Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is this a barn or Noah's Ark?

Today I was thinking about all of the other animals that tend to collect when you have a horse barn, whether by design or via the time-honored "hey, it's-a-barn-we'll-dump-the-kittens-there-late-at-night" method. Or via the "OMG it's on Craigslist and it looks like crap WE HAVE TO HELP IT" thing that sucks you in, and before you know it, you have 5 cats with 19 legs between them, three goats, a Labrador Retriever with a taste for show tack, an arthritic llama and a donkey that needs a lot of expensive farrier care.

Sometimes those additional animals really complicate things. Many years ago, I acquired a farm and had some issues moving the previous owner and his border collies out. The border collies were thrilled at the introduction of a large stock tank in the pasture. "Awesome!" they said to each other, "The new chick has installed a swimming pool!" They proceeded to dive into the pool, swim laps, jump out, roll in the mud and then dive back in repeatedly. I constantly drained and scrubbed the tank and swore profusely at the border collies, who laughed and shook water all over me.
I love dogs, but I swear there were moments...

Then there's the fact that horses who have not been exposed to certain animals may not necessarily experience love at first sight. When my horses started sharing space with llamas, the young ones adapted immediately to the odd looking shaggy creatures in the next pasture. The one who snorted, whirled and tried to run me over was Clover - the 30-something rescue mare! Apparently in all her years on earth, she had not yet encountered these creatures, and she did not want to learn about them now. She did adjust but it took a while.

So today I want to hear from you: What other animals share your horses' space and what do your horses think about that? What's the craziest incident you've had thanks to another animal in the barn?

My question this morning: Why do all the barn cats show up when you are re-wrapping the leg on the mare who is scared of barn cats? Is there a cat notification system like Twitter?

(As my friend pointed out: Yes. It's called Kitter.)

And a couple of updates on old stories:-

Frank Mackay's trial postponed. What else is old. It's amazing anybody ever makes it to jail, with all of the delays! Original blog here. The good news is that the horses fully recovered, and no, he will never get them back.

Remember all the starving Arabians in Canada? You have to see some of the success stories. Now those are some great after pics!

Important information if you EVER donated money to Jason Meduna and/or Three Strikes Ranch:

If anybody gave any money or donations of any kind to 3-Strikes, Jason or Anissa Meduna, yiou need to call Abigail at the Attorney General’s office in Lincoln, NE 402-471-2682. They are working hard on getting this all put together. As you’ve read, he waived preliminary hearing. Moves on to District Court, July 14th, 1:30 PM MT.

By the way, I hear the Jason defenders are on a tear over at ABR. Oh. My. God. Here's my official statement on THAT nonsense:

I was at Three Strikes. I am not a highly emotional or dramatic person. My friends can attest that I have no problem viewing horrible things without having any sort of outward reaction. I do not have nightmares about cruelty cases and I am not given to hysterics. When I tell you that Three Strikes was the most awful thing I have ever seen in person, you should know that I am not exaggerating in any way.

Three Strikes was not a "horse paradise." Three Strikes was a death camp with horses that were so weak we barely got them into trailers. One, "Piglet," had to be picked up and PUT in the trailer. Turns out she is pregnant - at two. That's just awesome. That's what she needed, on top of starvation. No wonder she was so damn hungry. Her adopter deserves a damn medal for getting this poor thing up to weight so that she and her baby will have a chance. That's her at left. Awesome job!

There will never be any excuse or explanation for what happened over there other than a big ego and the refusal to admit failure and ask for help. Horses were dying and Jason and Anissa were still posting on the 'net like everything was rosy and hiding the situation from everybody who could have helped. They CHOSE for horses to die in agony rather than be embarrassed. That's an active choice. You think about that.

Anyone defending Jason Meduna is as sick as he is, in my opinion.

And what would the day be without a Bad Parent du Jour entry? Normally I would applaud a parent for putting an helmet on their child...however, in this case, I am distracted by the desire to know just where the protective gear is for the much younger and smaller child located underneath the draft mare!

Then again, what would be adequate protective gear for a small child located underneath a draft horse? A steel igloo? Full body armor? That mare's feet are wider than her head...seriously!

Sometimes appearances are everything!

I've frequently talked about how important it is to look at what you put on your farm's web site with an eye to how the world will see it, if you are intending to sell horses or stud fees or training or pretty much anything. (If your site is just for fun and is Suzie and her three rescue geldings, oh heck, do whatever makes you happy...glittering flying horses galore.)

You don't need an expensive, professionally done site, but you do need to ensure that the pictures you put up show your horses to their best advantage. This means posing them properly, bathing them, clipping them up, and displaying them properly. If they are loose in the field, the field should look appealing with no junk, scary fence, etc. in the background. If they are haltered, use a properly fitted halter that does not look like a terrier puppy has been using it as a chew toy. If they are ridden, use properly fitted tack and a rider who is decently outfitted for riding (i.e. no midriff shirts, bra tops, shirtlessness on guys, shorts, flip flops, crocs). You are riding a horse, not feature dancing at the Spearmint Rhino - no one wants to see your nipples. Seriously.

It's true for rescues as well as breeding farms and trainers, which is why I went out to help SOS Equines with their spa day on Saturday...we got some horses cleaned up and took much better pictures of them.

Which picture makes you want to give this rescue horse a chance? Same horse but with a bath, a detangled and conditioned mane and tail, a bridle path and his ears up, he looks like he has so much more potential. (Yes, we should have found a more uncluttered background for the "after" shot, and the halter is still not properly fitted. But it's an improvement.)

(This attractive gelding did find a home, but FYI they have a super cute La Saboteur daughter who needs a place to go right now...click here)

Especially in this economy, if you want to place or sell horses, they need to look good. So I'm always a little confused as to why I see breeding farm web sites with pictures like this one. Look, it's Furball McShag. Putting a show halter on a horse you haven't bothered to even clip a bridle path on is like putting on a cute strapless dress but forgetting to shave your pits. It looks ridiculous. Then there's the fact that the halter is hanging down so low that it's almost over his nostrils, and it's paired with an old cotton lead instead of a show lead.

The immediate impression of lack of professionalism is further enhanced by the web site's copy. Apparently he is "out of" World Champion sire Troubles A Brewing. Ooookay. That I'd like to see. Ouch. Come on guys, how confusing a term is "out of," anyway? OUT OF. I am pretty damn sure he came OUT OF a mare. If not, call Ripley's Believe it or Not!

They claim their other stud is OUT OF Zippo Pine Bar. Well, not only I am certain that's not physically possible, but Zippo Pine Bar was foaled 2 years after I was and therefore I'm equally certain he does not have any five year old sons running around. I was so interested to find out what the actual breeding here was that I spent the $3 to look it up. Well, ZPB is his great-grandsire. He's actually by a Jack of No Trades called Ima Commander Zippo. Uh, false advertising much?

Don't get me started on their sale page where you can buy the Zippo's False Advertising horse for $2500 with a truly hideous "conformation" shot or a "versitial" Arabian for $1000. And why is the fugly-necked paint foal parked out?

For those who think I am too harsh on breeders like this, let me give you an analogy. Let's say you opened up your Sunday paper and there was a dealership with a Nissan for sale describing it as having a 12 cylinder engine, anti-latch brakes, a DC player and power storing. After you got done laughing, my guess is your first thought would be "what a bunch of idiots" and "how can they be in the car business if they don't know anything about cars?" That's my point. The horse business is a business and if you can't conduct it with the same level of professionalism and demonstrated knowledge of your product that we'd expect in any other business, you shouldn't be in it. This is just another example of someone breeding stunningly mediocre horses that have a high chance of ending up in a kill pen. You'd really think that by now, given this economy and how difficult it is to sell young stock that aren't high quality show or race prospects, people would be starting to get the message, but linnks to these web sites keep showing up in my in-box...

By the way, I'm having a very amusing back-and-forth with AHA regarding my recent blog about them. Apparently Kenna Ashley was just an innocent admin who accidently forwarded around an internal memo (don't you hate when that happens?) and is concerned about all the skeery internet people e-mailing her about the pro-slaughter crap. So please, stop e-mailing her. I think you should e-mail the dude I'm going back and forth with if you don't agree with AHA's pro-slaughter stance. His name is Dan Lawrence and he's their Director of Marketing. Remember, threats are never acceptable (other than the threat to stop paying membership fees and showing at their events - that's fine!) - opinions are, and strong opinions are understandable given the subject matter but a profanity-free, logical letter is always best!
(Hey, Dan? I'm not your attorney. I don't have a duty of confidentiality to you or your organization. And I don't like people who think it's okay for horses to end their lives in a slaughterhouse. So remember that what you e-mail me may very well wind up on this blog.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tom Morgan, you're the FHOTD Idiot du Jour!

Another day, another idiot thinking that using animals for some "extreme" sport event is acceptable. I rarely cover abuse outside the U.S., Europe and Australia/NZ, because quite frankly it is just too common and you'd all be so depressed you'd stop reading my blog. But this time I feel like I'd better help spread the word, because we can still stop this.

Here's the idiot's web site. The idiot is pictured at left. Feel free to tell him what you think! Remember, threats are never acceptable. Opinions are!

Here's their message board if you want to voice your opinion to the idiots offering to compete in this.

Oh, here's his LinkedIn page if you want to message him directly there.

And of course, e-mails to the media are great. I'd start with CNN but you can also complain to the British media.

Here's the article:

Equestrian Exploration and Endurance Leaders condemn world's largest unethical horse race

What is being labelled as the world's longest horse race, has been denounced by an unprecedented alliance of equestrian, endurance and exploration leaders.

At a thousand kilometers, the Mongol Derby would be the largest non-sanctioned endurance race ever attempted. Set to be run this summer in Mongolia, nearly a thousand semi-wild under-sized native horses have been drafted into an effort which deliberately flaunts international endurance racing rules.

"There's no carefully marked course, no catering tent and no support; this is horse racing on a whole new scale. You will change steeds every 40 km so the horses will be fresh. Bleeding kidneys, broken limbs, open sores, moon stroke and a list of dangers longer than your arm stand between you and victory," warns the official race website.

The horse race is being promoted by Tom Morgan, a native of Great Britain whose company, The Adventurists, previously specialized in enticing adventure-hungry tourists into signing up to race junk cars to distant national capitals.

"We don't make any safety arrangements. Our adventures are designed to be just that, so organising a support crew would rather take the edge off things. People are made painfully aware that what they're entering into can be extremely dangerous," Morgan's website cautioned.

Connie Caudill, President of the American Endurance Ride Conference, is one of the many equestrian leaders who have warned that Morgan's Mongol Derby will severely damage the sport and may well lead to horses being ridden to death.

"This will set endurance racing back 50 years," Caudill said, then added, "This isn't an endurance race, it's entertainment that will undermine endurance racing all over the world."
Morgan's company sought advice from The Long Riders' Guild, the world's first international association of equestrian explorers. The Guild warned the tour company against encouraging the twenty-five foreign competitors, all of whom had paid nearly $5,000 for a chance to ride, to attempt the journey, as the Guild's mounted explorers had recently encountered wolf attacks, bubonic plague, rabies, flash floods, foul water, poisoned food, horse theft and personal assault.

"The Adventurists is preparing to embark on an ill-advised equestrian misadventure, one in which your company does not appreciate the many equestrian hardships and dangers being presented to the horses and riders," The Guild informed the tour company.

Regardless of the danger, Morgan is busy promoting what he calls "biggest, baddest equine affair on the planet." He is being assisted by Richard Dunwoody, a former British champion jockey turned equestrian tour guide. Originally hired to present a lecture on racing to the amateur riders, Dunwoody has announced that he will be riding as a contestant in the event.
Because he plans on drafting nearly one thousand native horses into his non-sanctioned race, Morgan sought tactical and equestrian assistance from an unlikely source, the international charity, Mercy Corps.

Operating in more than a hundred countries, with offices in Scotland and Mongolia, the wealthy charity agreed to accept a guaranteed £25,000 in donations from Morgan's riders in exchange for providing the tour operator with access to twenty-five Mongolian herder families and their horses.

"Mercy Corps are delighted to be a part of the first ever Mongol Derby," said Jennifer Adams, the Event Development Coordinator at Mercy Corps, European Headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland. When asked if this partnership of participation meant that Mercy Corps was in the horse racing business, Adams answered, "I guess you could say that."

During an eight month investigation into the race, Long Riders in New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Great Britain, Mongolia and the United States confirmed that neither the Mongolian government, nor the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international body assigned to protect endurance racing from exploitation, was involved in organizing the race.

"This is going to be all about the endurance of the rider, as opposed to the horse," said a spokesperson for Morgan's company. (FHOTD in: THEN I THINK YOU ASSHATS SHOULD CARRY THE HORSES!)

Contestants are riding straight into danger.

"They're providing us with these yellow brick trackers, so we can activate the emergency beacon if our horse is injured and we can't walk it in," one rider said. "The only other time you're supposed to activate the beacon is if you feel your life is in immediate danger. There's only one emergency medical helicopter in all of Mongolia."

Food and water will also be an obstacle during the so-called Mongol Derby.

"We're still looking into the food options," the naïve young contestant told the press. "They're going to give us GPS locations to the wells, where we'll be able to get water, and they don't guarantee that the wells will have water. They want us to be careful because there are packs of wild dogs that surround those wells."

When it was learned that Morgan's race appears to violate the three primary principles of endurance racing, namely no commercial exploitation of the horse, a marked route and confirmed sources of water, the world's largest coalition of riders, explorers and editors launched an international petition asking the Mongolian president to halt the race and urging Princess Haya, President of the FEI, to ban the competitors for life.

Additionally, Britain's Minister for the Horse, Jim Fitzpatrick, has been urged to scrutinize Morgan's non-sanctioned race, and the Charity Commissions in England and Scotland received a complaint asking them to investigate the possibility that Mercy Corps participated in unacceptable behaviour.

Regardless of what happens out on the steppe in August, it is already plain to see that thousands of horse riders, equestrian explorers and endurance riders have banded together in an unprecedented act of solidarity designed to halt Morgan's spectacle.

For more information about the race, and to sign the petition, please visit the Long Riders' Guild Mongol Investigation & Petition


Here's my message to Tom:

Tom, you're part of a long tradition of twenty-something guys doing dumb shit that gets them killed. From drinking themselves to death to try to be part of a frat to jumping motorcycles without a helmet, the ways your age and gender group try to qualify for the Darwin Awards are truly impressive and creative. However, the international horse community will not stand for this attempt to bring defenseless animals into your parade of attempted self-destruction. These horses aren't going to be fit for anything like this and you're putting non-equestrians on them who wouldn't even recognize that a horse was injured or ill. It is obvious you intend to treat them as disposable and that WILL NOT be tolerated. If I were you, I'd issue a press release today that you'll be replacing horses with motorcycles for this race. Then, by all means, please proceed to see how many of your competitors can remove themselves from the gene pool. Have fun!

P.S. Girls do not think this is cool. Really. Girls put out for guys who are kind to animals.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh what a tangled web we...oh hell, this is just ridiculous

TGIF! And what could liven up a Friday workday more than a tale of craziness from the Arabian horse show world? Well, fortunately for you all - I have one. This might be the best one ever. I just want to put all the guys involved in front of Judge Judy. That would be hilarious.

All right, are you ready? There's a lot going on here, so you have to pay attention.

We start with an Arabian stallion called LD Pistal. Pistal is a son of the ever-famous Magnum Psyche, the Brad Pitt of the Arabian horse world, except that Brad has had less plastic surgery. In case you missed that scandal, David Boggs - a very well known Arabian horse trainer - got caught having his vet do cosmetic surgeries on various horses, including Magnum Psyche. They thinned out his throatlatch and said it was to correct cribbing, in the same spirit in which countless starlets claim a nose job was necessary to correct a horribly deviated septum. Anyway, the AHA suspended Boggs for 5 years but he bounced right back to win U.S. National Champion stallion with his cosmetically improved horsey. Way to make a point, AHA! Woot!

Anyway, so Magnum Psyche sires LD Pistal (shown at left) and LD Pistal is promoted at great expense at the finest shows in the land. He was owned by an LLC that seems to be headed by a gentleman named Jeff Sloan. In March 2008, they sold him to a gentleman named Felix Cantu - for $350,000.

Gee, does anybody think Arabian prices are getting ludicrously inflated again and there's gonna be one hell of a crash like there was in the late 80s? Raise your hands if you see trouble brewin'! I mean, I can see those prices on racehorses...which win money. But how do you ever justify an Arabian halter horse being worth that?

Anyway, Pistal went out and won U.S. National Champion Senior Stallion last year. Awesome, except Cantu had by that time run up a $70K bill with Boggs for boarding and training, and well, it turns out all he'd managed to pay of that $350K purchase price was $52K. So while everybody was happy the horse kicked ass at Nationals,
no one was very happy with Mr. Cantu. Still, the Arabian world was understandably shocked when a Minnesota based breeder, browsing through the newspaper five days ago, saw the following notice:

Published: 06/20/2009

HORSES July 1, 2009 at 10:00 A.M., Midwest Station II, Inc., will sell to highest cash bidder, Chestnut Stallion QUETZALLI, AHA #617002, D/O/B 6/10/2004 and Stallion LD PISTAL, AHA #573783, D/O/B 5/20/2000. Sale held at 16917 70th Street NE, Elk River, MN. Stallions available for inspection during business hours. 763-441-6466 Web ID 6921

It's just not every day you see last year's U.S. National Champion Arabian Stallion being auctioned off like a repossessed pickup! Needless to say, the Arabian world was shocked and surprised and a great brouhaha erupted, in which David Boggs claimed he TOLD Jeff Sloan what he was doing, and Sloan argued he never received actual notice of the sale.

Details are here, but you have to join the board to read it all.

My first question, also asked by a bright gal on that board, is if you only make one payment on a horse and default, doesn't it go back to its owner? Well, yes, that would normally be the case, wouldn't it? How can a barn sell a horse to pay a bill when the person who incurred the bill is not the horse's lawful or registered owner? What is this silly shit? Why didn't Sloan take the horse back and tell Boggs to go sue Cantu - allegedly a bank president - for his training bill?

(Keep listening, it gets better!)

Could it be because Sloan and his partners prefer to sue Cantu themselves, a lawsuit which they have filed for - are ya sitting down? $75 MILLION DOLLARS.

WTF. If I were the judge, I would smack your frivolous lawsuit filing behinds and sanction you for being ludicrous. $75 million. How have you been damaged to the tune of $75 million??? You are owed $300K plus interest, fees and costs! That's what you're owed.

However, you ARE definitely owed it and WTF does Boggs think he's doing selling the horse like this? Someone posted that when you put a stableman's lien on a horse, you must sell it at a sheriff's sale. That may be, but even if that is the law, why wasn't the sale promoted? Why wouldn't you take out a full page ad in the Arabian Horse Journal and say, hey, here's your chance to own a National Champion - for sale to the highest bidder. You know, so you could pay BOTH the training bill AND most of the original seller's price. WHO THE HELL was going to show up to buy this horse, when you hushed it up as best you could until the last few days? Some BYB who might have three grand in hand on a good day? If Boggs had a client lined up to buy the horse, what is the price and are Sloan and his partners being reimbursed? Sure doesn't sound like it. From Sloan: "
Another sad note is that the partners who put the money up to buy him through Midwest in the first place, have lost a tremendous amount of money given that they bought the horse, sold him to Cantu, and now Midwest is auctioning him off to recover their board bill and never even gave the partners the courtesy of letting us know that the horse would be auctioned. What if Carol Johnson had not contacted me? What if we were never informed and the horse were sold out from under us. "

Well, Mr. Sloan, that's why we LOVE the Internet. Hard to keep secrets on the Internet!

(Keep listening, it gets better)

Tangled web, folks. Here's more information: Pistal's got a problem. He's subfertile. He's only got 12 foals on the ground. Most of the mares he breeds, he doesn't settle.

(Keep listening, it gets better) So they cloned him. And now there is a little yearling copy of him that goes everywhere he goes, like Mary's little lamb. Sloan and his partners invested in the creation of this critter in case AHA allowed clones in the future. They wrote up a rather lengthy proposal to AHA about clone management, pretty much ALL of which I have a problem with. It goes like this:

"Here is the story on the clone....

When we learned after buying Pistal that for whatever reason, even with the best fertility care and management - that provided by a man I highly respect - Mario Zerlotti - that Pistal was "fertility" challenged and was having trouble settling mares, we were offered the opportunity to have a clone created for the purposes of being able to utilize the clone at some future date (publically) to produce semen "on behalf of Pistal" which semen would be identifical to Pistal's in DNA.

Before agreeding to create a clone for this purpose, my first call was to another person I highly respect at the AHA - Debbie Fuentes. I asked Debbie if a clone could be used for breeding purposes and she clearly and accurately informed me that currently clones were not allowed to be registered nor are they allowed to be used for breeding purposes. She also however informed me that it was not out of the question, if a proposal were made to the registration committee at AHA that perhaps, under the right conditions, a clone could be perhaps approved at some future date by AHA to be used for breeding purposes. Certainly there were to be no guarantees but that AHA remained open to exploring a variety of things happening in the world of breeding, and there was at least an interest in hearing a proposal for the use of a clone for certain limited purposes.

I then created a proposal that essentially included the following points and submitted it to AHA as follows:

1. That a special class of registration be created at the Registry which would allow for a very narrow and limited use of a clone for the purpose of perptuating certain bloodlines that are valued by the breed but can't be utilized due to fertility problems. I limited my proposal to stallions only.

(FHOTD in: These are not super rare bloodlines that are impossible to perpetuate without cloning the great chestnut hope. Take a look. Magnum Psyche has a gazillion get out there, and LD Pistal is a genetically unremarkable melting pot of Russian, Spanish, Polish, Egyptian and Domestic lines. He's a Heinz-57 of Arabian lineage and I can find you a horse with very similar genetic material at any auction in America. Yes, he is an excellent individual - but the argument that the bloodlines are so special we had to clone him is ridiculous.)

2. The clone had to be used for breeding purposes only.

3. The clone had to be maintained on the same location as the stallion with the fertility problem.

4. If semen was used from the clone it had to be clearly stated in the breeding agreement accordingly.

5. The clone could never be sold independent of the stallion with the breeding problem and could only be sold in a package with the stallion

6. The clone could never be shown in any competition

7. The "special registration" of such a clone for this very regulated purpose had to be approved by an oversight committee at the Registry who would determine registration based on "need" only and that a clone would never be approved for this purpose unless the fertility problem of the stallion could be proven, and if the stallion's fertility problem were ever to be cured and the stallion could breed again, the clone no longer could be used to replace the stallion to produce semen.

I was scheduled to go before Debbie and the registration committee at the 2008 Vegas show in April but because we sold Pistal and the clone to Mr. Cantu in a package in March of 2008, I never did appear and the matter never came up again. At that point, Mr. Cantu owned Pistal the clone and it was up to him to do what he felt was right with the horses, and it was no longer my place to advocate on this matter.

I hope that clarifies a few points, and I would be happy to answer any other questions anybody may have...

Jeff "

Jeff, the only way I'd EVER be okay with cloning is if the clone had ALL the rights of a non-clone including showing. How the hell ELSE do you protect THAT horse's future? It's not cells in a lab, you know. IT'S A HORSE. It deserves a great life, too. And don't you think it's a little irresponsible that you created this horse because maybe AHA would allow cloning and then you drop your efforts to convince them like a hot potato the second you sell Tweedledee and Tweedledum to someone else?

(I hear the clone has a lien on it too - from the genetics lab that produced him. Of course he does!)

I don't know who I like in this fight. They all seem like different varieties of irresponsible horsepeople. I don't like the cloning crap but I will say that Sloan has at least expressed a concern (valid, IMHO) that the horse's future must be protected and that he cannot be allowed to fall through the cracks via this ridiculous public auction. So he scores some points with me there.

Boggs just wants his bill paid, but how was that going to happen when he wasn't publicizing the sale? And given that Sloan still has the horse registered to his partnership, and I am pretty sure was not going to sign a transfer giving someone else the horse when he isn't getting paid a dime out of the auction proceeds, how is this horse even being sold with papers?

Am I just an old cynic if I think someone wants to lose money on the horse? Or that things are being set up for Mr. Subfertile Disappointment to die or disappear so that his insurance money can be collected? There's so much weird here, and I'm not sure I trust anybody.

So here you go - here's the FHOTD resolution to this situation, that would make me think someone actually cared about being fair and protecting the horse:

1. Jeff, you give the $52K payment that was made to David for his training bill.

2. David, you take the $52K as full settlement and you're out of the dispute. Think about the $18K you lost the next time you are tempted to let someone keep running up their bill. Maybe you can learn from this.

3. Jeff, you take the horses back and merely sue Felix for your costs (i.e. transporting the horse, legal fees up to this point)

4. Felix, you take the $52K loss and stop buying horses you can't afford!

5. Jeff, geld the clone and train it as a riding horse. So what if the great chestnut hope there only produces a half dozen foals a year? They'll be worth more money if they're rare anyway.

I can't WAIT to see how this all shakes out. Betcha next we'll have a veterinarian specializing in cosmetic work putting liens on the horses!

It is Friday and of course we have a Friday featured rescue. I met this horse and he's really a cool personality. He is wary but he definitely wants attention and to learn! He is not stupid or high-strung and won't need 6 foot panels like a mustang fresh off the range. I was able to walk up to him and hand feed and pet him. He's a 6 year old, good sized buckskin mustang named Kharma and was recently re-rescued from the Three Strikes Ranch case and Colorado Horse Rescue has done a great job of getting him back up to normal weight. He will need training from the ground up, but if you're up to the challenge and looking for a great mustang in Colorado, please contact CHR.

For those in Washington state, SOS Equines in Kennewick is holding a "spa day" tomorrow, Saturday June 27th, to pretty up the adoptable horses and get great new pictures. Volunteers will also enjoy a barbecue and the whole day should be a lot of fun. Beautiful weather's in the forecast! If you'd like to join us, click here for more information.

On a related note, there is just a wonderful older AQHA mare in danger that SOS can help if a home is found. She is broke to ride and very well bred - registered name Bikini Pants. Granddaughter of Impressive and Doc Bar. This mare IS scheduled to ship to slaughter tomorrow if no home is found. Her price is only $450 and she does come with her papers in order. Click here to see more about her, and pictures. I really want to see this mare find a home. She definitely qualifies as WAY too nice to be a sandwich in my book!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not even eating for one!

Along with "he's old because he is skinny," I frequently hear "she is skinny because she is nursing." Never mind that all around the world, fat, shiny mares are nursing their foals. You will still hear that nursing mares "just look like that" from ignorant BYB's, who argue that it's normal for their broodmares to look like the girl from "Intervention" who eats 8 grapes a day.

And it's not necessarily the poor, who can't afford to feed properly, who come up with these arguments. Remember Ernie Paragallo and his argument that they are more fertile when they're skinny? Lame excuses exist at every end of the economic scale and today I have a fine example of that.

These sad broodmares belong to Mike and Brenda Leaverton of Moxee, Washington. Several of Mike and Brenda's neighbors and folks who have to drive by their property every day have about had enough. They have reported this to animal control, but Yakima animal control officer Randy Sutton admits he "doesn't know much about horses," and does not seem to be eagerly jumping at any opportunities to educate himself.

(You know, if I were an A.C. officer, it would occur to me that I needed to obtain training in the care of ALL animals. Like, right now, I don't know much about cows or pigs and what's normal for them and what their health issues are. But if it were my job to protect those animals' welfare, I would learn!)

Now, are Mike and Brenda meth-head losers who can barely remember they have horses, much less scrape up the cash to feed them? Why no. Mike actually owns his own financial consulting firm. This guy's an expert with money. Clearly it is not actually beyond his means to provide proper nutrition and vet care for his broodmares, especially in his part of Washington, where both hay and veterinary care are half the cost they are for those of us on the west side. Why he is failing to take proper care of his horses is anybody's guess. Could be ignorance. Could be arrogance. Could be the always-popular combination of the two!

It sounds like one mare may be unable to produce milk anymore, because her foal has been seen nursing off the other. Oh, great. Because the only thing better than having one foal sucking you dry when you're already skinny is TWO foals sucking you dry!

Here is a good article - scroll down to the part about lactating mares. And I quote: "Nursing makes the greatest nutritional demands on a mare in any phase in the reproductive cycle, and many mares are underfed while nursing. Lactating mares need as much or more energy in their diets as hardworking performance horses."
As the article also notes, lactating mares need THREE TIMES the amount of drinking water they would normally require. Dehydration can also contribute to a thin, tucked-up appearance - not to mention it can cause colic and the next thing you know, you have an orphan foal to deal with.

Lactating mares need much more nutrition than pregnant mares to stay looking good. (Again: Horse breeding. It's expensive. It's not a good way to make money if you're poor.) If you've chosen to breed your mares, you've chosen the responsibility of making sure they get proper nutrition and veterinary care, and neither is going to be nickles and dimes. And yes, when you have bony horses like these standing near the road, don't assume people are going to drive on by and ignore it!

(I swear though...some of these owners really must be blind to it. I just got pictures I hope to post soon - case is being turned in to A.C. so I am waiting - of some horses in just awful, awful condition. Rare breed horses, too. They are in a clean barn and the owner does not seem to realize how bad they look, as she is not in any way trying to hide them. I mean, I'm glad she's not, since now they can get help, but I'm baffled at how you can look at a horse with a BCS of maybe 1.5 - 2 and feet like skis and not know something is wrong.)

It all comes down to the same old stuff - they are not skinny because they are old or because they are nursing or because they have been poisoned (I hear Jason Meduna is still singing that same old, already-disproven, song!). They are skinny for some combination of the same reasons horses all over the world are skinny:

1. Not enough/poor quality feed.
2. Worms
3. Bad teeth
4. Ulcers
5. Sand in their digestive system (yes, it won't just cause colic - it can keep them from gaining weight, too)
6. Pain. A crippled horse who limps around all day is often impossible to keep weight on. The stress/pain combo tends to melt it off. This is, to me, a really good sign that it is time to say goodbye, if the pain is caused by a chronic condition there's little hope of recovery from.
7. (Rare) Thyroid or other medical conditions like severe allergies.

It really IS NOT more complicated than that. There is always a reason, even if you think you have "tried everything." If you dewormed once, it does not mean you have them worm-free. Fecal test if you want to know. And no exact amount or type of feed is one size fits all. You do have to feed a pregnant or nursing mare more. Well, duh. The same is true of humans, so it really shouldn't be this damn hard to figure out. Hence the expression "eating for two." With these poor mares, there is just not enough to go around ... the babies look good but the mares look skinny and drained. It's not fair to them - or their foals.

(And while we're at it, what is that palomino and why exactly are we breeding her other than that she's yellow?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yet another twist to the property rights argument...

My longtime readers know that I have frequently observed that it is not that easy to protect horses from poor ownership, because, legally, horses are personal property. But today I want to talk about an interesting question: How do you feel about the government's right to take possession of your animal - and even euthanize it - to serve the greater good?

Someone sent me this news story. Two horses affected with equine piroplasmosis were stolen, probably by individuals not wanting to see them put to sleep. The story does not address whether or not the horses were actively suffering, or had just been identified as carriers. I'm guessing the latter.

I had to look up equine piroplasmosis. From the Blood Horse - "Equine Piroplasmosis is a blood-borne parasitic disease primarily transmitted to horses by ticks or contaminated needles. The disease was eradicated from Florida in the 1980’s, and the tick species believed to transmit EP in other countries have not been identified in Florida in many years. This disease is not directly contagious from one horse to another but requires direct blood transfer." So, it's like Equine Infectious Anemia, "swamp fever," another disease that can only be spread that way - typically by biting ticks and mosquitoes, but also by re-used syringes (What kind of moron does that? Well, apparently some do.).

Years ago, I remember the EIA panic, when those in mosquito-laden states started requiring Coggins testing for all shows and events. I have to say, I thought the response from some was extreme. EIA was not - is not - an easy disease to spread. It never had the potential to be a horsey Bubonic Plague, taking down everything in its path, but that's exactly what you'd think from listening to people talk at the time. The rule with EIA was that if you had a horse test positive, it had to be either euthanized or confined a certain distance (it's 200 yards now - can't remember if that was the standard then) from other horses, in a enclosure such that bugs couldn't get in or out. Not much of a life for the horse, yet I remember thinking that I would happily build such a structure rather than put down one of my horses. And I deliberately chose not to compete two of my horses after testing became mandatory because I was not willing to test them and run the risk of a positive - especially after hearing about incidents where horses falsely tested positive. I'm sure I'm not the only horseowner who applied that logic!

All of this brings up some very good questions. What kind of transmissible disease is bad enough for the government to step in and say, that's it, we're going to put your horse to sleep whether you like it or not? Is that ever appropriate? If there is a way to confine the horse and control the spread of the disease, should that be allowed? How do you enforce compliance with confinement? What other options might exist? No, I certainly don't want my horses to get it (whatever "it" is), but at what point do I have the right to stomp on someone else's property rights, not to mention feelings, and say, hey, you have to euthanize your (potentially asymptomatic) horse because there's a tiny chance a mosquito might bite yours and then bite mine?

When the EIA panic occurred, I remember reading studies about how positives were pastured with negatives for years with no cross-transmission. Of course this information was not being put out there freely for the general public, who were freaking the heck out over the possibility their horse would get it. Despite the fact that many horses are never Coggins tested and there are surely some positives among them, it's still not an epidemic that drops thousands of horses a year. Last year, two million horses were tested and fewer than 200 positives reported, according to this article. Of course, the argument is that the reason EIA isn't a problem is because we did kill off all those positive horses in the 70s and 80s. I haven't done enough research to know if I agree with that. But as even the veterinarians who wrote the article admit: "In 2006, if the 66 cases found on a single premises in Minnesota and the 20 on one other premises in Mississippi are subtracted from the statistics, over $50,000,000 was paid by owners to find 101 new cases of EIA in the United States, nearly $500,000 to find each new positive horse." Ouch. Am I being snarky if I note that Coggins tests are an awfully easy way for a vet to make a buck? Well, snarky but accurate.

Of interest: A horse rescue specifically for EIA positive horses. I don't know anything about this group, but I'm going to read the site later. It looks like a great idea - a sanctuary for the positives. Could this be done with piroplasmosis positives, too, or is there some veterinary reason the two diseases are different? Is it really necessary for our tax dollars to go to the FBI hunting someone down who just didn't want to see two horses die?

(Law enforcement's involvement in public health seems to be a pretty odd relationship to me. I'm old enough to remember the early HIV panic and how people were suggesting positive humans be confined in camps. And we say horses are prone to panic!)

I tend to be pretty Libertarian in my political beliefs and this is no different. I really don't think the government should have the right to euthanize your horse for disease control without giving you the option of confinement - yet I recognize that confinement is nearly impossible to enforce. So what's the solution? And are these diseases so terrible a threat that euthanasia is the correct choice, or would they always be rare, hard-to-spread diseases no matter if we attempted to control them or not? What's your take on it? Where do we draw the line between private property rights, the greater good, and just being kind and fair to the animals we love so much?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fit or too thin to ride?

I've met more than a few people confused about the difference between a very fit horse and a horse that is underweight, has no muscle and is just too thin to ride until it gets some rehab. And since someone sent me pics of some moron riding one of the latter, now was a perfect time to address the subject!

Racing fit horses look awfully thin to the eyes of most pleasure horse riders and indeed, it's not a weight you'd want to maintain a horse at for life. They look like greyhounds. Like Demi Moore getting ready to play G.I. Jane, they have a very low body fat percentage and everything that is on them is muscle. All the ribs do show in many cases, and if you're looking at adopting them for a second career, you have to be able to visualize how they'll look at "show weight."

The good news is that their skeletal structure is easy to see at this kind of fitness level, so if you know what you are looking for, it's pretty easy to find it. This filly is a three year old, I'm told she is
really seventeen hands, and she is at Emerald Downs looking for a second career now, so e-mail me with BONNIE in the subject line if you may be interested. Not a freebie but certainly fairly priced especially to a great home.

Now, how do you tell the difference between the ribby horse shown above and a ribby horse who is too thin to be ridden at all? I received the following photos and was genuinely appalled. This mare is WAY too thin to carry ANY rider at this point.

I want you to compare the topline (you can click the pictures to see larger versions). See how this mare's spine is sticking up? Note how there is no flesh on the sides of the withers. While the first filly's leanness does show in the caved in appearance on the sides of her butt, she doesn't have the painfully sharp looking hip bones this mare possesses. The first filly is thin - this mare is too thin to ride. Period.

I have a whole series of pictures here - I won't pain you with viewing all of them - of this girl trotting and cantering this mare, who is plenty thin enough to be seized by animal control in my neck of the woods.

This sweet old mare gamely soldiers on, despite her condition. My guess is she will simply drop one day, hopefully smooshing the ignorant sack of you-know-what in the saddle as she does so.

Really. I have met 7 year olds who could look at this mare and see she is too thin to ride. Not to mention do a better job of fitting tack to her. Look at that saddle - it is sitting RIGHT on her thin, thin withers. I can only imagine the pain she experiences when being ridden.

There is plenty of information online about how to feed an old horse so that they do NOT look like this and you CAN keep riding them. Here's the article I wrote on the subject. The information is very accessible. If you can get online to post pictures like these and get yourself featured on FHOTD, you can access information on how to get your senior horse back to proper weight. Unless, of course, you are too busy jumping your two year old over sawhorses, which I hear is what this chick does when she's not tearing around on her emaciated mare. Hey, you can lead a fool to the internet, but you can't make 'em learn...

Now what about when you are rehabbing a horse from starvation? When is it okay to begin riding and training? Do you have to wait until the horse is at his or her perfect weight?

Opinions vary and it also depends on what other conditions, if any, the horse is recovering from, and what you are going to ask him to do. When in doubt, ask your vet. As with any unfit horse, starting very slow is key. Starting out with a 20 minute ride of which only 5 is trotting is the smart way to go. If you don't have a lightweight rider, start with ponying or longeing on a large circle (not a 40 foot round pen) to build strength first. Imagine you are rehabbing from a severe injury. You would need to take it slowly and build muscle. Horses are no different.

I've started riding horses who still needed 50-100 pounds - generally when they had filled in around their spine and showed signs of feeling good - running around on turnout with other horses, bright and interested in life - but still ribby. Again, this is riding lightly - not breaking a sweat at all - and with a lightweight rider. A horse who has been starved has lost muscle everywhere, his back included. Even if he normally would be able to carry a larger rider, it is better to rehab with a smaller one if possible. Properly fitting tack, including bounce pads or built-up pads if you ride western and/or gel pads can do a lot to keep him comfortable.

People like to put their little kids on recovering rescues, thinking that the weight will be easier to carry, but 50 pounds of bouncing at a trot is actually a lot harder on a weak horse's back than 150 pounds of quiet rider who can post. If you have a kid who's a good little rider, great, but if not, the adult may be a better choice. Just use your best judgment and you will have that former rescue back to 100% in no time!

Well, I was literally just about to post about the palomino paint mare that was stolen from a rescuer on the East Coast when I got the good news. SHE IS SAFE!

Here's the Netposse page:


Kudos to Netposse on another successful recovery. I am still waiting to hear the whole story but it is believed this mare was stolen and auctioned and it is only thanks to Netposse and the Internet that she was recognized and is going home!

Scary, scary story - with a happy ending this time!

Apologies to all for the inconsistent posts and the fact that I never catch up on my e-mail. I have just run out of time lately and my computer is crawling thanks to a Siamese Cat and Diet Dr. Pepper incident. One nice thing about the horses - they stay off my desk!

Friday, June 19, 2009

True happy endings for rescued horses!

I have frequently discussed the "saved from the truck" phenomenon, where everybody goes YAY YOU SAVED HER and six months later, the damn horse is starving at some hoarder's, if not dead or sent to another auction. It is one of my biggest frustrations about rescue. To me, "rescued" is something time will prove true or not. The only ones that count are the ones you keep safe for life.

It is certainly challenging to track where all your rescues wind up, and despite contracts and site visits, things do not always go as planned. Rescues are forever having to repo horses, or finding out horses have gone poof, or finding their horses popping up on Craigslist for free. It is super, super frustrating but the good rescues keep plugging along doing their very best not to lose track of any horses, and always being willing to take back a horse who is not in a good situation.

So today let's just celebrate some true happy endings...horses who were rescued a year or more ago and really are fine! Really are fat, and loved and happy with their adopters!

First of all, let me share Petersburg Knight's blog. You will remember his original story...this guy got rescued in the nick of time after a dishonest 4-H leader picked him up for free and ran him straight to Enumclaw. And that was after he lived through Dean Solomon!

PK, aka Suerte, is living the good life - he looks wonderful, he's being ridden regularly, and his terrible feet have been rehabbed. I'm so happy for him. Thank you to blog poster La Mexicana for putting in the effort to rehab him from his years of neglect! That poor horse just kept going from the frying pan into the fire until he was lucky enough to meet her.

A friend of mine adopted Cricket in 2006. She was a CBER horse and her CBER name was Rona.

Cricket was originally sent to a really nice foster home in Northern California, where she sadly delivered a stillborn foal - not surprising considering her mid-20's age and emaciated condition. After she recovered, my friend adopted her.

Cricket turned out to be a very well broke ranch horse (my friend would love to ID her - the brand is NO with a half circle over it like a sun) and for the past three years, she has been teaching her daughter to ride. She is older than dirt, completely sound and still spunky!

I also want to note that her owner has had some challenging times with almost all the excuses I've seen other people use for giving up a horse, from job changes to moving several times to going back to school to serious illness in the immediate family...and this mare has not been dumped.

When we first encountered this Arabian mare online, on Dreamhorse in December 2007, her name was Cabbage, she was standing in slop, her only shelter was an old horse trailer, and she had been bred to a zebra.

Yeah. I'm not making ANY of that up. Check out the pic. Fortunately she was not in (?) foal?

Cabbage, quickly renamed Shakirah, was rescued by Cowgirl Spirit and became a drill team horse. Although she was not even halter broke when she was rescued, she learned quickly and was competing within six months of her rescue.

She was swiftly adopted by one of the team members who continues to own, ride and enjoy her. She lives on a lovely private farm with another rescued Arabian mare. It is a Cinderella story ending and you can see by her pictures that she did indeed turn out looking like a princess!

Despite the rescues-gone-bad that we hear so much about, the truth is MOST rescued horses actually DO get good, loving homes. Sometimes they are permanent homes and sometimes they are step-up homes where they learn the skills that will find them a good home, but most rescues truly aren't failures and it's good to remind ourselves about the happy endings once in a while!

Do you have a rescued horse who has turned into your lifetime partner? Tell us about it!

By the way, someone once sent me pics of a buckskin colt emaciated and in a sling, and then jumping a course years later. They are amazing pictures. I still want the whole story. If you are reading this, please fill me in - that one deserves to be featured and the person/team who rehabbed him deserves MAJOR kudos!

Plans are underway for the 2009 SAFE Benefit Horse Show, which will be held this year on August 22. The show benefits the rescue, which I've often noted as being one of the rare well-run rescues that is not budgeted using the U.S. government's money management techniques as the model ;-) If you want to help rescued horses and/or can use a tax write off, SAFE is currently seeking sponsors. You can sponsor a show class for $50 or your business can sponsor a high point or championship which gives you a whole package of stuff including your banner hung on the show arena. More information here.

It's Friday and I have a Featured Rescue for you that really, really, REALLY needs a great home where she will never have to worry again. This mare has wound up in the kill pen several times. She just keeps getting hit with the unlucky stick. She was at Dean Solomon's, poor thing, and then Dean gave her to some dude who ran her to Enumclaw again and fortunately someone recognized her in the kill pen and bailed her out.

Axel is most likely a purebred Saddlebred. (I think so - does anybody see anything else?) (Does anybody recognize her? I keep thinking someone might, as ASB's are quite rare in Washington state.) The vet ages her at 17. She is a solid 16 hands with good bone and is in excellent health with no known issues (I would assume some normal age-related arthritis, but that'd be it). I've ridden her a couple of times now and while she's clearly green, she doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She may be broke to drive as she turns and stops well but does not understand much about leg yet. She is not at all spooky and I don't think it would take much work at all to make her into a reliable trail horse. She may be five gaited - or at least has been seen doing something that is not a trot while loose in the field!

Axel's only vice is that she truly hates trailering (who knows what happened to her - she has the scars of a horse who hasn't had an easy life) so she would be best suited for a home that does not need to haul her anywhere to ride her. She gets along great with others in a herd and is an easy keeper. Axel is in the Seattle, WA area and you can find out more about her by e-mailing Tasha.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another day, another Darwin nominee on Youtube

Kids, don't try this at home!

I just don't know how many times I have to review the same topics:

1. A horse is an unpredictable prey animal. No matter how well trained it is, the day will come when it does something you do not expect, something that could get someone hurt. I have told the story before about my friend's 25 year old seen-it-all-done-it-all who saw a balloon inflated from a helium tank and flipped right the hell over while he was on mounted patrol at a fair. Thank heavens no one was hurt that time but it is a great example. I rode that horse many times in a halter and would have called him "bomb proof" but the truth is, nothing is 100%.

2. Little kids riding? Fine! Little kids riding in a field with no tack? Little kids on a rearer? What are you smoking? Trained or not, intentional action or not, horses do not balance well on just their hind feet. That is a fact. There is a reason the levade is a highly advanced maneuver in dressage. Taking a horse up on two legs safely requires a great deal of skill and a highly advanced rider. No one is that rider at three years of age.

3. I think bridleless riding is very impressive and admirable but I do not think it's ever appropriate for small children. Even a tiny child has at least a chance to stop a spook/bolt/buck and stay on if they have reins. Even if it's just that instinct causes them to snatch their hands back to the saddle horn or pommel, that action may stop/slow the horse allowing the parent or instructor to intervene. If something spooks this pony, that kid has no chance. None at all. There won't even be a trailing rope that the parent could catch the pony with! What is the parent going to do, grab it by the fricken' tail and go pasture skiing?

4. I'm almost more disturbed by the pics of pony rearing while the child stands in front of it. There's just not much margin of error there between a hoof and her face.

It's not adorable. It's a pony, with hard, sharp feet. It weighs at least 600 lbs. It's not a snuggly stuffed toy. It's a bad accident waiting to happen and while I am glad she is wearing some kind of helmet, it's only a bike helmet and it sure as hell doesn't keep you from a broken neck, back or pelvis. She is three years old. Doesn't she deserve the best possible chance at growing to adulthood in full working order?

No, you can't bubble-wrap your kids but this is just stupid. This is all about trying to look cool on the Internet and using your small child as a prop to do so. It needs to be submitted to this site. (Warning: rude but deserved language)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tough times and desperate measures

I've been wanting to write about this for a while.

In the U.S. (and probably in some other places but I freely admit I know more about the state of Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage than international economics due to my lazy personal reading habits), the economy is just a complete mess. Unemployment is shockingly high, lots of people can't pay their mortgages, and for the horsepeople - hay, farrier and vet services are still expensive!

And it's not like the usual people who can't find work...the people who don't pass drug tests, the people with felonies, the people with bad references...no, now perfectly good clean-living, hard-working people with good references are losing jobs and finding they cannot obtain a new one, or at least not one at anywhere near what they used to be making. If you still have a job, you may have suffered a pay cut or the loss of an expected bonus. Or you may be in that painful cycle where you have survived the previous rounds of layoffs but don't know if your luck is about to run out. Or you may be on unemployment right now, starting to freak out because you thought you'd have another job in two weeks or a month, and you don't.

So let's talk about a very serious subject. What IF you truly cannot afford your horse(s) anymore? What do you do? What are the most responsible actions to take when unexpected job loss hits?

First priority is keeping your horses in good condition. Fortunately it is summer, so you may have the option of moving your horse(s) from full care boarding to a pasture situation and saving hundreds each month while keeping the horses fat and shiny. Renting a private pasture is best to avoid the risk of injuries and an expensive vet bill that you also can't afford, and of course stay away from barbed wire or other shoddy fence for the same reasons. You can often find pasture in the farm & garden section of Craigslist. Or find out what your local agricultural newspaper is. You can try putting up a sign at the co-op - everybody has to buy feed.

If you have a horse for whom this is not an option, try finding a self-care barn, one where you provide the feed and do the work or you do everything but morning feeding. This is typically 50% or less the cost of full care.

Sometimes hay pellets are cheaper than hay! Two normal sized scoops (2 lb. scoops) of hay pellets are like 2 flakes of hay. You can feed them dry or you can soak them to make a mush that is ideal for older horses or any horse that has choked in the past or has a colic history. Beet pulp is also reasonably priced in most places. I have seen many horses do just fine and in fact stay fat on hay pellets. This winter, hay pellets for my old mare were $2 a feeding whereas the equivalent amount of hay was $3 a feeding. That can add up in a hurry particularly if you have a lot of horses. And if you just can't come up with money for a tooth float right now - please switch to soaked pellets immediately. You'll pack the weight back on most senior horses doing that and it will tide them over until you can afford the dental work.

Speaking of that, where can you cut corners without doing permanent damage? Absolutely do not skip basic farrier care (trims every 2 months) and deworming (also every 2 months). Allowing the feet to grow any way they want can just cause a host of problems that may never be able to be fixed and may permanently impair the horse's ability to be ridden. And failure to deworm can cause a colic, not to mention that your expensive feed will be feeding the worms. But there are ways you can save on the vet. For one thing, learn to give your own vaccinations! It is not tough and will save you at least 75% of the cost. Just remember, always pull back before you inject in and make sure you are not in a vein. If your horses never leave your property and never come into contact with other horses, you may not need to give all the same vaccines as a horse living at a boarding stable. Ask your vet. Never, never skip tetanus. I've seen a horse with lockjaw and it was not pretty. Tetanus is like a BUCK, seriously.

Now, when do you give up and sell? That's a hard, hard question. Everybody is going to have a different comfort level about how low they can go before they have to sell, or give away their horses. There is nothing wrong with living on mac & cheese to keep your horses - but you have to honestly look at your prospects of things getting better. How deep of a hole are you in? Can you change your life to make it less expensive? Can you get any kind of work? Can you temp? Do you have stuff you can sell to buy time, like jewelry, antiques, recreational vehicles or designer clothes and shoes? Sell your show tack - you can always buy more. I once saw the site of a humane case with dead horses and a living quarters trailer in the driveway. WTF. How much hay could have been purchased with that trailer? Just use your common sense - it's not that hard to figure out what you can live without and what you can't. You can sell damn near anything that doesn't have a pulse on ebay if you are not fussy about how much exactly it sells for. Take good pictures and write a good description. Do research if you don't know much about what you're selling.

I don't see a thing wrong with telling a teenager it's time to get a job if she wants the horses to stay. I worked starting at 15 and so can most kids and, ironically, in this economy they may get a job before you do! McJobs are still plentiful - it's those with adult salaries who are finding slim pickings out there.

You have to sell before condition suffers. Your best chance of a great home for your horse comes from selling a shiny, fat horse with good feet. You may be able to lease. Try to lease out early in the game and see if it works. If you trust your trainer and your horse is a sensible one, see if s/he can be used for some lessons for a reduction in board.

For god's sake, if you're unemployed and have untrained horses, TRAIN THEM! You are unemployed. What else do you have to do, other than sending out your resume and interviews? At least get all the ground training on them. This will help them so much if you end up having to sell.

If you aren't desperate to hang on to your amateur status, and you are a good rider, seriously consider offering training or lessons. Not only will this help you hang on to your own horses, but heaven knows we need more competent trainers. You can get your amateur status back in the future when times aren't so tough. Do what you need to, using the skills that you have. Still have a truck and trailer? Good driver? Look into doing local horse transportation. I used to do emergency hauling for my vets and boy, you make out like a bandit when someone has to call you at 3 AM. Again, you are unemployed, who cares if you have to get up at 3 AM? Drink a diet rockstar, you'll be fine. :)

Facing foreclosure? GET ROOMMATES! Do you know how many people will be delighted to rent a room where they can bring their horse? This can mean the difference between paying your mortgage or not. Use a little common sense. You can background check someone online for $10. Call their references, call their former landlords, verify their income source. Even if it's a friend or a family member, do the checking up - you won't regret it. If you can't stand the thought of renters in your house, what about boarders in your barn?

The problem with life is that Murphy's Law is very much applicable. Typically, you lose your job and then your car dies and then you find out you or your spouse is sick or someone has an accident and it all just snowballs. Even if things are great in your life, it surely is not a bad idea to look around and say, okay, I could sell this, I could cash that in, and here's how I could economize if things went bad for us. Remember all the people who thought they were all set for retirement and wound up with nothing thanks to someone's Ponzi scheme. You may not be as secure as you think, and none of the old rules apply these days. Lots of people think they can always get a home equity loan, but have you checked to see if you still have any equity? Sit down while you do that. Refinancing? Nearly impossible in many cases. And for god's sake don't be an idiot and pay some loan modification company...if you are going to get a modification, you can do it yourself directly with your lender. They do not want your house back, trust me. Not if they think they can get you back on a payment plan!

I really wish that we, as horsepeople, had a real system in place to help each other out. Some rescues have been providing hay to horse owners, concluding very intelligently that it makes more sense to keep the horse IN a home than have yet another to place. While no one wants to subsidize people who shouldn't have horses in the first place, I think proof of unplanned job loss is good enough reason for me to support the idea of sending someone a ton of hay.

In the meantime, let's do this. Lots of people read this blog. If you are looking for a job, please post to the comments with a BRIEF paragraph about your skills, location (or willingness to travel anywhere for work), and your e-mail. A HTML email link will work. Likewise, if you are hiring, please post what you are hiring for with a location and e-mail link. If we get a few horsepeople employed again out of this post, that will be the most useful thing many of us do for horses all day!

Now that we've tackled this depressing subject, be prepared for a good laugh - if you haven't already, you must read the Texts From Last Night blog. Some content is adult in nature. I got to the part about Mr. Moo and nearly fell off my chair laughing!

Monday, June 15, 2009

So let's talk race trainers!

I read the article below from the Daily Racing Form and I thought, what a lucky horse. He DID find the right trainer. How many would have just shipped him to kill? So let's talk! Who is the racing world is vehemently anti-slaughter? For an owner, which trainers can you trust to be honest with you and not to ship your horse to kill while telling you it went to a good home (apparently this happens a LOT and as the owners are often remote, they're none the wiser)?

The assumption is that the owners don't want to pay for other options but the owners tell me that assumption is wrong. They WOULD pay for retraining or rehab. They do NOT want their horse to end its life in a kill pen. Most racehorse owners are at least middle class if not better...they do indeed have the ability to take care of their failed or broken down horses, and some want to but their desires are being ignored. If you've owned racehorses, I'd particularly like to hear from you. And if you've had a bad experience or been lied to, by all means feel free to share!

And how much do MaryLou Whitney and her farm staff rock? I love them!

Endgame often depends on luck

By Jay Hovdey

Just for a moment, let's pretend this is the way it works all the time.

During the summer of 2007, a 6-year-old swaybacked gelding named

Storm Legacy was turned over to trainer Pete Tardy at Penn National,

who was told by the owner, "You don't have to train him. Just board

him." Then, in early 2008, the owner tossed Tardy the keys. "He's

yours if you want him," was the message.

The fact that Storm Legacy was a son of champion sire Storm Cat meant

absolutely squat, since he had already run 42 times and had spent the

last year in the company of $4,000 and $5,000 claimers. Also, he was

dead lame, which explains why his barn nickname was "Ankles."

"If you'd have been in the shape he was in, you wouldn't want to get

out of bed in the morning," Tardy said the other day. "Anybody but

me, he would have been in New Holland. You know what New Holland is,


To anyone who thinks Thoroughbreds deserve a shred of dignity upon

leaving the racing stage, New Holland is definitely wrong. New

Holland, Pa., is the location of a major livestock auction where

buyers for slaughterhouses converge to scoop up horseflesh by the

pound. Whether or not slaughter is still legal in the United States

is beside the point. There is no federal law forbidding purchase and

transport to foreign processors.

So Storm Legacy dodged a bullet, just by waking up in the Tardy barn.

And then Tardy was inspired to give Storm Legacy a try. He worked

like a demon on those ankles, and by springtime the horse was in good

enough shape to go back to the races. He made 13 starts in 2008 for

Tardy and his wife, Donna, and hit the board six times, finally

winning one on Dec. 29.

Along the way, Tardy took a look at the back of Storm Legacy's foal

papers and found an unusual notification.

"It said whenever the horse was no longer raceable, they would like

to give the horse a home," the trainer said. "And there was Marylou

Whitney's phone number."

By April of this year, Storm Legacy had come to the end of the line.

Tardy made the call to the Whitney farm in Lexington, Ky., and a van

was dispatched to Penn National. Storm Legacy, bred by Whitney in

partnership with W.T. Young's Overbrook Farm, was going home.

"When he left here, I took off his nylon halter and put on a leather

halter," Tardy said. "Not a new one, but a real nice one."

It was a simple gesture of respect, and a gracious acknowledgement of

Storm Legacy's heritage. After all, he came into this world as a full

brother to the accomplished mare Catinca, out of a half-sister to the

top-class racehorses Hail Bold King and Metfield, and by a stallion

who had already sired more than 100 stakes winners.

Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, are part of a quiet but

growing movement among enlightened patrons to affix end-use

assurances to official foal papers. Storm Legacy settled right in

with two other geldings in a large paddock at the Whitney spread. And

why not? He didn't have to die to go to heaven.

"We were a little worried how he'd do with the other two, him being

younger and right off the track," said Kim Nelson, the Whitney farm

office manager. "But from the start, they were acting like old pals,

trading stories."

Storm Legacy's new friends are the half-brothers Brave All the Way,

age 14, and Cviano, who is 12. Another half-brother, equipment

intact, is otherwise occupied at Gainesway Farm down the road, where

he serves a full book of mares each year. His name is Birdstone, sire

of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner

Summer Bird.

While Storm Legacy was able to avoid the horrors of New Holland and

beyond, Cviano could tell a different tale. Named for the late C.V.

Whitney, Cviano had been lost in a claimer in 2001. Shortly after

Birdstone added the Travers Stakes to his victory over Smarty Jones

in the 2004 Belmont, Cviano was found at New Holland, on his way to

slaughter, by a volunteer with Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, and steered

to Angel Acres Farm in Pennsylvania. When they found out, Whitney and

Hendrickson were quick to bring Cviano home.

Among the other residents at the Whitney farm is Dear Birdie, the dam

of Birdstone, Cviano and Brave All the Way. She is in foal to Street

Cry, which sounds great on paper, and there is always a chance she'll

produce another Birdstone, or better. Of course, there is just as

good a chance the foal with turn out more like Brave All the Way, who

ran 76 times and won 10 races, or Cviano, who was 4 for 49. Between

them they earned less than $200,000.

"This is about lives we created," said Hendrickson at the time of

Cviano's rescue. "We're responsible for them."

Such sentiments are rare, and yet to be held widely enough to find

widespread institutional support. There are no safety nets, and the

downward pressures on Thoroughbreds are relentless, because of both

economics and health. Even though he never got a whiff of the New

Holland kill pens, Storm Legacy must be considered a very lucky horse

to have stumbled upon the right people at the right time.

"If you ever talk to those folks in Kentucky," added Pete Tardy,

"tell them he absolutely loves those Starlite Mints. When he would

hear that wrapper crackling, he'd come right to the front of the stall."