Glass Half Full?

Mud. Yuck! Is there any worse problem that we face in our equine environment than simple dirt and water mixed into a gooey sludge? The English have a great word for going out into the mud--they "slog" through it. Certainly sounds like what happens when our boots sink and slide. Mud not only turns all our horses into 10-year-old boys, but it sucks off shoes (theirs and ours) and gets tracked into houses, trucks, cars, tack rooms, aisleways, stalls, and any place else we inhabit. It covers up scrapes and scratches, fills in cuts so they are nearly impossible to find until they cause a problem, and it generally makes life miserable.

However, old-time horsemen used mud for many good things. One old fellow worked with Thoroughbred racehorses back before the days of X rays, ultrasound, and nerve blocks. When the trainer was having problems finding out what was making a horse "off," the old-timer simply slathered mud all over the horse's legs. Then he led him out in the field to graze. He said the place(s) that dried first were the hottest, and therefore should be the first sites to be examined for injury.

Others used to believe in walking their bad-footed horses in mud holes every day, and daring anyone to wipe or wash off the mud. They said the mud made the feet less brittle. Did it work? Who knows. It would be interesting to find out if any of today's hoof experts believe in that. I know several who would like to throw away lots of the "dressings" and "packs" that are used on feet today because they keep the feet too wet. Maybe like on the lame horse, the mud actually dried out the hooves and left them in a more natural state.

Like many things in the horse industry, mud might be a problem that could actually be a solution if used correctly.

U.S. Horses Need Homes Too

There are many sides to any story. We've been reporting on the pregnant mare urine (PMU) ranchers who are disbanding their herds (see article #4732 online). While many people want to take the horses and give them homes, many of those who came forward didn't have a farm or place to board the horses, much less the experience to re-train them for another job. How is that better for those horses?

Then there is the other side of that coin. A woman and her husband who raise draft crosses for sport horses and foxhunters in Oregon called and talked about their problems because of the PMU horse glut. Because of the tremendous number of horses entering the U.S. from Canada, the market for their horses had the bottom drop out. She and her husband are going out of business.

She said there are always killer buyers at sales, but that because of the high number of horses available now, the U.S. "sport horses" which normally would find buyers (such as ex-racehorses) were selling for $50 and $100 in her region.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) has an expansive system of farms and satellite facilities to rescue, accept, retrain, and adopt out Thoroughbreds of all types. The TRF estimates that 1,000 horses will go through their system next year. And that's just one group that only rescues Thoroughbreds. There are other breed and discipline groups that also help find homes and jobs for former athletes and cast-offs of their industries.

What's the solution? Where will all of these horses go? Not all of them are going to live. Some will be euthanized. How they die is up to our industry. Whether we develop a euthanasia program like what's available at animal shelters, have horses go to slaughter, or come up with something else is a problem that needs careful thought, but immediate answers.

I don't know the solution to overbreeding and under-demand. There isn't enough land for feral (wild) horses; we can't just turn surplus horses loose to fend for themselves. There aren't enough jobs for horses in the Americas, and there certainly aren't enough deep pockets to care for each one properly.

What's your solution? What can be done immediately with the surplus horses? What can be done to avoid this problem in future years? Write to us at and let us know. We'll publish some of the proposed solutions next month.

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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