It’s another travel day for me and as my friend Polly says, on Sundays, I am like a trail horse headed home. As much as I love to travel, heading home is always the best part. Can’t wait to see my dog, my horses and my husband (not necessarily in that order, of course). But for now I am sitting at an airport, waiting on a delayed flight and wishing I had stayed in bed another hour.
It was a busy weekend in Sedalia MO at the Women & Horses Expo. Although the turnout was small, the people were great and I had some good demos and fun horses to ride. There were lots of Mustangs there and I rode a cute little Mustang pony in one of my demos. I think that the Extreme Mustang Makeover (EMM) has really revitalized the Mustang market and given new life and enthusiasm to the owners—what a wonderful thing. The wild horse dilemma is a tough situation for which there seem to be no good answers. Too many Mustangs sit unwanted in government holding pens as humans encroach on their range but the EMM has been so outrageously successful that more and more people are jumping on board and adopting. Sadly, many of the Mustangs rounded up are so traumatized that they aren't offered for adoption, but the others are getting placement a little easier due to the attention the EMM has brought.
Having seen one large holding facility with more than 450 head of unwanted Mustangs in it—a sad sight of diseased and depressed horses—sometimes I wonder if it's humane to keep them in prison until they die of some disease that runs rampant through an over-crowded herd. It would be a perfect world if these horses could just stay on the range and live happily ever after but in this reality, the cattlemen win out because you can place a dollar figure on the value of cattle, so the sparse forage is given to the cattle. This whole situation is compounded tremendously by the bill passed by Congress that banned the slaughter of horses in the US. Now in addition to the 100,000+ head of unwanted horses that used to go to slaughter every year, we also have hundreds of Mustangs to find homes for and the shelters, sanctuaries and rescues are all full to capacity, fighting for funding and struggling to take care of all these unwanted horses. You may not like the thought of horses going to slaughter, but sometimes I wonder if it is the most humane alternative. I hate that horses are starving to death or suffering the fate of uncertainty and abuse. I know this is a touchy issue but horses being shipped to slaughter in Canada and Mexico by the thousands—was highly predictable. Whereas we used to be able to regulate the transport and humane slaughter of horses, now they are truly on their own, with no regulation, and the end result is not pretty.
How do you weigh in on this subject? Do you have experience with Mustangs? And what about the unwanted domesticated horses—what will happen to them now? Do you think the breeding of horses should be regulated by the government, as it is in other countries, to cut down on the unwanted horse population? Due to the poor economy, the slaughter bill and the lack of a basis for the horse market (like it or not, the killer horse market used to be a bottom line for horse prices and now there is no bottom), the lower end horses are extremely difficult, if not impossible to sell now. How do we climb out of this hole and how do we protect the unwanted horses from a fate worse than death?
It’s a heavy subject for a Monday, but one that needs our thought and attention.
Until next time,