Monday, April 8, 2019
Emergency of Horses
Horses are majestic, powerful, and a beautiful sight to see. Grazing in fields, performing for us, providing therapy beyond what we thought we needed. They open up the world, and make us become honest with ourselves and others, teach us respect for all life, and true teamwork. You cannot force a horse to do anything, no matter what you think; they will do what they choose, and trying to force otherwise will teach a lesson either way. You might get the horse to cooperate through fear, but you then must live with knowing you broke their spirit, and see the emotions of fear, mistrust, and pain in their eyes. You might even get taught a lesson of fear and pain yourself, if they choose to lash out in anger. Why would you want either scenario, when the beauty of understanding and trust between human and 1,000 pound animal is so much more rewarding? When you tire of them, or your life changes, most will try to sell them, and find a good home for them, but what about the ones who don't, or can't? What happens to those horses?
In 2007, a study found that there was an average of 170,000 horses that were labeled "unwanted" per year, that number was even higher in 2015, over 200,000. Another study found that per year, an average of 150,000 horses are being exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter, or bought by "kill buyers" for food processing. That means almost 90% of unwanted horses each year are slaughter-bound, regardless of age, breeding, or health. A large part of the problem is a lack of resources and space at rescues, causing many to go to auctions where the kill buyers can buy them for rock bottom prices and make a profit selling to slaughterhouses. Auctions do not monitor or stop this process, they simply look to make their percentage. Unfortunately, horses are not cheap, and difficult for most to afford, and for some people the thought of being able to say they own such a beautiful animal is thought on more than the reality of horse ownership, their or their child's level of commitment to the lifestyle, and the cost of care. This creates a problem when the need to sell is higher than the people in the community's need for each new horse brought into the world. The definition of an "unwanted" horse is simply one that has, for various reasons, become unwanted or needed by their owner.
The top 5 reasons for horses earning the label of "unwanted" are: affordability, older age or injury of the horse, manageability(behavioral issues), loss of owner interest, or a change in the owners employment. With the economy struggle, it is understandable that owners lose the ability to afford horses, or do not have the time commitment if they have to change jobs, they are not as cheap or easy to care for as a dog or a cat. However, that does not excuse their responsibility to attempt to find a home or other solution for their horse's care. Since 2007, there has been a rise in investigations of neglect or abuse and more abandoned horses than previously ever recorded. The other 3 causes for a horse becoming unwanted, which are behavioral issues, age or injury affecting use of the horse for riding or pulling a cart or buggy, and a loss of interest, have absolutely no excuse for neglect, abuse or abandonment, in fact, none of the reasons have a valid excuse. Horses, and the equestrian life, are a lifelong passion, not a hobby. Before you acquire a horse, like any other pet, you should seriously consider your commitment level for the life of the horse, which can average up to 30 years. Just because they become injured or old, does not mean you should get rid of them, considering the amount of time your horse was useful and therapeutic to you, either through showing or pleasure use. Like all other pets, horses deserve to stay with the people they love and trust, until it is time for them to leave us in death. If you are not sure horses will hold a lifetime interest for you, consider just taking lessons or leasing a horse rather than full-time ownership. In the case of behavior issues, seek the help of a trainer first rather than re-homing.
According to the Unwanted Horse Coalition(UHC) 2009 survey,rescues are understaffed and underfunded, and over half, 63% are at or over 75% of their capacity and resource levels. They also have to turn away about 40% of the horses brought to them due to the lack of resources. Rescues largely depend on the public for staffing and funding. It was found that the majority of horse owners, and even those in the public without a horse, but a passion for them, are willing to step up efforts to assist rescues, either through donations or volunteering to increase resources. Stakeholders, such as those in the racing industry, and breeders however, are not, and even advocating for an increase in slaughter. That is irresponsible on their part.
When it comes to solutions, the top priority indicated was owner education, and the second increasing rescue resources. It is good that there is an increased public concern for horse welfare, and the major industry issues identified. The top two issues were noted as welfare, and unacceptable training techniques. Now that we have identified the major issues and the top solutions for them, it is time we begin to implement plans to solve them.
Thank you for taking time to read our blog, and I hope you have learned a lot from this article. Please also take the time to check out the UHC's website and other resources to help our horse friends. Our next article will be on Dog Shelter and Rescue Overpopulations.