarter horse that was featured in Horse and Rider, Equus, or Western Horseman that was reported to have been born in 1952 and was 50 years old at the time of the article. I have jokingly told my daughter that I’ll take my walker to Rockin’ L Rigging and get loops put on it to tie my old horses to when the time comes but in reality I know that I will probably put the old ones down. I owe it to them not to send them out into an unsure world. They have a lot of heart and I’d hate for someone to run it out of them. My daughter certainly can’t be expected to take care of geriatric horses AND geriatric parents. Yes, this too is an issue in abandoned horses. What do you do when your parents can’t take care of their horses anymore? What if Aunt Bertha dies and leaves a horse in her estate with no plans for it?

    My 2 year old filly with the questionable background? Well, I gave a trainer that I trust a two horse trailer to train her. It’s a sign of the times…he needed a trailer and was broke. I needed her trained and couldn’t afford to send her to school. I’ve seen lots of bartering like this over the past few years and expect to see lots more. The filly? She is beautiful solid black like her Zevis mother, sweet natured, and the last horse my husband and I will ever own. She’s BIG! Wonder what her daddy was. Only sure thing is he wasn’t a jack. We are thinking of that 50 year old quarter horse. LOL! My trainer is also teaching her to pull up next to things for mounting. Thinking of my spouse and myself being over 50 years old.

    There is no pat answer. Feed stores, feed mills, Tractor Supply, Petsmart, and all of those places that sell horse supplies need to try to educate folks. The internet sales sites should have info about unwanted horses and back yard breeding. EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION!!! That is all we can do. Step up to the plate you folks that make money on the sale of horse supplies! Submit a bill that has warnings on feed sacks and tack sort of like the cigarrete cancer warnings. Take some responsibility and try to inform the average horse owner about the growing numbers of unwanted horses. Come on folks, lets take on this situation and educate! That’s all we can do.

  4. There are starving people all around the world that could be saved with all the valuable protein found in horse meat. Like it or not horses are livestock. Why not have slaughter plants for horses and ship the meat to starving people in our country and around the world. Let people starve and not slaughter livestock that does not make sense to me. Feed people or fill rescues to capacity with unwanted livestock that will eventually end up at a slaughter plant in Canada or Mexico anyway. Most will think I am crazy but I would do the same thing with dogs and cats. Dogs and Cats are common food in many parts of the world in fact Native Americans ate dogs during the starving times of winter. Shelters all over the United States are filled to capacity we could feed the world with just the unwanted dogs and cats saving thousands of lives. Instead we put them to sleep and throw them away while people starve. I love animals and have many horses, cats, dogs and cows but I feel our unwanted animal problem is getting out of hand and we can solve the problem and feed people at the same time. I know most will disagree this is just what I think would work.

  5. Sorry for the additional comment but the United Nations says there are over 1 billion people starving in the world right now. So why not put all this time energy and money being used in this battle over slaughter and do the right thing and feed people.

  6. You know we laugh at India for having sacred cows. But when you think about it, don’t we have sacred horses? If we slaughtered all our sacred horses and used the meat for starving countries, would that be better than letting then wander around neglected and starving, with no useful purpose at the end of their lives? I have never really thought of it this way. What do you think??? (I have 12 horses and mules thank you!) This is new territory for me to think about this.

  7. In the last 3 years I have rescued a mother cat and her 7 kittens which I found homes for 6 and kept her and one kitten. I got a dog from a rescue and took in another dog from a women who could not care for her any more. Then I accepted a 2 year old AQHA filly that has cost me +/- $5,000 in training for her and medical bills for myself.

    I heard that the zoo in SF imports horse meat for their big cats from mexico because of laws that make no since. Is that true??

    I would also like to point out that in spite of our best efforts there are more starving children now than there were 60 years ago when I was born. Rewarding irresponsible parents by feeding their children has not solved the problem.

    Two problems with very hard solutions. Anyone got a solution.

  8. The focus on horses has been redirected to starving people. In that vein, I could never understand why rabbits, who breed (like rabbits,sorry), are a good source of protein, are very cheap to raise, require little space to house, etc. etc., are not used to feed the hungry.

    Regarding horses, however, new regulations were recently instituted which requires that horses intended for human consumption must be held for 6 months to guarantee that their systems are chemical free before slaughter, which will have a profound impact on existing slaughter houses regardless of their location.

  9. Since Quarter Horses are the number 1 horse to be seen at rescues and the number 1 horse in line at the slaughter house, AQHA stallions should have to be “approved” to breed! They should have to go through training and testing for conformation, soundness of limb and mind, have excellent bloodlines etc before being approved for breeding. Backyard breeders would become a thing of the past if all unapproved stallions must be castrated.
    I also agree with Carl. There is no reason these unwanted animals can’t feed the starving people of the world. They are livestock and the only livestock that’s not eaten in the US.
    I do feel AQHA could be more pro-active in helping to insure the numbers of AQHA horses that are born each year are the cream of the crop by making stallions “qualify” to be breeding animals…goes for mares too actually!!

  10. Good arguments on both sides here. But wondering, given the wormings, the shots, and all the other preventative medicines we put into our equines if their meat is healthy to ingest?
    It would be like eating a dog.

    Sadly, there have been stories, (substantiated via media), where horses that don’t make it on the racetrack are passed from well-meaning owner to owner until they end up in an unhealthy situation.
    For whomever said that maybe requiring every non-registered horse owner to have their steed gelded, it doesn’t seem quite that fair does it since the racing industry seems to be at the helm for irresponsible breeding as well.
    What irks me is the mentality, when selling a mare, how many sellers attempt to entice the sale by having the horse in foal.

    I wonder whatever happened to the Canadian market of mares kept solely for their urine in the production of womens’ hormonal drugs. The babies were trucked into the United States and adopted out in order to save them from slaughter.
    That was in the early 2000s.

    Anyone who says there isn’t an overpopulation problem with barbaric slaughter, (south Florida), is deluding themselves.
    But, what is the answer? I have no idea.

    We have 2 mares and a gelded male donkey at home. No plans to breed any of them. Shots once a year instead of twice. Worming in winter months. Trim instead of shoes.
    Where we lived prior, square hay bales were trucked in, (expensive), and here $50 for a 1200 lb. round bale once a month.
    Their pellets $10 for a 50 lb. bag.

    When slaughter houses were in operation, (our vet told us), there was an official from agriculture who had to oversee the process. Horses were scanned for microchips prior to processing.

    I know we are all equine lovers, but have you ever watched the process of eggs to chickens? It’s not a pretty process either.

  11. Well FINALLY, something to thank HSUS for! You see, all this hubbub about abandoned horses…. well, it’s actually been going on for hundreds of years. How do you think we got all of those wild herds to begin with? AQHA stock of course. They’re plentiful, breed like rabbits, and – well, there’s just too many of them. Only a very few pockets of wild horses go back to true spanish lines, but those AQHA folks have been dumping horses for so long, they’ve pretty much ruined the market on a good mustang.

    HSUS stepped up to the plate in Oregon and helped make it illegal to abandon horses here. Garsh, if that’d been done a couple hundred years ago, all of those ranch horses wouldn’t have been abandoned at all, huh? Oh but wait, it’s only an issue now because there isn’t as much of a demand for horse meat….um.. wait a minute. (Oh, and let’s not forget, it’s not the wild horses being slaughtered. It’s the Quarter horses, TB’s and Arabians.)

    Oh yeah, and that tired old line about how activists closed the plants and there’s no slaughter any more? Get over yourself Gary. Even your own side is sick of hearing that BS. The last plants closed because of state and local regulations – most already in existence, and because of environmental hazards.

    IF our horses were determined to be a healthy choice (which I don’t see happening with all the chemicals we pump into them) and IF the processing (meaning – handling from auction yard to kill box) could ever be made humane (not likely) – and IF the meat were made affordable to feed starving people – yes. I could see it. But that’s a long way from any reality we will ever know.

    The bottom fell out of the market because a large number of breeders flooded the market with nothing but mediocre blood lines and horses that they refused to invest basic training or marketing in. NO OTHER REASON.

  12. Great post, Denise. As far as slaughter for meat out of the processing plants, check out Sun Sentinel News in southeast Florida. Within the past year, there were accounts of horse slaughter by individuals who snuck onto private pastureland at night and harvested horse meat. They left their equine victim on the ground to die a most horrific and painful death.
    Two young males were eventually arrested and charged, but you’d better believe they are/were more of a symptom than the sole problem.
    Before we codependently seek to feed other countries, we might consider that there are many families right here in our own country who go to bed hungry most nights.
    As far as feeding them horse meat… they are filled with either worms or preventative worming medication, most have ulcers, and their diet would not render their meat the best food source for human beings.

  13. I understand what most are saying about too many horses & many being mistreated. I gave 2 young geldings to a handicap program for a small deduction on my taxes. Needless to say I spent way more than I received, to care for them until theprogram took them. Horses have been turned loose in our area & also tied or put in peoples trailers while they were trail riding.Until the jobs return or at least more people working, the prices will be low on horses, as their is no demand or anyone that can afford to keep even one for their child. I also think H/H foals should be allowed to register in Aqha if they are spade or castrated. This would stop people from raiseing more grade horses for a cute baby. Thank you!

  14. I have four horses. One an older mare (32) who will spend her last days with me – no matter how long they are. One is a small 14 year old pony that will outgrow the grandkids long before he passes on. The other two are our 9 year old riding horses. My husband and I are both in our early 60s but in good health. None of my horses will go to slaughter to feed anyone nor will I sell or give them away. They are a part of my family along with my 8 cats (all rescues) and two birds. I don’t have a lot of money. If I did I would probably take in a few more poor souls. All my cats are neutered/spayed; my horses will never reproduce. I consider myself a reponsible pet owner and the commitment I’ve made to my animals is that when they walk in the door, they have a home for life. In making that decision I’ve had to make some hard choices – the horse that isn’t perfect gets worked on, not sold. There are a lot of free resources out there to accomplish that – including trainers on RFD-TV that you can watch and learn from; horse friends that have a lot of knowledge; internet sites; and some basic common sense. For me it boils down to honoring your commitments and not taking on commitments that you might not be able to meet. We’ve all been bad circumstances, we’ve all lost jobs, have fallen on hard times, etc. Those folks I can understand. What I can’t understand are those people who should know better – the ones that breed for ‘the perfect horse’ and when what comes out isn’t perfect it gets sold down the line. I think we need to go back to basics – the source of the problem – which often is the professional breeder who is looking for perfection; the backyard breeder who thinks foals are cute or who is also looking for perfection or just doesn’t know any better. Education goes a long way to solving a problem and we need to start with better education for children – get them while they are in their formative years to be responsible pet owners/breeders. Write it into the junior programs in the AQHA, APHA and other breeder associations.

    As for feeding the multitude with horse meat – with all the chemicals and additives we put into horses, it just wouldn’t work. A better solution – and one that is more earth friendly – would be to reduce our meat consumption, take some of the cattle grazing land and plant a more sustainable food crop – wheat, soybeans, corn. Not only would it be cheaper to feed more people, they would be healthier. Of course that all assumes that ranchers and meat packing plants get a new view on things. Not easy to do. I suspect in the end the whole thing will just become a bigger problem than it is now and, like we have a history of doing, it will get ignored until it becomes so prevalent that the government will want to regulate the horse industry. So why not police ourselves now than wait until we get policed in a way that we don’t want.

    Additionally I have to say I was sad to see that in this America’s Horse Daily that the lead story was on how to get more people to go to shows and support the AQHA than it was in dealing with unwanted horses. Very telling don’t you think?

  15. Horses are not cows or rabbits. They have a different place in our culture than those animals and the entire inhumane processing “from auction yard to kill box” (thank you Denise)for food is not appropriate for the role we have asked horses to play in our lives. If large scale breeders and trainers can except themselves from that because the horses are just a comodity to them, then they are not being responsible equine professionals.

    The answer to unwanted horses is not easy or simple. AQHA has itself to partially blame because of its requirement that the amature rider must own his horse (the recent lease program and change in Novice rules help alleviate this somewhat). Qualifying stallions and castrating the rest may be a big part of the answer. Certainly education of horse owners and the public in general is a must! People must be educated to understand that the responsibility for a horse goes far beyond food, water and shelter, and extends for all the years of a horse’s life. There is nothing wrong with putting down unwanted or unuseable horses, and perhaps the feed/horse supply and tack companies, breed organizations, and the many other businesses that profit from the equine industry could/should help to defray those costs for those who cannot afford it themselves.

    I do not see any movement afoot by the breed organizations – and most particularly AQHA – to do anything to truly popularize the idea that there may be viable options to slaughter. The cold hearted “horse industry” attitude seems to be that horses are a commodity to be exploited to our benefit and then disposed of when they are no longer useful or wanted. This is my perception, and if I am wrong, the equine industry doesn’t seem to be doing much to dispell it.

    Can AQHA and other breed organizations promote a highly publicized public forum among their members and other interested parties to find solutions to the unwanted horse problem? And then see that the most reasonable of those solutions are acted on? So far I am reading nothing but articles that involve a lot of hand wringing and somehow always come to the conclusion that the closing of the slaughter plants is the culprit, and their re-opening is the answer. Come on, AQHA – you can do better!

  16. Denise, IF you will dig into why the slaughter plants really closed down, you will see that it was the activist that did the dirty dead. PETA and HSUS are mostly to blame. I’m not even going to zip a flame suit over this but let me bring up some facts about HSUS. Ooooh they do lobby for the “animals best interest” but yet only 10% of their proceeds “helped” any animal. The rest of the proceeds lined their pockets. They helped adopt out like only 800 pets in 2009. 800 isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to the numbers of animals that need help. (and from what I could find, there wasn’t even ONE horse involved!) Do yourself a favor and donate any spare change to your local animal shelter and I guarantee you’ll see it put to much better use then HSUS could EVER dream up!

    As for the over population of horses, abandonment, starving, neglect and/or abuse……

    If we were all to think outside the QH box, over population happens in all breeds. Just not the Quarter Horse. However, since I am a QH owner, I tend to focus my concerns on the QH breed only. IMO, the over population all started back when shipped seman was approved. When mare owners were able to get more mares bred for less money (meaning they didn’t have to ship a mare to the breeder now OR pay for it’s cost while being a the breeders)with the money saved, they figured breeding MORE mares would give them a better opportunity for a nicer baby. If you’re capable of seeing beyond barn blindness and are breeding savvy, you will know breeding a World Champ to a World Champ does not always mean a World Champ in the resulting foal. So…..people breed more mares in order to HOPEFULLY get 1 nice foal out of the group. There is NEVER a guarantee in breeding but yet, if everyone stops breeding OR only a handful can breed, then who is to determine who those select few are? WHO will determine who gets to breed what to whom when there have been so many doing it for years and they all will think it should be them doing the breeding???? I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

    So now that we have an over abundance of grade, poor or average quality horses that no one wants…what do we do with them OR what do we do with the ones that no one wants?

    Honestly…I think it should be left up the owners, with “dumping” them not an option. I personally am in favor of slaughter as it does give a quick and humane ending. BUT….isn’t there always a but involved? The main problem that we have or had with slaughter is that it was never regulated. The lobbyist pulled on the heart strings of the legislators by showing them pics of horses going without water on looooong trailer rides. Or being corraled into pens and being scared because of their new and unfimiliar surroundings. Lame or hurt horses that more then likely were that way before they even arrived at the slaughter plant. IF the government had been smart about it (I’m not even sure that’s in their vocabulary)they would have looked at the BIG picture and would have seen a way to regulate the ENTIRE slaughter system. With regulated slaughter, this would have given a great avenue to those un-wanted OR un-useable horses that deserve to be HUMANELY destroyed and not dumped off into God only knows what circumstances. REGULATION….is the key folks!

    As for pointing fingers at AQHA and asking them to “fix it”, I think it’s high time WE ALL stepped up to the plate and help come up with a solution. I for one am a firm believer that if you don’t like how things are being handled, then you either do something about it or shut up. What am I doing you ask? I was pretty active in sending out letter to my local representative about keeping the slaughter houses open AND for the very reason we’re all talking about now. The “dumping”. The starvation. The neglect.

    Hind site is an ugly thing when we talk about situations like this. It’s just to bad that until a solution is found, the horse will continue to suffer.

  17. Caryn, I agree with some of what you say – humane slaughter being better than starvation. However, did you know that the three major slaughter plants in the US were not owned by Americans. That all the meat slaughtered there was not used for consumption by poor people but shipped to France and Japan where it is considered an ‘expensive’ delicacy. That shippping conditions are poor because the slaughter prices are low so anyone making a living at shipping to slaughter doesn’t take the time, effort or money to make horses comfortable. What do you think – horses, caged rabbits, caged chickens – and yes dogs and cats in other countries – are treated with respect while taken to slaughter. Nope. Not happening. Cows on dry lot aren’t either.

    Why is it the AQHA can put together a task force to address why people aren’t showing as much but I have yet to hear about you to address the glut of horses in the country. And I’m not just pointing my finger at the AQHA… I haven’t seen ANY breed registry address the problem – especially not the throughbred industry which has been overbreeding for years.

    As to HSUS – 800 pets being adopted is better than 800 pets being euthanized. I don’t play God. It’s not my place to take a life and say who gets to live and who gets to die.

    The concerns you addressed with the shipped semen are real and valid and now are going to get only worse because the AQHA is going to allow cloning. Great, isn’t that going to improve things. I don’t think the AQHA or any breed organization can ‘fix’ it but they surely don’t need to encourage it and there is a lot they can do to instruct up and coming youngsters about using what we have on the ground already instead of throwing it away and breeding new.

  18. Recently there was a cattle trailer accident in which there were not cattle but horses being hauled. They were crammed in there and heading from Missouri to Texas. People stopped to help rescue them.There were about 25 or more in that cattle trailer. Probably around 19 survived. They are now recovering in a horse rescue place.
    I am still in tears about that. When my late mare got where she could not be comfortable and I knew I would not be able to afford to keep her going I had her euthanized to keep her from winding up like that. I still think of her and wish I could have been able to do more. She was 24 at the time.
    When that trailer accident happened and the word cattle trailer was spoken I told my husband that I knew where those poor horses were headed.
    People with a stallion think they will make a lot of money. Some do but it is a lot of hard work keeping a stallion. A good stallion can make a perfect gelding. I had one that superb. He was a good stallion but someone had the courage to geld him. He was a superb gelding. I never had a bad moment with him except when he died. That cause me a lot of grief.
    My advice to anyone is to geld most of those stallions and don’t breed most of you mares. There is no such thing as the perfect horse.

  19. Caryn – I totally respect your post – but we’ll have to agree to disagree on the closing of the plants. Of course there are activists who helped promote the closing of the plants, but those plants were in violation of local and state laws and health and safety codes. Would you want to live next to that?

    IF slaughter could be controlled, made humane, regulated – sure – feed the meat to starving people in 3rd world countries. But let’s face it, our economy is in the toilet and the government is not going to foot the bill to regulate an industry that is on the way out the door. (Again – look at any drug, topical or oral that you use on your horses and see which ones are carcinogenic. After a serious breast cancer scare last year, only THEN did I find out Furacin/Nitrofurazone is directly linked to breast cancer and banned in almost every other country. Yet here in the US, it’s a top seller.) It’s just not going to happen folks. We need to find another solution and stop spreading the kind of propaganda this article spews. (I see in the next series – it says the rendering plants are all closed too. Since when? This kind of shoddy reporting does NEITHER side any good.)

    As for a quick painless ending… I’ve been to the feedlots, auctions, and I’ve rescued and rehabbed horses from both places. I can tell you from first hand knowledge (readily admitting that PETA and HSUS tend to blow things out of proportion) that the care and handling in those situations is NOT humane. As for my comment about HSUS above – it referred to their lobbying ability. No question that’s what they do best – love it or hate it. As for donations – you can bet my money goes to the local hands on crew with some common sense.

  20. Good Article, and some really good coments about the article.
    I’d Like to add my 2 cents (from NJ) way way away from the west and northwest. I own 3 horses and board 1 on 15 acres….more than enough to support 4 horses (tall grass in fields ..etc..etc…)
    Now….What I don’t like (and I hope the persons responsible are reading this!!!)….Is going to bed with 4 horses in my fields and waking up the next morning with 7 horses in my field!!! Please don’t say horses aren’t being dumped (they are and your lieing to yourselves and the public when you say they aren’t). The 3 extra horses I found homes for (but I had to care for them for 3 months (out of pocket, in case the owners showed up). They weren’t mine so I literally “GAVE THEM AWAY” to familys that (at the time) wanted a good riding horse.

  21. Another Thing….about PETA…
    They are not the angels they claim to be.
    and as far as outlandish stories generated by PETA may I remind you of the garbage they generated about “Eight Belles” Trainer and Owner and Jockey (all of which was proven to be false!). PETA is one of the least trusted groups on my “who to beleive list”.

  22. We worm cattle feed them grass and eat them cattle are raised much like horses feed people and eliminate the overpopulation.

  23. A few years ago, we had a severe drought. It seriously impacted the local hay supplies.
    What farmers did have crops, sold to the cattle farms, sold first to their biggest customers.
    Literally, it was nearly impossible to find hay.
    We were fortunate because by the time we needed it, (had stored our hay here), our supplier was trucking out of state to get more and sold to us.
    This coincided with the economy just starting to tank out.
    People were dumping their horses in State and County parks and the officials were scrambling to figure out what needed to be done to discourage the practice.

    Since then, friends have mentioned the same scenario that Dave did about waking up to horses dumped in their fields.
    So, the dumping is a serious problem, (especially to the person who has to find a new home for it and take care of it in the interim). But, I’d much rather have that scenario than for someone to stumble upon an abandoned property of starving and already dead horses.

    The problem with horses is no different than the other pets some people overbreed, exploit and dump. The type of euthanasia is different.
    I don’t know if there are any real answers except to encourage responsible ownership.
    I would say add regularions regarding breeding practices but all that’s going to do is make sure big money gets to keep on doing what they’ve done for years while the little guy is penalized for reproduction on a much smaller scale.

    We have an AQHA mare who’s an incentive foal but she’s never been bred and again, we have no plans to have her bred.
    I think it would be completely irresponsible if we did as we wouldn’t have the funds to train the offspring and thus add to the population of unwanted horses.
    I like the comment made about there not being a perfect horse.
    Maybe if more people realized that, the compulsion to breed their horses would be no more.

  24. I think that instead of all these holding facilitys were wild and unwanted horses are kept, they should pass laws that require you to have a breeding lisence. A price tag might also be agood idea to make sure only dedicated breeders are purchasing them. People will not pay just to breed for sport.
    Also I heard about some people who are going around doing clinics were they offer gelding services. If we had more of those, there would be less stallions and there would be less unwanted foals. My perception of it is that even though gelding is not that costly there are some who just do not want to pay for a horse they most likely bred, adopted or bought for very little money to be gelded.
    Maybe they think the stallion is happier the way he is but gelding is always the best choice because you wind up with a calmer, safer and happier horse that will probably in the long run be healthier.
    By the way, I’m only 13 and I am already working on stoping this junk. If I can do more then just sit and do nothing then everybody who reads this can to. Most of you will be much higher up in the world with positions were you can vote and also make things change. I encourage you to do so.

  25. We bred Quarter horses for a few years until we realized there were already too many horses. In that time we shipped 3 to a slaughter plant. We trailered them ourselves (along with 3 neighbor’s) and they were killed immediately after getting there. There was good reason to ship these, one wanted to kill somebody and we had raised her, she wasn’t abused. We still have 4 horses, only 1 I would send to slaughter. I differentiate between horses I really like and some who can go feed people.
    Since then we have driven semi and delivered grain to different horse feed lots. These horses are well looked after. The thin ones are ones they just received. They are fed hay and oats and access to water at all times. I have seen trucks refused because the oats didn’t meet their standards. If they weren’t fed properly they wouldn’t make money. The idea is to fatten them for slaughter. Personally I think that horses kept locked up in a barn are abused. We talk about “natural horsemanship” and tell me what is natural about keeping horses in a barn? Or loading them in a trailer to take to a show? They are livestock…I personally wouldn’t eat them, but if others want to then go ahead.
    It’s not always the backyard breeder who is the problem. There’s an AQHA breeder near us who looks for HYPP positive mares to breed to his positive stallion. How responsible is that?
    We live in Canada where thankfully we still have slaughter plants. We need to fight to keep them open and not let PETA and others lies shut them down.

  26. Chemicals & additives in horse meat? Get a grip. people! Unless you buy organic, the SAME or even worse chemicals are in USDA beef!!! Dear hubby & I run a small cow/calf operation. Cattle producers in our area routinely administer growth hormone to calves to help them gain weight. All beef & dairy cattle are regularly vaccinated AND wormed to prevent disease & intestinal parasites. Cattle diseases are different from the ones horses get, but are no less dangerous or communicable. Then there are bovine insect repellents (in sprays & ear tags) which contain chemicals that are far more powerful than their equine equivalents. If that doesn’t scare you, think about this: where does the residue from fertilizers & weed killers that are sprayed on pastures go when it rains? Answer: it goes directly into streams & ponds that water livestock & wild animal populations. Soooo, horsemeat is possibly LESS dangerous for human consumption than beef. Not that I’d care to eat ol’ Dobbin myself. But I’m just saying…

  27. I have 3 horses one is a mustang i adopted and raised she is of spanish bloodlines, i have her daughter she is half morgan tracing back to the justin morgan, and i have my quarter horse, hollywood lines. i love these animals to death and i have worked 3 jobs to keep them healthy and happy. i do not believe in slaughter i believe in education. and the ignorant owner and breeder causes the problems with too many horses in the world, some think if i have a mare i need to breed her Wrong, again education on all the care and money to keep these animals. God made these animals and the are the most beautiful on the earth, they teach us so much and give nothing but happiness in return. people are the problem quit blaming the horses they are innocent victims of stupid greedy peole, man has always destroyed and will continue too. too many dogs and cats. it is a shame for the amimals. i have compassion for all and want only the best so lets wake people up and stop this on a more moral level. the mares in canada are for hormone therepy for women that is disgusting. i am 53 and will never take that stuff and put it into my system. but again at the cost of the animals mankind will destroy so wake up people and lets make changes for the animals not for you.

  28. Connie, I so agree with you… Premarin is not only wrong from the humane standpoint of the horse, but it is now proving to be toxic to the body. As far as eating beef – I don’t. I don’t eat chickens either. I am somewhat of an ethical vegetarian but more than that I am concerned about what goes into my food. It is getting so BAD that the AVA is asking that large cattle companies stop routinely vaccinating the animals with antibotics – we are creating superbugs that are resistant to antibotoics. I won’t drink milk because of the all the junk in it – BGH, etc. None of this stuff is good for you. Just take a look at the fact that the US is 38th – 38th – in the world in terms of health. Pretty sad statistic for one of the richest nations on earth. Got to ask yourself why – we pollute our land, our water, our bodies with chemicals, fertilizers, additives, preservatives. Take a good look around you at the supermarket and see what people are buying – packaged junk while they ride around in their little carts because they are either too fat or too infirm (and I’m talking folks in their 40s and 50s) to walk.

  29. MONEY. There are too many horses because for some reason people breed their horses or allow their horses to breed for MONEY. Some are bred because their owner wants a cute colt. A horse with papers does not neccesarily make it a better horse. I see all the time horses go for meat that have papers. Saying that the backyard breeders need to be stopped because that will solve the problem makes no sense. It might for a while, until the price of horses goes up because of demand and then people will be breeding the crap out of them for MONEY! Does every papered horse turn out to be fabulous and in a good home? NO. The solution is people putting horses before greed, why have any of your mares bred, papered or otherwise? It is every horse owners responability to cut down the numbers of horses. Quit blaming it on backyard breeders thinking that somehow your purebreds aren’t part of the problem. I have 11 horses, some papered, some not, they are here because they are good horses and part of my family. There have only been 2 colts born here in almost 30 years. Here in Canada we still have slaughter plants, I’m not a fan of them but I understand their need. Other species are put down or slaughtered every day. It’s part of life. I believe all animals need to be treated with dignity and respect for all that they give us. My horses will not be sent to slaughter plants, they will stay here as long as they choose. If you are breeding any horses, quality, fabulous, purebred, back yard, whatever…..you are part of the problem!

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