08 February 2011


Ferdinand - 1986 Kentucky Derby winner and 1987 US Horse of the Year. 
Shipped to Japan as a breeding horse. 
2002 was slaughtered for human consumption.

Slaughter -- there is nothing glamorous about that. It gets even less when I think of what is happening to horses from the United States that are sold and then shipped to Canada and Mexico to be rendered into meat for human and animal consumption. 

I've been fortunate to have retrained a number of horses that came off the racetrack -- and I still love riding Thoroughbreds. (I've also had good luck with Quarter Horses off the track and like them too.) I've noticed since the influx of warmbloods into the USA, there are less people with the skills to retrain a horse off the racetrack. The sad fact is there are more horses that have outlived their usefulness for their current owners and unfortunately, there is no good resolution at this time. 

Why should we think about this? Let's look at some basics about horses. Horses live, on average, between 25 and 30 years and weigh 850 to 1,600 pounds. There are all types of horses out there and they are used for racing, jumping, dressage, pleasure riding, and ranch work, driving and showing. In addition, there are a variety of draft, pony, donkey and mules out there too.

Once you euthanize your horse, what happens next? Over the years, I've helped bury horses, which is no simple feat and may be illegal. How about cremation like our dogs and cats? That can work, but the crematorium needs to be able to handle an animals the size of a horse. You can ship the horse to a renderer, but the value of their by-products is not as high as it has been in the past. I have had horses in the past go to mink farms to feed the animals there and we also had a horse that died in the mountains of Colorado go to a kennel to feed the dogs. You might also be able to compost the remains or take them to the landfill for disposal.

What is happening now? Horses sent to slaughter have to travel farther to Mexico and Canada and they travel in far worse conditions. With the current economic situation, many horses are left to starve when owners can no longer feed them. Plus many people don't have the money for euthanizing and rendering because they cost money and abandonment becomes another concern.

I would hope that horse transportation will be better regulated and humane slaughter methods like Temple Grandin has developed for cattle will be used. I don't claim to have all the solutions, but I know that living in denial isn't beneficial for making the necessary changes.

I welcome your solutions to this problem and hope that we can all work together to create a better system for the horses.

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