So, perhaps in self-defense, I tend to stay home a lot. I leave the house for an occasional appointment and even less often, a trip to the grocery store. A girl's gotta eat! But, I'll go only when there is absolutely nothing anywhere in the house that comes close to being edible. You'd be surprised at how creative I can be when I don't want to leave my little nest here.
But, even staying home isn't a guarantee that I won't see something I'd rather I didn't. Just now, I glanced out my window here to see a neighbor go to the trunk of one of his many (junk) cars, pick something out of it, drink it, slam the trunk down, then walk around the front of his house. I had to watch a good long while because - he looked naked. That wouldn't be a bad thing if he was Brad Pitt, but no, not this guy. He's got a beer-belly pouch with quite a hang to it, which became really obvious as soon as he walked somewhere more out in the open so that I could see that he actually had pants on for that pouch to flow over. Whew, what a relief! Since he's pretty tanned, I can see that his pants are falling down a bit to reveal the stretch waistband of his tidy-whiteys. Ahem. I'm glad my eyesight isn't good enough to see plumber's crack from this distance.
Sitting at my desk, I'm glad I don't have my glasses on. Until today, it has been really, really dry here. I can see puffs of dust when the cats and dogs go by my window, and clouds of it when the horse does. It's been hot too, so I have a fan going constantly. Said fan pulls in the puffs and clouds to settle very nicely over everything on my desk. I don't see that layer of dust and silt until it gets deep, or I notice that I can't see what's on my computer screen anymore. So, I don't look around the room to see that same layer coating my guitar cases, my books or my framed photos. I can still see that the photos are of people, though I couldn't tell you who.
It finally rained today. It was a very different rain in that it was a normal rain. There was thunder and lightening, but the rain just fell. It didn't pour or fall sideways, it just fell. The sun is just now starting to peek out from behind the clouds, and that makes little sparkles all over. And, I can actually see the grass grow. Unfortunately, it's growing slower than the weeds which have shot up almost a half foot since this morning. Oh boy, it's going to take a lot of muscle to mow all that now.
I was going to write this profound essay about thinking. Obviously, that's not happening. Not today. I am cuddled up and comfortable in my state of denial. I think a long nap is in order. I'll write it later. Yeah.
Maggie is a 20 year old, registered Appaloosa mare. She spent a good chunk of her life as a broodmare, and produced quite a few quality horses that went on to be point earners. Last year, my friend Karen was reducing her herd and gave this horse to a woman who was just getting back into horses. A few days ago, the woman calls Karen to come get the mare, she was losing her house to foreclosure, and this is the condition the mare came back in. She's been to the vet, waiting on labs, and is getting five large meals a day now.
Another friend tells us that a few nights ago, two very nice ponies were dropped off on their road, left to wander. That brings the total number of strange trucks pulling trailers and mysteriously appearing horses to nine in the last two months. The Sheriff tells them there is nothing he can do, so just round 'em up and haul 'em to the auction. One was a wild acting stallion that someone had no choice but to shoot and kill since it killed a foal and was ravaging a mare.
The raw truth of the situation for horses is that no one can afford much of anything, let alone a 'luxury' item like a horse. Many current horse owners can no longer afford them, and with no one buying, there is no way to sell them.
I don't like saying it, but there is the truth in plain sight: With no market and no slaughter, the fate of many horses is just not good.
Here's a "before" picture of Maggie, in the condition she was in before.
And a big thank you and linklove to all my "regular," top droppers:
The instructor sat somewhere in the back of the room incognito while everyone filed in and didn't get up until a student stood in the doorway looking lost that there wasn't an empty desk. Gary, an elderly gentleman that immediately seemed gentle and kind, got up and walked to the front of the class, pulled the chair out from behind the teacher's desk and sat down. The first-day jitters eased a little, but Gary still said nothing while he looked around the room.
"Hello," he said, softly, warmly and continued to look at each of us. I know I smiled at that and thought he was either really boring, or he was playing one heck of a game on us. Finally, he crossed one leg over the other, clasped his knee with his hands, and continued.
"I'm glad to see you all here. Now, what I'd like each of you to do is come up to the blackboard and write five words that describe you." No introduction, no talk about what the course was about, just that.
Uh oh, I thought to myself, and I froze. I'm pretty sure that everyone around me held their breath too. Who was going to go first? Five words? What five words? Whatever am I going to pick for five words to describe me?
Gary stood up and walked over to lean against the window sill. He wasn't looking around at us any longer. Finally, a girl popped out of her chair and walked quickly to the blackboard. Her hand didn't hesitate as she quickly scribbled out five words. The relieved outflow of collectively held breath was definitely audible this time. I was so busy being relieved that I have little memory of that first girl or the words she wrote on the board.
Gary waited until she sat down again, then read the words on the board out loud, softly and slowly. Again, we all held our breath, and the girl who wrote them sat still with wide eyes. Slowly, he nodded and said, "I can see that," and proceeded to talk about how the five words fit together. He asked for clarification on a few things and went on like he knew the girl. But then, he asked her what her name was and repeated it back.
A-ha, now this is a new game, eh? There was no hesitation for the next person to go up to the board and write down five words, and Gary did the same thing. He repeated the words slowly, then launched into talking about who the person was before asking their name. The students would answer his questions, but didn't say much beyond that. They all seemed surprised that he could know so much about them from five words. Two more people, same thing. By that time, I was still trying to think of words that would describe me.
Finally, I got up as the fifth person to take the challenge. I walked toward that blackboard like it was the only thing in the world. I had no idea what I was going to write during that long and fateful walk up to the front of the classroom, but when I picked up the chalk, I wrote "mother," "honest" and "basic" and drew a blank. My hand hovered, then dropped the chalk back into its little shelf and turned to go back to my desk.
Before I took two steps, Gary said, "Basic? How do you mean that?" I think I had one foot held in the air from stopping so suddenly, and I replied, "It was the only word I could think of that means what-you-see-is-what-you-get." Gary laughed and smiled, his eyes released me, so I continued back to my chair. I realized that I was no longer nervous.
"So, you're a new mom?"
"Yes, my son is now 10 months old."
"And you take motherhood pretty seriously. It must be a challenge for you. And now you're in college, another big challenge." A pause here. I could only nod my head. It didn't seem like a challenge per se, but more like a path that had to be taken. "So, tell me how you came to decide to go to college."
"When I had my son, I realized I needed to grow up. You can't raise a child making minimum wage, so I have to do what it takes to give him a better life than that."
I don't remember much more than that, but I do remember that Gary seemed to talk to me a lot longer than he did anyone else. And, I was the last one for the night. It was time for the class to end.
During the next few classes, I came to understand that Gary spoke softly all the time, and when he talked slowly, he was taking his time to be sure he said exactly the right thing. I'm pretty sure he did it with everyone, though I don't know how, but he seemed to talk with me one on one every class. During the fifth class (seems to be a magic number here), he finally told us that he was the Director of the Counseling Center. This time when he talked to me, he invited me to come see him in his office.
That was the beginning of a long relationship. It wasn't counseling. It seemed that, every week for one hour for around ten years, we would chat, exchange ideas, bitch and moan, and just share. Eventually, I became one of his employees, and he was the one that told me I had graduated magna cum laude for my Bachelor's degree. During my Master's degree, I student taught with him for one of his courses at the University, all the while meeting with him once a week for an hour until he retired. Of all the people I have known, he made the biggest, most positive impact on me.
When I reflect on who and what I am, I always think of that first class in career exploration and how I could only come up with three words to describe myself. This has become my story. I wonder what words everyone I meet would choose to describe themselves.
Can you describe yourself in five words?
Next to words, images are essential in getting an idea across in blogs or Web sites. Just as quickly as they can enhance your presentation is as quickly that a bad image can hurt it. The photos above show you just how much a few errors can ruin an image. The one on the left was saved correctly; the one on the right was not. Read on for everything you need to know to show the best images possible on your site or blog.
There are two color modes or gamuts: RGB, for red, green and blue, and CMYK, for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. They behave differently because they are geared for two very different kinds of presentation. RGB is used for online or any kind of projected display. What this means is that color is perceived by light that is projected directly into the eye. CMYK is used for print, and color is perceived by the way light reflects off of the colors on the paper.
Here you can see how the two modes are different in how the colors mix. RGB is "additive," meaning that the more colors you blend together, the lighter it appears because you are adding more projected light. CMYK mode is "subtractive," meaning that the more colors you mix together, the darker it appears.
Even if the purpose for an image is that it will be printed, most will work on and tweak the image in RGB mode, get it looking the way they want, and then will switch to CMYK and make final adjustments to the color for print.
JPG and GIF
The next greatest factor in how well your images display on a Web site or blog is how you saved the file. JPG and GIF are the most common image file types for online show, and all Web browsers will recognize and display these two file formats. You will recognize these image types by the file name itself, before you open to view the image, by the file's extension - image.jpg or image.gif.
Your computer uses file extensions to identify the file type and the specific application that created it. For instance, you will see .doc for files created in Microsoft Word, .txt for basic text files that are created in Notepad, and .pdf for files saved in Adobe Acrobat for display in Acrobat Reader. When your computer sees a file with .jpg or .gif as the extension, it will either open the image viewer, or a graphics editing program like Photoshop, if you have it installed.
JPG and GIF are compression techniques.
Unlike other file types, JPG and GIF are actually compression techniques or routines. In general, compression is a way to make the image files as small as possible for the quickest online display. You'll know immediately if an image hasn't been compressed or optimized because you'll be waiting for it to download to your computer, even if you have the fastest connection speed. Image files can be huge if you're not careful. And as a general rule, people won’t wait very long before clicking to go elsewhere.
How these compression techniques work is a bit technical, but by understanding the basics, you will know when to use JPG or GIF and have the best image quality with the fastest download time.
Behind the scenes of any file is a bunch of instructions that tell your computer how to display the file on your screen. JPG is a "bitmap" in that its instructions actually tell each pixel on your screen exactly which color to display. Bitmap or JPG is the best for photographs because it can display just about an infinite range of colors, far more colors than our eye can actually perceive. By giving each pixel its own individual instruction, it can smoothly display very slight variations of color or grayscale that you see in, for instance, gradient transitions from one color to another or in shadows.
JPG is "lossy" in its compression. Because each individual pixel has its own instructions, the compression technique looks at each pixel and its neighbors and will throw out any that are similar. If you open a JPG file in any kind of image editing program and save it again, it will run the compression routine on the file again, and throw out more pixel instructions. So, each time it is saved, it loses quality. This is also why you will notice a significant loss in image quality if you attempt to make the image larger. The instructions were thrown out, so you will have blocks of color to make up for the lost information - pixilation.
GIF instructions are very different than JPG's per pixel ones, and is best used for any image with large areas of solid color. The GIF format is "vector," which means it describes solid shapes and fills those shapes with one color. It is like this: Draw a line from point A to point B, a line from point B to point C, and another from point C back to point A, then fill it with blue.
GIF is "lossless" in that no matter what size you choose to make the image, it will still show solid color. The compression works by adjusting each set of instructions that describe the solid shape. You can define an area of your image to be transparent so that any background color you display the image on will come through. GIF images can also be animated. The limitation of GIF, and why it fails miserably for use with photographs, is that it is limited to only 256 colors. Gradients will come out banded.
So, which do you use?
The best judge of which to use, JPG or GIF, is your eye. However, I use my computer to help me. Most image editing software will show you the size of the file and allow you to switch between JPG and GIF to compare how effective the compression is. Choose the one with the smallest file size! Here are some additional things to think about:
- Always save your original and work from a copy. This is especially important when working with lossy JPG images since each time it is saved, information is thrown out.
- JPG images will begin to show loss of quality if the size of the image is increased beyond 20%.
- Save photographs in JPG. You will notice that most digital cameras save in JPG format already.
- GIF works best for flat text and logos. If there are any special effects like shadows or beveling, you may have to save in JPG.
- JPG gives you the option, usually as a slider, of how much compression to use. Save at the lowest level without losing quality for the fastest possible download speed.
- GIF allows you to choose how many colors to use to help with the compression. Again, choose the least number of colors without quality loss for the most compression.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
When the weight of the world is on my shoulders, it is a tremendous lift to see something as simple and as beautiful as this. Sometimes, it's just too easy to pass something like this by without a thought. But, all you have to do is dive in and that weighty world is lifted.
Have a peaceful day!
(Click on the photo to see it full size.)
For the past two years, Karen has single-handedly run and put on horse shows as the president of NCAApHC, no easy feat; and at the same time, started and quickly became successful here in Arkansas with her own horse and carriage business called The Princess's Carriage.
I hope you have a great day, Karen, and Happy Birthday!
It was back in 1979 that AT&T coined the advertising slogan, "Reach out and touch someone." Ancient history or not, it is a very real desire to reach out and communicate with others, to touch others in any way possible. The last few days, I've run across many blogs that are all reaching out and touching others with joy, sometimes sorrow and pain, but always sharing what lies within.
I ran across one blog that determined a post's worth by separating truth from truthiness, saying that value to others comes only from information derived from fact found through research, from an authority. I can't find that post again to link to it, not that I really want to; because, of course, I beg to differ.
It is only worth reading if it comes from an authority?
I hit the roof. Reading that post made me see red. In one sentence, it denied the value of every single person. Sure, that's jumping to conclusions, but it is still the one I came to. I have run into wisdom and truth willingly shared from many more individuals than any sort of 'authority' out there. To be honest, I trust real people sharing a part of themselves far more than experts or professionals. It seems as soon as a paycheck is involved, truth goes out the window. You can't buy honesty, loyalty or truth.
Truth and truthiness; is there a distinction?
From what I recall, the author of that post said that 'truthiness' is only one person's interpretation, and therefore is not of value to anyone else. This just didn't make sense to me. Deciding that something is the truth takes exploration and integration - a lot of thought. To say that has no value to someone else is to say no one has value to another.
That's not what I say! I believe that...
"We do not teach; we share our knowledge."
It is through sharing that we discover the commonalities and differences that give each of us value. That value can only come through sharing. What is different and what is the same between us is what makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
The power is thought.
As soon as you draw in breath to sing, as soon as you face a blank canvas, as soon as you hover your hands over your computer's keyboard you are focusing your creativity, your thoughts. This focus goes into the music, onto the canvas with the paint and into the words you are writing. This is a fire that lights the way, that grows, that spreads, that ignites more fires. It is your meaning and reason that you are manifesting, sharing with others.
The bottom line.
I value each and every blog I've read. I value the time and energy each person has invested in writing and sharing with me, the reader. I value the time and energy spent reading the words that I write.
From my heart to yours, I thank you.
Find the great blogs I'm talking about by clicking on the Entrecard (E-card) and visitng those listed in the Recent Readers list.
We are at risk of personal stagnation; of withdrawal into ourselves, of hiding.
A good percentage of the time, knowing why you are feeling a bit out of it right now, if you are, can be a tremendous help. And, the best part, it's a perfectly normal reaction to have right now. Let me explain.
Give your feelings a name.
Let me give you an example of what just happened to me to illustrate just how all-over-the-place emotions can get. Tomorrow morning, I have an interview over an hour away, and there is less than a quarter of a tank of gas in my truck. First thing I have to do is get gas on my way out. A friend called and, in the course of the conversation, said her husband could not get gas for their truck on the way home tonight, that all the stations were out of gas.
What?! I have to go tomorrow. I have to get gas to get there. Do I dare try to make it into the city and hope I find a station with gas there? Since my friend has no gas in her truck, I won't be able to call her to come get me if I run out of gas. I'll be stranded! I'll miss my interview! All this ran through my mind in a split second.
Then, her husband said that the stations that were out of gas were the little ones out in the middle of nowhere, not in town; that the ones in town here will probably be OK. He just figures they are small and couldn't afford to buy more to fill their tanks.
The important interview was (is) the priority, above all else. Getting there was threatened, and few alternatives or options came to mind. I was in a state of panic, an acute form of anxiety. Fight didn't seem to be an option, and neither did flight, so I shut down. All of this within seconds. Though I'm not entirely convinced the explanation was the answer to the sudden crisis, I have no proof that it isn't, so I allowed myself to be relieved. There's nothing I can do about it until the morning anyway, so I'll just have to leave a little earlier than originally planned. I'll roll with it tomorrow when it gets here. Just as quickly as the panic set in was as quickly as the relief came. Just like that.
If I didn't sit down and think through this little panic attack, I'd still be shut down. I wouldn't have any choices identified or contingencies thought out. Nor would I be in any shape in the morning to be my best.
Why it's important.
Most of life's crises don't come at you out of the blue like this one, so as they do pile up, there might not be that state of panic to tip you off to it. Instead, you might just go right to shutting down once you have exhausted everything you can think of as options. It might be one little, minor thing after another until they all pile up on your shoulders.
Again, this is a perfectly normal reaction. But, what you need to realize is that is all it is: a reaction. It is the emotional equivalent to scratching at the bite a mosquito just gave you. Once you catch yourself itching, you stop because you know that to continue itching would only make it worse.
Go do something else.
Since your mind isn't working anyway, go do something else. Go outside for awhile. Check your email. Wash the dishes and make the bed. Just do anything you can think of besides sitting there in a shut-down state. Once your brain starts working again, once you regain perspective, you'll be able to return to identify what you were feeling and move into coming up with solutions.
I'll write about this more in depth soon. For now, I'd better get to bed so I can get up in the morning!
Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.
Just think: 2008 is a year of history-making. The first woman presidential contender, the first black presidential contender, the country is economically crippled and global leaders are arguing like teenagers. What we really needed was something positive, something good to ease the pain of it all. A Triple Crown winner followed by a match race between Big Brown and Curlin would've been a nice reprieve. It would've been "Seabiscuit" all over again.
Instead, the news is confusing and fragmented:
"After Big Brown’s collapse, there were suspicions, fairly or not, that the horse, who looked unbeatable in April and May, was a fraud." (Rhoden)
What the general media has latched onto is Big Brown's trainer saying that he routinely injected his horses with steroids. The trainer told reporters that he didn't know the effects the steroids had on the horses if any; he just likes to use them.
What was observable on TV's recording of the Belmont points to other questions that haven't been addressed:
- The media was kept at a distance in the week prior to the Belmont, yet few questioned this.
- During the post parade, Big Brown was very calm. Too calm.
- Stifling heat and humidity, but Big Brown was dry.
- Review of the race showed no reason for the jockey to pull the horse out of the race. The jockey made errors in how he rode the race, but not enough that the horse could'nt have run it.
- The trainer and vets find nothing wrong with the horse.
- Obviously as healthy of a horse as he was going into the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, yet the jockey pulls the horse out of the race.
- The long shot horse, Da' Tara, leads and wins the race with no challenges.
The rumors abound that Big Brown wasn't sound. That he was too calm and then sluggish during the race points to drugs like pain killers and calming agents. No hoof, no horse.
If I were to identify what I feel about this, I'd have to say that I am flat, discouraged and disappointed. It seems that all the good things that used to make America strong is gone. It is all replaced by uncontrolled, boundless greed. The truth of the matter is that horses don't lie.
It'll take me a few days to come up with the positives on this one.
Big Brown had the post position. He was calm and relaxed during the parade. He loaded into the gate no problem. He came out of the gate 3rd and crossed the finish 3rd.
No history today, folks.
Update: Ooops, he finished LAST (Thanks, Lisa!)
Thank you, everyone, for bringing so much to light by contributing to the discussion. I hope you'll continue on because there is so much more to talk about.
The Time article I used as a source in the post is one that I give weight to because it is from Time. Even though all news agencies have a gatekeeper, journalists are still taught, and most adhere to, a code of ethics that would be a challenge to anyone outside the profession. One of those particular codes is that they report events as objectively as possible, without personal involvement. Reporters are researchers and will confirm facts with several sources before stating them as facts; or the facts will be verified by someone on staff. As with all ethical codes, it is a guide, a guideline, and a way to protect both the reporter and the reportee.
With Time as one of the most notable publications in the country, I'd say that, as a source of information, it can be trusted much more than, say, me or any other Joe Schmoe with an opinion about an issue. As national as CBS, Time holds their reporters to the same standards of reporting. (Think about what happened with Dan Rather and you'll understand what I mean.) Is what they report 100% accurate 100% of the time? That is not humanly possible. But, it's a far more objective source of information than any special interest group because news reporters at least work at being fair.
Smaller publications will write what is most relevant for their readership. Farming and agriculture newspapers and magazines are no exception. The same ethics and standards apply, no matter what the size of the publication. If there are slants, then it is because it is the general preference of its readership. If not, the publication wouldn't survive.
The Slaughter Issue Itself
The thought of killing a horse or any other animal horrifies me. I cannot condone killing at all. It breaks my heart to think that, if I want protein in my diet, a cow or pig has to die. This is a major cause of 'cognitive dissonance' for me, and it will remain, as long as I continue to try to convince myself that beef and pork come from the grocery store.
But, the anti-slaughter faction strikes as bad a chord with me as the anti-abortion crew does.
I personally would never have an abortion. As soon as I hit 40 without marrying and having a "real" family of my own, I gave up that dream, and I'll tell you why: There is no way that I would chance a pregnancy at risk for Downs Syndrome or any other birth defect because I would not ever want to be in a position to have to decide to terminate the pregnancy. That is the life choice that I made.
But, because I made that choice for myself does not mean that I have the right to make that choice for someone else. It is up to each woman to decide for herself what she can and cannot do, and no one has any right, any claim to superiority, any claim to ownership over her or her body or the choices she is faced with.
In the same way, I would personally never choose to slaughter my horse. But, the reality of it is that I may have no other choice when the time comes. I would hope to own land where there are no restrictions to burying large animals, but that is too far in the future for me to know for certain. I may even pass over before he does. Again, it is my choice, and because I make this particular choice does not mean that I have the right to take someone else's choice away.
Freedom of choice is a fundamental right. As with all freedoms, there is responsibility. Taking responsibility and being responsible earns freedom. Way back in my memory is hearing something about some state sterilizing mentally retarded people, and how the doo doo hit the fan. The institution performed the procedure without consent or knowledge. I suppose they thought their arguments were valid and that they were solving a 'problem.' But, what they did is break a fundamental right to choose.
As much as everyone wants to paint child protective services as pariahs or evil, what they strive to do is maintain the family first. They will work with people, give education and support, and do everything they can to keep the family intact. Only when it is determined that a child is in absolute risk of abuse or neglect will they take the child out of the home. The parents are given every opportunity to rectify the problems, to be responsible before the state moves to remove the child.
In essence, the same holds true for animal abuse and neglect. It is only recently that animal abuse and neglect laws have become felonies, and only in some states. The majority of the time, an animal is of so little consequence that there is very little enforcement of laws and legislation on animal welfare.
Whether we have a child or an animal, we are in the custodial role. It is our responsibility to provide for and care for that child or animal because we made the choice to have it. If you fail in your responsibilities, then you lose the child or animal - i.e., the freedom to choose.
My point with this is that we all have to define for ourselves our fundamental beliefs. I have defined my beliefs and live my life in such a way as to stay true to those beliefs. I have found that much of life's questions are clearly answered if drilled down to the core: free will and choice.
Once one choice is taken away, it becomes much easier to take another, and another, and another.
No matter what the cause, no matter if it's more or less compared to such and such a year, the fact remains that horses are starving to death now.
No matter which side of the slaughter issue you choose to stand, this is the crisis that is happening right now. Instead of beating to death the same old arguments with the same list of biased sources, lets put our heads together and come up with ways to solve the current crisis. In the end, working together to end this crisis will appease both camps. There is only one reason to do so, and one reason only:
For the love of the horse.
About the Photo: When I looked out my window yesterday morning, there was Dagger curled up with Odin. I grabbed my camera and snapped this photo right as Odin was falling over in a deep sleep. When he did fall over, his front legs hit Dagger who yelped and sprang out of the way. The yelp startled Odin and he jumped up fast. I burst out laughing, and Odin gave me a dirty look. I wish I had gotten that shot too.
There are currently 9.2 million horses in the US, and 2 million people own horses, according to the American Horse Council, with a $102 billion impact on the country's economy. In the best of times, a horse can expect several owners during its average 30 year lifespan as the majority are sold within five years of purchase. Just as with all other livestock, the bottom dollar price of a horse was regulated by the current price per pound. In late 2007, legislation was passed that banned the use of horse meat sold for human consumption and closed the three horse slaughter plants in the US, effectively eliminating the horse's monetary value.
Perhaps it is because of the long lifespan that few consider the dilemma of disposal of a 1200 pound horse. Even fewer comprehend the dilemma of what do to with rank, mean, dangerous horses as well as those that are unusable due to chronic lameness or illness. Despite popular belief based on the propaganda spun by anti-slaughter activists, horses sold to "kill buyers" were no longer marketable. As a checks and balances system, this kept the horse market stable and growing with safe, healthy, valuable animals on the market.
The horse slaughter industry continues to exist - outside of the humane regulations that were in place in the US slaughter plants. Now, lame, ill, old and dangerous horses endure cruel and inhumane transport and slaughter in Mexico, where the method of killing is repeatedly stabbing the horse in the back until its spinal cord is severed. No matter what legislation is passed now, there is no way to control what happens to horses in another country.
The result is even less palatable. Horses are left to starve in pastures or turned loose and abandoned. The recent economic downturn has compounded the existing problem as well. Home foreclosures, rising costs of fuel, feed and hay along with costly veterinary care have priced the horse right out of affordability. Millions of horses are for sale, but no one is buying. Instead of a humane end, horses now suffer a long, slow death of starvation.
A recent Time article highlights the conditions of unwanted horses and the impact of the slaughter ban; and how people within the horse industry perceive the current state of affairs: "People who protest slaughter ought to have a bunch of these old horses starving to death in their back yards."
It is ironic that both the Humane Society and PETA were at the forefront of the anti-slaughter movement. As overseers of the pet populations, their main course of choice for population control is euthanasia. Dogs and cats that fall into their hands are euthanized whether they are healthy or ill, even those animals that they purportedly rescue from inhumane circumstances. And, neither agencies have elected to participate in the current horse crisis they helped create, either with intervention or alternatives. What wasn't an over population problem now is a major problem.
Some feel that, in order to shore up the bottom in the horse market, low quality, unregistered horses need to be eliminated to restore the value of well bred, well trained horses. While professional breeders have already cut back on breeding, reducing the future availability of quality horses, "backyard breeders" have continued to breed sub standard animals. One solution would be to regulate horse breeding and limit allowance to those that own quality, registered horses. An inexpensive, cost effective gelding of sub standard colts within its first year of life would reduce a good number of the unwanted horse population.
It is imperative that horse education programs expand. Since the initial cost of a horse has dropped so low, many are buying horses with no idea how to handle, care for and feed them. With the high cost of hay and feed, new owners quickly realize that the initial cost of a horse is minor compared to maintenance costs. On top of this, many new owners find that horses are not like a car that sits out in a driveway waiting to come to life when the key is turned, and become discouraged if not injured. In the end, less than 20% of new horse owners still own a horse five years later.
With the current economy coupled with the elimination of horse slaughter, it is crucial that everyone involved take responsibility for horses, whether it be not breeding, advocating for solutions or educating new horse owners. If the goal was to protect a national symbol, what does this say to the rest of the world about how we take care of the things we have vowed are important to us?
Note: The colt in the photo died three weeks later of starvation. He is one of 25 horses that I witnessed starving to death. I can attest to the extreme suffering.