Unwanted, Part 2

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.

Discounts from local feed stores, donations and free veterinary care make it possible for volunteers like Deana Donohue to care for rescued horses.

This is the second in a two-part series. Need to review part 1?

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

An Unmanageable Burden
Many argue that the closing of the slaughter and rendering plants in the United States marked the beginning of the increase in unwanted horses, horses deemed not useful or that have sustained an injury or can no longer be cared for. Other mechanisms that have driven the problem into a growing crisis are the rising cost of hay and grain and the failing economy, according to Sandy Gilbert of Refuge Farms Inc. of Spring Valley, Wisconsin.

“When I look at the number of horses we rescued (in) winter (2008), 93 in January alone, I can only reason it was due to the effects of the anti-slaughter bill,” Sandy says. “Many of these animals were abandoned and neglected because the owners didn’t have any place to go with their unwanted animals.”

Gilbert’s Refuge Farms is about 70 miles east of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. In 2008, the nonprofit 20-acre facility rescued about 180 horses. According to Sandy, most of the rescued animals came from western and northwestern Wisconsin.

As jobs are lost and the cost of living rises, horses often become an unmanageable burden. While many desperate owners call rescue and adoption facilities for help, too many choose to dump their unwanted animals along a country road, says Charlie Melancon, a deputy with the Jefferson County (Texas) sheriff’s department.

In AQHA’s FREE How to Tie a Rope Halter report, expert tack maker Dennis Moreland explains in simple terms how to tie a rope halter.

In the past, Charlie primarily worked patrol and occasionally investigated the rare report of abandoned livestock. Three years ago, the number of seizure warrants, accompanying paperwork and care of confiscated animals became overwhelming. Today, investigating and seizing neglected and abandoned animals is his full-time duty.

“We’re seeing desperate horse owners, hurting because of a bad economy, getting rid of horses that are older, injured or sick” Charlie says. “Not having anywhere to go with them, they dump the animals. The sale barns won’t take the animals, the rescue centers are at capacity, and the slaughter houses and rendering plants are closed. They feel they have no other option.”

Things aren’t much different on the East Coast where Bud and Lydia Lauck operate Quality Acres in Anthony, Florida. The Laucks have been selling horses in the Ocala area for five decades.

Several of the couple’s customers tell how when trail riding, they return to their trailers and find horses tied to them with a note asking “please take care of my horse.”

Roll It!

Do you know the nutritional needs of your horse? Learn about the basics of water, hay and feed consumption so you can have a healthy and happy horse.

“Many of the horses we receive have gone hungry because good people can no longer afford to feed them properly, and place them with us in hopes (that) we can find a new home for them,” Lydia says. “The numbers we have taken in over the last year have been unbelievable. We could easily take five horses each day if we had room for them, but like most rescue centers, we’re at capacity.”

Responsible Ownership
The American Horse Council estimates there are 92,000 to 138,000 unwanted horses in the United States. Most experts think the number is probably much higher. During the last five years, the problem of unwanted horses has become a concern within the equine industry, according to Jay Hickey, AHC president.

The rope halter is a valuable tool, but it needs to be used correctly. In AQHA’s FREE How to Tie a Rope Halter report, expert tack maker Dennis Moreland explains in simple terms how to tie a rope halter.

“Three years ago, the American Association of Equine Practitioners met at the AHC annual meeting to discuss the problem of unwanted horses,” Jay says. “As a result of that meeting, the Unwanted Horse Coalition was formed. Its purpose is to remind the industry, horse owners and prospective horse owners of our responsibility toward our animals and what exactly that means. ”

UHC, whose membership includes AQHA and 24 other equine associations, is focused on resolving the problem before a horse becomes unwanted. The group is trying to get owners to carefully consider what they will do with a horse when it is no longer useful to them, before they breed or buy it. They argue good stewardship should start before ownership and continue until they no longer own the horse.

“We want to change the way owners see their responsibility to their horse,” Jay says. “Our slogan is ‘own responsibly.’ That’s the message we’re trying to get out.”

UHC has a website packed with important information about horse ownership and responsibility. The organization offers numerous helpful downloadable documents, including the booklet “Own Responsibly.”

Desperate owners with unwanted animals will find helpful resources – including a list of retirement, retraining and rescue facilities – on the website.

“Neglect and abandonment don’t need to happen; there are options,” Jay says. “People can donate their horses to a high school, college, public stable, police force or a nonprofit therapeutic riding center. Our website lists about 200 various facilities that will take horses, if the facility isn’t at capacity.”

Unwanted Horse Coalition
1616 H Street, NW • Seventh Floor • Washington, D.C. 20006
(202) 296-4031 • www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org

25 thoughts on “Unwanted, Part 2”

  1. Okay, here’s the kicker… in the middle of the unwanted animals article, someone inserts a blurb for “Breeding Tips”…. is anyone out there paying attention?

  2. The blame for the over population of horses these days could be laid on those breeding for the “perfect” horse. Conformation, bloodlines and to try to WIN THE BIG PRIZE. The higher the prize money, sale price or big win, the more people try to get that “perfect” horse. Mine were never perfect only wonderful.

  3. When is the disinformation going to stop? The rendering plants are NOT closed. I’m sure the head of the NRA would love to see this.

    It’s rather ironic that an organization that wants to remind owners, the industry etc., of responsibility toward animals would use the word Unwanted in their name.

  4. When will the someone really break the “horse industry” down and actually determine all its aspects? 1. Who are the bulk of horse owners, really? 2. Why do they own their horses? 3. What do the bulk of the horse owners expect (wish) to accomplish with their horse(s)? 4. How many of these owners ever took any type of apprenticeship in the horse industry prior to owning a horse? Had they done so one of two things would have occurred – first they would never have become horse owners, or if they did, they would enter the horse world with a full understanding of the responsibility and cost of horse ownership.

    People, take away the market and you back down the production. If I can’t make a living with my breeding program, I’m done breeding.

    Now, how does one institute any positive program? Not easily in a culture that has turned strongly toward and “entitlement” philosophy — it’s not me, it’s my neighbor.

    Ownership aside, how do we as an industry separate the myth from the reality? Again, a very difficult proposition…the black stallion, the noble mustang, the black beauty, Smokey the cow horse, and the list goes on. For each mytical aspect some truth exists but for the most part it is the mythical that spurs the heart strings and philosophy of the naive.

    I have had the good fortune to have been born into a family of good horsemen who required their horses to be a part of the labor force on the ranch and also to be a horse that could go to competition and help his owner win a check. Yes, the all-around horse. I cracked out of college with a 15 year old TB-AQHA cross gelding and didn’t know that you could not rope calves, bulldog steers and heel steers in the team roping on the same horse until I got around people who had to have 3 horses to do what I was doing…incidentally, I was the all-round champion of that association on that horse, finishing first in the steer wrestling, second in the calf-roping, and 4th in the team roping (probably my header’s fault we didn’t place higher *LOL*). And, that horse has been and continues to be the image that I carry in my mind and try to replicate in the training pen.

    I have competed in rodeo all my life. I’ve trained for the public (still do for some select clients)and exhibited horses for the breeders that those animals might qualify for the world shows, etc. Frankly speaking, a large number of those horses would not make a pimple on the butt of the horses going down the road earning a living for their owners or on the ranch doing the same thing. So, why the incessant breeding for that specialty horse? Money, ego, and ignorance.

    And yet, I, like every horseman out there who has an eye and an appreciation for the equine athlete will applaud those great horses. I cannot say how many times I’ve watched that video of Smart Little Lena. I was there with a really nice horse when he won the Cutting Futurity and he surpassed all, and he gets better every time I watch that video.

    Would I have bred a mare to him had I been of that incline? Certainly!! Would I have gotten a duplicate, hardly, because sometimes I think those really great ones are freaks where the best in gene pool come together in rare moments. However, I also know that Ott Adams was right when he said, “If momma and daddy can’t do it, it ain’t likely baby will.”

    And that is what drives the breeder…As I have always been driven by fast times and good horses, so the breeder is driven to mix the gene pool to try for the extra ordinary horse. People it is free enterprise, it’s America.

    And ultimately it leads to where we are today as an industry…overpopulation of individuals with no viable means of draining the swamp…

    A funnel gathers big and drains small…maybe we ought to turn it round the other way, and in the interim maybe there is a place for a kill market, some curbs on breeding, and some requirements for horse owners to take some pre-education prior to becoming one (we send our kids to driver’s ed prior to letting them get behind the wheel).

    Incidentally, I turned 70 this past spring, am still roping and just won a nice check at a TR jackpot Sunday afternoon riding a little yeller bronc that 4 months ago was slated to go to the Alpo plant…. He’s an agitator and I’m a crank so we get along and I’ll probably end my roping career riding him. But as a case in point, had lightning not killed my other horse, this horse was fixing to go into the market and with his attitude most folks would have trashed him. Not all horses fit all people and that is what the public fails to accept. In fact four of the best horses I’ve ever owned and ridden were rejects because of bad attitudes and too much moxey. Why did I own them? Their pedigree said they had potential, my pocketbook could afford that bloodline with the bad attitude and not the other way round, besides, I had work to do and generally lots of wet saddle blankets and hard work make good men and horses. And for most horse owners today this is sadly lacking, much to the detriment of the horse.

    What I’m saying folks is this: we’ve got an overpopulation problem. We must act to create solutions. One thing alone is not the solution, but all things put into perspective and utilized under a profit and loss statement will even out the production for the market. If only one facet steps to the plate nothing is going to happen, if all facets unite this can be controlled and solved.

  5. CD- I like most of what you have so eloquently stated. I can only simply reiterate what you and others have said. I think that constitutes “preaching to the choir”. I will say it anyway; I have felt for years that horse assoications that allow multiple breedings (meaning sometimes registering a hundred foals by the same stud in one yr!) in a year with the hopes of generating that great performer is really a shame. The “backyard” family pet that’s bred becasue she’s so special; well that may be one to 100 foals that can potentially end up unwanted for a multitude of reasons. So like has already been stated here, there are many reasons for the problem and many avenues need to be taken to help remedy the problem. Not just one will work..So horse people need to stop ridiculing those that are trying to help by actually doing something. Proverb: “Those that say something cannot be done, should not get in the way of those that are doing the work”.

  6. While there are always comments that can solve the problem, another facet that has not been mentioned in the article or in the other comments does exist. It is the age requirement events for performance horses.

    There is big money in the All American Futurity for 2 year old race horses; there is big money to be had in the 3 year old events for the NRHA, NCHA, NRCHA futurities. The cream of the young crop has one specific year in its life to achieve the greatness these events demand. If they mature a bit later mentally or physically or suffer an injury, they are off track to compete with the best of the best. These are extremely selective breeding programs and top trainers coming together to produce such horses. There will continue to be a market fueled by the money these shows award. Which will continue to leave a good number of really nice horses that couldn’t quite achieve that level.

    But has anyone bothered to consider how many horses are bred in a year to achieve the upper echelon of those horses? Many of the hopeful offspring will not result in a horse able to compete at those events, for whatever reason. However, these well-bred horses can result in outstanding aged event horses, non-pro or youth mounts, or regional event winners.

    But where does that leave the little backyard breeder? The numbers are certainly decreasing, but there still remain far too many horses that have undesireable traits that are being bred by uneducated owners. As was so eloquently stated by a 4-H mom last summer, her Dad always said, “If you can’t ride ’em, breed ’em!” I cringed. The idea of continuing to produce substandard horses goes against all that reputable horse people strive for.

    We personally pride ourselves on crossing to the best quality stallions possible and all of the horses we’ve shown have won money in one or more events. We try to prove that our mares are producers and our sale horses are performers. We geld or require gelding of male horses sold. We expect our horses to perform at the open level with trainers and the non-pro and amateur levels with their owners. However, even if they are one that doesn’t pass muster, we’ve managed to create through sound breeding and extended training, one heck of a horse for somebody to enjoy. We always try to remind prospective buyers that your vet bill, feed and shoes, and all other associated expenses are not discounted for owning a lower quality horse. That they should never make an impulse purchase or buy simply because a horse is a particular color. Instead, put any prospective purchase through a very thorough litmus test. If it doesn’t pass your needs, don’t buy it.

    Breeders talking to their local horse groups, 4-H clubs, or equine fairs can go a long way in educating potential owners and/or breeders of the expenses involved, but can also promote eliminating the addition of substandard horses to the equine chain. Putting excerpts into the local newspapers on upcoming educational clinics can spur those with the horse interest to learn more and more about what may’ve been just an idol on the silver screen. Nobody is too old to learn or knows it all, so education can be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.

    With such knowledge, we can hope to change the belief systems that horses are not livestock; horses must never go to a processing plant; and that all horses with the appropriate parts are prospective breeding animals. We can change how many in our population perceive the horse for the better.

    We must instead, view the current economic situation as an opportunity to improve on breeding practices and the quality of horses produced overall. When we as owners and/or breeders win, so do our horses.

  7. CD- Thank you. I agree 100% with your comments, especially the reference to the ‘freaks’ that turn out to be the exceptional horse. Investors, competitors, the ‘”Little Guy” who wants to make his mark, all desire to have their own Smart Little Lena, or Secretariat. ‘Lena’ may have get that have come close, but the racehorse everyone wanted to duplicate was a disappointment as a stud. Why? Because he truly was a freak of nature. I have been a horse lover since before I could walk and was one of the ignorant when I owned my first horse. Thirty years later, and a bit more knowledgeable, my youngest daughter and I had horses again. But as a teenager I didn’t care what kind of horse I had, (though he was a very talented ranch Tb/QH, far beyond my abilities) all that mattered was, my dream had come true. This time as horse owners we got caught up in the horse show fever, and became “horse snobs”. My limited funds prohibited owning “a winner” but my view into the ‘behind the scenes’ of the show world was a shock and disappointment. Youth riders (age 6 and above) were being groomed into believing that if your horse wasn’t bringing home the blue he had to be sold for a better one. It was a thrill to see my daughter ride our Arab/QH in the show pen even if he wasn’t the best in the ring, they were both young and first timers, and we couldn’t afford the training that would have made placing a possibility, but we enjoyed our two boys and learned alot along the way (a year later at 15 my daughter broke her 3 yr old Arab by herself). A health crisis three years ago cut my income to a third and we had to part with both of our horses. We found great homes for them and they are doing well, but I often wonder where the discarded show horses that ‘weren’t up to snuff’ ended up, and the mind set of the next generation of show competitors.

  8. It is the pro-slaughter attitude of the AQHA that makes me embarrased to own a Quarter Horse. While I love the breed, I now look to others when purchasing a horse. To blame the overpopulation (even in part) on the closing of the slaughter houses is nothing short of insane. The reason we are in this position is the economy and the sensless and selfish overbreeding. Senseless of the backyard breeder who thinks they can make an extra buck or who wants their child to experience the birth of a foal or who wants a foal by their beloved horse. Selfishness of the breeders (especially those like racing and cutting and reining) who breed hundreds in hopes of getting the “golden” one. .and have no problems sleeping when they sell the rest off to slaughter. People like that – breeders like that have no business in the industry. They are no better than the people who operate puppy mills and should face the same disdain by the public.

    And as long as association reward this type of breeding – as it puts more money in their pockets with registration fees, transfer fees etc.. – then they are no better.

    There are answers other than slaughter including slowing or stopping overbreeding, gelding and education.

  9. one other note – if any of the breeders that AQHA just recognized are ones that perpetuate the problem by breeding 100 mares to one stud.. then shame on them

  10. Note to Vicki… the last horse slaughter plant in the US was closed last year. States that are border states into either Canada or Mexico have had the problem of having horses bought in the borders states and transported across the country’s line.

    I was also appalled by the article in this Daily that the AHQA is honoring long time breeders, to quote:

    “Legacy breeders are those who have registered at least one foal for 50 consecutive years. Cumulative breeders are those who have registered at least one foal for 50 years cumulatively.”

    Why aren’t we honoring any breeder who has taken in a rescue horse for 50 consecutive years?

  11. Some of you express dismay at the AQHA honoring long-time breeders. Keep in mind, the AQHA has been around since the 40’s or 50’s, and some of these programs have been in place for a very long time, they weren’t invented this morning. Our society is changing and the AQHA must change too if it hopes to survive.

    The AQHA has no control over back yard breeders, etc. This is a free country. I know of a back yard breeder who lets her stunty little stallion run with a bunch of skinny mares, and no vaccinations, farrier work, or halter training is ever done. The stallion is now breeding his own sad looking, stunted daughters. I reported it to animal control in that area, but they don’t have jurisdiction and the sheriff’s office is too busy with crimes. Needless to say, the owner never files any AQHA paperwork either.

    I know of a family that knew nothing about horses who adopted three BLM mares. They were unable to tame the mares, so they put their neighbor’s unregistered mutt stallion in with them. Now they have more horses they can’t handle, that are worthless.

    Yet, you’re mad at responsible breeders, yeah that really makes a lot of sense. Over the past two years, I have watched as a lot of responsible breeders have gotten out of the breeding business in response to the economy. I don’t see that with back yard breeders.

    What bothers me is the culture of “do whatever it takes to win” within the “elite” levels of Quarter Horse shows. The AQHA has improved in its policing of abusive trainers, but there is still lots of room for improvement. I would like to see AQHA get out of the business of having horse shows altogether, so some of those abusers will have to go get jobs driving garbage trucks, instead of getting treated like rock stars because of their willingness to beat, drug, and abuse horses towards world championships.

  12. CD, very impressive artical you wrote. I would hope that people would pay close attention to what you had to say. You have a world of knowledge you could teach all of us.

  13. Backyard breeders and professional breeders are both at fault-over population is over population whatever the cause-“love” or money.
    The same problem exists with cats and dogs. How sad to look in the paper and see so many ads for kittens and puppies at hundreds of dollars when you know the shelters are full of them for a minimal charge. I get the same feeling when I see stallion directories or
    3 in one mare sales. Horse ownership is a luxury in these modern times-a luxury that comes with responsibility. Horses are not just livestock and are not livestock at all in some areas anymore. If the AQHA and other breed associations put a moratorium on breeding for at least two years, it would set an example more so than taking a stand one way or another on the slaughter issue. Some horses, sometimes because of their breeding or lack of, just are not worthy or safe for any purpose. Or they are not in the position to be placed in the right scenario for their potential.
    It is not wrong to euthanize an abandoned 25 year old ill or ill mannered horse if it makes a place in the world for a younger, better mannered animal to have a chance.

    An expression we have around my parts is that you can only ride one horse at a time. If you have more horses than you can use, ride, afford and give adequate attention to, you are not a horseman
    you are an animal hoarder.

  14. Stop the breeding of 1 stud to hundreds of mares a year! Doesn’t take a rocket going off to see the end of the problem! It’s not all about the money people think of the foals being born no one wants!

  15. I live in a rural area with a slow economy, and there are thousands of horses here. I have only seen one pasture full of stunted runts, but I recall seeing one of those over 20 years ago in a different area. Nothing new. I raise paints, and recall when anything black and white would bring top dollar, regardless of what it looked like. Not so anymore. The horse over-population problem will come to a peak, and then decline, just like almost everything else, including the housing market. Less horses will get bred just like less houses are being built. This is supposed to be a free country, and like it or not, horses are personal property. Does anyone really want someone else to control every aspect of their life? I cetainly don’t! And not every horse needs to be a champion or of champion stock. The little girl next door just wants a horse to love and ride. I haven’t raised a foal in 2 years, and the last one was an accident when my stud got out and bred my 25 year old mare! She is still with me and will go under the big tree in her field when her time is up. Not everyone has the luxury of burying a horse on their property, maybe there is a need for horse cremation services? And I see everyone blaming breeders. Mares are not cheap to keep, and I really can’t see folks producing 100’s of unwanted foals each year in the hopes of getting 1 good one! When people quit buying their horses, the breeders will naturally produce less. As far as backyard breeders, they have a right to breed their horse, and I don’t want to see any American give up any more rights! Next thing they’ll do is tell you how many kids you can have. I love my horses, and am a humane and responsible owner, and education is really the key to any solution. And I do agreed with Knan, sometimes putting the old and starving horses to sleep is the best answer. We can’t save them all, but a humane end to their suffering is a blessing.

  16. Sue F. What in that makes any sense? If a horse is unwanted how in the world is it worth any money? Unwanted translates to worthless so how is breeding unwanted foals a money maker?

  17. and Keria those long time breeders, long time horsemen and women have more than likely ‘rescued’ way more than one horse a year. It has been going on since the first horse was bought, sold, or traded. It wasn’t referred to as rescue until the anti-slaughter movement. Before that it was called buying and selling horses. Evidently you didn’t read C.D.’s comment closely enough to catch that. You did read the unwanted article closely enough to assign a pro-breeding message to this totally benign sentence.<<<<< UHC, whose membership includes AQHA and 24 other equine associations, is focused on resolving the problem before a horse becomes unwanted. The group is trying to get owners to carefully consider what they will do with a horse when it is no longer useful to them, before they breed or buy it.

  18. The bottom line is there needs to be mulitple solutions.
    1 – Humane slaughter plants.
    2- Some plan to geld ‘mutt’ horses either reduced rate or free with stipulations involved.
    3 – Responsible breeders could take a year or two off or be liminted to (just an off the cuff figure here) 25 mares a year.
    4- Education at community colleges, vets offices, feed stores for people who are thinking of buying a horse.
    5- Maybe a movie about a horse that is not a rockstar. A movie such as “An Inconvenient Truth” about the average or sub average horse and horse owner. A both sides sort of story or documentary. Could the AQHA powers coordinate with other horse breed power types, rescue operations, vetrinarians, ranchers, city horse owners etc and get funds and ideas to get that off the ground? And don’t just air it on horse channels. Make it accessible to a wide audience.
    6- Go to schools and talk to kids about responsible animal ownership in general and what owning a horse really involves.

    I know others could think of more and better ideas. But for the love of the horse and of the industry we need to not point and blame. We need do what we can cooperatively to help the horses we know and love and to help the horses no one knows…or wants to love. They are all our responsibilty as horse lovers.

  19. Lil- my dismay is not only with the overzealous for profit professional breeder.. I did mention the backyard breeder also. Horses are facing the same problem as dogs & cats.. overbreeding by professional as well as backyard breeders.

    Ruth – there is no such thing as a humane slaughter plant. Slaughter in its essence is not humane.

    Gelding “mutt” (I guess you mean grade) horses is good. But gelding registered is important also. Not all registered horses are of a quality to pass on their bloodline. And that does not stop the owner of a registered horses and taking the money to breed to a grade mare. Oh and by the way as with dogs there are a lot of exceptional grade horses so please don’t dismiss them all as a lower quality animal – true they shouldn’t be bred but that doesn’t mean ones that are here shouldn’t deserve the same chances and love of a registered horse.
    Your other points on education I completely agree with and have been a proponent of for some time!

  20. Hmmm… We have a 350 acre ranch where we manage a small cow/calf operation. We also keep 6 horses there. Two are American Quarter Horse mares that we bought and trained to work cattle. We ride them regularly. The other four are “rescues” that were given to us by folks who either couldn’t afford to feed them or didn’t know how to handle them. We found one, an old, emaciated OTTB gelding, wandering the gravel road near our gate. He was so weak he could barely stand. Needless to say, we were relieved when the poor guy pulled through. The younger rescues are ridden intermittently as time allows. Occasionally children ride the old ones on lead line in the RP or arena. All our horses are handled & fed 2x daily. They get plenty of attention. Their lives are far better than before we acquired them. But since we don’t use or ride ALL of them, my question is to Knan… Are we ANIMAL HOARDERS???

    P.S. I should mention that despite our QH mares’ excellent bloodlines and good dispositions, not to mention their cattle abilities, we’ll never breed either of them for fear the resulting offspring might add to the ever-mounting population of unwanted horses!

  21. Again, focus on the multiple facets of the equine industry – yard ornament, family pony-pet-kid’s horse, trail horse, 4-H project horse, the ranch-sale barn-arena-working horse, the brood mare, the show horse, the race horse – (who’ve I left out?).

    Now, consider the folks who own these horses – each is human, each has some degree of motivation driven by various amounts of ego, greed, enjoyment, and ignorance, and most have some limitations in assets that can be allocated to their pet peeves.

    The real breeders that I have known and have ridden horses for over the years all had business plans that focused on net profit. They had a market in mind when they began breeding their stud and broodmares, whether it was for race, some aspect of the showhorse world, or for the using kind (the stock horse). None had the majority horse owners (horsey Joe Public) in mind…those were self-established and constantly changing buyers who got into the market by whim, wife, kids, etc. and who would be out of the market tomorrow for the same reasons. On the contrary their market was the buyer who also had a program and a need for a certain type of horse. i.e. some had guys like myself in mind for their market – the competitive timed event person. We (I) want a horse with a big heart, a competitive mind-set, a certain body type, some individualistic moxey, and as much speed, cow and good looks as you can put into the package.

    As certain breeders began to turn out foals that excelled in those events, we began to patronize them regularly, knowing that we had a reasonably good chance of getting the type of horse we were looking for. Both the breeder and his buyer were governed by the market. If no one buys his horse the breeder is going to disappear. And if the breeder doesn’t deliver a product that I can train and win on, I’m no longer a client. I’m going to look elsewhere. That’s American ingenuity and the free market at work.

    When the market softened the good breeder culled what they perceived to be the weak links in the program, and thereby adjusted the net sheet into the black. They knew their market and their buyers. They have survived and will survive forever, and the ilks of my crowd with be around as long as three or four of us have ropes and good horses and there’s a roping to go to. And, we’ve never had an over population of those really good horses….

    Now comes the headache. Money drives competitiveness. Someone addressed the futurity business. It is a prime example that involves numerous factors such as I have addressed earlier. The breeder would like to breed that champion, a trainer would like to show and exhibit that champion, an owner would like to have the championship trophy on his mantle at home.

    What’s not good about that? Nothing, except…the simple reality that not all horses which are bred for that specific event will be competitive (just like all kids who go out for the football team…some shine, some contribute, some quit). I’ve never been a breeder myself for I have not patience, nor the fortitude for failure that great breeders have. I once bought to royally bred cowhorse full-sisters. One was a cutter-cowhorse man’s dream come true…the other wouldn’t have made a good sidewalk superintendent with my local municipality. My dilemna then became what to do with the latter…fortunately for me a new entry into the horse world wanted a pleasure horse. I had a sale, and in this case both went on and did quite well and the buyer is still in the horse industry.

    With an over-population of horses and an underpopulation of (Joe Public) buyers, the under-achiever in the horse world no longer has access to a future home.

    Folks, there are no other buyers in the horse market than aforementioned right now. So, when the market is sated as we know it, either we need to find and develop new markets, or redefine and identify the current market and limit production to match. There are no other options.

    Consequently, as the market adjusts on the profit-loss ledgers, perhaps we could possibly consider establishing some type of kill market with the horse being livestock within the food chain?

    Now, before y’all fly off emotionally, consider this: the market will adjust to demand over time if government and emotional insanity are held at bay. In the process some horses will suffer malnutrition, inhuman treatment, and ultimately death. On the other hand, if a kill market is established, will this be a type of existing crutch to help sustain the over-production of animals because the P & L sheet has no red ink? It may be possible that the kill market in itself is viable when, and only if, the American public can bring itself into the “food chain” reality of creation.

    I trust the market, even as brutal as it can be, but I don’t trust the “good hand” folks and their emotional frenzies.

    To those with emphasis on education…kudo’s to you. You will save some from grief, but most will emotionally buy against better advice.

    Yeller’s cute too; but if you live with him you’ll find him too watchy, too goosey, and too damn agravating to love…unless he’s a winner and his owner’s an egomatic crank…. Then’s it’s not love, it’s appreciation!

    And this type horse is in every good breeding program and there is only so many hands who will and can tolerate them. I mention this because no one has addressed this issue of being unwanted just because you’re a “hard-ass” so to speak. “Joe Public” might buy him, but he won’t want him for long.

    The problems are many, and all certainly human perpetuated. The solutions complicated and some parts trying and bitter, but create solutions solidified in fact. That means coming to grips with reality.

  22. amen to Ruth McDermitts Comments… and I second that.

    The bottom line is there needs to be mulitple solutions.
    1 – Humane slaughter plants.
    2- Some plan to geld ‘mutt’ horses either reduced rate or free with stipulations involved.
    3 – Responsible breeders could take a year or two off or be liminted to (just an off the cuff figure here) 25 mares a year.
    4- Education at community colleges, vets offices, feed stores for people who are thinking of buying a horse.
    5- Maybe a movie about a horse that is not a rockstar. A movie such as “An Inconvenient Truth” about the average or sub average horse and horse owner. A both sides sort of story or documentary. Could the AQHA powers coordinate with other horse breed power types, rescue operations, vetrinarians, ranchers, city horse owners etc and get funds and ideas to get that off the ground? And don’t just air it on horse channels. Make it accessible to a wide audience.
    6- Go to schools and talk to kids about responsible animal ownership in general and what owning a horse really involves.

    I know others could think of more and better ideas. But for the love of the horse and of the industry we need to not point and blame. We need do what we can cooperatively to help the horses we know and love and to help the horses no one knows…or wants to love. They are all our responsibilty as horse lovers

  23. a few thoughts to ponder… supply and demand will dictate any market regardless of the commodity;no one intentionally breeds for mediocrity,two world champions don’t always produce world champions;no one should have the right to tell another what he/she can do with their horse(at least not in the usa),it is a fact that we didn’t have anywhere near the problems with excess horses that we have now before anti-slaughter groups managed to pass legislation taking away our rights to dispose of our horses as saw fit(rights,anyone?)improvement w/in the industry has been implemented with more needed;like it or not,an industry that is economically larger than the nfl,nba and nascar combined has been brought to its knees by a few indivduals who have no problem stepping on your rights and with an agenda to suppress all animal agriculture.the horse industry is just a stepping stone to other animal groups-just you wait and see!

  24. everyone here is looking at the over population of horses. the real bottem line is cost verses profit. i used to resdcue horses and rehome the. to good homes for little or no money. then profit margin rescue opperations shut me down….i guess you cant use your own money to save animals? not everyone can offord a horse. and not everyone who can should be forsed to pay.. the problem is education..when i rehomed a horse the new owner had to have things ready ,including education on that particular horses vet and nutritional neads… hopefully people don’t breed as many horses. and if the breed do it wisely..one of my friends breeds her mare, but not untill the person wants a filly from that horse…and with the new foals owner paying studd fees ,vet bills for mare, and 2500.00 they think about the no guarretee clouse.

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