Saturday, July 11, 2009

Do our horses need bodyguards these days?

I've always had a policy that I do not leave my horses at a showgrounds unattended. If they are there overnight, so am I, sleeping in the truck nearby or in a tack stall. My main reasoning for doing this has always been that they're at a higher colic risk when they're away from home, stressed, and may not drink the water if it tastes different from the water at home. But after reading this story, I've decided I need to continue that policy and possibly add a weapon!

Horse stolen from rodeo grounds

I will be surprised if this does not turn out to be personal. To me, this reeks of an ex boyfriend who wanted to hurt the thing that was most special to her. It could also be the work of a competitor, ala Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan. But there is a possibility it was simply random - some psycho or collection of psychos who just wanted to hurt an animal. Scary. Very, very scary.

Every year, horses are stolen from pastures. Fencing is cut, gates are opened and the horses are hauled away. Netposse does a damn good job of finding a great many of them but their site holds a sad collection of stories of those who have never been found - or were found too late, already slaughtered. Let's face it, we can't find all the stolen children in this country, and a lot more resources are devoted to that. We're never going to find all the stolen horses.

So in this day and age, what kind of security is necessary and reasonable for our horses? How good is the security at the big shows? Let's say something like QH Congress. Do they check when you're going out with a trailer to make sure that you're only going out with your own horses? What about Arabian Nationals? What about the National Finals Rodeo? Do these events have on-site staff security to ensure that nobody tampers with the horses, or is that left solely up to the individual horse owner?

What about security cameras? Which major showgrounds have them? Is the parking lot surveilled as well? Is it well lit? Security cameras are cheap these days - it seems to me that every showgrounds/fairgrounds should add them.

When it comes to health, my experience is that fellow exhibitors are great - I've called people (when contact info is posted on the stall) to tell them their horse was acting sick or was cast, and I know many people who've received a call. But what if a strange person walks in, seeming to know what they are doing, halters the horse and leads him out? Most people will not question that.

So I'm curious to hear - what security measures have you observed? I haven't been to any of the major shows but it sure looks to me from going to local shows that we're all still on the honor system, in a world where too many people lack honor.

P.S. If you haven't been lately, read the TBFriends blog. He has rescued several dozen Mexican rodeo horses. What scares the crap out of me is that I will bet you anything some of those tripping horses turn out to be stolen. I can't imagine finding out that someone did that to a horse of mine...ugh. I am too far from Joe but if you are in NorCal, please consider taking in one of those horses. They will be long term projects but are perfect for those of you who love to just spend time with them - pet them, feed treats, fatten them up. They probably need six months to a year of that before anybody thinks about riding them again. I wish someone would take one in and blog about their progress - I think it could really raise awareness. (Katie/watermark farm....yooo hooo...!)