Dead or Alive?

Let me ask you two questions…Does your horse load into a trailer in two minutes? Can just anyone else get your horse on a trailer?

Those two questions can literally determine whether your horse ends up dead or alive.

Two minutes to load...
Two minutes to load…

Several years back, in researching an article I was writing for America’s Horse Magazine, I learned that during that wildfires that year, they gave people two minutes to load their horse. Two minutes or the police would make you leave your horse to fend for itself.

 

 

This week I saw some of the stories of horses that were stranded in the floods of Louisiana and Texas. In the video below, they’re having to load three horses in knee-deep water. The first two went on without any effort, but the last one went on and came right back off. The video ends before we find out if they got the horse on the trailer.

Video link –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/368919936614181/

No one ever thinks a disaster will happen to them. The truth of the matter is that unexpected things happen that can require your horse to load quickly and easily, and if they don’t there can be some dire consequences.

For instance, depending on where you’re at, having a flat tire on your truck or trailer, or having an accident can require that you load your horses on the side of an interstate or busy road.  The longer it takes your horse to load, the more at risk you are with traffic.

Clinic
Clinic

So what can you do if your horse doesn’t load well?

There’s a million different methods out there on trailer loading  – some safe, some not so safe. Really, in the end, how you get a horse to load easily is making the trailer a place the horse wants to be and is comfortable in.

How do you do that? Short of only feeding you horse at or on the trailer and nowhere else every single day, when a horse wants to leave a trailer let them but put them to work. You can lunge, you make them do side pass work or any other manner of getting their feet to move. Then come back to the trailer to rest.

As long as they’re looking or checking out the trailer, they’re trying. Leave them be. When they’re not, ask them to move forward on to it — it is important that they know how to move forward by pointing or tapping at the hip!

Once they get on, don’t shut them in. Let them come out if they feel the need to come out. If you’re claustrophobic, locking you in a tiny box doesn’t make you like cramped spaces! Horses are the same way. They get comfortable by knowing they can leave.

The next important piece is consistency and repetition. The more a horse does something, the more he learns and the better he gets at it.

If I have a horse that doesn’t want to load, I will set my trailer up where I can expose them to the trailer every time I turn them in and out of the pasture. Ideally, I’ll take them to the trailer twice a day if I have the time. I don’t spend an hour-long marathon session there. I spend just a minute or two there at the trailer asking them to move forward closer or on the trailer. If they do what I ask in thirty seconds, we’re done and they get to be turned out as a reward.

My retired race horse, Dynamic Host, is my latest big trailering project. When I went to pick him up, he had no clue that tapping on the hip meant go forward. (If he’d been in those California wildfires, he’d been dead!)  His heart rate and respiration was so elevated that you would have thought he’d just won a race. It was obvious he was not comfortable being on a trailer, and I wondered if we would be able to bring him home!

The thing about high-strung and nervous horses is that you can’t whip them on to a trailer or make them go. For one, they’re usually too big to make them go anywhere, and someone will most definitely get hurt trying. Additionally, when they get scared they don’t think at all – they panic and blow up. The lessons of giving to pressure go right out their little window.

The answer for those type horses is teaching them to relax and think, and gradually let them get accustomed to being on the trailer. Repetition and time.

Don’t wait until you’re in a bad situation to work on getting your horse to load better. Do it now so that you and your horse won’t be caught off guard.

How well does your horse load? If he doesn’t load easily and quickly, what is something you can do today to remedy that?

 

 

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

 

 

A Solution To The Slaughter Issue?

© copyright owned by F.J. Thomas

There’s been a lot of very heated debates world-wide over the horse slaughter issue. The one thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of people like to complain about human nature but very few people actually offer a solution that’s realistic. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re not offering a solution then you’re whining.” I think that’s true.

One of the horses we rescued and fostered over night in January.  This mare would make a NICE barrel or ranch prospect.
One of the horses we rescued and fostered over night in January. This mare would make a NICE barrel or ranch prospect.
Foster donkey (spring 2015) - Working on getting him gentle.
Oscar – he’s a rescue donkey we’re currently fostering until we can find him a home.

While I don’t think there’s an absolute solution, I do think there just might be a way to save some horses, educate owners, help bring awareness, and support the Horse Rescues all at the same time. What it requires is for people to come together and think bigger, outside the box. A lot of rescues focus on getting more donations – I say they need to think bigger, much bigger.

What if all the local Horse Rescues came together and started a national or maybe even world-wide registry?

Think about that for a moment… Something along the lines of recognized breed registries already in existence but instead of getting papers through breeding, the Registration papers would be issued from the Rescue itself and the Rescue Registry. When you adopt a horse from a rescue, they would issue a Rescue Registration to the horse. Individuals that rescue on their own could apply for a registration by sending in pictures. The Registry itself could regulate breeding by not accepting the foal of a registered horse if it was bred after the horse left the registry.

It doesn’t end there however… 

What if the Rescue Registry held local shows and competitions where horses could earn points toward a national Rescue Registry show that’s held once a year? The only horses that could compete would be rescue horses with the Rescue Registry papers.

The local and national approved shows could get Sponsorships from businesses – much like Jumping and Barrel Racing already do – and offer added money as an incentive. Look at the RFD-TV American Rodeo that offered a million dollars. People came out of the woodwork to compete for the American – money talks!

The Extreme Mustang Makeover and Retired Race Horse Project are already doing this exact thing. They both have been very successful at not only saving some horses, but also bringing an awareness of slaughter, and bringing new people into the horse industry. If the Horse Rescues came together, they could do the same thing on a national or even global level.

Some points to ponder for shows would be: 

  • Get major money behind the movement in the form of sponsorships & media  -people love heart string stories
  • Make the shows much more affordable than the average breed or discipline show to encourage new owners to show their horses for the first time
  • Get involved with local 4H & Pony Club 
  • Offer scholarships to the national show
  • Offer classes for all breeds & disciplines as rescue horses are all breeds – Include Donkey & Mule classes!
  • Co-Sanction with other associations as much as possible to offer approved classes within the show.
  • A high percentage of rescue horses are trail horses – offer an ACTHA or Ranch Trail class for those folks 
  • Offer an In-Hand Trail or Agility type class specifically for retired horses that are not rideable due to soundness issues – this would open up an opportunity for people with those horses to compete 

One concern that comes up is when rescue horses are placed in the homes of well-meaning people who honestly don’t have a clue. The Registry could get local trainers on board and get them to donate their time to locally held Horsemanship clinics. They could cover basic Horsemanship and basic showing and make it affordable.  New owners would learn about horsemanship, trainers would get the word out about what they do, all the while helping horses.

Again, I don’t think this would be a complete solution to the problem of unwanted horses and slaughter. You can’t change human nature and things people do which is why regulation doesn’t work very well. However, money does talk and it motivates people to get involved when they might not be otherwise. When you give people an incentive and an avenue to compete, it makes a difference as we’ve seen with the Extreme Mustang Makeover and the Retired Race Horse Project. 

Obviously there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out and a lot of work to be done to get the ball rolling. But the first step is discussion and building the momentum behind the idea. It’s amazing what can happen when people start talking about what started out as a simple idea. Legendary things have happened by just taking that one step.

So what can you do to help? Share this post. Talk to your friends and fellow competitors. Talk the local trainers. Talk to your local rescue and encourage them start holding shows for the horses they adopt out. The main thin is to just get people talking and get them asking how they can do something instead of saying why they can’t.

 

Lacy - She's a rescued mare that we've had for a lot of years and she's now a pasture ornament. Ideally, I would like to find her & another mare a new home where they could have more attention!
Lacy – She’s a rescued mare that we’ve had for a lot of years and she’s now a pasture ornament. Ideally, I would like to find her & another mare a new home where they could have more attention!

 

 

 

 

 

Large Animal Disaster Rescue by F. J. Thomas

This week I was fortunate enough to be featured on Christina Cole’s blog, Time For Love. I talk about what inspired an animal lover like me to write the horrific scenes in Lost Betrayal. Be sure to check it out. It’s something every animal lover should take the time to read!

 

Large Animal Disaster Rescue by F. J. Thomas.