Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Final Rant on Disposable Horses

I would be remiss not to mention that there are those owners who really don't care about what is best for their horse. To them it is about being successful to whatever degree their heart desires. Horses are just a means to an end. If the horses are "broken" in the process, they are discarded without a second thought.

Just like the culls from some breeding farms are easily loaded up by the trailer load and dropped off at auction houses without papers or any means of identification, the horses that flunk out from the school of hard knocks at one of those push 'em hard and fast trainers can be seen dumped off in similar manner. It may not be as obvious as those trailer loads the rumor mill talks about but you can bet over time the numbers are just as horrific.

Many trainers are not concerned about owners who really don't care about what is best for their horse. Why should they be? The trainer has pretty much free rein to do as they please as long as they produce results with some animals. Then there's the fact the more horses an owner goes through, the more money the trainer makes that you can bet affects how the trainer perceives that owner. It is the constant turn over of horses that assures the trainer a full barn even in this bad economy.

I couldn't possible forget to mention the trainers who are the ones behind their clients constant turnover of horses. They'll tell a prospective client what they want to hear about their horse before they get it in the barn. Then once the horse is there, the trainer decides this horse just isn't right for this client and the search is on to find a new one.

Most anyone whose been around the industry knows the more homes a horse goes to the more likely the horse will end up in a bad situation. Any practice intended to keep a client constantly moving through different horses can only be bad news for horses in the long run.

The thoroughbred industry takes a lot of heat about starting horses out early on their racing careers. Many critics believe it's the mindset that horses are disposable commodities behind such practices. However, thoroughbreds are most certainly not the only horses started early in their under saddle career.

I know particularly the American Quarter Horse and the Arabian breed both have futurities and maturity programs targeting those young horses. The horses I breed are not even mature enough to get on by the time many of these horses are showing at the national level. How long do those horses hold up when they've been started out so young? It would be interesting to track the show careers of such horses to see if they are still out there showing in their twenties like the horses brought on slowly can do.

I'm not criticizing those people who like to ride young horses, or the ones who are out looking for projects. It is not the practice of riding young horses that creates problems or finding horses with problems and fixing them only to put them back out there again. It is pushing horses beyond their limits mentally or physically and sometimes both that can causes of lifetime of problems for the horses subjected to them.

Lucky is the horse with issues who manages to fall into the hands of one of those saviors who give their hearts to rehabilitate such horses. Hopefully from there that horse will find the perfect home and stay put there to live out its days. Unfortunately there are far more horses with issues than there are people with the skills to fix them and there are far less perfect homes than any of us who love horses wish.

Even that rehabilitated horse is at risk if it end up in the hands of someone not knowledgeable enough to deal with its former issues. Once a horse has been scarred it does not take long to fall back into old behaviors when its not being handled correctly. Then the horse begins to get a reputation of really being a "bad *ss" Such a reputation makes a horse a likely target for the killers, that's for sure.

It's just not the horses fault, all of these things happen. Over and over it comes down to we, humans, and how we choose to deal with the horse. Unfortunately, rarely are the humans who have caused such problems for the equines in their life accountable for their behavior. I think if we want to see changes in the numbers of horses discarded each year, we have to figure out ways for those people to be accountable. Nothing will change until that happens.


  1. I am with you on the maturity level of my stock at the age of most of these futurities. I would ratther show the "kids " at halter then let them grow up and "leg up" before putting that kind of pressure on them

  2. It makes me nuts to see so many young horses started under saddle before the bones over the withers are closed (age 5 or 6). These are the ones that are "washed up" by the time they are 17 or 18. The Lipizzaners are not started until around age 7, and those guys continue to perform well into their twenties.
    I wish the Thoroughbred industry would let their foals develop naturally (as in rough play in the pasture instead of treadmills and such). That rough play is key in developing strength in the leg bones as they grow; and you can't duplicate it with supplements. Pretty sure that, coupled with waiting until they were a bit older to race would go a long way in preventing all of those broken legs we see. Oh well what do I know, right? :o\

  3. 110% behind every thing you said MiKael.

    The beginning of the futurities/derbies was just HORRIBLE for 'the horse'. The only point to them is so that people do not have to wait as long before a horse enters competition.

    And the stock horse breeds are ever pushing to get them into the show ring at an earlier and earlier age. Longe line classes for yearlings?

    Cripes at this point, I think if they could figure out a way to judge them and make them productive while they were still in the womb, they would come up with a class for that.

    Of course, the flip side of that is now people think it is a horrible thing to start riding a completely healthy, well-developed 2y/o (stock types). any of these people realize the difference between 'riding' a youngster and training the shit out of them?

    Apparently not.

    But, it all goes back to the type of people that have become involved in the horse world. There have always been people involved that only used winning horse as a status symbol(however they at least used to have to stick to racing or showing older horses), but there the market really became flooded with newbie owners or re-riders who never seem to get any better. Either they refuse to show and treat their horses like big dogs or they enter the show world and the only thing that comes out of their mouths is, "My trainer said..."

    Why does anyone think Pat Parelli became so popular? Or so bad? He works with a specific type of clientele and that clientele needs help, but they are so bad that Pat has dumbed down to their level.

  4. This is an interesting topic for me as I am so new to horsemanship that I've never run into any of this. I had wondered why racehorses were run at two years of age while other horses weren't even started under saddle until much older.

    I have run across what I call the "status owner" in the dog showing world. Their pup is kept at a handlers and shown until championship and the so-called owner has no interaction with it but can claim it belongs to them, at least on paper.

    Not for me. I want the companionship of my animals.

  5. Everything that you've said in these last few posts is sad but so true, MiKael. I applaud you. We now live in a world where bullying and cruelty are often rewarded. People don't consider the consequences of their actions and are encouraged to simply dump what doesn't work (even if it's a living breathing creature) and get another one to replace it. Patience is no longer a virtue to many of us, and for some, instant gratification is all that counts. These are desperate times for many people, scrambling to keep afloat. I know it sounds really dark but I think that raising awareness like you are doing is so important. Each of us are given opportunities to make a difference in our own little ways and we need to speak out and take whatever action we can to keep compassion and respect and accountability alive. Over and over, I've seen how one person can make the difference in bettering the life of a horse or another person. We should never forget that.