Getting the girls acquainted with new surroundings

I went to a lesson today with Cheyenne, since I have missed taking my horse to lessons for the past month after moving to a new stable.  There are areas that I need to work on with Cheyenne and one of them is her fear of new things.

Don’t get me wrong about Cheyenne, she is a very good horse and is very brave.  She is still a prey animal and needs that instinct to keep her alive.  I am, as a human partner, trying to win her loyalty over to being more trusting of my instincts toward her safety, as well as her confidence and courage to look at things at a new level with me as her trusty alpha.  If I give her a need to stay courageous with me then we will be courageous and trusting of each other.  However, if there is a time to run, I will let her know.

Cheyenne (Photo by Randy Kroll)

Cheyenne (Photo by Randy Kroll)

Well, this is one area that I would love to get through with her.  But since my instructor tells me that I did really well getting a mini to start to trust me, then I can do the same with Cheyenne, who loves to be with me even more than the minis.  I am working really hard to get the minis to trust me as well as enjoy being with me.

So here we are with Cheyenne at the scary doorway of an indoor arena, where she can look out and see sheep, goats, and small cattle.  That’s downright scary to a horse who has not seen much of these creatures.  What my instructor and I were doing today was allowing her to look out the door and when she lowered her head, lick and chew, or any positive movement in a relaxing manner, we would then ask her to back up, then have her approach again and usually they approach a little closer.

In her approach the second time, she would move up a horse length closer than the last time.  That was a huge step for horses in gaining their trust.  She would then look at what was going on and check it out.  We would stand a rope length away, allowing her to look on her own timeline.  When she would show that she was ready to go to a new level she would do as I described above, head drop, softening in the eye, rub her leg with her head, etc.

One big thing that shows that she is really over the scary object or scene is when she decides to leave on her own and look at me with ears up and two eyes squarely on me as if to say, “Okay, what now?”  So then I would praise her up and down and give her a treat and move on to new things to see.

One of the things that I have to remember is that I have to stand at a distance from her so that she doesn’t trample me or boss me around to the point where I can get hurt.  It is about safety for horse and handler as well as a well-established relationship with the horse first.

One thing we worked on is having her see a big plastic steer in a realistic size.  This item always frightens horses, I am told.  At first it really made Cheyenne nervous.  But it is interesting to see how far she gets with the approach and retreat exercise on this full-sized plastic steer.  We at first had her approach and retreat at the rear and then after that toward the face of the fake steer.  Cheyenne wanted to make it hard by doing things other than what I was asking her to do.  In this phase, it can get ugly because a horse can refuse to do what we ask but if we keep asking then they eventually get the job done.  She did go on to touch the nose three times.  There was one time she pinned her ears and tried to dominate the object.  Interesting, but not too surprising since she is an alpha.

So now my job with Cheyenne — and Gypsy could benefit too — is to get them out and seeing things and getting acquainted with new surroundings with me.  I love to have this kind of a relationship with both my horses.  I will keep you informed about what I am learning.

Animal abuse: When are we crossing the line? (Part 1)

I’d like to address something I see a lot these days between animal lovers and horse lovers such as myself.  I would like to discuss when there are cases of animal abuse or whether there are cases wrongly labeled as such.

I definitely do not know all the answers and I do not want to pretend that I do.  But maybe I could be an instrument to starting a conversation about it.

I have been around horses all my life, but I have never dove in as deeply on this subject as I am now.  However, I did get into horses as much as I could when I was younger, but not as much into the horse’s mind as now.   Trying to jump into horse psychology and natural horsemanship is a lot of work.  But naturally, while we are along this pathway of getting deeper knowledge about the horses, there can be mistakes made along the way.

lungeing_silhouette1-300x193That is why while learning natural horsemanship, the horse we use becomes your experimental horse, just like your first-born child is more of an experimental child, poor kid.  Cheyenne and I are getting a better relationship through this but, unfortunately, she is the horse I learn on.

It all started when I taught her some tricks and she loved the connection with me associated with the tricks.  But she didn’t seem to enjoy it when I rode her as much.  She would flip her tail quite a bit, throw her head and pin her ears, or even kick up her heels.  When I saw another individual working her horse in natural horsemanship, I wanted that kind of relationship with Cheyenne.

On a side note, always check out the physical aspect of their negative reaction just to make sure there is not physical pain.  I did bring out a horse chiropractor to make sure my horse’s negative reactions were not from pain.  The first visit found that both of my horses were out in various areas.  Cheyenne was out in both sides of her hip area while Gypsy was out in her neck and rib cage area.  Head tossing could come from teeth needing to be floated or too harsh a bit.

I am now working on getting that kind of a relationship and it takes time.  For everything I ask of her to accept, I need to see how she feels about different situations.  Such as, how does she accept the saddle, bridle, my mounting skills for bareback, etc.?  Then I deal with those different circumstances until she accepts and is more happy with it.  How I can tell if she is content is her head being lower, licking and chewing, no ear pinning, etc.  So if I acknowledge Cheyenne’s feelings about certain things, then we get better in our relationship.  I am told that through this kind of training horses get trained faster but more thoroughly and horses who have a connection with the trainer, it is all about relationship first.

I see this connection with Cheyenne, she loves working with me.  I still don’t have the relationship on her back as well as the ground but I am working on it.  It is becoming more and more solid.  I need to mount in a way that her head stays low, and she is relaxed after mounting.  Only after she is standing content — with head low, eyes and ears relaxed — is it then time for me to ride off.  I learned this first in dressage before natural.  They love the natural connection with their horses too.

Now, before I started training natural horsemanship I was sometimes too soft with my teaching skills with my horse, but then there were other times it seemed that I would jump to being more firm or too harsh.  I am now trying to find a happy medium to where I work with my horses through understanding how they are thinking about my approach on proper reactions to the way my horse and I work through situations.

lungingNow, what constitutes abusive training or too passive training?  There are people including me who use small whips, lunging whips, dressage riding whips, a carrot stick too.  These whips are meant to be used as tools more for an extension of your arm.  It is abusive to use them as anything other than that extension.  To explain, when I am riding and my horse does not respond to a squeeze from my legs, I use the dressage whip when the horse does not respond to my leg.  So with no response from the leg, tap with the whip behind my leg, sometimes that is all it takes.  But if I get no response after the whip, then I use it a little more firmly.  But the goal is to teach the horse to get used to the signal from the leg and not the whip.  So use the whip only as a guide that teaches. I learned this from dressage riding that I have done for years.  I am just starting to learn how natural horsemanship differs in its training.

When I am working with my horses, when I ask them to do something, if the horse doesn’t respond I need to ask myself if I am giving them signals that I am not aware of or maybe I am giving the wrong cue or a combination of cues.  Example, if I am asking the horse to trot but I am pulling back on the reigns, I am giving mixed signals.  Here is another example.  I want my horse to stop but my legs are squeezing the horse tightly, mixed signals.  So we need to be careful to not make cues or signals confusing, or mixed with other cues that we just are not aware of.  These situations can make the trainer or owner confused as well in comprehending that the horse is not responding, then situations can lead to abuse.

Just remember, try to focus on how you are cuing/signaling the horse and watch for the slightest try and reward that.  But make sure your signals are clear as to not confuse the poor horse who cannot speak English.  After the horse responds, then we need to release the pressure or stop the cue as a reward, it is the release that teaches.  Otherwise, it can be confusing to the horse to figure out exactly what you want.  But when we release the horse might then say, ” Aha, I get it now.”  But we need to be consistent with that same signal for the same reaction, otherwise there’s confusion.

If I am lunging my horse and I want Cheyenne or Gypsy to trot or canter, I give them the voice command and if I get no response I pop the whip, I don’t use it on them.  If they circle too close to me, then I take the tip of my long lunging whip and point the tip at the horse’s shoulder and shake it to cause the horse to move out and away from me.   However, if a horse all of a sudden turns on you and charges the handler then, by all means, you have the right to use the whip on the horse to stop the charging, this would not be abuse but save the handler from being trampled.

There is another area where people need to protect themselves from horses.  Horses are prey animals.  They react first then maybe question what they may have kicked, bolted from, or bucked off.   However, as humans, we weigh much less than a half-ton animal and need to out-think the horse instead of trying to use brute force to get a horse to perform.

Example: I watch people try to get their horse to move by abuse of over-using a whip, really large spur use, or strong bits that are too much for the horse or in the hands of an abusive handler who does not know how to properly use that bit.  Instead, we need to join up with the horse in understanding what causes them to flee, buck or kick,  otherwise understand their thinking and working with them more on their level and not so much try to squeeze them into a human mold.  There are correct ways to use spurs too that is not abusive, but again used as a tool to help in learning.

There have been humans who have gone out and observed the horse in their natural habitat and come up with a plan to train them by using horse psychology.  I feel like this is a better way to understand their world rather than large bits, spurs, excessive whip use, etc.  in other words, they’re breaking their spirit.  We more likely partner up with the horse as a benevolent leader but have a connection with them.  This is the connection that I am wanting to talk about.  The fine line that goes with it on being too harsh or too soft to where your horse does the jitterbug on your head.  This is where we are heading, but there are other areas of abuse we could look at as well.

Please stay tuned for more and please feel free to comment.

Building a relationship with horse takes time

One day last week when I went out to work with Cheyenne, I put the halter on her as usual and led her out of the field.  I took her to the outdoor arena, and she was a little slower than average but I didn’t think anything of it.

When we got into the arena, Cheyenne started to do a lot of bowing, extremely low bows.  She did this over and over.  I thought, “Wow, if she is going to do low bowing for longer periods of time then that is good, and I will giver her lots of treats.”  So I did!

Amy and her girls, Cheyenne and Gypsy. (Photo by Randy Kroll)

Amy and her girls, Cheyenne and Gypsy. (Photo by Randy Kroll)

I finally decided to have her do another activity, but she continually wanted to keep bowing.  When I decided to have her do something else, I then noticed that she was limping on one leg and was not moving very fast.  How sad, and confusing to why my beautiful horse was limping and sore.  So obviously, I could not do much with a lame horse.  Cheyenne was so sore that she wanted to keep me happy by doing a lot of bowing for me.

I then decided to put Cheyenne back out in the big field because I didn’t want to stress her because she was hurt.  I don’t know how she became sore because I didn’t work her hard at all the day before.  But something happened so she needed to rest.  I worked more with Gypsy.

While I was working with Gypsy, Cheyenne was outside the arena watching almost like wishing she was the horse being worked and loved on.  I did have a private riding lesson student who rode Gypsy and she did a great job.  However, the sad thing with Gypsy is that she can’t trot or canter with a rider.  She has arthritis in her pastern and walking with a rider doesn’t bother her.  She needs a shot in the joint for her treatment, but at this point I can’t afford it.  I just work with her on what she can do without pain.  She loves being worked.

Alas, Cheyenne was standing outside the arena watching.  I feel bad now because I should have massaged her leg or something.  I did stretch her leg, but I feel like I should have done more because I love Cheyenne so much.  She is a great horse even though she does have a small sway in her back from birth I guess.

I am working hard to build a great relationship with Cheyenne.  It does take a lot of time to do that, but I love the work with her.  Even liberty is fun when she does walk and trot with me.

I’m just sharing the thought that in order to build a relationship with your equine friends, you need to spend long hours with your trusty steed.

Please feel free to  respond.

Enjoying an awesome day of horse training

Wednesday was an awesome day with Cheyenne.  Now that I am in a new location, there are lots of things for the horses to get used to.  I worked Cheyenne in the small indoor arena, where they get particularly nervous.  To start out with, she did great and didn’t get nervous.  As time went on, she did get more nervous but then she did get better before I took her out to work her in the larger outdoor arena.

My fun mare Cheyenne.

My fun mare Cheyenne.

Cheyenne loved to bow a lot.  She would go down into a deep bow and stay there for quite a while … well, as long as I was giving her treats.  Another thing she loved to do was lay down, which she did quite a bit as well.  However, there was the one point where she stayed down on the ground for quite a long time.  I would give her treats, and I found new places to scratch her on her body.  I once scratched her on her neck close to her ears, and she moved her head up just a little into my scratching as if she enjoyed it, then she nickered at me a couple of times.

I then worked with her at liberty and she stuck with me the whole time except when I asked her to do figure eights around the barrels.  I don’t think she understands what I wanted because she doesn’t do well on it at liberty.  But she does well on-line.  As far as following me at a walk and a trot, she did all that as well as change direction with me.   I then got a lot of her toys out — pedestal, basketball hoop, jolly ball, etc.  I did a lot of the tricks at liberty.  I used to play with her at liberty long ago before playing in a pasture.  She was free to leave if she didn’t like the tricks at all.  But Cheyenne loved it.  I think she would have played with me all day.

But I had two other horses that I had to work with, including sweet little Gypsy.  I rode her around bareback and with a halter.  I couldn’t trot or canter her because she has an arthritic pastern in her hind hoof.  It is frustrating not to have the funds for her shot in the pastern.  It has to be put on hold again while I hopefully find new ways to get more money.  I worked with her on her seven games in natural horsemanship.  She craves attention, love, and games.  She is an awesome little horse.  I took her to the pedestal and asked her to approach it and eventually how close she could get to getting on it.  She tried with one hoof to put it on.  But she didn’t go any farther because I thought it would take time to get her more used to it.  Don’t rush, take it at their pace.

The last horse I worked with was sweet Bella.  I did all seven games with her and then, out of the blue, decided to hop on her back without a saddle or a bridle, a daring moment for me.  I hopped on and then let her just stand there.  She was relaxed and she did lower her beautiful head and do some licking and chewing.  I eventually asked her to move forward, which she did.  She was not used to the idea of me asking her to turn with a halter rope but the more I rode her the more she understood.  I even asked her to turn the way I turned and used my feet.  It was amazing to ride Bella bareback.  I didn’t ride her too long, but I did get on her a second time to help solidify my training.

Reaching goals with Poochie, the smarty mini

I have been talking a lot about the mini Shmigley, but I have not talked much about Poochie.  Poochie is the opposite of Shmigley and not spooky at all.  He is more of a bold mini, loves to get into everyone’s personal space.  So I have to do things opposite of his brother and try to teach Poochie how to stay out of my personal space.

I need to teach him how to respect my space and not be so obnoxious with his overbearing attitude about people.  The thing about him is that he is genuinely, superbly ingenious among the miniature horses.  He definitely keeps everyone who comes around him well informed about his brilliance between his ears.

Poochie shows how handsome he is sitting up.

Poochie shows how handsome he is sitting up.

When I go to train Poochie, he comes up to me and shoves his little nose up against my abdominal region begging for treats, even if I don’t have any with me at the time.  I usually just thrust his nose away and continue to do just that the more intrusive he insists on being.

Since I have started working Pat Parelli’s natural horsemanship on the minis, I love what the training procedures do to help me build a healthy, solid relationship without me thrusting my way of doing things onto these little horses.  It is better for me to learn how to more correctly speak a language that they understand, that helps us co-exist where we become partners instead of someone is the boss and the other is the servant.  Instead, we become a benevolent leader and the horse or mini decides on their own to yield to my leadership and it is a remarkable thing to see.  I have seen it in Cheyenne.  Here is this magnificent, spirited, proud alpha mare standing in front of me, yielding leadership to me.  She is starting to do some horsin’ around with me free at liberty.  This is the kind of relationship that I want to have starting with Poochie.  I have to succeed at conquering his trust gradually to my side and see him absolutely trust me as his alpha.

As for now, in the moment, I need to continue to work towards what I want to achieve with this little smarty mini and slowly become and build an amazing friendship with him.  It would be an awesome time to be able to eventually get all the horses to a higher level, perhaps a level four in the Parelli method.  Horses are very connected at that level, and that is my goal.

All for the love of Shmigley, and other horses out there like him

I keep working with my mini friend Shmigley so that he will not be so spooky anymore.  As time has gone on, I’ve continued to work this little pony only to feel at times like I was back to square one again the next time I worked with him.  What could be the reason why this little guy was not getting things?

The little guys, Poochie (Wyatt) and Shmigley (Danny). (Photo courtesy Tina Crawford)

The little guys, Poochie (Wyatt) and Shmigley (Danny). (Photo courtesy Tina Crawford)

I have been taking him to my lessons on natural horsemanship and sometimes he’s made progress but then slipped back into his old habits quite often as soon as I started working him back at his barn.  I would find myself sitting on the ground in front of him, just stroking his little chest, and eventually I was stroking him all over.  However, my natural horseman instructor told me he might need some magnesium.  There are some horses who are unnaturally frightened of new things, so that was why we researched and bought a magnesium powder called Focus,  making it easier for little Shmigley to get what he needed and end anybody’s perspective on him being overly spooky.

Not only did I have to give him the Focus magnesium powder every day but I had to put in the time with him that he needed to progress.  I was told that the time needed was about five straight hours with him in one day.  After that he would need one hour a day for the next seven days.  There was a day in May that I did put in that solid five hours with him.  At the end of that period he was yawning, head down, with a lot of licking and chewing.  These were good signs that he was getting more and more relaxed.  After that I put in my hour for the next seven days.  Was there improvement?  Yes, there was, but the real change didn’t start to show until three to four months after the “Focus” powder had kicked in.

Now, Shmigley is getting more and more curious about things, mouthing things, and getting more interested in me, his handler.  It is so exciting to see this side of him emerge even after playing many different games meant for catching him.  I usually have no problem in catching horses.  It might take time but it can be done.

I do lots of gentling games with this little guy that are starting to really pay off.  He is getting excited about it when I come to work with him and Poochie.  I work him on a grass lawn since it is soft and the grass is cool.  But he enjoys being worked with so much that he doesn’t even try to snitch a grass blade or two.  He is into picking up bandanas, pushing balls around with a little “horsie aggression,” and he is starting to pick up cheap straw cowboy hats too.

Here is proof that if a horse or, in this case, a small mini who is extra spooky can benefit from getting extra magnesium supplement for his lifetime.  There are these types of horses who don’t naturally produce this kind of mineral in their brain and need to have the supplement for life, such as Shmigley.  I wonder how many other horses there are out there who have this same problem where their owners get frustrated with them.  It is frustrating when these horses seem as if there is not improvement in their temperament no matter how much you work with them.

At least there are answers to help these individuals with their horses with these kinds of problems.  They could possibly get them evaluated by a horse behavior expert and get them on the supplement they need.  I hope my experience with Shmigley helps someone else with their horses.

In training a horse, good relationships come first

I went to a riding/ground training lesson a couple weeks ago, and I love my lessons.  I get a lot out of them that I apply to my training.  Today, I was working on having my horse lay down in a more natural way.  The only problem — I am not in level 4 of the Pat Parelli method in the relationship aspect of it.  My goal is to get a relationship first to be able to get her to perform for me without the treats as rewards.  I want Cheyenne to perform because of the relationship.

Working with Cheyenne on laying down on command.  There's still work to do on this.  Getting that trust is important.  (Photo by John G. Miller)

Working with Cheyenne on laying down on command. There’s still work to do on this. Getting that trust is important. (Photo by John G. Miller)

When learning horsemanship and horse psychology together, it just proves to me that there is so much to learn.  The exploration with Cheyenne is exciting.  However, she is my experimental horse.  What I learn with her, I can practice on the other horses that I work with.  It makes it slower to learn when I have five horses all together to teach.

It takes a long time to truly learn how to be a great natural horsewoman/horse psychologist.  The more I learn, the more I can see that I feel just like a baby in the horse world of knowledge.  But the more experienced I become is the time I feel more inferior to lack of knowledge.  There is so much to learn and we should never stop learning, ever!  There is too much that we do not know about the horse, we need to keep pursuing that knowledge.

I am learning to build the relationship first, then it will become easier to train.  The more trust there is between you and your horse, the easier it will be to communicate.  That is becoming more and more applicable in my case with the horses.  There has always been the question of why do the students of Pat Parelli have an incredible relationship with their horses?  This is why: the relationship is more important than anything else we do.  I am finding that to be more true all the time with Cheyenne and then the four other horses I work with every day.  They all have their own unique needs to be dealt with and there is a solution to those different needs, but it does take time.  I will give an example of one horse I had to give an incredible amount of time to another time.

As far as teaching Cheyenne to lay down for me willingly, I am getting very close but I need to get her to say yes and feel comfortable in putting herself in that position for me.  I am almost there, but there’s no rush, I want her to do it willingly for me and not feel forced.  That trust needs to be built.  My instructor, Jolene, told me that it might take 30 days for them to do it, however, that relationship needs to be there first.  I want this feeling with my horses, this trust and understanding that we could just have a silent language between different species.

As humans we are so much into direct-line thinking.  We need to acknowledge that in the horse world that does not always work.  We need to be flexible with our goals and willing to walk down a different path to get to our goal if the need arises with our horses.  Here is a quote for you to ponder over in your relationship with horses.

“Take care of your horse’s feelings whenever they emerge, no matter what.  They are more important than your own goal and they are more important than someone else’s opinion.  If you take care of your horse’s mind, emotions, and body, he’ll give you everything you want willingly.”  Pat Parelli

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.