Thursday, April 16, 2009

I believe that's more than three strikes...

Sorry for the graphic picture, but today I have to go there. I've got a point to make here. This drama started, as many rescue dramas do, on the Alex Brown forum with a begging-for-money post. But the ABR forum has gotten smart thanks to being burned many, many times (Well, most of them.) Now most of them ask questions and do research and this is what their research turned up.

You may have already seen this picture. It was taken at the Three Strikes Ranch. The horse shows all the signs of having died from starvation. He's emaciated, and the marks in the sand show his struggles and the "paddling" that takes place before starvation finally shuts down the organs forever. (Nice feet, too!)

From their mission statement:

"You were the horse's best friend.You fed your horse first before you fed yourself."

Well, it's pretty damn apparent you didn't feed that horse before you fed yourself.

The head honcho here is some mustang trainer named Jason Meduna. Jason likes to take lots of pictures of himself...some with his shirt off. Put your shirt on and explain what we're hearing - that a horse you said was poisoned and dead is alive but was brought in horribly emaciated, that the BLM has already pulled horses out - at least the one they could find that was still alive. You're awful good at telling the media that you'll feed them before you'll feed yourself - well, I don't see YOU starving.

I can pretty much tell you Jason's defense before he even opens his mouth. Let's see how psychic I turn out to be:

"Your Honor, these horses live as nature intended! They run free and unfettered. They mate and raise their foals with the wind in their manes and freedom in their hearts. And it's the cycle of life that some of them naturally don't make it through the winter. If they're old or their teeth are bad or they are injured, they die. It's natural!"

Other things we are going to hear:

Poor Jason, he was just overwhelmed!

Poor Jason, donations dried up!

Poor Jason, he loves those horses!

And somehow I will bet those excuses play better coming from Cowboy Jason than they do from the typical middle aged, scraggly haired, mom-jeaned female hoarder. I'll betcha Jason never does get in any trouble for this or gets a wrist-slap. Besides, he has an influential (and I'm sure, highly embarrassed at the moment) BOD that will buy him a good lawyer. (P.S. I understand a little background checking might have prevented this situation. I think it's odd that I've had to get background and drug checked for several jobs which involved sitting on my butt doing paperwork, but nobody bothers to do it when you hand over control of a couple hundred horsey lives to somebody.)

You know that's exactly how this is going to go. Suddenly it is going to be some kind of experiment in natural horsekeeping and we'll get the "but they're mustangs/it's a sanctuary" get-out-of-the-abuse-conviction-free card going. This is why I keep asking the tough questions that NO ONE LIKES. Like, if I have an Arabian on one side of the fence and his feet are long and he hasn't been dewormed in 6 months and he has an untreated wound because I was too lazy to halter break him, that's abuse and he'll get seized and I'll get convicted, but if I have a Mustang on the other side of the fence with the same conditions, somehow it's OK because I have a "sanctuary" and they're all "living as nature intended." Or dying, as the case may be.

I call logical horseshit. If you put a fence around it, you just took responsibility and to me it's the same damn responsibility as if it was a Gypsy Vanner or a Holsteiner or a Shetland pony. If we don't start applying the same standard of care to every single horse under the custody and control of a human being in this country, we're f'ed as far as the laws go. Good luck getting cruelty convictions. Either we have a standard, or we don't. We can't have a standard for some owned horses and not others. It doesn't work! Think about it - if Mustang Marty can't trim the feet on his mustang because it's too wild, why can't Suzy BYB use the same excuse for her rank nasty three year old that she's scared of? If supplementing poor pasture with hay in the winter is not required when you have 300 horses, how can it be required when you have 30 horses? If I were Suzy's lawyer, I'd sure ask that question when Suzy gets charged with neglect for having curly-footed, emaciated horses.

But even with the best of intentions, the other point to make here is that there is no freakin' way to take good care of 300 horses without a massive staff. The stuff you can read in the ABR thread is all typical when you have too damn many horses. You can have too damn many horses whether you are a private ranch, a rescue, a sanctuary or whatever. (Side note: Jason, why the hell are you breeding more mustangs? Hello, we already have a zillion of them with no homes, did you not notice this?).

And this situation, like MANY that go south, is a result of things getting VERY big VERY fast. They opened this place in 2005 and already had 100 horses within the first year! That's not a good idea whether you are a mustang trainer or a lottery winner. You need to start with, say, five, and see how you do. See how many you have time to work with consistently. See how your finances hold up. See how many unexpected things cost money in that first year. See if you can find and retain qualified staff.

I firmly believe that a single individual, employed full time to do so, can take GOOD care of a maximum of 12 horses if they are stalled and maybe 15 to 20 at pasture depending on how the property is laid out and how labor-intensive activities like feeding and catching them are. That's it. If you have more than 20 horses per person, I will bet you any amount of money that I will find untreated injuries, unnoticed health conditions, and odds are excellent that things like feet will not be up to date or anywhere near. That's just what happens. None of us are Super(wo)man, and we can only do so much in a day. Having a reasonable number of animals that you can provide proper care for is always the right decision whether you're a rescuer or a private owner.

This story is developing and I suspect we'll know much more by evening. ABR seems to be deleting posts, and you know that won't happen here, so if you know more about this situation, feel free to share!