More Thoughts On Horse Slaughter

Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled “A Solution To The Slaughter Issue“, in which I proposed the rescues start a “Rescue Registry”. In my blog post, I suggested that they could not only limit breeding to a certain extent, but also provide an incentive to rescue by offering large events with a pay back. Basically, they could offer a nationals and a “Mustang Makeover” type event for rescued horses.

Although I covered a lot of territory and offered at least a partial solution, I didn’t completely reveal the rest of my solution for the hot topic of horse slaughter. A couple of weeks ago however, I was reminded that I need to write the next blog post!

On a Sunday afternoon I was headed with a friend to a Cattle Sorting practice in Resaca, Georgia a couple of hours away. As we drove along I-75 South, just a few miles north of Chattanooga, we were passed by a red full size semi tractor-trailer truck with a Stanley Brothers Farms logo that was pulling a single deck semi livestock trailer. We could tell it was full of horses.

Stanley Brothers Truck
Stanley Brothers Truck by Animals Angels 

My first thought was maybe they were transporting draft horses since the trailer was a little larger than most, but my gut told me something else. I had seen the exact same truck and trailer headed north on I-75 just two afternoons before. My friend got on her smart phone and looked up Stanley Brothers Farms. Sure enough, she found an article where Animals Angels had done an animal cruelty investigation on Stanley Brothers, which is basically a horse slaughter feedlot.

As Stanley Brothers is located in Arkansas and Louisiana, I had to wonder why in the world they were in east Tennessee, basically 12 plus hours away. It didn’t make any business sense for them to drive at least 12 hours in the opposite direction to purchase horses for slaughter when there are a lot of sale barns much closer to their part of the country, and on the way to Mexico. Additionally, even if they had driven that far to purchase horses, I-75 is not the quickest route back home, or to Mexico.

So what are they doing in east Tennessee? Do they have a secret farm close by that no one is yet openly aware of? All their other farms have gained a lot of bad publicity, which I’m sure impacted their ability to purchase horses from unsuspecting sellers.

With illegal slaughter houses being busted in Florida, it sure brings up a lot of possibilities of why they’re here. There’s got to be a reason for their being in east Tennessee because it makes absolutely no business sense for them to be transporting here. Sales in this area wouldn’t support the volume needed to drive 12 hours, so there’s got to be another reason and someone needs to investigate that.

On to the rest of my business idea for at least a partial solution to the over population of horses and the slaughter debate.

I think that horse slaughter should be turned over to the horse rescues to monitor and to profit from. While that might seem like somewhat of a radical, perhaps even crazy idea, I honestly think it needs to be considered because it’s ultimately a win for both the rescue and horses.

The rescues could be in charge the actual slaughter, which means they could make sure that it was done in the most humane manner possible, and in the most humane environment – on site. They could also regulate which horses were put down, and which ones were salvageable which means that a good number of horses would have a second chance.

While we all like to dream that you can save every horse, the cold hard truth is that you just can’t. Even Buck Brannaman, the biggest horse advocate on the face of the planet, conceded that the stallion in his documentary should be euthanized because he was too dangerous. The fact is that some horses are just too much of a danger to themselves and to others, and the only possible solution, the most humane solution, is euthanasia.

The problem is that a lot of horse rescues do want to save every single horse, sometimes at the cost of being able to rescue more horses. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t try to help a horse if it needs it, but they need to do it within reason. If the option is doing a surgery that costs $10,000 or putting a horse down, I’ve seen rescues do the surgery. That $10,000 could have fed a lot of horses!

In order for the rescues to regulate slaughter, they would have to adopt a more practical and business like approach, and keep the bigger picture in plain sight. Are they going to rescue one, or are they going to rescue many?

Currently, practically all horse rescues depend on public donations to operate, and they’re always short on funds. One plus of the rescues regulating slaughter is that they could at least become partially self-sufficient from the sales of horse hide, horse hair, hooves and whatever else they could sell from the horses that they slaughtered.

While some might worry that a group might operate under the guise of a rescue only to slaughter every horse that comes in, that could be easily remedied by requiring every rescue group to have a board of directors without a conflict of interest. Additionally, they could be required to keep detailed records that are also available to the public.

I’m sure horse slaughter will continue to be a hot issue. The problem is that there are no easy answers and I think in order to find an answer of some kind, people need to start thinking out of the box. If enough minds work together to find a solution, one can certainly be found with enough effort and input.

Rescue Donkey - Oscar
Rescue Donkey – Oscar

 

 

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Failures As Fuel

It took me until I was 44 but it finally happened. This past week I received an offer from a publisher for a book I started writing ten years ago. Needless to say, when I received the email I was in shock. I’ve dreamed about becoming a published writer since I was a teenager. While I’d written a few articles that were published, the queries for my books had only garnered rejections. The belief in my writing ability and vision were beginning to wear thin.

The last few days have been filled with writing a bio and a blurb for the publisher and perusing thousands of hot cowboys for my book cover- a rough life I know, but someone’s got to do it! This afternoon I received an email from my editor so the reality is finally setting in and I have to say it feels good and I’m genuinely looking forward to the whole process.

My romance novel, Lost Betrayal, will be published by Solstice Publishing in 2014 in digital format, initially. Here’s a snapshot of the book –

THE FUTURE OF THE RANCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down and destroys her family ranch in northern Georgia taking her hopes, her dreams and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. An ex rodeo cowboy with a past, Garrett has sworn off rodeo and the last thing he needs is entanglement with a woman on a wild horse chase but there’s too many unanswered questions, such as how a horse could stay gone so long.

Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her, holds the past, and her future. Sordid secrets and malicious betrayal jeopardize her efforts. Is she strong enough to push past the hurt and the lies in order to get back all she holds dear?

 

Everything that happens in my life I always wind up relating it to horses somehow, of course! This is no different.

Whether it’s breaking a colt or riding at the nationals, we all have dreams and goals that we want to accomplish. With every dream that we have, there’s going to be setbacks and failures and things that make us question whether or not we should pursue whatever it is that we want to achieve. Those failures make us question whether or not we’re being rational with our goals.

I’ve read time and time again to use your failures as a way to improve. Every time I received a rejection for one of my book projects, I always went back and tried to figure out what it was in my writing that caused the literary agent or publisher to not like the book. A rejection always resulted in a revision in my book, and ultimately improvement.

Working with horses shouldn’t be any different. When a horse rejects what we’re trying to teach them, sometimes the tendency is to think it’s the horses fault and in that case no one improves and the horse usually suffers for it.

In other cases, especially with better horsemen, failure in training should result in self-evaluation first. Just like with the rejection of the book, what was it in the training approach that caused the horse not to reject what was being taught? It’s only then that as a trainer can you move forward and improve.

I’ve always said that it’s the toughest horses that make the best horsemen. For that reason alone I love to work with difficult horses. The more difficult they are, the more I’m drawn to them. Why? Because the refusals are usually extreme, and the greater the refusal, the greater the self-reflection in an attempt to fix it. In the end we both improve better than we ever would have had the whole process been smooth.

Use your failures to fuel your success. What dreams do you have and what have you failures been in reaching that dream? What have those failures taught you and how have you let them make you better?

GIVE A HORSE A JOB

One of my biggest passions is working with horses. There’s nothing I love more than breaking a colt or working through an issue with a horse that has problems. The harder they are to figure out and deal with, the more I love the challenge. I think it’s the reward of seeing that animal grow through the process.

You know, Jesus said he didn’t come to save the righteous that he came to save the sinners. He also said that those that have more to forgive love him the most. I think horses are the same way. The harder they are to work with the more they trust you on the other side. The process is sometimes painful but in the end  it’s a neat thing and wouldn’t have been so sweet if it hadn’t been so hard.

Anyone that knows me knows that my philosophy with horses is that when it comes right down to it, it’s not about us and what we want to do. It’s about the horse because it’s his life. It’s about him and his leaving our hands better than when he came to us. We should always seek to improve the horse, not just our goals and desires.

I used to think that a good horse trainer could make a horse do anything. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that a good horse trainer can figure out what a horse wants to do. Figure that out and it becomes much easier to teach that horse how to do things. If you think about it, we’re the same way so why would a horse be any different just because they can’t talk? We fight against doing things we don’t want to do too.

Giving a horse a job that makes them think is one of the best things for a horse and it’s most certainly one of the best things you can do for a difficult horse. I think most difficult horses are smart horses. I think they get themselves into trouble when they get bored and they have to find ways to entertain themselves. The best way to combat that is give them a job that grabs their attention and requires them to think.

One of the best jobs for a horse is to work cows. It requires them to focus on something, kind of like putting a TV in front of a kid. Cows are instant horse magnets. While some horses are deathly afraid the first time they see a cow and want to get away, if you think about it even though they’re afraid, they’re STILL focusing on that cow.

You can put a dull, lazy horse on a cow and you’ll get a totally different horse. Suddenly that horse will be lighter, quicker. It’s because they’re interested in what they’re doing and they feel like doing it.

While you might say you don’t have cows to go work, it doesn’t mean all is lost. We don’t have cows either so when we get a chance we’ll haul to a Ranch Clinic or a Ranch Sorting to get that exposure. But you can also find other ways to get out of the arena and give your horse something to do.

Horse Soccer is the next best thing to being on cows, in my opinion. It gives the horse something to focus on – the ball. His job is to stay with that ball and move it around. At the same time he’s moving that ball around you’re also getting a chance to work on things like shoulder and hip control, rate.

Another job I like to give a horse is ponying. It does a horse a world of good to have the job of leading another horse around. It gives them confidence but you also get to work on things like trafficking and control of the body parts.

You can also use your horses for working around your property. Instead of using the pickup truck to haul that log, use your horse to drag it. You’ll need to use a western saddle and wrap your horn to keep it from getting damaged, and get your horse used to ropes first but it’s a job that you can use your horse for. If you ride English, you can still find things light enough that you can drag off your horse.

Here’s some pics of the jobs our horses have had over the years –

This is Mo, the 3 year old green mare at a Ranch Clinic with Scott Kiger of Georgia and John Nicely of Tennessee.

3yr old green mare
3yr old green mare

This bay horse on the right is my husband’s Polish Arab that I showed Hunter.

Sorting on English Arab

Here’s this same horse working a ball.

Working on the ball

The pony horse in this picture was deathly afraid of other horses being close when he was ridden. Here he is ponying a 2 year old.

ponying

The important idea here is to find ways to use your horse in getting something accomplished, to include him in what you’re doing. When you do that, you wind up with a horse that’s interested in what he’s doing and you usually wind up furthering his training because it’s required to do the job well.

How do you find ways to put your horse to work that grab his interest?