“The greatest deterrent
to freedom are men and women of zeal, well-meaning, but
without knowledge or understanding.”
~Justice Louis Brandeis~

"People are so quick to defend their own agendas, but they so often fail to realize we must protect the rights of all if we are to continue to have any rights of our own."

Ranch meaning, in general, any real world dwelling probably not involving full care board. Kind of a rural voice of real horse owners, trainers, traders, auction owners, rodeo contractors, etc.. all of us who have taken a verbal beating and called greedy ass hats. Back at the Ranch contributors, moderators, subjects, and so on, are pro-horse, pro-owner, and pro-slaughter.
Back at the Ranch was formed by a group of like minded horse / livestock owners. It is a place for us to try to educate, a place to vent our frustrations with the current equine industry, a place to share humor and snark, and in general try to open the eyes of the public who seem to be anti-agriculture.We do have a section for comments of course, and if you would like to email us you can do so directly or through the contact us form. We like to hear from our readers. I hope you enjoy reading our blog as much as I enjoy managing it.
Ranch Manager

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What to do with the unwanted horses?

What to do with "unwanted" horses? And we thought they didn’t have any answers??? First they have to agree they actually exist…..
If we are able to determine that there are unwanted horses and estimate the numbers, we are then in a better position to develop solutions for this problem that allow us to think beyond slaughter. Slaughter accounts for one in eight horses that die each year. Thus we need to increase our capacity to humanely end our horses' lives by less than 15%.
If they have yet been unable to agree on the actual existence or numbers of unwanted horses, how did they arrive at that figure? But it does sound good doesn’t it?
If and when slaughter is ended, there can be no doubt that the price of horses sold at "loose horse" and low-end auctions will at least temporarily adjust downward. It will adjust to 0 and this adjustment will be permanent. This in turn will increase the afford ability to some buyers and will provide a disincentive to over breeding. Does this mean everyone can have a horse so no one will want to raise them anymore? Or does this mean we can all breed them so there will be no need for anyone to buy one? Really, what does that sentence mean? So the supply of "unwanted" horses will diminish as it did in the 1990s.
What?????? The largest numbers of horses slaughtered in this country statistically were killed in the late 80s and very early 90s. The supply of unwanted horses dwindled in the 90s because of this massive liquidation not because everyone could have 6 of them for free. I also have a hunch .90 butcher horses also had something to do with it.
A four-pronged approach appears appropriate. First we need to develop a robust humane euthanasia and disposal solution on a state-by-state basis. Humane euthanasia programs can be in place at horse auctions as well as horse rescues. Hmmm, horses being destroyed in a public place (strange place to a horse) by people they don’t know, most likely in a restrained situation, and by someone who would rather not be doing it. Does that somehow sound familiar to you in anyway? Second, we need to identify additional resources to create incentives for horse rescues to absorb more horses that can either be retired or rehabilitated. Can you say taxpayer funded??!! Third, we need to attack the demand for horse meat with a marketing campaign that illustrates that horses are not fit for human consumption, according to the drugs that each horse has been administered over its lifetime (you can simply read the label on a commonly used worming product).
I doubt we will change the eating habits of other countries with even the most aggressive program.
Finally, we need to create an educational program for breeders and horse owners for more responsible horse management. This is the biggest oxymoron of the whole anti-slaughter debate. The breeders in this thing to produce good horses at a profit are the ones you need to get your education from. Again it is always someone else causing the problem….Of course, these solutions require funding. Sources of funding can include:

  • Breed programs can attach a surcharge when a horse is registered to the breed. This would not be unique to the horse industry. Another industry with a disposal problem, the tire industry, adds a surcharge for each new tire sold in order to pay for recycling the tire when it is not longer useful. Now I have to admit this is a reach that impressed me. Junk tires/unwanted horses, not a connection I would have made. Who knew???Such a program will be economically insignificant compared to the $US39 billion a year ($US102 billion indirectly) that the horse industry generates. Funny how a lot of little insignificant things add up isn’t it??
  • A surcharge can be applied each time a horse changes ownership and this change is registered with the horse's breed registry. Racehorses that are claimed are more likely to be at risk of slaughter, but can generate more revenue for retirement under this scenario. What this really means is the further a horse is run into the ground, the further he drops in class, the more times he changes hands, the more revenue for the “cause” this also ran is worth. Kind of heartwarming picture isn’t it????
  • Racetracks can develop programs that support their athletes. There are already examples of this occurring (Fingerlakes, Philadelphia Park and Woodbine). Racinos which have additional revenue via their Casino contracts are in an even better position to support their athletes. Racing at most of the “racinos” I am familiar with is hanging on by thin thread anyway. I am in the mid-west so we are probably a bit behind progressively. The greater return on the gambling dollar is in pulling the handle and the casinos are getting tired of footing the bill to keep racing in the black. I don’t think one more black eye for the racing industry is going make them all that happy to anti up.
  • Racing jurisdictions can develop programs for the retirement of horses that ran within their state. California is an example - .3% of purses distributed in California are earmarked for horse retirement and rehabilitation. This money is distributed by California Retirement Management Account (CARMA). Yes, California, the land of milk and honey. California has been used as an example of how well this would work all along. There has been mention of “black market slaughter trade in California”. The trade isn’t really all that black market horses leave California with health papers and a non-slaughter destination, change hands or purpose across the border, nothing black market nothing illegal and come to think of it did work out that way for a national level too…Wait a minute we’re working on a new law……..

The infrastructure is already in place to deal with a horse industry without slaughter. Another if it was working already we wouldn’t have a problem hmmm…..Horses can still go to auction houses whose business included horses going to slaughter. Rather than being bid on by kill buyers, rescues and private buyers, the horses will be bid on by rescues and private buyers. If they were being bid on by rescues and private buyers they wouldn’t be “unwanted” in the first place now would they??? Only those horses with no bids can then be humanely euthanized or returned to their current owner. Again who is going to foot the bill? Do we expect the auction owner to become the grim reaper? Ain’t their ball game…..Who is going to pay for the prosecution of the abandonment by “current owners” remember this animal has ceased to be an asset in any form and is now a definite liability? Do you see his loving owner jumping up to take him back????
As we move to this scenario, it will be important that auction houses and horse dealers receive the same compensation as they do now in order to incentivise them to participate in a post slaughter era. What the f***** does that mean or is it even a word? Assuming it is a word who is going to pay for, regulate, and distribute this incentivising???? Horses are increasingly being sold on Internet sites; those with no bids can be shipped to their local rescue or horse auction for humane euthanasia.
Can’t sell Flicka over the Internet, ship her to the local auction and then to the humane euthanasia station. Did I mention I see a strong resemblance between euthanasia station and slaughterhouse in both purpose and situation????? Oh yeah, I did didn’t I???
Funds that are raised can be redistributed to auction houses for each horse that is euthanized. Money raised to support horse rescues can be redistributed via grants based on the number of horses rescued, the number of horses adopted out and the number of horses humanely euthanized.
Yet another similarity between the rescue/euthanasia stations, death at profit…..the more you kill the bigger your grant. Grant and redistribute are also synonyms for Tax dollar and Donation dollar skimming…..I’m sorry the politically correct term is administrator’s salary…..
It should also be noted that a marketplace without slaughter will enable rescues to be more aggressive with adopting out the horses they rehabilitate. One of the significant risks of adopting out a horse, and therefore losing direct control over the horse, is that the horse will return to the slaughter supply chain. This risk will be eliminated.
It’s not all that well monitored now so I assume this means nothing will change there. Whew, I was getting tired of all that change!!!!
Ease of adoption will allow rescues to expand their adopter pools. This is fundamentally important to the expansion of the rescue industry. This really means since they know you can’t sell the thing anymore if you can walk in the door chances are you’re a new horse owner. That is if you can pay more than the per head value the grant allow them to charge to kill him..

In conclusion, compassionate horse people do not want horse slaughter, but many have been convinced that it is necessary. No argument there. So let’s believe it’s not necessary and set up a system with loopholes big enough for a con artist, true ass hat to drive a semi-truck through.

"I would never send my horses to slaughter, of course not. But we do need slaughter as an option." This common response among horsemen indicates a personal distaste for slaughter as an option, and while the personal conviction of not selling horses for slaughter has merit, it only helps the person's horses until those horses are sold to another owner. Did it ever occur to you people ANYONE can keep his horse if he wants, he can euthanize him, if he wants, or you can market one worth more alive than dead. Now there’s a novel thought, it’s not worth more alive than dead keep it yourself. Educate yourself on the market. Following the automotive theme, you have to pass a test to drive why should you own an animal whose market value and system you know nothing about? Sorry the “I didn’t realize that mean ole killer buyer was bidding on Sporty” doesn’t get it in the excuse department for me.

The evidence clearly shows that horse slaughter is not necessary and has thrived as a function of the demand for horse meat in Europe and Asia. If it were not necessary we wouldn’t need to come up with a funding plan to take its place now would we??? People would just keep on practicing the options already available to them.

The horse industry has become lazy and has come to rely on slaughter as a convenient means to dispose of excess horses. But that is not why horse slaughter exists and we slaughter far more horses than those that are simply unwanted. Don’t know about lazy there, it has made me try one more time on many a nasty rat. In my personal program it has KEPT me from being lazy or giving up on a less than stellar prospect. I knew if I couldn’t get him to ride what would happen to him. Crap on a cracker that must mean I don’t like to kill horses……what the heck????

We need to change the mindset that slaughter is necessary. No we need to produce a better product with a future. Good horsemanship and stewardship of the horse, and good stewardship of the horse industry, is necessary. I believe that’s what producing a better horse (product) with a future means????
Read this article and others like it at
On a personal note, I truly believe the thoroughbred industry distancing itself from slaughter is slightly reminiscent of an elephant trying to hide behind a flag pole. Of course there is lots of room to point fingers around either side of said pole.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Internet Knowledge

I spend some of my free time online simply because it never ceases to amaze me. The wealth of information, or misinformation taken as truth, the personalities involved, and dramatics of some of the forums are better than any afternoon soap opera! And while there are many, many, areas I could address, I think one of my favorite subjects would have to be equine savvy, or lack thereof.We have "educated" horse owners who seem unaware that a well trained horse is not only a happier horse, but a horse with a better chance at a good home should, God forbid, something happen to their current owner. When an owner states on more than one occasion her unwillingness to subject her horse to sedation for hoof trims because the horse would come "crashing to the ground" and not one of her knowledgeable horse buddies says a word to the contrary, I become a little concerned. Having had a horse that needed sedation for hoof trimming due to an injury, I, as a knowledgeable horse owner know that the horse does, in fact remain on all four feet during the entire process....although the mental picture of a prone horse with a farrier trying to work on his feet IS kind of interesting:). Yet anyone reading this person's comments and not knowing better would be led to believe that this is true.Then we have those who tolerate unsafe, dominant equine behavior because they have mistakenly bestowed human traits on their horses. As a parent, if my child ever came up and gave me a swift kick or bite, my reaction would be quick, firm, and deliberate. It would not be abusive, but the child would know this is not acceptable behavior. This is how we create boundaries, and in the equine world, those with a basic knowledge understand that boundaries create security. Knowing who the boss is allows the horse to be who HE is. Allowing a 1000+ animal to "be himself" by acting in a dominant manner is not only unsafe, but just plain ignorant. If you spend a bit of time watching horses in a pasture, you'll see that horses can express themselves to a certain extent until the herd boss puts a stop to it. And the horses don't cry, or show hurt feelings.....They understand the pecking order, and know they've gone too far. If you, as the human wish to be in charge, you have to take the same position as "boss". Your horse won't dislike you, in fact, I think you'll find your horse a bit happier and secure knowing his place in the world.Also how about "companionship"? I read a statement to the effect that the majority of horses in America are now serving that role. Could that be indeed true? I sure hope not!!!! Horses are not pets, and the sooner we can all come to that realization, the better off
we, and the horses will be. There are plenty of horses I know of that are still doing jobs.....working farms, doing mounted police work, packing 4-H kids around, showing in different disciplines, providing service as therapy mounts, and working ranches for example. The horses with a job seem happier. My old boy at 21 is happier when he has something to do from time to time. He doesn't do as much as he once did, but he gets out for a ride, and he get ground work so he doesn't feel useless. I don't want to think of life without him. But when I bought him, I knew I was buying a horse, and I educated myself on what that entailed. I think we are both happier for that.But those "knowledgeable" in the horses' feelings and emotions will tell us that they are happiest just being around us, getting hugs and kisses, and being our "friends".I've owned my horse since he was 8 years old, and he's well fed, well cared for, and a pretty happy guy. But he weighs 1000 pounds, and I'm the boss. He has manners, and he knows what's expected of him.I'm not saying horses can't serve a role as companions to humans, because in some aspect, they do. But that is not their sole purpose, nor should it be. There used to be a market for the aged horse, who after working has earned a good retirement home. The movement now seems to be for all horses to become retirees no matter what the age. I don't know that it's such a good idea to make pasture pets out of every horse.I do know one thing, though.....These are often the very same horses that will have an awfully hard time finding a new home, should the situation arise. You'd be surprised at how what is considered cute, funny, and adorable by those who look upon their horses as overgrown puppy dogs is often viewed as stubborn, dominant, and pig headed by someone who has taken the time to teach their horse how to act like one. Well, maybe you wouldn't be, if you've educated yourself on some of the most basic factual information concerning horses. And it's available right here online, if you know or care where to look.

Written by R.H. 2

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Two of the good ones, Silent Cash Dasher and Gary Earp.

Every once in a while I read something that really has an impact on me. Sometimes this is something annoying. Sometimes it’s something tragic. This time it’s an article about a horse and a man I wish I could meet. I am not sure where to “put” this column, featured articles, someone you should know, Monday opinion column, or……. So I think I will file it under “how cool is that?” And let you decide.
The timing couldn't be better. The racing industry and the AQHA have both been under a lot of fire in the disposable horse debate.
I read about Gary Earp, a retired heavy equipment operator and Silent Cash Dasher in America’s Horse. I started writing this and trying to find a photo to post. I typed Silent Cash Dasher into the search engines. Seems the betting, racing, and even general sports Internet have all noticed them. I wanted the picture because it looks to me like this horse could have been useful in many events had he not loved being a racehorse.
I have a feeling Gary Earp and Silent Cash Dasher don’t give much thought to proving a point, timing, or anything other than doing what they do. They have been doing it since 1997. Silent Cash Dasher is a 16-year-old gelding still racing sound in Oklahoma after 12 years of campaigning. His owner Gary Earp trains him right there on his farm. He tried to retire him when he was ten but the horse moped around the pasture until Gary decided to bring him back to the track as a pony horse. Silent Cash Dasher didn’t like that either. Statistics say he is the oldest Quarter Horse to ever start on a pari-mutuel track in the U.S. Last year, at 15, he was the oldest quarter horse to win a race. He actually won three. Statistically the old horse has had 83 starts, 18 wins, 11 seconds, and 11 thirds to earn $160,255.
“Bubby’s as nice a horse as you’ll ever fool with. He’s got a good disposition; your grandkids could fool with him. The older he gets the better he runs. He acts like a 4 year old, playin’ and broncin’ around. He’s never had nothing done to him, never bled, never operated on. I think that’s because we didn’t start him too early. We didn’t start him until he was 4 years old,” that’s how his owner describes his horse in the interview quoted in the article. He also says he will never run him for a tag (claiming race).
The horse is a nice horse, not a run-away winner that set the racing world on fire, but a nice honest hard working racehorse whom keeps paying his way. Allowance and grade 3 stakes races or as his owner puts it “he run out $160,000 and he’s done it the hard way”. This horse/owner combination is a perfect example of the good horses/good people you can’t pass laws to produce.
We don’t hear about these individuals often enough. We seem to live in a culture of extremes. We read about cloning Royal Blue Boon and Scamper. We are lectured morally by “Friends of Barboro”. The couching staff rings their hands and debates on whether Eight Belles jockey could have saved her. We speculate on if there will be a Triple Crown Winner. We rush to buy sons and daughters of world champions for more than Silent Cash Dasher has earned in his lifetime. The only reason Gary Earp and Silent Cash Dasher are of any note to the public is the horse’s age. I think that dismisses how special being good at what you do and being consistent can really be. They were probably a pretty good team even when they were both eight years younger. It’s good to have them in the spotlight, whatever the reason.
How cool is that?


Monday, July 6, 2009

In my ever so humble opinion.....

Sometimes in the middle of a heated debate or even an interesting conversation someone says or types something that makes me go “WHAT the Hell?!”. Yes, the “wth what is that all about” moments actually happen pretty regularly. I’m talking about the rendering me speechless for a few minutes and in my head I am screaming... WHAT THE HELL moment. I had one of those moments a few weeks ago while reading on a horse forum. It was a slaughter debate that I was reading and there were the usual heart felt emotional and horribly miss spelled “ all horsie’s are special” posts and of course the ones where the people who disagree with the ban on horse slaughter in the USA are called all sorts of names from greedy and stupid to murderers.
Now I have always had a pretty strong opinion about what horses are more likely to end up in a slaughter plant. I have always taught my children and my 4-H children, their parents, and other students who have ears and an interest in horses that you can be the cause of the problem or not. We prefer NOT. I teach them to not create the type of horse that often ends up with only one place to go. Certainly if you are against slaughter then do not create a product for that market.
My Opinion is that a well trained, amicable horse has a better chance of keeping a job and home. I also feel strongly that an ill-conformed horse has a higher chance of being a cripple with one last market value in front of him. I also have a strong opinion about genetic diseases. We read that the highest number of horses going to kill is the quarter horse. I often wonder to myself, ”how many of those were shipped due to HYPP? How many horses in all the breeds are shipped to sale or slaughter because they have severe enough symptoms of one of the many genetic diseases that have been bred into them? HYPP is usually the first one on my list of BAAAAD genes to breed simply because it only takes one positive to cause problems. I also have a lot of experience with HYPP affected horses as I worked in a research barn full of symptomatic horses for a while shortly after the test became available.
I’m never shocked to hear about breeders that breed for hypp pos. horses, I knew one some years ago. However, here I was reading through this thread and came across a post from an anti slaughter, anti horse auction advocate who shows halter only and she says that Hypp horses are the only ones that win, that's all she owns and all she will buy! I was astonished that a person who purports themselves to be “the biggest horse advocate we’ll meet” would promote the breeding of horses who may and often do suffer and die from this genetic mutation. She was called out on that by another member of the forum, she quickly denied that she promotes such a thing.... ummm really? WTH?! She also could not understand why her purchasing these horses from the breeder was in any way promoting the breeding of hypp horses. AGAIN WTH!?
I’m sorry but I just don’t get the stupidity of some people and I sure don’t understand how a person so against horse slaughter or selling a horse at auction due to the cruelty and greed of it can think that continuing the breeding of HYPP positive horses is not a problem. Yep, no greed or cruelty there folks.
So, in my ever so humble opinion, If you are too stupid to understand that you can’t be part of the solution if you are part of the problem then you should probably not be a horse owner at all!