It’s a scene that plays out again and again in riding stables and backyard barns across the country. A child begs her parents for riding lessons, and then eventually for a pony of her own. The parents give in to the child’s pleading and suddenly they are charged with caring for a large, complicated animal who requires regular care from numerous professionals—farriers, veterinarians and trainers—and who requires large amounts of land, food and water to thrive. For some, this first horse or pony becomes a lifelong companion, who stays with their human guardian long after the glory of winning blue ribbons or spending hours together on long trail rides fades.
For many, the relationship is short—the child gets frustrated with the amount of work involved or moves on to another hobby. The parents, unwilling to keep a horse their child has no interest in, load up the horse and take him off to the weekly auction. The bang of the auction gavel can mean the horse has another chance with a loving family or a horrific journey to a cruel death in a slaughter plant.
This year alone, the fate of more than 60,000 American horses’ fell on the wrong side of that auction gavel. These horses—former riding horses, race horses, carriage horses and even pregnant mares—were shipped thousands of miles across our borders without food, water or rest to horrific deaths in foreign-owned slaughter plants, where they are butchered, their meat shipped to Belgium, France and Italy. The sad reality is that more than 90 percent of these horses were young and healthy and could have gone on to lead productive lives.
The Humane Society of the United States has been leading the charge to permanently end the slaughter of America’s horses for human consumption, but it’s also been working to educate horse owners about the realities of horse ownership to prevent horses from ever taking that fateful ride to the auction yard.
Through its Horses- Companions for Life Program
, The Humane Society of the United States is working to help new, current and potential horse owners understand the responsibility involved with being a good horse owner and, just as importantly, how they can enjoy horses and have them in their lives without taking the enormous leap into horse ownership.
The cornerstone of this program is the newly released “The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Horse Care
.” The book includes all of the basic information needed to provide proper care for a horse but is different from typical horse care books in that it calls on the horse owner to consider their horse as they would a dog or cat, deserving of humane care for his entire life.
“The fate of horses and the quality of care they receive throughout their lives is inextricably tied to the level of knowledge and commitment of their owner. We know that the more educated a horse owner is, the better chance they and the horses in their care have of sharing a long, rewarding life together,” says Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The Humane Society of the United States.
While encouraging the horse owner to plan realistically for their horse’s physical needs, the book also emphasizes the importance of tackling training and behavioral issues using natural horsemanship techniques designed to successfully teach a horse without the use of force or intimidation.
“Our hope, through our work to end horse slaughter and educate horse owners, is to raise awareness about the unique needs of these majestic animals and raise the standard of care for horses everywhere,” said Dane.
Help Make A Difference
: “The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Horse Care
” can be purchased at www.humanesocietypress.org
and you can learn more about our work to end horse slaughter at www.humanesociety.org
Stacy Segal is an equine protection specialist at The Humane Society of the United States.