Although I started writing this post a year ago, it’s just as relevant today. It doesn’t seem like things have improved much with the economy since then and in many ways, things have become worse. The effects of this current recession are widespread when it comes to horses. I’m no expert and I don’t run an equine-related business for a living but the evidence is all around me and is very noticeable.
In the news
Tempe’s horse-mounted patrol may be cut to save money
The whole idea for this post came as a result of an article I saw on the Arizona Republic’s website AZCentral about Tempe, Arizona’s horse-mounted police patrol possibly being cut or eliminated to save money. Arizona is in a world of hurt this time around and they’re cutting all over. But it was particularly sad for me to see this historical use of horses (they’ve been doing it 35 years now) be shut down.
I’m a subscriber to several news feeds and I see news articles almost every day from all over the U.S. about horses being neglected, malnourished and sometimes rescued. Even Time magazine did an article on “An Epidemic of Abandoned Horses“. A couple of other recent examples:
Marion County authorities investigate horse deaths
Effort Underway to Treat Horses in Indiana
At a local horse and tack auction, horses are regularly brought in to sell that have been underfed. Someone typically rescues them from a family who can no longer afford to feed them and tries to sell the horse to someone who can. Some of these are fine looking horses, except for being thin. We often hear stories about horses being found and no one claiming them. Sometimes at livestock auctions, farmers return to their cow trailers to find a horse or two tied to their trailer with a note saying someone can’t take care of them anymore. How sad.
Horse sales are way down locally and prices have dropped dramatically for all but the best trained and most in-demand horses. Good barrel horses can still command $5k-$10k but regular old trail horses and horses without much training routinely sell for $25 to $50 (more for special colors, such as solid white). We hope these horses go to good homes but worry than some won’t. Some probably end up in Canadian or Mexican slaughter houses.
In part 2, I’m planning to bring up how the poor economy has changed the market for horse products and services such as feed, tack and fencing.
How about you? Has the economy changed the way you purchase products or services for your horses? Have you seen evidence of a higher rate of neglect and abandonment in your area?
Funny title, not a funny subject. We recently received the following note here at Our First Horse:
“My sister lives in Cumberland City and recently found four horses left on her property. She is not familiar with the horses and does not recognize them as any of her neighbors’ horses. They appear to be in relatively good health with a few minor wounds and they haven’t been groomed in a long time. No one has come to look for them they have been there for four days now.”
The writer was looking for information on how to find the owner or legally keep the horses. I’m not really sure about either one but the situation brings up a timely subject: how horses are faring these days, with the current economic climate and the ban on slaughter. I have to say, things are not looking good.
In addition to the above letter, I personally know of two cases locally of abandoned horses. The first one is that of a neighbor of the vet clinic where I work. A woman called to ask us to post a notice on our board – like the writer above’s sister, she had found a horse on her property and had been unable to identify an owner. The consensus around our office, staff and visitor alike, was that the owner intentionally “lost” the horse. The second case supports that theory. One of our clients, who has cattle but not horses, brought a horse trailer to a stock auction to haul equipment home. He was inside for a while and when he came back out to his trailer, he found two horses inside with a note saying something along the lines of, “I can’t feed my horses – please take care of them.” They were thin, but otherwise in good condition. So sad.
I’m sure there are many more stories like this, here and everywhere else. I know Bill has written before about the horses being abandoned in the Arizona desert. It seems to us that things will get worse before they get better. We are blessed here in East Tennessee with a good hay crop this summer, so we’ve been able to get hay this year for decent prices. Others are not so lucky. Also, while hay was cheap and plentiful for us, everything else is going way up. We are literally paying twice as much for oats as we were a year ago. We’re fortunate to be able to absorb the extra costs, so far, but we know that there are a lot of people out there who can’t do so, at least not for long. We’re concerned about what will happen to those horses.
Just another reason to hope that things will get better very soon.
This just makes me sick. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering slaughtering thousands of horses because of budget problems. Why should an animal that was designed to live without human interaction be killed because our economy has slowed? It’s hard to not react emotionally to this story. So we round up horses that run free and wild, hold them captive and then because there aren’t enough buyers for them, we kill them. For our own convenience, really. Disgusting. And I don’t buy the “overcrowding” argument. It’s estimated there are 25,000 wild mustangs in the U.S., some of which are on protected Indian land. Have any of you ever seen a wild horse in the wild? I’ve seen about four. For those of you who have traveled anywhere out west you’re sure to remember the immense distance from rest stop to rest stop, with nary a building in between. I’ve traveled the great American west and can tell you there is no shortage of uninhabited land. The map below illustrates this nicely. All of the areas in yellow are BLM land:
Source: Larry Swanson, O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, U. of Montana
I understand how overcrowding is bad for the animals. But what about the millions of cattle grazing on the same land. Ah, that’s the point now isn’t it? It all comes down to money (Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not against ranching or cattle). And what about the wild west before civilization? What kept the herds from becoming overcrowded?
I’m sure I’m over-simplifying the issue but I just hate to see good animals being killed. It’s been said before but in a way these wild mustangs represent our own desire to be free and keep alive the romantic notion of adventure and the American wild west. Perhaps there’s a parallel between what appears to be the government’s desire to curtail both.
I’d like to hear your comments on the issue. I promise to try and be as objective as possible. And if anyone has any suggestions on how to get involved, feel free to suggest them.
U.S. may slaughter thousands of horses
Arizona Republic, 081508
In addition to our expensive horse hobby, we have an expensive Jeep hobby, too. We have a modified Jeep Wrangler and love to go off-road. Some of you may know that off-road trails across the country have steadily dwindled as certain interest groups have pushed to have them closed to “protect the environment.” I guess that’s not surprising, since a few off-roaders have given us all a bad name. What is surprising, however, is that the same battle is being fought over horses. That’s right; there are many, many people out there who want to deny trail access to horseback riders. Believe it or not, one of their most frequent arguments is that horses are bad for the environment. Their hooves tear up the trails and their manure brings in foreign plant seeds, among other things. I’m sure they have other complaints, but we’re still kind of new to this issue.
The important thing is, if we want to be allowed to keep riding in our own national parks, we have to take action. Trails across the country are being closed just because someone complains, or brings up an environmental concern, and no horse people speak up. I suspect it’s simply because, like us, horse owners are not aware that this is happening. By the time they find out a trail is closed or about to close, it’s too late.
We recently joined a group in our area, the Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen. It’s a local chapter of a national organization, Back Country Horsemen of America. These groups, local and national, keep track of current events affecting trail riders and their members do what they can to keep the trails open: writing to government leaders; challenging efforts to close trails; keeping good relationships with their local Forest Service; participating in trail cleanups and maintenance. I urge you to look into an organization in your area, and do what you can to help keep trail riding alive. If we don’t fight, we’ll eventually lose all access to public lands. That would be a shame.
Bill found this story on FOXNews.com, and I found a direct link to their blog: Uncovering America by Horseback.
Bill Inman and his Thoroughbred-Quarter Horse, Blackie, are traveling across America to prove that America is still a good place, despite what you see on the news every day. As their blog says, “To ‘Uncover America’ and document the adventure, horseman Bill Inman is traveling across America on horseback, slowing down the pace to find interesting places, individuals, groups and history that inspire pride or lift the spirit. This adventure will show the American public that we do have something to be proud of, and nothing is impossible as long as you try.”
They left their home in Lebanon, Oregon on June 2, 2007 and hope to end up in Hendersonville, North Carolina by Christmas. I hope you’ll read their blog, and the story where we originally found it at FOXNews.com. I also hope you’ll consider clicking on the “Support” button on the Inmans’ blog, because this is definitely a venture worth supporting.
We’ve spent all morning trying to figure out how we can just pack up our horses and join Bill and Blackie, but it looks like we’ll just have to experience it through their blog. 🙁 Stupid jobs – always keeping you from doing the things you really want to do.
A horse owner in Arizona regularly fields calls from concerned drivers over what appear to be dead horses in his pasture. Although this wasn’t always the case, a population boom now locates his pasture smack in the middle of the city and all these city folk aren’t familiar with seeing resting horses. If you’ve ever seen a colt resting/sleeping, you know it looks a lot like a dead horse, all sprawled out and still. Bob Eggers rescues, raises and sells horses so there is a sign on his fence with his phone number on it. Apparently he also gets complaints about abused or malnourished horses, too. Since he rescues abused horses, they often look poor when he first gets them, causing concerned drivers to call the Arizona Department of Agriculture. The State responds to every complaint but has never found abuse or neglect.
Although we once lived two miles from this particular pasture, we know live in rural Tennessee. Many of our friends and neighbors have horses here but that isn’t the case in suburban Arizona. As the city expands its reach into rural areas, the impact goes far beyond inconvenient complaint calls from well-meaning city folk. People complain about the dust horses kick up, the smell of manure, the flies, etc. Kinda like moving next to an airport and then complaining about airplane noise. And then all the land is developed so horse owners need to trailer their horses to the horse trails. It’s sad to see.
A friend of mine sent me a link to the Arizona Republic article for this story (click the link for the original article).
Photo above by hayleyho.
A man in Tempe, Arizona was arrested for slapping the rump of a police horse. Mounted police were there to help control a crowd of 200 people, several of which were being rowdy. The Arizona Republic reports that the man “admitted to knowing that horses jump or run when slapped, but told the officer that it was ‘no big deal,’ according to police.” There is no word on what the horse did upon being slapped but I’m guessing police horses are very well trained. Even so, THAT WAS STUPID. I’d be surprised if alcohol wasn’t involved.
That same night in Tempe, a more violent attack against a horse led to another mans arrest. Police were called to a club where a fight was taking place. An officer tried to detain the man but he didn’t want to be detained and “began violently swinging at the officer and his horse, according to a report”, the Arizona Republic says.
I’ve been in crowds where mounted police were riding around to keep the peace. I’d say in most cases, horses are quite intimidating and do a good job of peacekeeping by presence. I can’t imagine walking up to a horse and attacking it. Both of these guys, especially the last one, are lucky they weren’t on the receiving end of some equine panic.
Sources: Arizona Republic – Article 1 – Article 2