A trip up north shows my horse training goes beyond ‘cuteness’

I took my horses on the road last week, on a two-hour drive up near the northern Utah border.  It was a rewarding experience all the way around.

Daughter Alicia (right) stands by as a 4-H horse enthusiast does the hat trick with Cheyenne during a show at the Cache County 4-H horse camp at Logan, Utah, last week.  (Photos by John Miller)

Daughter Alicia (right) stands by as a 4-H horse enthusiast does the hat trick with Cheyenne during a show at the Cache County 4-H horse camp at Logan, Utah, last week. (Photos by John Miller)

Last Wednesday, I did a show at the Cache County 4-H horse camp with my trick horse Cheyenne and used Gypsy for smaller tricks herself.  My two trick shows in front of about 25 young horse enthusiasts in each session were a success, and Cheyenne did an absolutely splendid show.  I couldn’t have asked for Cheyenne to do any better.  The fun thing about these shows is that when Cheyenne does them and has absolute joy, it shows in her.  Sometimes Cheyenne steals the show by doing extra bows or smiles, follows me around without a lead rope, or whatever she decides to do to surprise everyone.  Cheyenne loves the trick shows as much as I do.

It has been a habit of mine to at least get the horses to the place where the show is going to be an hour before it happens so they can get used to their surroundings.  We got to the fairgrounds in Logan, Utah, and let the horses out into the arena, gave them the last of the hay I put out for their breakfast and my crew — my husband John, daughter Alicia, and a friend Nastasha, and I — went to eat some lunch that was provided by the 4-H club that day.  We ate it while watching the horses from the grandstands to make sure everything was okay.

After lunch it was showtime.  We set everything up — basketball hoop, horse piano, paintings all in line to show to the crowd, and so on.

Cheyenne shows how she puts the ball through the hoop.

Cheyenne shows how she puts the ball through the hoop.

We did use audience participation for the show.  We used two kids for the hat fetching where Cheyenne walked up to the kid, took the hat from her hands and brought the hat to me.  I took the hat from her mouth and held it on the other side where Cheyenne, after walking around me, took the hat on the other side out of my left hand.  After that she took the hat back to the kid.  At that point everyone seemed truly impressed.

The other thing we did that took audience participation was using a kid to be a live art easel.  Since we had a small horse trailer and a Tahoe to pull it, it didn’t leave us much room to have places to put everything.  So we decided to use live easels.  But I think the kids loved the idea.  I would tease a little by suggesting to Cheyenne or Gypsy to paint up enough to paint the kid’s face behind the canvas.  One older girl suggested not to paint her face.  We chuckled after that.

I used Alicia to climb up on Cheyenne to be able to walk up onto the pedestal and put her arms out to the side and really show off Cheyenne’s ability to stand on a pedestal with a person on her back.  That was quite the dynamic sight to see, and it was exciting for Alicia to do that part of it as well as having the horse bow under her.  Nastasha did a few things to help me as well but she didn’t feel like sitting on Cheyenne for that part of the show.

A group of about 25 4-H youth in two sessions each asked questions that showed their genuine interest in trick training.

A group of about 25 4-H youth in two sessions each asked questions that showed their genuine interest in trick training.

All in all, it went well.  After the show I was given question-and-answer time.  I was amazed how many questions there were.  Some people might think training horses to do tricks or putting on shows is “cute” but perhaps scoff at the notion that it provides any real value.  But doing these things in front of a group of 4-H youth who already know a thing or two about horses and having them respond with comments like “Wow!” when I’m putting the horses through what they’ve learned shows that it goes beyond simple “cuteness.”  There’s some genuine interest and educational value there.  The Q and A session proved that.  I hope someday to be able to do some clinics for tricks, ways to help the kids get a closer relationship with their horses.  Please feel free to leave comments.

Talk about the practice of selling horses for slaughter: Part 5

I found an excellent article here, reblogging from “Straight from the Horse’s Heart.”

For Horse Lovers Everywhere: The Truth About Horse Slaughter

By Kim Sheppard, courtesy of Animal’s Angels

slaughterThere is no such thing as humane horse slaughter at this time. What is stated below can be backed up with absolute evidence or extensive documentation of what actually happens. Please know that as awfully horrific as horse slaughter actually is, the untold suffering many horses go through from point of sale to slaughter is horrific. At the point at which the Kill Buyer owns the horse that is loaded on a large crowded tractor semi trailer, his biggest expense is fuel for the truck not food (or water) for the horses; which often are injured by the time they arrive at their first US feedlot stop many hours later. DOT and USDA Laws are often broken by driving too many hours; as well as drivers not providing horses rest, food and water at required intervals that are set forth in the Transport to Slaughter Act. Since laws are not enforced, Animals that are supposed to be protected suffer *before* the horrific death with the act of slaughter itself, regardless of the country where the horse is slaughtered.

Whether the slaughter house is in the United States of America, Canada or Mexico: intentionally the captive bolt, nor 22, nor knives are used to kill the horse. The heart MUST be pumping in order to pump the blood out of the horse that is hung upside down prior to slaughter. The problem with using captive bolt, 22, or knives in horse slaughter is that unlike with other species of livestock, often several attempts (multiple strikes) are required to render the horse unconscious, resulting in immense suffering of each horse prior to slaughter. This is not only due to the anatomy of the horse’s skull and long neck, but also the natural animal behavior including (flight instinct) in a horse. When a horse is in this extreme fear state, not only does he have explosive strength; but his head continually moves with a range of motion during the multiple captive bolt, 22, or knife strike attempts used to render him unconscious. As many as 4 minutes have been documented that the horse was conscious during and after these injuries. Film has also evidenced a horse on its side, still flailing in the kill box; after regaining consciousness after the injury and horrific pain of a captive bolt or 22 it had already experienced. Once the chains are applied to the back legs of the horse on its side in the kill box, and the horse’s throat is slit: the horse then goes down the production line (now unconscious) hanging upside by its hind legs, behind the horses he saw and heard screaming before him as he smelled their blood before his own death experience. There is NO humane horse slaughter, nor was there when it was legal in the US for the purpose of human consumption. No designs or processes have changed.

On top of that, for a visual, put fly spray, wormer, bute, tranquilizer or other chemicals banned for use in animals for human consumption on a dinner plate. That is what is in tainted horse meat being shipped off to foreign countries and eaten off of their dinner plates by virtue of what the horse has been exposed to in its life~***unlike other slaughter livestock intended for human consumption from point of birth***. It is important to understand that only a minute percentage** of the >100,000 annually slaughtered American horses, mules and donkeys (equines) have *not been exposed to these chemicals (some are BANNED for use in food animals, while others have a 6 month residual period by law). The Phrase “From Stable to Table in Seven Days” says it all. If slaughter were to be legalized in US for human consumption, those poisons still are there, except more tainted meat might possibly stay in the US, instead of ship to European countries.. In some pro slaughter circles, reportedly it has been suggested that our school children eat it (if it were to be legalized for human consumption in the United States).

Just like the environmentally dangerous act of dumping tankers of slaughter house blood onto soils and into water tables, disposal is simply disposal. But it is *not* a solution to a bigger problem~nor are events leading up to slaughter and the slaughter act itself of unwanted living breathing horses people have given away, sold cheaply or dumped at an auction a solution for poor choices and horse management by those in the horse industry~regardless of the country it occurs in. What about USDA inspections? Well currently, just as with law enforcement, there are holes and complacency with regard to enforcing USDA regulations and enforcing prosecution for USDA violations to begin with. Even if there were no USDA violations, a huge problem remains because: what do you then do with a large percentage of >100,000 horses per year that end up in the slaughter pipeline, that also have chemicals in their bodies that are BANNED for use in animals for human consumption? Lastly, Humane Euthanasia is Sedated Euthanasia (as many including myself have sought out and experienced) with their beloved companion animals. Even in this “throw away” society, they would not think of putting a beloved animal into the slaughter pipeline. There IS NO HUMANE horse slaughter. These statements are not based on supposition, but derived from fact and extensive documentation surrounding this issue.

On and above that, many from the public sector, as well as experts are not comfortable with others (regardless of the country) eating meat tainted with chemicals that cause health problems including cancer. Chemical warfare itself is designed on that very premise and therefore morally there are repercussions for a nation to knowingly ship off tainted meat intended for others to eat, regardless of whether or not we choose to eat it. The humanity that a society has can be seen in how it treats its animals; its actions show the potential for cruelty or mercy on its very people.

Talk about the practice of selling horses for slaughter: Part 4

I have not written in a while, and I apologize for that.  My computer does not work the greatest.  I have had quite a few things happening in the month of June.  I had three shows, and one day I helped a group of visually impaired kids — giving them the experience of smelling and touching horses if they couldn’t actually see them.  It was very rewarding to have these kids ride my beautiful Gypsy.

Now a little more information on my series on horse slaughter and why I want it to stop.

Alex Brown — Broker Programs: A Complicated Issue

slaughterBroker programs are perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of the horse slaughter system that we have in the United States.

A program is typically run by a rescue organization which has a relationship with a kill buyer. The rescue organization will promote the horses that have been acquired by the kill buyer, to help those horses find a home, before they would be shipped to slaughter if no home is discovered. This all occurs in a compressed timeframe.

This is the last chance for these horses. For that reason, many people will support these programs to try to help place these horses, either by supporting fundraisers, sharing the fundraisers, or offering homes.

Some of these horses were purchased by the kill buyer at a kill auction. Some were surrendered by owners who determined that they had no other option, due to a variety of circumstances. Some were culls from a variety of situations, some of which went directly to the kill buyer.

The kill buyer is the option of last resort.

So why the controversy ?

There are five broad reasons why some people consider the broker program bad for horses and the anti slaughter movement.

1. The number of horses slaughtered remains constant
A kill buyer, that enables a broker program, now has access to a new market for his horses. Thus, the kill buyer can purchase more horses, knowing that some will now be purchased through the broker program. The broker program is not reducing the number of horses that enter the slaughter pipeline, but is increasing the business opportunity for the kill buyer.

Because the broker program is not reducing the number of horses that the kill buyer is shipping to slaughter (that number is determined by the contract the kill buyer has with the slaughterhouse to which he is contracted), the broker program is essentially determining which horses go to slaughter. For each horse saved, another horse is swapped into his place.

2. Emotional buy
The broker program typically operates in a compressed timeframe with a certain outcome. The kill buyer purchases the bulk of his horses at a kill auction (New Holland, PA or Sugarcreek, OH for example) and will ship those horses to a slaughterhouse, or the slaughterhouse’s feedlot, a week or so later. It is within that timeframe that the broker program needs to take pictures, and promote the horses through social media and other outlets.

The sense of urgency is real, the images are real, the “kill truck is coming” is a popular refrain. This creates a situation of drama, that inspires people to do things that they might not do under ordinary circumstances.
It also deflects money and effort from other types of rescue programs, and the broader horse slaughter issue.

3. The Price is High
Oftentimes the horses are surrendered to the kill buyer, or purchased very cheaply at the auction. Because the community is trying to “rescue” these horses, there is a sense that they should be able to purchase the horses at close to what the kill buyer pays. In some instances this will happen, if you have a relationship with the kill buyer, and make an offer to him at the auction, after the sale of a horse. At that point the kill buyer can simply purchase another horse to replace the one he has bought.

Once in the broker program, this is no longer the case. The kill buyer’s main customer at this point is the slaughterhouse, so it is that price point, the price that the kill buyer can earn at the plant, that should be used to compare the prices offered by the broker program. This may be 50-100% over the purchase price at the kill auction for example.

Added to that are costs associated with the broker program. It takes time and work to make these horses available online, that time and work also needs to be rewarded.

4. Selective Access
The method of deciding which horses are available through the broker program also creates controversy. It is not always all the horses that the kill buyer has in stock. Why? The kill buyer has horse dealers with whom he works. Sometimes those dealers do not want to be exposed (someone hussling racehorses from the local racetrack for example) so the horses that that dealer brings to the kill buyer will not be part of the program.

Because the broker is typically the only “rescue” with access to the kill buyer’s pens, and understands which horses can be made available and which cannot, many consider that they are simply complicit in the entire slaughter system.

5. Working with a Kill Buyer
Can someone really be considered a rescue, if all they do is offer a broker program and work directly with the kill buyer? Some argue no, some of course argue that absolutely they can.

The relationship with the kill buyer is controversial, especially if there is a lack of transparency in terms of how that relationship works. Broker programs that have been controversial in the past include CBER (Washington State) and AC4H (Pennsylvania).

In Conclusion…
This is a controversial aspect of the horse slaughter system, of that there is no doubt. Broker programs have done some great things, especially for the individual horses which have been saved, but there are always consequences to these transactions.

If you think I missed a point, or wanted to share your thoughts, please use the comments.

To learn more about the horse slaughter issue, you can explore my three part video series, Horses: Sports, Culture, and Slaughter.