Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A few words about ostriches

I have mentioned the TB Friends blog here before. I don't know Joe personally, but he has been doing a very good job educating the public about horse slaughter and the perils of giving away horses for free since long before I came up with the Fugly blog. His blog is G-rated and suitable for kids, unlike this one, and his readership is full of people who aren't so sure they wanted to be educated - which is all the more reason the education is needed!

Joe was kind enough to give the Fugly blog a mention today and I just want to say that I appreciate everybody who is spreading the word about slaughter, and responsible breeding, and not giving away horses for free to people who "seem nice." We cannot say these things too much. We need to say them to our friends, our neighbors, even people we think may never own a horse. We never know how our words may impact a life.

(Much as I'd like to one day, I can never meet Joe, unless we do so in neutral territory like a Starbucks. If I ever went to Joe's ranch, I guarantee you that a half-dozen small senior TB mares with snuggly personalities and snips on their noses would follow me home. The first step is admitting you have a problem...)

So this brings me to the point I wanted to discuss...what do you do about the people who want the world to be all sunshine and roses, who do not want to hear about ugly things like horse slaughter or the reality that nobody thinks their Clyvandazteca foal is cute except them? The folks who stick their heads in the sand like ostriches and say, oh, that would never happen to a horse that I bred! I sold those babies to such a nice lady. Yes, I've never heard back from her again but it's ok, I am sure she is busy and maybe her Internet isn't working and, come to think of it, that phone number she gave me never worked, but gosh, I just had a good feeling about her when I met her and I know those horses are loved!

I got into the stupidest argument ever with a pro-slaughter person on Craigslist once. She ranted at me that she had her previous horse euthanized and she was never going to do that again. It was horrible, she told me. It was sooooo hard on her watching her horse die! Next time, she was totally going to take it to an auction.

(I am serious. So was she. It scared the hell out of me, the selfishness inherent in those statements. I felt like saying, were you raised by wolves? What kind of parenting produced someone who thinks that makes sense?)

But I don't think that lady was all that unusual. I think a lot of people, when confronted with an animal that has a physical condition guaranteed to get worse, or behavioral issues they don't know how to fix, just want the animal to disappear so they can pretend it had a "happy ending"...somewhere else, somewhere where they don't have to pick up the monthly expenses. They don't even want to know what happened to it. I have a friend who's an animal control officer and oh, the stories she tells.

I have a friend in Los Angeles who cannot hear about an animal who has been abused or neglected. It freaks her out to hear the details. However, she has numerous rescues and they receive outstanding care. OK, fair enough. You do not have to hear the details. This is different from the person who cannot hear the details because they themselves may have been guilty of putting an animal in that position. The latter kind of person needs to hear the details - it may be the only thing that stops them from repeating the behavior.

I have probably wandered a little bit this morning but my question is: How do YOU deal with ostriches? What has worked for you? What hasn't? Honestly, sometimes I think the ostrich is harder to educate than the person who was raised on a farm where if it ain't workin', ya shoot it. At least the latter kind seems to soften up with age and exposure to more evolved horsepeople. The first kind, you can't even talk to them, so how DO you educate?

By the way, I know a lot of Joe's readership is 10 years old, and I do understand that when you're 10 years old, the last thing you want to hear about is horse slaughter. I will say that I wish I had known about it earlier than I did. I grew up riding at - and giving plenty of my mother's hard earned money to - a lesson barn that shipped their old horses to slaughter. It makes me sick. I wish I had known, or at the very least, I wish someone had told my mother, so we could have taken our money elsewhere. I found out about it when I was 15 or so and they shipped my favorite horse, for the unforgiveable crime of being lame for a whole three weeks. The riding instructors, most of whom were barely in their 20s themselves, were furious - and they told a bunch of us the truth. I was frustrated and angry and called the owner's bitchy girlfriend/barn manager and reamed her out. She of course told me that I was kicked out of the barn if I ever talked to her like that again. And that was that.

Pictured today is Macart, barn name "Samantha." Sam was a 1973 Thoroughbred mare who ran 93 races, mostly low level claimers, and produced four registered foals. In 1992, her owner defaulted on her board and left her starving in a pasture in Iowa. She was sold to a dealer, made her way to Wisconsin, and in probably the luckiest moment of her life to date, trotted across the arena she was turned out in and caught my eye. I bought her the next day, 30 minutes before she was headed for an auction. She was emaciated and pus ran from her eyes and nose. Her attitude made it clear that she had long since learned not to expect much from the human race.

A few years later, Sam and her new owner, Sherry, were end of the year champions in Short Stirrup Equitation in our local h/j circuit. Sam never took a lame step, never wanted for anything again in her life, and died a peaceful death in the pasture at age 25.

I didn't want to hear the truth about what happened to my old friend when I was 15. I cried my eyes out. But I suspect that incident had a lot to do with the fact that I grew up to become the person who saved Samantha, and other horses. Sometimes we have to hear things we don't want to hear in order to become the people who will change the future, who will be angry enough to get off our butts and make things different. If you're one of those people who doesn't like to hear about the ugliness in the horse world, I hope you'll think about that. And if you're a kid who's upset and frustrated that you can't do anything yet - just wait. Your time will come and your help will be needed, and I'm glad so many of you are out there just waiting for your turn.