Monday, August 30, 2010

Disposable Horses

There were many important comments on on Shocking Everyone has feelings on such a heart breaking subject. There are so many things to be said about it, it doesn't seem like one post is nearly enough.

I must admit that Brown Eyed Cowgirls made some great points in her comment I am just as frustrated by the circumstances of her points as she is and ever so tired of being blamed for issues in the horse industry that I have not caused nor do I condone.

I., too, think that responsbility is a big part of the issue. It's easy to point to the economy, to slaughter houses closing and to breeders in general when it really comes down to the personal ethics of the individuals invovled. People tend to look for scapegoats for problems instead of being willing to get in and learn what really is at issue.

Certainly the closing of the slaughterhouses has made all the more obvious issues within the industry but closing the slaughter houses didn't create the problems. There have long been issues in the horse industry caused by unscupulous breeders, sellers and buyers as well as those issues caused by outright ignorance.

As long as the slaughterhouses were open, we weren't having to see up close and personal, the number of horses that were being discarded each year. Horses that were bred in huge numbers to find one super star with the rest being discarded. Horses sold to people who were not qualified to deal with the animal. Horses purchased by people who were not serious about their commitment to take on such responsibility. The only ones who really noticed the discards from these practices were those going to the auction houses frequented by the kill buyers.

Those auction houses sold far more horses to the killers than were ever saved by those with breaking heart strings at their auctions. Kill buyers have made a lucrative living at it, that's why there are so many of them. Most everyone I know whose gone to such auctions has all kinds of sad stories to tell. Most I know have quit going because they can't stand the nightmares caused because they couldn't save them all.

Living here close to Canada, we have killers still buying at auction housesbecause they can still profitably transport horses to slaughter houses across the border.The circumstances at Joint Base Lewis-McCord have probably been directly affected by the closing of the local auction house in Yelm. That auction house closed down because Wal-Mart bought the property, not because of the laws forbidding the slaughter of horses in the US.

Anyone who could justify dropping a horse off at one of those auctions could easily make the jump to justifying dumping their horses on the fort or any kind of forest land. My guess those around here would go for the fort over hauling the additional distance to an auction house in Enumclaw or Centralia simply because of time and cost.

People who can dispose of animals in irresponsible ways are "victims." All you have to do is ask them and they'll tell you how life has screwed them. To their way of thinking, it's just not their fault that things have turned out the way they have. They've had no choice. They take no personal responsbility for their decision. That's how they live with themselves.......pointing the finger elsewhere allows them to sleep at night.

Society as a whole tends to enable such behavior. Instead of holding irresponsible people accountable, we feel sorry for them. Blame is pointed at the slaughter houses, the recession and breeders for there being too many horses.

BECC is right that the consumers have had a big hand in this. Money has fueled many of the abuses in the horse industry and society's view of the things we purchase being disposable plays a part in this as well.

If the irresponsible breeders didn't have an easy way to dump all of their culls, they'd have to think twice about producing so many of them. If irresponsible sellers had to be accountable for placing a horse in a situation that would never work, they'd be less likely to sell a horse that way. If buyers had to be accountable for the animal they take home instead of seeing it as disposable, fewer people would buy horses before they are truly ready to do so.

These are all complicated problems and I didn't even get into the part that trainers play in this nightmare. BECC mentioned trainers too but she didn't really touch the issues trainers contribute to this "disiposal horse syndrome." A post for another day, maybe. What do you think............about disposable horses? ...............and who contributes to the phenomenon?


  1. Last year I learned about the number of abandoned horses in Ireland. Ireland!? What country is more synonymous with wonderful horse culture?
    The problem stemmed from newly wealthy people who had made prestige purchases of race horses. The breeders bred as fast as they could to fill the market and those who made and lost fortunes in this economy walked away from their flashy cars and horses. The rescue groups were swamped. When I researched it, there were 20,000 unwanted horses in Ireland.

  2. Irresponsible breeding practices top my list for this: Just as there are puppy mills, there are also "pony" mills, with brainless wonders continuously breeding (then breeding back) their so-so stud to large herds of mares to sell, unhandled of course, en masse at auctions.
    Lack of commitment comes in a close second. People in general do not seem to understand that horses have feelings; they are not like bicycles that you can stick in a yard sale when you get tired of them. Horses are like icebergs; 90% of them is hidden below the surface (in self-preservation). It took one of ours four years to come out of her "shell". If you are not willing to take the time - and sometimes it takes quite a bit - or spend the money to find a decent trainer, it is better on both sides to rent or lease a horse instead.
    One of our goals as a non profit is to teach responsible ownership to future horse owners. I liken it to other important life events (e.g. a major purchase like a car and a serious commitment; only slightly less important that getting married or having a baby :o) After all, horses can live between 20-30 years (or longer). Would you want to be a "Foster Child" for that length of time? I sure wouldn't... Yeesh.
    And wow, this is obviously a soapbox thing for me; I'm sorry for the mini-rant (well, sort of *grin*).

  3. Wow, I think you've covered it pretty well.

    As long as people can "make money" with something they will do whatever it takes to make that money. As long as something remains "cheap" people will buy it and dispose of it. That it may have feelings or feel pain is secondary. These are "average" normal people I work with everyday. They are overly concerned with "realism" and "practicality" which seem to be code words for ease and comfort.

    Few of us do these things for a passion, a love, of the thing itself. We have no reasonable way too. I chose a career that I thought would let me afford horses rather then my love simply because I could not save the capital or get the "break" to start a horse journey myself.

    Both my girls were saved from the meat truck, disposable horses both. One was "thrown in" for $100 bucks after I talked the owner down on the other one and I just couldn't say no. I've been to the auction houses too. Never to go again.

    While we've identified the problem, what can we do about it? Anyone can get a mare and a stallion and pump out foals like a puppy mill. The only solution I see is to drive up the prices, it won't eliminate problems but it will make the worst of it better. How do we do that? As I said last post, I only see one way as none of us can control the unscrupulous people.

  4. The only other solution is to figure out how to board horses well, for reasonable prices. Right now, for adequate care (More than a field, free access to a round bale, and a pound of corn a day)I'm paying about twice my mortgage payments for two horses. It is not high class but it is a good barn, good food, and great care. I'm just lucky my wife understands my need to do this.

    Even at that, both the owners of the barn work day jobs, very high paying ones, to afford their own horses.

    My old boss, owner of his own small stable, and I often talk about how to grow his business. Now that I'm a boarder at someone else's barn I see better what I need. But the costs have become so high for him, electrical and insurance particularly although feed it up there, that he cannot afford to have horses boarding but he cannot afford to close down shop! So now everyone is stuck. In the end, I think we are seeing the results of 30 years of wage stagnation. The cheapening of once expensive electronic things makes it look like we are still wealthy but... we are really have become much poorer spiritually and economically.


  5. What about Premarin - the drug made with pregnant mare's urine? Those foals are disposable and I suppose the mares themselves once they are too old to reproduce.

    I believe that wild horse numbers have also increased to "problem" proportions. I know that Pioneer Woman's ranch receives some kind of subsidy from the government to keep a large herd of mares. I think the idea is to keep them from reproducing and have them die of old age.

    Many wild donkeys and horses are rounded up for sale or slaughter every year. The land can't support their numbers.

  6. MiKael-I guess I was on a tear (grins sheepishly). I still am, but can't seem to get the words right...hopefully I will be able to finish my thoughts on the subject soon.

    People just aren't getting it and the I thank goodness, every day, that I do not raise horse for 'the public'. The public that is out there doesn't deserve horses like you and I raise. They just DON'T.

    I hope you and your beautiful horses are doing well and can weather the storm. This will pass, my friend, this will pass. There will come a day when people will be begging for your quality horses and you can hand pick the very best home for them.