Time to Get Mulish

Because of our closeness to nature and our dealings with domestic creatures that still exhibit many of their wild instincts, horse owners are blessed with a high sense of survival. (How many times have you almost been hurt by horses, but anticipated a situation or reacted in time to keep yourself safe?) But, what we have called "horse sense" in the past perhaps today should be called "mule sense." Anyone who has ever dealt with mules--and understands them--knows they are not stubborn. They just have a higher independence level than horses, and a greater sense of self-preservation. Maybe now it is time for us as citizens of the United States to become a little more "mulish" in the way we view the world.

Our country has forever been changed by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. As Americans it means danger, proactive protectionism, and joining with our allies around the world; as horse owners it could mean more problems, some of which are similar to what we've faced before.

How many of you remember that in early 1995 we couldn't get our hands on any Bot Tox-B botulism vaccine for our horses? For months and months, horse owners and veterinarians weren't able to find out the problem with supply. Finally in late June of that year, the president of Neogen Corporation, which makes the botulism vaccine, was able to release the reason for the equine vaccine hold-up--a response to a possible terrorist plot.

The toxin produced by C. botulinum is one of the most potent known to man. In January of 1995, the U.S. government confirmed that Saddam Hussein had imported 39 tons of media capable of growing botulism and anthrax. It also was learned that Hussein's nephew had bought a spray dryer capable of preserving such organisms.

Also at that time, a terrorist cult in Japan was infiltrated and found to have large quantities of botulism toxins. Based on that information (and I'm sure other information that was not made public), military leaders stepped up biological warfare preparedness programs. All available tetanus Type B toxoid that was destined for equine vaccines ended up in human vaccines stockpiled for our military personnel.

Bioterrorism could mean that horses and other animals (such as beef cattle, chickens, pigs, etc.) are directly affected. Veterinarians on state and national levels have discussed these potential problems, but there are no easy solutions.

There are many ways that our lives will be changed because of the terrorist attack, and there are many things in our lives that won't change. To paraphrase one newspaper columnist, we are a family that likes to squabble amongst ourselves, but we are, above all, a family.

In the days, months, and years ahead, we need to unite. We need to put aside our "family squabbles" for a greater good. Let's stand with our family members in New York, Washington, and around the world who were touched by this tragedy inflicted upon innocent people. (And not just Americans; 80 countries lost citizens in the attack.)

We are blessed in this country to be able to spend our money and time as we choose. No one dictates that one person can have horses and another can't. No one tells us when and how we can use our horses (as long as we are humane). No one prohibits us from riding on our own property or on designated public lands. We work hard at our jobs, and enjoy our chosen recreations and lifestyles.

But others who worked hard didn't go home. They weren't allowed the chance to hug their families, pet their dogs, or ride their horses. There was no justice in their deaths, just death.

I encourage you to find creative ways to help, whether sponsoring a trail ride to raise funds for the American Red Cross, sponsoring a blood drive in your community, or just reaching out and sharing your four-legged companions with those who might not know the serenity and the brilliant spirit that horses possess.

Take a moment today to be thankful for what we have, then decide how you can help our country get back on its feet and show the world we stand together, a "mulish" people whose sense of independence and self-preservation have been raised to a new, enduring level.

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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