Sunday, October 26, 2008
They abandon horses, don't they?
This horse is a lucky horse. I call her the Ornamental Horse, because she looks so good out there on the property, but she's darned hard to ride. But she is well fed and loved.
When you fly over Montana and look down, there is so much land. It just goes on and on, and you wonder how people ever got out here in covered wagons. A lot of the land is yours and mine: federal land. Lately there's a problem of horse abandonment.
This is all kind of unbelievable to someone hailing from an area where there is not enough open land left, and if there was a loose horse running around, five police cruisers would be on it in ten minutes. But let me tell you, my animal loving friends, it is happening.
Horses in Montana can be anything from rodeo queen horses to pampered show horses to working ranch horses to 4-H projects to hunting trail horses to one of many in a herd that does not get ridden or handled by humans. The equine population in the US has risen dramatically in these last dozen years, almost doubling in size from 5 Million in 1999 to 9 Million in 2007. On Cape Cod, we worried about neutering cats and dogs, as the animal shelters were overburdened. Here, you can expand that concept out to include the horse.
There are simply not enough horse rescue operations to take unwanted or now unaffordable horses. One source notes that a third of the horses in this country are owned by households that annually earn less than $50,000. I have a down and out friend that recently asked if I could take his two Highlander horses. I can't; I already have five critters on three acres, and they are stressed with the overcrowding already. So I started calling the Kalispell area listed rescue operations: three of them. One was shutting down for the winter. One was shutting down permanently. And one was overfull. The reason: a drying up of funds to help support these places. Read: no more donations, no more hay and grain.
Some humane activists are now realizing that this situation is an unintended consequence of their victory in shutting down the three horse slaughter houses that existed in the US. Canned horse meat was sent to the countries where it is considered tasty. (Don't gasp at this, if you go to India, don't expect to be eating a hamburger or a beef steak. ) Herd thinning auctions always brought cash one way or another: either the horse was sound and trained and someone bought it to ride it, or the horse had great confirmation and potential, and someone bought it to train it, or the horse was bought up by the meat packers if no one else wanted it. It was a viable end of life choice. Not enough people donate to the rescue ranches that take abandoned horses, and they are overwhelmed with costs and horse population.
As hay and grain prices have skyrocketed, horses are underfed on eaten out pastures, or worse, set free on public lands. No alternatives were offered by the law prohibiting the humane US slaughterhouses, and here is our result. There is another bill in Congress right now which would make it illegal to bring horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
In the meantime, the Bureau of Land Management doesn't even know what it is going to do with the 30,000 WILD mustangs it now feeds at the cost of millions. The Mustangs auctioned poorly this summer in the Adopt-a-Mustang program, and euthanasia has been mentioned.
It's a sad thing, but the down turn in the economy has also affected the horse. . . which is the symbol of the West. If it wasn't for the horse, this country would not have been settled or farmed.
And now, we wouldn't have Premarin (produced in Canada but marketed by Wyeth of Philadelphia) for menapausal ladies to take to try to stay young. What do you think Premarin means? It means. . . pregnant mare urine. Yup. Think of how many little foals are born just to keep those mares pregnant just to collect their urine just to make a drug just to keep us young. Now that's something. Check out yams, people, and let the horses be.