Greetings again, horsemen. Even as we work through a few early kinks and minor editorial mishaps, we’re excited to utilize the fluid medium of blogging to bring people up to speed with what we are accomplishing. Understandably, there have been a lot of questions about the programs we are putting in place, and we hope to be able to address them here.
In our first blog, we offered a preview of what our Equine Rescue & Rejuvenation Program (ERRP) will look like. While the diagram illustrates the basics, the program will also be inherently flexible and dynamic enough to meet the changes and challenges we’ll inevitably face—something we are ready, willing, and—most importantly--able to do. It’s impossible to sufficiently emphasize our priorities as being the well-being of horses, horse-people, and the horse industry as a whole.
· The well-being of horses is NOT being neglected and abandoned when owners run out of options, when the skyrocketing costs of feed and care are rivaled only by the cost of euthanasia and carcass disposal, and the struggling rescue network can’t accommodate even a fraction of the widely accepted estimate of 100,000 horses that become unwanted annually. ** See references at the end of the blog.
· The well-being of horse-people is NOT being forced to choose between paying for groceries for their families, or paying for the disposal of a horse they can no longer afford.
· The well-being of the horse industry is NOT to eliminate humane end of life options, not only creating prolonged and completely unnecessary suffering of horses, but also erasing the base of the market.
How does the United Horsmen’s ERRP differ from traditional rescues?
Most obviously, the ERRP includes humane processing as a final option for horses that cannot be rehabilitated and made useful otherwise. This will ensure that funds are used in the most productive and efficient manner possible.
Another unique aspect of ERRP will be the extensive involvement of professionals—trainers, veterinarians, and educational program leaders.
How will horses enter ERRP?
Horses may enter the Rescue and Rejuvenation Program in several ways. Owners who are unwilling or unable to care for their animals may donate them to the 501c3 non-profit program, and possibly receive a tax deduction. The Program also will accept horses from other over-burdened rescue organizations or from law enforcement/livestock agencies in possession of stray, abandoned or neglected horses.
What is the primary goal of the program?
To rehabilitate horses from an unwanted and at-risk status to a healthy and functional status. We will identify horses with potential, teach them skills, and then offer them to the public. Horses that can be trained, or re-trained for new purposes, will be sold. Horses that demonstrate suitability for purposes such as non-profit therapeutic riding or youth programs will be made available to those groups at little or no cost. Any profit on the re-homing of horses will go back into the Program in order to help more horses in need.
How will this be accomplished?
All horses entering the Program will be evaluated for health, soundness, behavior, disposition and level of training. These evaluations will be performed by qualified veterinarians and professional horse trainers. Horses will go in one of three directions: into training, into rehabilitation, or to humane processing/euthanasia. Healthy horses will continue their training as appropriate. Professional trainers, students from college and university equine science programs, and apprentice trainers from tribal education programs will work with the horses in a safe and supervised setting. Rideable horses will continue their training as appropriate, under the guidance of professionals and supervised student trainers from college and university equine programs. Horses will be developed in the areas where they demonstrate talent - roping, jumping, cow work, reining, pleasure, trails, ranch work, therapeutic riding, etc. Untrained horses that are sound and healthy will be started under saddle and evaluated for various disciplines.
How will the Program help horses?
By giving horses every possible chance to live a healthy, productive life. The Rescue and Rejuvenation Program offers sanctuary to horses that are starving, neglected or otherwise suffering. Horses who are ill, injured, thin or otherwise in need of rehabilitation will receive medical care and nutrition. If a horse in the program is unsuitable for any other purpose, the Program provides quality care and a quick, painless death. The rejuvenation phase of the program is designed for horses that cannot enter the training program due to their age or condition. Mares with foals at their sides, and horses too young to enter training, will go on pasture. These horses will stay in the rejuvenation program until their status changes, and then they will be re-evaluated.
How will the Program help horse owners?
Part of the Rescue and Rejuvenation Program’s mission is to help horses and horse owners in need. Numerous “unwanted” horses enter the slaughter pipeline primarily due to their lack of training. This problem becomes cyclical for owners who need to sell their horses, cannot afford to have them trained, and then discover their horses have little or no re-sale value due to their lack of training.
The Rescue & Rejuvenation Program is a place for horses to receive training, thus transforming them from potentially slaughter-bound animals into valuable horses with skills and a purpose. In addition to training, the Program offers a safe haven for ill, injured, malnourished or abandoned animals. Horses in need of a feeding program or medical care will go on pasture or into treatment until they are healthy enough for a training and temperament evaluation. Critically sick or injured horses will be euthanized through humane processing.
Horses adopted/purchased from the Rescue & Rejuvenation Program will be eligible for a special show incentive. Events organized by the Program will offer classes in various disciplines for those horses, in which competitors can win money.
What happens to horses that can’t be trained or rehomed?
For horses who have lived past their useful life, are unsound, untrainable, or otherwise not suited for re-homing, a humane system of processing will be utilized. Equipment and management practices approved by industry experts will ensure a minimum of stress and pain. Horses will be handled with kindness and respect, employees will undergo proper training, and the facility will be monitored to prevent mishandling and abuse. The processing plant will be near enough to the the Rescue and Rejuvenation Program to spare horses the stress of trailering and travel.
How does ERRP set the base of the market?
ERRP doesn’t set the base of the market; the existence of domestic humane processing does. The ERRP is an option for horse owners, and because of the network of professionals involved, it’s a unique opportunity for otherwise unusable horses to become useful.
Will the ERRP benefits reach beyond horses, horse owners, and the industry?
Absolutely. Numerous educational opportunities will be available in all aspects of the Program. Dialogue is currently underway with colleges and universities to establish internships and credit-earning opportunities in the following areas:
At the Rescue & Rehabilitation Facility:
· Horse Training
· Equine Sales Promotion and Marketing
· Reproductive Management of Horses
· Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiologie
· Farrier Science/Basics of Equine Dentistry
· Therapeutic Riding
· Pasture Management
At the processing plant:
· Collection of Organs and Fluids (e.g. synovial fluids) for Therapeutic Purposes
· Meat Processing
With the program’s holistic, multifaceted approach, issues that have been central to the ARM’s misguided battle against humane horse processing will be addressed and effectively curtailed. For example:
· “Horse slaughter can’t be done humanely.” The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) deem the captive bolt gun used in processing plants to be humane end of life option for equines. All food animals are processed under the same USDA guidelines for humane treatment. It is interesting to note that USDA reports for humane handling standards from late 2011 demonstrate less than 1%--that’s ONE percent—non-compliance.*** There is no logical, science-based reason to believe that the processing of horses will be any more problematic, or less humane, than is the processing of literally millions of other livestock.
· “Perfectly sound, usable horses go to slaughter.” Horses entering the program will be evaluated for any existing potential, and given a chance that is uniquely afforded by actual equine professionals.
· “Horses are forced to endure long hours in trucks to their eventual fate across our borders.” The proximity of the ERRP to humane processing plants will eliminate this issue entirely.
ERRP is just one of the expansive efforts by United Horsemen to answer concerns related to horse processing. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs—we will soon be outlining the Equine Owners’ Assurance Program (EOAP), better known as the “do not slaughter registry.”
**Refer to www.amillionhorses.com to see for yourself just how catastrophic the situation has been for American equines, and http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/full/88/12/4142 for details about the sadly insufficient existing rescue network.
***For detailed reports on non-compliance of humane handling standards: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations/HHER_Q4_FY2011/index.asp