Guest Author - Susan Hopf
Many issues have been put on the table with regard to those horses that are deemed “unwanted”. Given the unfortunate economical climate far too many horses have been abandoned, neglected, sent to auction (to wind up traveling thousands of miles to Mexico or Canada for slaughter) and otherwise left with little to no care only to meet a slow and torturous end by starvation. Some rescues and humane organizations have expanded their efforts and facilities and have taken in more horses than they ever originally had planned. This has placed incredible burdens on the resources, both financial and emotional, of all of those involved and sadly only offers salvation for a small percentage of those animals that have, through no fault of their own, found themselves abandoned and trapped within the confines of their domestication and with no way to care for their own needs.
As a responsible steward one must take into consideration that animals rely on their caretakers for everything. When contemplating the addition of a horse into one’s life many considerations should come into play. Expense of this (sentient) addition for as long as the horse may live (life span is about 25 years) can amount to hundreds of dollars a month and is the primary reason that horses are abandoned. This includes feed, veterinary care, housing and perhaps training. There is also the time commitment of a big animal that requires exercise, fresh air, grooming and human intervention to continue acceptable behaviors from a human standpoint.
As the “owner” of a horse you are 100% responsible for the care with which this animal should be treated – boarding does not excuse this level of responsibility – you, despite paying for care, are legally and morally responsible to ensure that any stated care is actual administered. That said those that undertake the boarding of horses are also legally accountable for the condition of horses in their care and lack of payment is no reason to starve or otherwise neglect any horse.
Unfortunately many people either tire of their new toy, bite off more than they can chew physically and/or find themselves with financial burdens that make it impossible to continue to afford the care for these grand creatures once they take them into their lives. Uneducated, uncaring or desperate these are the people that are disposing of horses in record numbers and with drooping sales and no place to send these unwanted animals the horses are abandoned to a miserable fate.
Some believe that relief for these unwanted horses should come by way of re-opening the option of slaughter in the United States. Although an ignoble end to such grand companions having slaughter plants closer to home would help alleviate the horrors of mass transport – much of which includes traveling thousands of miles with no food, water or care if injuries occur, which they often do. Horrendous videos of slaughter bound horses are bountiful on the Internet – you have only to search “horse slaughter” to witness such. Most people that truly care for their equine wards do not consider this as a viable option but these are the same people that would never send a horse away without a clear understanding of what was to become of said horse. Nor would these same people abandon any animal for any reason.
Even if slaughter seems a better end than abandonment it is the (abysmal) end result of the real issue – too many horses. Breeders, professional as well as backyard, continue to breed in order to further line their pockets; horse dealers continue to import horses from European markets in order to further line their pockets; the racing industry continues to offer entertainment and false hope to thousands at the betting window in order to further line their pockets and cattle ranchers continue to lobby congress to gain more access to public lands forcing the ever-increasing round ups of wild horses in the Western United States – all in order to further line their pockets.
The answers, to the current over population of unwanted horses, are complex but it can begin with a breath – a simple breath – a moment – a single thought that allows one to take their hands from their pockets, shade their eyes from the glare of riches unrealized and see the reality staring them in the face – too many horses create insurmountable problems – for those that can no longer afford their care, for those that pick up the pieces in the aftermath of such financial failure, but mostly for the horses – innocents that are left behind to deal with the inhumane results of out of control greed and thoughtless behaviors of those that turn stewardship into profiteering.
Without the horse it is doubtful that we would have advanced as a species – horses carried us to the far reaches of the world – something we would have been incapable of without their four-legged sturdiness and willingness to carry us and our burdens. Now when they need us more than we need them shouldn’t we return the favor and truly take care of those that have so richly rewarded humanity – adopt an unwanted horse, rescue a horse from the auction block, convince your horse friends to do the same, consider humane euthanisia before abandonment, and until there are no more animals in need of a forever home please, please, please, do not breed or import another horse – please – we must do better for our equine companions – they are counting us – will you step up and do what’s right – and if not – then who?