Winter Whoas

The two Miniature Horses and the Miniature Donkey came trotting through the early morning gloom from the frozen field into the spotlight of the barn for their morning hay. As they got closer, I noticed they were moving ... funny. Not the ha-ha type, but strange. They were not quite lame, but they certainly were not moving normal. Then, as they got into the light, I could tell they were each walking on not snowballs or iceballs, but frozen mud balls. This was a first for me. Apparently the warm sun the day before thawed some patch of dirt that proved too tempting to resist. Then the cold front that moved through that night froze the mud into each foot. So, as they munched their morning hay, I pried at the frozen mud balls (would that combination of mud and ice be mice? muce? icud?). Like ice balls they popped out pretty readily after a bit of maneuvering. The moral of this story is that yes, we have to feed in the dark during winter (one of the banes of having a day job and horses), but we must make sure we check everyone twice a day (and have a good hoof pick handy). It's part of owning horses.

Economic Whoas

Another part of owning horses is knowing what you can and can't afford. The downturn in the economy continues, and with the downturn come the tough decisions.

Many horse owners are working harder and smarter as the economy gets worse. They've said they'll do whatever is necessary to keep their horses. Others are culling their herds. Still others are saying "whoa" and are cutting their equine expenditures entirely.

Being forced out of horse ownership isn't necessarily a bad thing for those who can't afford to keep their horses in good condition or good health.

But what about the horses? We're hearing from more and more horse owners who are worried about U.S. horses being shipped to slaughter in Canada or Mexico. Some are bemoaning the fact that we no longer have multiple USDA-inspected equine slaughter facilities in the United States that would provide oversight for the welfare of those slaughter-bound horses.

The industry has started providing (and embracing) low-cost euthanasia clinics. Someone then must pay for those carcasses to be taken to a rendering plant because the chemicals used in euthanasia make the carcass unusable in human or animal feeds. In fact, there have been some horse owners prosecuted in Western states after leaving out horses that were chemically euthanized, and endangered bird species died as a result of ingesting the tainted meat.

Low-cost castration clinics? Hallelujah! Let’s encourage every veterinary school in North America to offer them.

On A Brighter Note

The same California welfare group that first offered low-cost euthanasia and carcass disposal (NorCal Equine Rescue in Oroville, Calif.) is now proposing low-cost castration clinics. Hallelujah! Those are the types of programs we should be promoting. These offer a couple of solutions to the problem of future unwanted horses (no "oops" breedings and the fact it is easier to find a home for a gelding than an intact male).

Let's encourage every veterinary school in North America to offer low-cost castration clinics. Not only would they provide a service to the industry, but think how adept veterinary students would become at castration!

But remember, welfare begins at home. Take care of your own horses, or be a good steward and find them a good home.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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