Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Indescriminant breeding and slaughter houses

This is not my foal, although I sure would have
liked to have been able to bring him home.

There has been a lot of talk in the news and in the horse world about slaughter houses, and what to do with old, sick and infirm horses.  It is a tough subject and the right answer really is not black white.  At least that is my opinion. I hate the thought of sending a horse to slaughter house, and I have seen the pictures of the way those poor animals are treated.  On the other hand I have also seen with my own eyes, herds of sick, and injured horses dumped on state land by people who either would not or could not care for them anymore. 

A year or two ago, I was driving home and saw  a horse out on a huge tract of land, he was stuck in a ditch and all I could see was his legs flailing trying to get up.  Of course I stopped and went to see what I could do. When I approached I was sickened by what I saw, he was skin and bones, eyes wide and white from struggling.  He would let me approach and I did, I offered him some grass which he ate, but I could not help him up.  I made the mistake of touching him not even thinking about the ramifications of that.  I immediatly called a friend who came to assist.  He took one look and told me to back away.  Then he pointed to the large pustule under the poor horses chin, he had strangles and was dying.  The horse was later put out of his misery. (I went home and washed with bleach)  Then the state vet was called as well as the brand inspector.  As it turns out there were about 100 horses out there, many with strangles, many with broken legs or shoulders, some young colts.  Eventually all the horses were removed, where they went I do not know.  Here is the clincher for this story. The tract of land was owned by a developer who, rather than reporting that someone had dumped a bunch of very sick horses, used it as an advertisement.  His ads read "Come out to _________ where you can live amongst the wild horses running free."  True story!!!   The number of horses put at risk of catching strangles is huge, as the other side of the road was all mini ranches and almost everyone out there has at least one horse, most have several.

So this story and the many others very much like bring to question....what is the right answer?  Of course dumping those horses was not the right answer, in my opinion neither is a slaughter house.  How did we get to where we are today with so many unwanted horses?  What is a person to do with an old horse that they just cannot care for anymore? 

There are rescue foundations, and those are great, but there is only so much money and food to go around.  Especially this year with all the drought and fires.  I have to give great big kudo's to those people who work so hard to keep those places open and to all the people who donate to help. Then there are many people I know (myself and my mom and sister included) who take in old horses (and dogs) and either find them forever homes or give them one.  There are people I know who have older horses they have had for years, and they keep feeding them and keep them healthy and ther feet trimmed because it is the right thing to do.  Those horses served their humans well and they deserve the happy retirement.  My horse Danny is one of those horses.  So there is one solution.

But how do we keep from having so many horses to begin with?  I believe we more responsible breeders and less indescriminate ones.  It is much like the puppy mill issue. People who pump out not just a few really nice colts every year, but an entire crop.  They are not breeding for the betterment of thier breed, but to make a buck.  This also holds true with the back yard breeders.  You know the ones, they just got a mare and so they breed her to the cheapest stud horse they can find (because that is all they can afford) and they breed her and breed her and breed her.  They fancy themselves breeders, but they aren't helping the problem any. They are producing foals and selling them off.  Perhaps they are nice horses, but perhaps they are reproducing genetic defects, which are linked to early lameness, or other health issues.  Things that could eventually end that horse up in a sale barn on its way to mexico. 

I come from a family of Labrador breeders.  The breeders I know breed for quality and betterment of the breed.  The good puppies are sold (yes for alot of money) to other reputable breeders.  The puppys that are not considered to be of top quality are sold as pets at a fair price and must be spayed or neutered.  I personally own two of those dogs. They are gorgeous and so many people beg to breed to them, (I was not required to have mine neutered) but one has a very minor heart defect and the other is partially deaf.  It is not worth the risk that either dog could pass on these issues to offspring. so my point is, that horse breeders need to be just as picky about who they breed and what they are motivated by.

Of course I am sure there really are many breeders that are just that concientious (did I spell that right) about their horses, only breeding the best ones and selling the unbreedable ones as pets or performance horses.  Please do not get me wrong.  I do not beleive in more regulation, I believe in awareness and education.  I believe that the guy down the road from me who bred his little mare because he wanted a "free horse" could have easily found a mustang to adopt or a horse that needed a home.  As it is he doesn't have time for the number of horses that he has, adding another ne to his herd was irresponsible on his part, regardless of how cute she is.  (and she is trust me !!)

So there is my rant for the day.  I may have offended some people and if so, well so be it.  If you are one of those people who likes to play at horse breeding, I am asking you to think about what you are doing before you do it.  Make sure that you have the money for a stud horse that is going to compliment your mare, make sure that if you bring a foal into this world you have the time and the know how to work with it young so you can send a good safe horse out into the world.  Not only could you be saving his life, but a humans as well.


  1. I think another problem that should be addressed is the cost to dispose of a horse that has died or has to be put down. I know it some states it isn't so bad but in others, such as California or AZ, it is very high, over 1000 dollars. Something like that could unfortunatly end up forcing people to send their horses to a slaughter house.

  2. Cindy, I hear you. This isn't an easy issue.