Horse Slaughter: A Global View™: Reality check ...


Reality check ...

An unknown off-the-track racehorse slaughtered in the U.S., June 2008. Did you know him?

June 27, 2008 ~ EquusEditorial's work on the racehorse memorials and horse slaughter project returns little joy or encouragement. But today we are shocked and saddened at the truth which had escaped us until now, was so well hidden from us and no doubt from many of you out there.

Where were we? Our head in the clouds? How did we miss it? Maybe we're the only ones who were under the impression that horse slaughter had ended in the United States, with the closure of the three remaining slaughterhouses. Isn't that why the horses are transported now across the Canadian and Mexican borders to be slaughtered? Wasn't our next big hurdle to actually end that transport to once and for all save our horses from the whole tragic ordeal?

The public's focus has been turned to the inhumane slaughter methods outside the more "compassionate" United States. But did you know that it is still legal in most states to slaughter horses for human consumption? As well as for other purposes? We confirmed this with the Humane Society of the United States today, June 26, 2008.

We're not talking about sending dead horses to the rendering plant. We're talking about live horses taken to slaughter. And in the specific case that led us to this truth, we're talking about off-the-track racehorses slaughtered for zoo meat. That is, broken down, injured, abused, neglected, or ill racehorses dropped off by their owners who have taken the cowardly way out. Owners who no longer have need for the animals nor, obviously, any compassion for them. Owners who could not find it in their hearts or their pocketbooks to humanely euthanize the horses instead.

This feels more like the review of a ghastly low-budget horror movie than it does the truth of horse slaughter right here in our own country. We will be working on this story and publishing it in all its shameful facts as soon as possible.

We're giving you this heads-up first, compelled to share how our perception of U.S. horse slaughter has been shattered. The situation is more complex and further from resolution than we had thought, further away from sparing our horses such horror at the hands of humans.

Posted by EquusEditorial at 5:39 AM

The more I think about this, the more ambivalent I find myself becoming. The carnivores in the zoos have to eat something, and feeding deceased horses to zoo animals would be one way of solving the problem that catches so many horse owners off guard: What does on do with a dead horse?


I don't think I would have a problem with my horse being fed to zoo animals after his death. When you think about it, it's no worse than rendering, or even burying - for the worms and whatever else to feast on.

However, this article is not about feeding zoo animals horses that are already dead - it's about slaughtering them specifically for that purpose. Which of course is no more humane than slaughtering them for human consumption. I can't speak for others, but it was never about the human consumption thing for me. It was about how inhumane it is to ship horses in trailers intended for cattle, and to use slaughter practices designed for cattle. 

And, it was - and is - about they type of owner who would do this to a horse instead of spending the money to give their animal a humane death. I have no words to express my opinion of these people. So, we're back to square one, aren't we?

I honestly don't know. There is no way I can support horse slaughter for any purpose until they are guaranteed humane transport, and until slaughter practices are revamped to make them at least reasonably humane for horses. Transportation is the easy part, although many fight giving up the double decker trailers tooth and nail. I realize they are more economical, but even those tall enough for cattle are inherently unstable. I've seen an overturned double decker cattle trailer, and believe me, it was a sight I wish I'd never come across.

Double decker trailers tall enough for horses would be even more subject to accidents, and very unsafe for all concerned. And overhauling the slaughter process to make it humane for horses is even more problematic. Frankly, I don't know if it's even possible to come up with a mass slaughter routine that would be humane for horses, with their high strung nature and powerful flight reaction. 

Even worse, I have a feeling that horses euthanized with narcotics would not be suitable even for other animals to consume. So, how would your vet euthanize a horse in a way that would be humane for the horse, yet leave it acceptable for other animals to consume? I don't have any answers. How I wish I did...



!!!!!!!!!!! RANT ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You were warned....

No, I'm not going to rant about the weather, although I'd love to. But, we have it so much better than millions of others here in the sodden Midwest that I think I'll skip that topic - for now.

Instead I'm going to blow off some steam that's been building up for some time now about Internet Etiquette - or rather the lack thereof. I know the Net has it's own "Netiquette," but there are still some basics that apply everywhere. That is, if you want anyone to pay any attention to your expressed opinions.

Everyone knows about those hypocrites who use the anonymity of the internet to use vile language and express obscene opinions they would never put up there if they had to stand up and take responsibility for them. I just ignore them as well as those slime balls who join a discussion just to cause trouble. They're not worth my time either.

My greatest lack of respect is reserved to those who sincerely believe they're adding useful opinions to blog comments, forums, etc. but haven't done their homework, and yet address those who disagree with them as if they were total idiots who never should have expressed an opinion in the first place.

An example of this - that really got under my skin - was in the comments to a blog post - not one of mine - about the hot button issue of horse slaughter. This person was agreeing with the blogger that horse slaughter was a necessary evil.

She started her comment by saying she wished all the "tree hugging PETA types would just stay out of it," and then, apparently also assuming that those of us who are anti slaughter must be ignorant first time horse owners who "love their pretty horsey in the pasture" lawn ornaments and didn't have a clue that with or without slaughter - this dripping with contempt - "guess what, horses DIE" with all the attendant issues of "carcass disposal" (again, her term) and so on.

I can usually ignore such arrogant ignorance, but not this time. I was far too offended - no, I was furious - not to say something. Maybe if, even after six years, DJ's death weren't still an open wound, I could have let it pass. Maybe if she hadn't shown such complete ignorance about PETA and what that organization is really all about, I could have stayed out of it. But, gentle readers, I was totally pissed off. Besides, I honestly felt she needed to be educated a little bit before she pissed off someone who has a bit less self control than I do.

Folks, please remember when you post something, hold the contempt and sarcasm. You could be wrong. You might be mistaken. You could possibly be as clueless as this person who didn't fathom that because a person is against slaughter that they don't know their beloved horses can die! I asked her how dare she assume something like that and post it with such utter contempt. I felt like she had twisted the knife that DJ's loss will always be for me.

As for the PETA accusation, well... ignorance can be forgivable, but if you're going to be so confrontational, sarcastic and unforgiving yourself, you better know what you're talking about. Otherwise, you'll look as idiotic as she did. If you don't understand what I mean about PETA, find out. Learn something.

I also am beginning to really hate those who think that because it's the net they can write like thEy had nevr been to scool in there life and dont evEn no whut capital leTTers mean Xcept in the midle of woRds and apearntl nevr even heRd of punctuashun

But, I'll save all that for another post.


AP survey finds 5,000 race horse deaths since ‘03 « Tuesday’s Horse

By ASSOCIATED PRESS | Horse Racing | 16 June 2008
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Thoroughbred racetracks in the U.S. reported more than three horse deaths a day last year and 5,000 since 2003, and the vast majority were put down after suffering devastating injuries on the track, according to an Associated Press survey.

Countless other deaths went unreported because of lax record keeping, the AP found in the broadest such review to date.

Eight Belles before she is destroyed on the track at Churchill Downs after breaking both front ankles following the Kentucky Derby

The catastrophic breakdown of filly Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby last month made the fragility of a half-ton horse vivid for the millions watching, but the AP found that such injuries occur regularly in every racing state. Tracks in California and New York, which rank first and sixth in thoroughbred races, combine to average more than one thoroughbred death for every day of the year.

Questions about breeding, medication, synthetic surfaces versus dirt and other safety issues have dogged the industry for some time, and a congressional panel has asked key players in the sport to testify this week about its direction, particularly the influence of steroids.

The AP compiled its figures from responses to open records inquiries sent to the organizations that govern the sport in the 29 states identified by Equibase Co., a clearinghouse for race results, as having had at least 1,000 thoroughbreds start a race last year.

Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska said their organizations don’t track fatalities at all, and only one of Florida’s three main thoroughbred tracks provided numbers. There were wide differences among the other states in what types of deaths are monitored and how far back the records go.

“Nobody really knows how big of a problem it is,” said Rick Arthur, California’s equine medical director. “They just know it’s a big problem.”

When a horse breaks a leg — let alone two, as Eight Belles did — often the only choice is to euthanize the animal. A thoroughbred’s bones are thinner than most breeds. Usually it’s not possible for the horse to lie down for long periods because that could disrupt the blood flow to the arteries in the lower limb, causing an extremely painful hoof infection called laminitis.

Barbaro, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2006, broke down in the Preakness and was euthanized with laminitis several months later after a gallant effort to save him.

Despite the regularity of such breakdowns and the money involved in the sport, no one is certain how many horses are lethally injected on the nation’s tracks each year. The Jockey Club, which registers all North American thoroughbreds, did not know of another comprehensive, state-by-state tally of fatalities at tracks before the AP’s, said Bob Curran, a Jockey Club vice president.

Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., who made the grim announcement that Eight Belles had been euthanized after the Derby, said fatality numbers don’t seem to be dropping, despite major medical advancements. To Bramlage, that suggests racing injuries are becoming more frequent because vets are already pulling the most injury-prone horses before post time.

“We’re able to pick them up better, with digital X-rays, bone scans and MRIs, which give us the information we need to take those horses out of training,” Bramlage said. “In spite of that fact, we’re not denting the total number of deaths.”

California officials became alarmed in 2005 when the number of thoroughbred racing deaths there spiked by nearly 50 percent from just two years earlier. Last year, 314 horses — 261 of them thoroughbreds — died at California’s tracks, including those hurt in training or barn accidents, and a few that suffered other injuries or medical complications.

“Just seeing the totals and the recurrent theme, it’s eye-opening,” said Bon Smith, assistant director of the California Horse Racing Board.

Beginning this year, California has mandated that all its major tracks replace their dirt surface with a synthetic mixture found in some studies to be safer for horses and jockeys.

While California’s thoroughbred fatalities are nearly triple those reported by any other state, its warm weather and bounty of tracks make it the nation’s busiest racing state. And it has received high praise across the industry for the way in which it tracks deaths — every death that occurs on the public grounds of a California racetrack is recorded in detail, largely through veterinary reports.

Some other major racing states have no records of fatalities that occur during morning training exercises, even those that happen on the tracks where races are run in the afternoon. Kentucky listed 228 deaths since 2003, but none of them from training accidents, which in some states that track them account for nearly a third of the total.

Other states, such as Colorado and Iowa, run mixed breed meets, in which quarterhorses might appear in one race a day while thoroughbreds make up most of the rest. Often, these states list the deaths only by meet, not breed, although veterinarians say the more muscular torsos and spindly ankles of thoroughbreds make them more susceptible to injury.

Many states that do closely track horse deaths haven’t been doing it for long. New Mexico counted 52 deaths in 2007, but its racing commission said it had no records before that.

Some states that do monitor deaths don’t differentiate between horses that die in freak accidents in their barns, for instance — the consensus is that such deaths are rare — and those that break down training or racing and are destroyed.

Such discrepancies have made the task difficult for Mary Scollay, a veterinarian at two Florida racetracks who has created a uniform national injury reporting system that aims to record every thoroughbred fatality. Scollay, who next month will become Kentucky’s equine medical director, said 65 tracks are participating in the program now, but only 30 have compiled a full year’s worth of data.

She declined to release the preliminary numbers, explaining the sample size is still too small to draw conclusions. It could take years, Scollay said, before major trends can be identified.

“Certainly we know more than we did last year at this time, and one fatal injury is one too many,” Scollay said. “We know we need to do better. I think within the last few weeks, there’s been a mobilization of the industry to do some pretty serious things.”

Those who own and handle the animals stand to lose plenty when a horse is put down.

Timothy Capps, a professor at the University of Louisville’s equine industry program, said most racehorses don’t carry mortality insurance. The ones that do typically carry only a fraction of their projected value as a stallion or mare, Capps said.

After the gruesome breakdown of Eight Belles, the Jockey Club created a national panel to examine safety, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority did the same on the state level.

Among the topics being reviewed are track surfaces, medication (particularly steroids), the use of the whip by riders, and whether — as Bramlage suggests — thoroughbreds are becoming less durable because they’re being bred to emphasize speed rather than stamina early in their careers.

“Those that do get hurt maybe get hurt worse because of their speed and size,” said Larry Jones, who trained Eight Belles. “A good big horse will outrun a good little horse, and they can be more fragile because their legs and joints have to hold a lot more.”

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has asked states for the figures they have on fatalities ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Of particular interest to Congress is the influence of steroids, which were legal this spring in most racing states including Kentucky, Maryland and New York — which host the Triple Crown races.

Those advocating a steroid crackdown got ammunition when Big Brown, who easily won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with the steroid Winstrol still in his bloodstream, ran the Belmont without it and finished last.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said steroids should be banned — not regulated — in horse racing but questions whether the sport has the ability to police itself.

“There are enough people I have great respect for who say this industry is really beginning to be in trouble,” Whitfield said.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the sport gets a bad rap for what he believes it does best — take care of the animals.

“There isn’t a trainer worth his salt that doesn’t look into this 24 hours a day,” Lukas said. “I’ll guarantee you that if any one of those purists who feel like it’s an abusive sport would spend two weeks in my barn, they’d walk away a different person and have a greater appreciation for the care. Animals don’t have a say in it, but when they get to this level, they have a pretty good deal going.

© Copyright Associated Press


Zito delivers with Da’Tara when Big Brown fails to « Tuesday’s Horse

Big Brown fails to deliver

It is reported everywhere by sports writers, broadcasters and racing pundits that the connections have no idea what went wrong with the horse.

Well, I saw the race, quiet unexpectedly, and there are several explanations, but here is the simplest and most likely:

Big Brown came out of the gate hard. Drawn from the number 1 position on the inside he experienced a lot of crowding as the other horses raced for the rail to get a good position. Several strides in Big Brown was bumped badly, knocked off his stride and had to be snatched up. Big Brown then had to navigate quite a bit of traffic to get the position he would hold for the rest of the race, on the outside third from the raile.

With his head high in the air, Big Brown pulled hard and jockey Kent Desmoreaux seemed never to be able to settle him into a comfortable stride. Although it was not a fast run race, those extra exertions to me is where Big Brown lost the race.

Add the hot weather, longer distance and that he also may have not liked the ground, and Big Brown’s poor performance can be explained. Only because Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown and has an admitted doper for a trainer who ran Big Brown on a badly cracked hoof has it all been so highly scrutinized.

There is the factor so often overlooked. Big Brown is a living,breathing, thinking, feeling creature. What he was experiencing mentally on the day we may never know, but it does matter. The blessing is that the jockey took care of the horse, and when he realized Big Brown had nothing left in the tank, pulled him up, thereby protecting the horse from injury, and possibly much worse.

Big Brown pulled up

Jockey Kent J. Desormeaux reins in Big Brown during the
140th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park in
Elmont, New York, June 7, 2008.

Big Brown failed in his bid to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown
winner when he finished in last place to the winner Da’ Tara.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Big Brown finished last.

Sunday, the papers say, Big Brown was all alone except for the staff who handle and care for him.

No one knows what Big Brown’s fate is now. More racing perhaps, with a match up against Horse of the Year Curlin in the Breeder’s Cup, and then off to the breeding shed. Another big win would help plump up the price for Big Brown’s services at stud. The experts say his stallion fees began falling before he left the racecourse.

Jun 10, 2008


"I Took Care of Him"

"Something was wrong. He's the best horse I've ever ridden. I took care of him."
~ Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown's jockey after the Belmont Stakes

What did happen to Big Brown during the grueling Belmont Stakes? The simple answer is that he just "hit the wall." It's not exactly uncommon among athletes, equine or otherwise. But why and on this day of all days?

Desormeaux also said, "The track wasn't holding him up. He slipped." Thoroughbreds are are notoriously of such a temperament that something like that can throw them completely off their game - and this goes for even a relatively laid back guy like Big Brown.

Thoroughbreds are also notorious for having thin, shelly hoof walls, and Big Brown did miss some training time because of a quarter crack. Was that enough to make such a difference?

If Desormeaux had continued trying to place him, might Big Brown have had one of those catastrophic breakdowns for which fatigue is known to be a huge risk factor? Fortunately, we will never know the answer to that one, but it certainly seems well within the realm of possibility.

Have we not had a Triple Crown winner for 30 years because modern TBs are so inbred and have been bred for speed alone for so long that the lengthy Belmont Stakes, coming so soon after the Derby and Preakness, is too much for them to handle anymore? Especially considering that they really are just babies.

If so, how much has that contributed to the heartbreaking deaths of the likes of Eight Bells and Barbaro? In breeding for ever more refined (i.e. lighter) bone, have breeders past the point at which bone density and training can compensate for lack of pure size?

There have been many questions recently about track surfaces as well. Those surfaces are a part of the whole American style of racing - running faster and shorter on dirt, as opposed to slower and longer runs on turf which are much more in keeping with what horses are naturally adapted to do. Are American Thoroughbreds being bred to run faster than flesh and blood can cope with?

Honestly, I do not know. I don't pretend to know. Unfortunately, I don't think anybody else knows either. I've never followed racing much, and I certainly never watch. If I'd seen Ruffian or Barbaro or Eight Bells go down... Let's just say that those are images I don't care to have to remember. It makes me feel crappy enough as it is.

I do know however that the above questions need answers, and soon. And I haven't even mentioned the whole area of steroids - which Big Brown was getting once a month except for May - and other questionable drugs which have been in all too common use.

Personally, I wish Big Brown all the best. He's a good horse, and I hope he lives a long and happy life. Sure, we all wish he had won the Triple Crown, but, you know, he doesn't care at all. And since I think the horse must come first in everything we do with them, that's good enough for me.

For the sake of all the other racing horses, I do feel the issues that made so many headlines this season must be addressed - sooner than later. There are so many things wrong with racing at present, but, fortunately for Big Brown, Kent Desormeaux isn't one of them.


A Birthday And An Adventure

Indy and Ami had a very nice day on which to celebrate their birthday(s). Of course, the weather wouldn't matter to them as long as they got their gifts - apples and extra carrots. One must keep one's priorities straight after all.

It was a lovely day and Mr. Scratchaholic got a super birthday scratch. Ms Ami is not that crazy about scratches, but apples - she's that crazy about those.

Indy is 10 - May 28, 1998

Ami is 17 - May, 1991

I took a lot of pictures - like the ones on this post - and even made my first video. It's at the bottom of this post.

Indy and I had a very nice 30 min. ride the next day, and the day after that... We finally made the leap to riding out in the field. That's quite a story in itself...

On my first attempt at mounting the dang saddle turned. I'm not sure why, because I had it in the same hole as the day before. Indy hates this, and he had to stand while I loosened the girth, fiddled with straightening the saddle and re-tightening the girth. But, he did it. He stood stock still for the entire operation - a praiseworthy act in itself!

Then I remounted and walked him around. Since I was hoping to go out into the field, I was wearing the body protector I purchased some time ago for this occasion. After that excruciatingly painful rib bruise I got when I came off that #%&*#@! Wintec saddle, I didn't want to take chances.

As we walked around the paddock though, I got the uncomfortable feeling that the thing was seriously interfering with my balance. I guess these things are made for a different kind of saddle, because it kept hitting the cantle of my saddle.

I rode back over to Mike and told him it wasn't going to work. I decided to just take it off and hand it over to him to put back in the barn. That is, I tried to take it off. The @#%&*! thing was so thick and hard and stiff that I couldn't get my arms back through the arm holes. Mike and I almost had to take the darn thing apart - think new Velcro rrrrriiiiiiipppppp! - to get me free of it. This while Indy stood quietly thinking no doubt that there was just no end to the nutty situations people got themselves into...

We then walked around the paddock a bit more. Indy was still perfectly calm, so TA DA! Mike opened the gate! And out we went.

Indy was really very good considering we were walking through clover up to his belly with grass even taller. I didn't expect - or even want - to keep him from noshing. I just wanted to keep him more or less moving - in the direction I wanted to go of course. I had him in his soft leather sidepull, and I was a little concerned about steering, but I needn't have been. He was quite responsive considering the distractions.

At one point however, he started to trot down the hill toward the front, and I'm afraid my reflexes took over. This was exactly what happened when I took that disasterous fall off the Wintec saddle - through no fault of Indy's - and I stopped him. I'm sure he wasn't going to take off bucking. After all, he didn't do that the first time. But... We'd been out for a half hour anyway, so I decided to end this first ride before my reflexes did anything else stupid.

Then, for the first time, Indy and I had a real difference of opinion. He didn't want to go back to the barn! The paddock gate was open, but he wasn't planning to go anywhere near it. When I put my legs on him to go forward, he started backing up. I turned him completely around in a tight circle, and asked him to go forward again. This time, he pawed furiously at the ground. I had to laugh, even though I didn't want him to know it.

Again I asked for forward. I had my hands planted with light contact. When he tried to turn away, I closed my fingers on the reins, and just kept my legs on. After only a few moments, I felt him relax - i.e. give up - and he strolled into the paddock just as if that was what he wanted to do all along.

I was impressed. As soon as we got inside the paddock, I leaped off and started telling him what a good boy he was to obey me even when he didn't want to. I gave him a handful of carrot bits and petted him even more as we walked back inside the barn together to untack.

I understandably gained a lot of confidence on this ride. Indy and I faced some tests we hadn't incurred before, and he passed with flying colors. Naturally, since we're both looking forward to our next trip out, it's been raining/threatening ever since, and today was extremely hot and humid. I'm afraid it will be a few days before that next ride happens.

Still, Indy and I are both enjoying the even closer bond that our little adventure led us to.

I love this picture, but somehow it makes Indy's back look much longer than it actually is... Oh well, it does show off his incredible coat.


Brain Dysfunction in Cribbing Horses Gives Researchers Something to Chew On

Here's hoping that this research will some day lead to a cure for this unfortunate condition.

clipped from www.thehorse.com

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the United Kingdom have discovered that cribbing horses learn differently than horses that don't crib.

Cribbing is a stereotypy in which a horse grasps an object between his incisor teeth and inhales air into the esophagus while emitting an audible grunting noise. It is the most common stereotypy among stabled horses.

Previous research has suggested that changes in the chemical pathways in specific regions of the brain appear to be important in environmentally-induced stereotypies such as cribbing. In particular, cribbers reportedly have fewer types of dopamine receptors in a specific region of the brain referred to as the dorsomedial striatum.

"Post-mortem studies have illustrated that crib-biting horses have differences in some brain areas," explained Matthew Parker, MSc, a doctoral candidate in the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton. "We wanted to see how this affected their learning."

read more at http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?ID=11999&source=rss

Homes for Horses Coalition Launches Web Site

Another much needed resource for unwanted horses.

clipped from www.thehorse.com

The Homes for Horses Coalition has launched a new Web site, www.homesforhorses.org.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with the Animal Welfare Institute and several other groups, formed the Homes for Horses Coalition last July. Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the HSUS, said the coalition was designed to support equine-focused nonprofits.

read more at http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=11320

"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra