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News of interest to horse enthusiasts and owners of horses

Recession and horses – Part 1

Recession and horses – Part 1

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

Local Observations

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?

“Found: Large Animal, Hooves, Mane, Long Tail…”

“Found: Large Animal, Hooves, Mane, Long Tail…”

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.

BLM might slaughter thousands of horses

BLM might slaughter thousands of horses

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)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.

Source article:
U.S. may slaughter thousands of horses
Arizona Republic, 081508

Help Keep Our Trails Open!

Help Keep Our Trails Open!

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.

A Just Plain Great Idea

A Just Plain Great Idea

Uncovering America by HorsebackBill 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.

Resting horses look dead

Resting horses look dead

Sleeping HorseA 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.

Man arrested for slapping horse

Man arrested for slapping horse

Police CarA 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 1Article 2

Equine Fresh Shortage Reported

Equine Fresh Shortage Reported

Equine Fresh horse beddingIf you use wood pellets for horse bedding, you may have heard of the brand Equine Fresh. There are many brands of wood pellets out there and I suspect there will be many more since wood pellets are quickly becoming the preferred bedding for horse owners around the U.S. But the reason I’m writing this note about Equine Fresh is because it’s the brand carried by Tractor Supply stores. Until recently Tractor Supply also carried Woody Pet, perhaps the most well-known wood pellet bedding brand. But we have it on good authority that Tractor Supply decided to stop carrying Woody Pet in favor of the less expensive and larger-portioned Equine Fresh bags. As I recall, Woody Pet was in the neighborhood of $7 a bag for 35 lbs. while Equine Fresh is around $6 a bag for 40 lbs. We’ve tried both and haven’t noticed any difference in the two, so we’ve been buying Equine Fresh exclusively…until today. It seems all of our local east Tennessee Tractor Supply stores are completely out of Equine Fresh and, of course, Woody Pet. Turns out the Equine Fresh people lost their sawdust supplier and are frantically looking for another one. In the meantime, their inventory is almost depleted, which means no more shipments to Tractor Supply (or anyone else, for that matter). Of course, Tractor Supply sort of burned the bridge with Woody Pet, so they simply don’t have any wood pellets in stock at all now. Rumor has it there is a small shipment of Equine Fresh coming in to one of our local Tractor Supply stores (and I’m not telling which!) that is expected to be sold out practically before the pallets hit the pavement. Drama in the wood-pellet industry! Who knew it could be this exciting?

So why all the fuss over wood pellets? Well, I’m not sure I’d go stand in line for some, but I will say we’re converts. Without rehashing all the benefits, allow me to refer you to our post about using wood pellets for horse bedding from last year, entitled “Serta or Tempurpedic?“, referring to the relative luxury of the soft pellets versus some of the alternative bedding choices. You can see pictures of the wood pellets in detail in that post.

We managed to find an alternative supply of wood pellets locally at Co-op but they were more expensive. We paid around $6 per 35 lb. bag. Hopefully Equine Fresh gets their raw material supply problem worked out soon. The source of information for this article sounded ominous, though: “If they don’t find a supplier soon, they’ll probably go out of business.” He did assure us, however, that if Equine Fresh goes under, they’ll find another company to fill the need. I’m rooting for Equine Fresh, though, they have a good deal going.

So if you use Equine Fresh and your local Tractor Supply or other farm supply store still has some, you might consider heading down there asap to buy all you can. We’re seriously thinking of stocking up on wood pellets by buying a pallet or two next time. We could probably get a price break, too.

One more thing…Equine Fresh is made in Canada. So is Woody Pet. And all the other wood pellet horse bedding manufacturers we’ve ever seen in these parts. I wonder why wood pellets only seem to come from Canada. Do any of you know? Just curious.

Horse Restores Man’s Eyesight

Horse Restores Man’s Eyesight

An 82-year-old man in New York (state) had his eyesight restored by a horse accident. Don Karkos, a World War II veteran, works as a paddock security guard. Two months ago, he was head-butted by pedigreed racehorse My Buddy Chimo in the same spot where he sustained a shrapnel wound that took sight from his right eye in 1942. Doctors had been trying to repair Mr. Karkos’ vision for the past 64 years to no avail. Then one day he was putting a collar on My Buddy Chimo and got whacked pretty hard. Doctors aren’t sure what happened to restore his eyesight but I suppose Mr. Karkos isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak.

If you’re ever been head-butted by a horse, you know it can be a moving experience. Mikki and I have both seen stars after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t think Valentine meant to do it but he’s just so darn big and strong. That’s the thing you need to remember with horses and other large animals. It doesn’t take much movement for a 1,000 pound horse to seriously injure a 170 pound human or a 35 pound dog.

Fortunately, in this case the injury had a positive effect.

Source: scotsman.com and New York Daily News.

House approves H.R. 503

House approves H.R. 503

US CapitolThe U.S. House of Representatives voted September 7, 2006 to approve the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The bill, labelled H.R. 503 for the House and S. 1915 for the Senate, bans the slaughter and transport of horses in the United States for human consumption. It will likely come to vote during the next legislative session in 2007.

I’m a little late with this post but news about this vote wasn’t very widespread so it seems like a good idea to give an update here. A couple of interesting things I learned today:

  • Apparently 92,000 horses were slaughtered last year. Wow, that’s a big number. If you read my Willie Nelson Against US Horse Slaughter post, you’ll remember I go back and forth on whether or not horse slaughter for food should be legal. I’m still not sure but after learning of this 92,000 number, I wonder what will happen to these 92,000 horses a year if this bill passes?
  • The vote was 263 for approval and 146 against approval. That’s a pretty wide margin but closer inspection of who-voted-how raises questions in my mind. For example, in Kentucky, a “horse state”, all representatives voted for the bill. But in Tennessee, where I live and a place I’d also consider a “horse state”, almost all representatives voted against the bill. Political party-wise, there was strong support of the bill with both Democrats and Republicans and although several Democrats voted against the bill, a quick scan indicates it was mostly Republicans voting against the bill. I wonder why. I hear some so-called “poison pill” ammendments were added at the last minute so maybe that’s why. Things aren’t always as they seem.

Here’s a neat site that shows how the House voted by state and Representative.
http://capwiz.com/compassionindex… (opens in a new window)