Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Parker Teens Rescue Horses From Slaughter

Here is another really amazing story for you guys!!  I'm so glad people are out there doing everything they can to help horses!!! These kids are a great inspiration!~Declan

Parker teens rescue horses from slaughter

Allison Sylte, 12:04 p.m. MDT July 22, 2014  As posted on

PARKER – A group of teens with special needs was able to rescue four horses and a donkey from a livestock auction where a majority of the buyers would have shipped the animals to Canada or Mexico – where they would have been slaughtered.

The group of teens is called Drifter's Hearts of Hope. They used the money they earned from selling heart-shaped molasses and oat horse treats to buy the horses and donkeys last Wednesday.

"Everyone needs to be able to make a difference," group leader Jacqui Avis said in a news release.

"Teens with special needs experience people helping them. It's important for these amazing teens to be able to be the helpers."

The horses have been taken to a pasture east of Parker that community members donated to the group. To get the property ready, the teens and their parents spent several nights fixing fences, weed whacking and clearing debris.

The teens will meet the horses on Thursday. The hope is that the horses will eventually get adopted, giving Drifter's Hearts of Hope the chance to rescue more animals in the future.

"I love the horses and being able to help them," Patrick Zimmermann, a member of Drifter's Hearts of Hope, said in a news release. "I like that we can save their lives."

Horse's Tale Completes Cinderella Story

This is a really inspiring story!  Enjoy!!! ~Declan

Horse’s tale completes Cinderella story

The message of rescuing dogs and cats can be seen and heard many different places.

But one animal that is often forgotten when it comes to finding a good home are horses.

Thankfully however, some people, like Woodbury teen Maddie Kanda, haven’t lost sight of that message.Since last April Kanda, who is a full-time post-secondary education option student at Inver Hills Community College, has been fostering an 8-year-old Arabian mare named Raayna.

“I wanted to do something over the summer that would give a horse another chance,” she said. “I wanted to use my time and skills to help another horse find a forever home.”

Kanda is fostering Raayna through the This Old Horse rescue in Hastings.

As part of fostering Raayna, Kanda will be competing in this year’s Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse, a competition that challenges young horse trainers to showcase untrained rescue horses in hopes of becoming adopted.

“Any work I would put into it would definitely give a horse a better chance of getting adopted,” Kanda said.

A princess in need

Raayna, whose name means princess in Arabic, came from a farm in Crow Wing County where she was one of four Arabians on the property, including her foal Johnny.

All four horses were starved and neglected.

When the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation seized the horses in December of 2013 as part of neglect case, Raayna and Johnny were the only two horses to survive.

Horse body condition is ranked on a scale from one to 10 with one being extremely emaciated and 10 being extremely obese. Raayna was about a two. A healthy horse is ranked at about a five.

Johnny had a slightly better body condition than Raayna and the best explanation, Kanda said, is that the mother horse gave any food and water that she did receive to Johnny before taking any for herself.

“She put his life before her own,” Kanda said.

Also, Johnny, who is 3, was still nursing off of Raayna which was taking away a lot of her nutrients.

“Horses typically stop nursing after a couple months,” Kanda said. “But, because they weren’t separated and weren’t being fed, they didn’t have any reason to stop nursing.”

Raayna was also suffering from pneumonia when she was rescued.

Eventually Raayna and Johnny were moved to This Old Horse in Hastings since the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation had run out of room.

Raayna and Johnny not only received food and water, but both horses received medical attention in hopes of preparing both of them for the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse.

Challenged as a trainer

Through the Trainer’s Challenge, inexperienced trainers are paired with a rescue horse for about 100 days, to work with and present at the University of Minnesota’s Leatherdale Equine Center.

The only criteria for the horses are that they have had minimal human contact, never been ridden and are halter broke.

Horses and trainers showcase in five different categories – halter, pleasure, trail and obstacle, freestyle and veterinarian/farrier.

The basic skills a horse should learn include: standing quietly for a farrier and veterinarian, load and unload quietly into a trailer, stand patiently for tack and untacking, trotting in hand and being able to be ridden on the rail and on the trail.

Trainers are awarded $10,000 in cash and prizes.

This year’s Trainer’s Challenge for the Unwanted Horse will be Sept. 20 at the Leatherdale Equine Center at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.

Kanda, who has a horse of her own, first met Raayna in March after they were assigned to each other through the Trainer’s Challenge.

“When I first went out to meet her she was a little nervous,” Kanda said. “She was still getting used to the whole idea of being a horse again and having food and water.”

When Kanda first moved Raayna to her stable at Majestic Pines Farm in Afton, the two spent a lot of time just getting to know each other.

“She was still worried about food and water,” Kanda said. “That’s hard to get out of a horse that’s been starved and neglected.”

Besides just getting healthy, Kanda said she worked with Raayna a lot on moving past her worry.

Not only was Raayna worried for herself, she was worried about all of the other horses who came in and out of the stables.

Kanda said the worry probably was an after effect from leaving Johnny.

“It was hard leaving Johnny behind because they had gone through that whole ordeal together – there’s a pretty strong bond after that,” she said. “Now, she’s so worried about protecting everyone.”

On average, Kanda said she typically works with Raayna daily for about two hours.
“It’s nice to be able to watch her relax and not have all that worry,” she said. “She doesn’t even look like the same horse because her features have totally changed.”

For the Trainer’s Challenge, Kanda said she is very eager to showcase everything that Raayna has been able to overcome and accomplish. A few of her specialty tricks are jumping and dressage, or dancing.

Whether she wins anything in the challenge isn’t the priority for Kanda. The priority is finding Raayna a home.

The silent auction at the Trainer’s Challenge is specifically reserved for pre-approved owners.

“I’m sure there will be tears,” Kanda said, “but it will be so nice knowing that Raayna will be going to a good home and a place to live out the rest of her life.

“I’m sure I’ll be sad, but it will be so rewarding.”

Kanda said she might consider participating in the Trainer’s Challenge again in the future.
“I find it really easy to connect to horses,” she said. “The connection you get with your horse is different than with dogs and cats – the bonds are so strong.”


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Horses Find Home with Seniors

This is a GREAT story for both the horses and the seniors!  ~Declan

Horses find home with seniors

As posted on CBC News Posted: Jul 15, 2014 2:34 PM AT Last Updated: Jul 15, 2014 2:34 PM AT

Seniors and horses
Seniors and horses 1:50
A seniors residence in Summerside, P.E.I. has built a paddock to keep miniature horses on the property.
The home is finding the horses are a benefit to both the seniors and their families when they come to visit.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Teen With Cerebral Palsy Gets to Ride Horse of his Dreams

What an AWESOME story!!  ~Declan 

Teen with cerebral palsy gets to ride horse of his dreams

Posted: Sunday, July 6, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 10:35 am, Sun Jul 6, 2014.
Nicholas Thomas meets Shy Boy at Monty Robert's Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, 17, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak. He attends Severna Park High School.

Catherine Thomas speaks for her 17-year-old son.
Nicholas was born with triplegic cerebral palsy, which leaves him dependent on a communication device that says things out loud for him when he pushes buttons with pictures of objects.

So his mother is his voice. She’s vibrant and boisterous.
But Nicholas, who lives mostly in silence, has a hero who is another strong, silent type.
It’s a typical day at the Thomas household in Severna Park, and Nicholas is watching “Shy Boy,” a documentary made by the BBC in 1997. He has watched it every day for 13 years, when he first received the tape after seeing Shy Boy’s trainer, Monty Roberts, in person.
Catherine explains: Shy Boy is a wild horse that Monty Roberts tamed. Roberts, who wrote a book titled “The Man Who Listens to Horses,” doesn’t believe in using violent techniques to break horses.
Instead, he believes humans can communicate with horses in their own nonverbal language. Shy Boy returned to Roberts even after being accepted back into a band of wild horses.
Nicholas felt a link with a horse that communicates without words.
“The hardest disability (Nicholas) has is the inability to communicate, because he has so much to say,” Catherine said.
Last Christmas, Catherine asked Nicholas what he wanted.
He said he wanted to ride Shy Boy, using his communication device. Catherine told him that was impossible — Shy Boy might not even be alive anymore.
“He became so adamant and persistent and would not let it go and would get quite upset if I said it was impossible,” she said.
So eventually she resorted to Google and found Roberts’ website. There was a video of a now 21-year-old Shy Boy.
Nicholas went “through the roof,” Catherine said.
On Christmas Eve, she emailed Roberts.
Dear Monty:
I have a son with cerebral palsy and he does not speak. He has been riding since he was 2 and I attribute his ability to walk to riding. He has a great seat on a horse and has bonded with so many over the years.
He is now 17. When he was around 4, you came to Maryland and did a demonstration. We were there. Nicholas has a poster of Shy Boy on his bedroom wall that you signed. We also got the Shy Boy video and it has been playing in our house for the last 13 years, daily. He loves Shy Boy ...
For Christmas this year, once again he has asked to ride Shy
Boy ...
Have you ever had such a request before? I know you must think I am crazy, but if there is the remotest possibility of Nicholas being able to meet you and ride Shy Boy — even if just for a few minutes — I would make the journey to your farm. ...
I hope this reaches you, Mr. Roberts. Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to receiving your response.
A hopeful mom,
Catherine Thomas
Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas meets Shy Boy at Monty Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms, in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak. From left, Shy Boy, Monty Roberts, Nicholas and Catherine Thomas, Nicholas’ mother.

Meeting Shy Boy

On New Year’s Eve, Catherine received a response from Roberts’ daughter, who asked for a video of Nicholas riding.
She sent one. Three months passed. And then, an invitation.
But in the meantime, Nicholas had a tough spring. He had his first seizure and underwent two surgeries.
The promise of Shy Boy kept them going, Catherine said.
She nailed down a date of — June 23 — to go to Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms. The two flew to Los Angeles and made the 3½-hour drive to Solvang, Calif.
She assumed Nicholas would get to the farm, spend five or 10 minutes on the horse, and then leave.
Instead, she said, “We were treated — I say like royalty, but also like family.”
Roberts said children with disabilities come to the farm several times a week to see the horses.
“Therapeutic riding in many many instances becomes the No. 1 activity of joy for these otherwise almost joyless people, who find life extremely difficult,” he said.
Roberts said that the morning of Nicholas’ meet-and-greet with him, he nearly forgot about it.
“I saw him in the yard and saw how profoundly challenged he was, and all of a sudden it was the most important thing in my life,” he said.
Roberts gave them a demonstration, and then Nicholas met Shy Boy.
“It was almost like they were speaking volumes with no words,” Catherine said.
Shy Boy never took his eyes off Nicholas, she said.
First, Nicholas looked down, as a sign of respect to the horse, and the two connected. Then Shy Boy reached up and nuzzled Nicholas with his nose.
Everyone, Catherine said, had tears pouring down their cheeks. It looked like two old friends meeting, she said.
“Nick doesn’t show an awful lot of emotion. He’s not a big smiler, he’s not a big crier or anything like that,” she said.
When they moved to take Shy Boy to the arena, Nicholas looked back at his mom.
“I saw that it had totally moved him — tears in his eyes,” she said.
Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas rides Shy Boy, who is being led by Monty Roberts at his Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak. He attends Severna Park High School. Nicholas' mother, Catherine Thomas, watches at left.
Nicholas rode Shy Boy for about 15 to 20 minutes. Roberts talked about the benefits of therapeutic riding. They went to the stable where Shy Boy was resting and Nicholas spent a long time just sharing time with the horse.
When the two said goodbye, Nicholas blew Shy Boy a kiss and said “Bye-bye Shy Boy.” The horse lifted his head and nodded in response.
Catherine said the trip made her understand something about her son for the first time.
She spent his entire childhood trying to fix his cerebral palsy, she said. She tried to make sure he could walk, enrolled him in therapy and did anything she could think of to help him.
Now, she said, she understands that “he lives in a place that’s simple, full of joy. His dreams do come true. Most people can’t say that.”
When he needs to say something, Nicholas looks at his mother and touches his neck, before clicking onto his communication device.
But sometimes he doesn’t need to — Catherine will look at him and know what he wants to say. Her husband, Vince, says she’s inside Nicholas’ head.
Catherine said she’s so used to saying Nicholas’ words out loud for him41 that she forgets to appreciate his silence.
When Nicholas met Shy Boy, that changed.
“I had to stand in his silence,” she said. “I’ve never really stood in Nicholas’ silence before and in that moment, I did.”
Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas meets Shy Boy at Monty Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California. The meeting was a lifelong dream for Nicholas, who has triplegic cerebral palsy and does not speak.

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas and Shy Boy

Nicholas Thomas rides Shy Boy with the help of Monty Roberts, at Roberts’ at his Flag Is Up Farms.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Miniature Horse Could Be Smallest in the World

Meet Cotton Eyed Joe!!  :-)  ~Declan

Miniature Horse Could Be Smallest in the World

Posted: Jul 07, 2014 6:50 PM EDTUpdated: Jul 07, 2014 8:26 PM EDT  As posted on

by Mark Bellinger


COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. - In one mid-state community there is a small horse getting a lot of attention. If all goes as planned he'll make it into the record books as the smallest horse in the world.
The miniature horse's name is Cotton Eyed Joe and he lives in a big red barn out in the middle of nowhere between McMinnville and Manchester.

His owners, Tony Teal and Teresa Hinds run a mobile petting zoo.
Last year one of their miniature horses gave birth.
Teal said, "He came out healthy. The only problem he has is being ornery."
Cotton Eyed Joe is small even by miniature horse standards.
The veterinarian told the owners Cotton Eyed Joe is the tiniest horse he's ever seen.

Teal said, the veterinarian said to him, "Have you all ever checked on smallest horse in the world?" I said, no. I never thought anything about, and so we did."

Cotton Eyed Joe is competing to be the smallest male miniature horse in the world.

Right now he measures about 20 inches, but the 14 month-old is not expected to get much taller.

Competing to be the world's smallest horse is serious stuff. There's competition from a horse in Italy, but right now Cotton Eyed Joe is the leader.

Teal said, "He's smaller, about two inches smaller."

Cotton Eyed Joe is smaller than a car built for toddlers and he fits comfortably into the back seat of a car or truck.

Hinds said, "He's a chance of a life time. If he doesn't make it just going through the process has been very rewarding, yeah."

A miniature horse reaches maturity at 3 years old. That's when the Guinness Book of World Records will decide if Cotton Eyed Joe is the world's smallest male miniature horse.

He's only 14 months old, so there's still time to wait.

The Guinness Book of World Records is quite a process.

Cotton Eyed Joe's owners have hired an attorney to make sure they correctly follow the process and fill out the necessary paper work.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

From Slaughter Truck To Start Box: The Unlikely Story Of A Draft-Cross Event Horse

Horses deserve a go at a good life.  Horse slaughter is not the way!!! ~Declan

From Slaughter Truck to Start Box: The Unlikely Story of a Draft-Cross Event Horse

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.
Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

The last horse you want to be at an auction with kill buyers in attendance is a draft horse, for obvious reasons. Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue understands this and strategically stakes out area auctions, ready to outbid them if necessary. Christine Hajek, president and founder of the Mount Airy, Md., rescue, vividly remembers the New Holland auction where she discovered Kadobi and Kanin, two full-brother draft crosses who were facing a dubious future at best.

“Kanin and Kadobi had actually already been sold to a meat buyer, and it is actually the only time I have bought a horse off a meat buyer,” Christine says. “I usually refuse to do that because I will not pay them a profit, but he had a full load so he sold them to me at his cost. … Had I not taken them, he would have fattened them some and sent them to slaughter. I paid $600 for the pair. They were both
thin, had hoof neglect, lice, mange, worm infestations and were halter broke but terrified of people.”
Kadobi post-rescue at Gentle Giants. Photo courtesy of Christine Hajek.
Kadobi post-rescue at Gentle Giants. Photo courtesy of Christine Hajek.

The two intercepted horses — Kadobi, age 4, and Kanin, age 5 — went into quarantine at Gentle Giants and began the process of regaining their health. Both horses took to the gradual training program. Kadobi started out with some groundwork and very basic under-saddle work, then some trail riding, and finally some schooling with Jessica Millard of Union Bridge, Md., who recognized that he was a natural jumper and started him over fences.

Kadobi was adopted out to a new owner, but the green horse was a handful, and a full-bodied one at that, and she became a bit intimidated. She was about to send him back (Gentle Giants includes a first right of refusal in their adoption contract) when she made one last-ditch phone call to Golly Tabatabaie, 28, who runs a unique training program, Bad Monkey LLC, out of McLean, Va.

“I specialize in behavioral issues and use a comprehensive approach,” Golly explains. “I look at tack, teeth, toes, tummy (nutrition), as well as training and riding to figure out what is causing the issue. Once I have an idea, I ride the horse and work with the owner to find a solution that will keep them both happy, be it consistent training rides or a new feed plan or whatever combination.”

With Kadobi, it was a simple matter of a not-quite-right fit. “This woman had done her best with him, given him the very, very best care, but he had tossed her and her daughters too many times,” Golly says. “He was fat, round (maybe too round) and happy — as long as no one went near him. They were very timid riders, and he needs a very confident rider. He was still young and understandably green, but had regressed and was so uncertain and nervous that he was becoming a bit dangerous.”

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.
Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

Kadobi and Golly, on the other hand, had immediate chemistry. “I started riding him, and I quickly realized how much I loved this horse,” Golly says. “It was clear that he was a one-person horse, and he had found his person. My client would comment that he was so relaxed when I was around, but was unmanageable when I wasn’t there. We, my client Christine and I, had many conversations about it, and we decided that my adopting Kadobi would be the best situation for both the horse and the people involved.”

The two gained an appreciation for one another, both in the saddle and out. Golly appreciates Kadobi’s easy-going, class-clown personality, and in return he is happy to provide a steady stream of entertainment. “He is very playful and curious and loves to stick his nose into trash cans and flip them over — even at horse shows,” Golly says. “He might do it just to hear me yell. He once grabbed an entire bag of carrots and ran away with it. He stuffed it all into his mouth, and as I grabbed my phone to call the vet because my horse was in the process of ingesting a plastic bag, he came trotting over to me and spat out the empty bag at my feet, fully devoid of carrots, but somehow amazingly intact.”

When Golly introduced Kadobi to the sport of eventing, he took to the new game with enthusiasm despite his slightly unorthodox build. “I wanted to introduce him properly and set him up for success,” Golly says. “Competition wise, we started with a jumper series and successfully competed up to 3’6″, and it was clear he still had a lot more to give. He loved the jumping; he got it. He knew ‘Hey, you put me in this ring, and I will give you speed, power and a clear round.’ He beat out fast ponies in many a jump-off by sitting on his bottom and making the tightest turn you will ever see a draft make, bringing home a lot of blues. And he is fast, so I knew we would have no problem making time in eventing.”

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.
Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Golly carted him to a local riding facility to introduce the concept: “As I schooled him, we literally checked items off the cross-country list: Bank? Check. Water? Check. Ditch? Check.” They went Beginner Novice at Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. the following week, going clear and finishing on their dressage score, and Golly knew she had an event horse on her hands. The next season, they did another Beginner Novice at CDCTA, then Novice at a Maryland H.T. Starter Trial, then Novice at Seneca and Surefire. Golly anticipates a move-up to Training soon — he’s already schooling Prelim fences with ease — but says she isn’t in a hurry. “We are just enjoying learning together,” Golly says.

“He is an awesome jumper, and he loves the cross-country — he eats it up,” Golly says. “His ears prick up, and he gets this look of determination on his face. He knows the jumps are his responsibility, and he takes it seriously. He is just a powerhouse. We still have the occasional spooky green baby moment, but we trust each other, so he doesn’t get shaken.”

Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.
Courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

One challenge the pair has faced was that Kadobi has a congenital genetic vision disorder, Equine Anterior Segment Dysgenesis, that is common to Rocky Mountain horses but rare in other breeds. Saddlebreds, which Golly thinks Kadobi has a splash of in his breeding, are one of the few other breeds it has ever been seen in.

“In his case Kadobi has cysts, sacs of clear fluid, that attach and detach and float around in front of his retina,” Golly says. “Sometimes they pop on their own, sometimes they are bad and sometimes he doesn’t notice them. He is not actually blind; it is not a disorder that will ever make him go blind.
 The best way to understand it is to put your hand on your face and spread your fingers — you can still see fine, but parts of your vision are blocked, and then imagine every so often your hand moves around, and now other parts are blocked. It is unpredictable, but we manage it. It matters because we jump, and we jump high, but the trick is that I listen to him. If something feels off or he is having a hard time of it, I pull him out. We don’t push it.”

Courtesy of Y & D Photography.
Courtesy of Y & D Photography.

Golly and Kadobi are heading to Ocala in August to be a working student for Leslie Law and Lesley Grant-Law’s Law Eventing, where she hopes they will gain a little polish, particularly in the dressage: “He has the ability and is built so uphill but has had an immensely difficult time relaxing and not being tense in dressage. We are working on it, and I know it will take time, so in the meantime we are just learning as much as we can!”

Golly’s goal for Kadobi, now 7 years old, is for him to become a solid Training horse and someday, if he tells her he can do it, try the move up to Prelim. Again, Golly emphasizes, they’re in no rush — they’re just enjoying the journey and one another.

Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.
Courtesy of Zoe Hatgi Photography.

“He is happy that he has found his person,” Golly says. “He knows he will never be hungry again and is enjoying his new life as an eventer. He loves routine and will gladly stick to his end of the bargain as long as you give him his rub down, scratch, treats and grass time! We have an amazing connection; I truly believe this horse would take me through fire if I asked him to. He really is one of a kind.”

Go Golly and Kadobi, and Go Eventing!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Federal Protection Sought For Wild Horses In West


Federal protection sought for wild horses in West

Jun. 28, 2014 4:42 PM EDT
As posted by AP

  • Wild Horses Endangered Species
    FILE - In this May 17, 2007 file photo, manes flow in the wind on some of the mustangs from Karen Sussman's White Sands herd on her wild horse conservation refuge in Lantry, S.D. Mustang advocates say the wild horse is on the verge of going extinct in North America for the second time in 13,000 years and deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Despite overall numbers in the tens of thousands, mustang advocates say the wild horse is on the verge of going extinct in North America for the second time in 13,000 years and deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act alongside grizzly bears, the desert tortoise and humpback whales.

Efforts to halt mustang roundups in Congress and the courts have been unsuccessful over the past decade, but two groups in a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service are focusing on genetics and research they say prove the horses are a native species. They say growing threats from development, livestock grazing and government gathers are jeopardizing the genetic viability of individual herds in 10 states from California to Montana.

"Nothing else is working. This is a different avenue," said Michael Harris, a lawyer for Friends of Animals, a nonprofit animal rights group that filed the petition with the Colorado-based horse group, The Cloud Foundation.

The petition states mustang habitat has shrunk 40 percent since President Richard Nixon signed the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act into law in 1971. It advances an argument that the Bureau of Land Management long has rejected — that the wild horse is a native species that only temporarily went extinct on the continent 11,000 to 13,000 years ago before Spanish conquistadors reintroduced it to North America in the 1500s.

The call for protection comes as BLM insists the public rangeland — much of it in the throes of drought — is being degraded by an overpopulation of nearly 50,000 horses and burros, about half of them in Nevada.

The petition accuses the agency of undermining U.S. law protecting mustangs by abusing its authority to order roundups based on a determination that the herds are in "excess" to further the agency's interest in minimizing competition with wildlife, cattle and sheep.

While BLM estimates 49,208 horses and burros are on the range, the petition says none of the isolated herds number anywhere near the 2,500 most biologists consider necessary to keep a distinct species viable. About three-fourths have fewer than 150 horses, it said.

Harris, legal director of the wildlife program at Friends of Animals, admits it may be tough to sell the public on the idea the mustangs are endangered given there are thousands in Nevada alone.

"But I don't think it will be a hard sell at all to the biologists at the Fish and Wildlife Service who examine the question of genetic viability over and over when it comes to endangered species," he told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Nevada Cattlemen's Association and the Public Lands Council are among those arguing the petition is invalid because the horses aren't native to North America. They say protection afforded mustangs under the Wild Horse and Burro Act is undercut by BLM's failure to keep herd sizes in check.

"The federal government is buckling to pressures from the misguided special interest groups that don't want to see 'wild' horses brought off the range," said Dustin Van Liew, executive director of the council tied to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Listing wild horses under the ESA — which is meant for wildlife, not domesticated, non-native animals — would only serve as another demonstration of just how damaging that statute is."

BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington said Friday that the agency hasn't changed its longstanding position that today's American wild horses are not "native."

"American wild horses are descended from domestic horses, some of which were brought over by European explorers in the late 15th and 16th centuries, plus others that were released or escaped captivity in modern times," BLM's web site states.

The petition filed June 11 points to recent research concluding that the modern horse — genus Equus — originated in North America 3 million to 4 million years ago, spread to Eurasia by crossing the Bering land bridge 2 to 3 million years ago and became extinct in North America no longer than 13,000 years ago.

It cites the work of Jay F. Kirkpatrick, a leader in horse reproduction research who directs ZooMontana's Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Montana.

"It is native to North America," Kirkpatrick said. "The Spanish were bringing them home."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Horsepower for War Zones: Special Forces Saddle Up

New horsepower for war zones: Special Forces saddle up

Jim Michaels, USA TODAY
7:51 p.m. EDT June 22, 2014

<CLICK HERE> to watch the video story

Marine Staff Sgt. John Freeseha rides along a trail during training to be combat-ready on horseback.(Photo: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY)
BRIDGEPORT, Calif. — The men emerged over the crest of a ridge and guided their horses along a tree line, skirting a wide meadow. They picked their way along narrow trails, climbing higher into the Sierra until a panorama of snowcapped peaks and a broad green valley unfolded beneath them.
The men, Special Forces soldiers dressed in jeans and other civilian clothes, led their horses into a thick stand of pine trees, where they dismounted and let the horses drink from a clear mountain stream before breaking out their own rations.
At this remote training area high in the Sierra, the U.S. Marine Corps is reviving the horsemanship skills that were once a key part of the nation's armed forces but were cast aside when tanks and armored vehicles replaced them. The need to bring these skills back was driven home in Afghanistan in 2001, when the first Special Forces soldiers to arrive found themselves fighting on horseback alongside tribesmen in rugged terrain without roads. Many had never ridden a horse before.
"We don't want to reinvent anything," said Marine Capt. Seth Miller, the officer in charge of formal schools at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. "These are skills that were lost."
Marine instructors are teaching the students, most of them Army Special Forces soldiers, how to control horses, care for them and load packs. The students are taught how to calculate routes and distances for rides and what to look for when purchasing horses from locals. For example, checking teeth is a good way to determine age and avoid getting ripped off by a farmer trying to pass off an ancient mule or horse.
In a throwback to the old Wild West days, instructors are considering training soldiers in how to shoot from a moving horse.
No one is talking about bringing back the cavalry, but horses are an effective way for Special Forces and other small units to move around the battlefield, instructors said. They can travel long distances quietly and don't require the gasoline and massive logistics trains that encumber motorized forces.

For all its advantages in technology, the U.S. military has been dragged into the most primitive of fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving home the point that technology isn't always the answer.
"We get caught up with what's new and high-speed," Miller said.
On a recent morning, 13 students packed their mules and horses shortly after sunrise at base camp, preparing for a 14-mile ride that would take them high into the Sierra, mountains that were familiar to gold prospectors more than a century ago. Students ride a total of about 110 miles during the 16-day course.
"My butt's going to be sore," said Air Force Tech Sgt. Jeryd Leuck, who specializes in search-and-rescue operations, as he prepared to mount his horse, Chesty. Leuck said that before he started the course, his only equestrian experience was a childhood pony ride.
The students mounted horses and picked their way up a steep, shrub-covered slope that would take them out of the base camp. Six mules were part of the patrol.
The animals are remarkably efficient. Mules can carry several hundred pounds and walk up to 55 miles a day, requiring nothing more than grass and water. If required, they can survive several days without water and longer without food. They have no problem climbing to heights of more than 10,000 feet, at altitudes where some helicopters struggle because of a lack of lift.
"This has been proven to work," said Marine Maj. Sven Jensen, operations officer for the training center, pointing to a group of men resting by their horses and mules as sunlight streamed through the trees. "This has worked for the last 3,000 years."
The Marines Corps, which takes an almost perverse pride in a Spartan lifestyle and a fondness for low-technology solutions, has offered a mule-packing course here since the 1980s. It launched the horsemanship training about three years ago after receiving requests from Army Special Forces soldiers.

It's the only such course in the U.S. military, and demand is high.
USA TODAY was allowed unlimited access to observe training as long as it didn't identify by name or photograph the faces of the Special Forces soldiers taking the course. Because they sometimes conduct covert missions, Special Forces soldiers typically request they not be identified publicly.
The only requirement for students is that they are part of the special operations community, since they would have the most use for the training.
Tony Parkhurst, director of the horsemanship and mule packing course, built the curriculum by delving into old cavalry manuals and studying American Indian tactics and techniques. The equestrian sports of today, such as dressage or jumping, are too specialized to be of much use to the military. Instead, Parkhurst studied procedures that were popular when horses were used for transportation and plowing fields.
"The Indians were actually better than our cavalry," Parkhurst said. "They were phenomenal guerrilla fighters."
Cavalry officers in the 1800s had to calculate things such as how far horses could march, how much food they consumed and how best to pack them with equipment and weapons.
The pack saddle used for mules here would be recognized by Genghis Khan's army, Parkhurst said.
The Marines have stopped at nothing in an effort to recapture the skills lost when the military turned to mechanized warfare.

Not many people know how to shoot from a moving horse these days, so the Marines turned to Annie Bianco, who goes by the name Outlaw Annie and is a leading practitioner of the small but growing sport of cowboy mounted shooting. She fires a six-shooter at targets from a galloping horse. A couple of instructors from the training center visited her ranch in Arizona.
Bianco knows how to desensitize horses to the sound of gunfire. "Horses are flighty animals," she said. "Their first response from gunfire is to try and get away from it."
What instructors have discovered is the horses of today are softer than their ancestors, who plowed fields and carried riders over vast distances.
"We've bred them and made them more athletic over time," Bianco said. "That's made it more difficult to find the well-rounded horse."
Most of the horses used at the course are former mustangs, or wild horses, trained by inmates in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. They are both well-rounded and cheap.
Although the Pentagon is turning back to age-old battlefield techniques, it is hardly giving up on technology. In fact, it's trying to make a robotic version of the mule. The $62 million program is called the LS3, or legged squad support system, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency describes it as a "highly mobile, semiautonomous legged robot."
The Pentagon consulted with some of the instructors here to learn more about real mules. The instructors seem skeptical that technology can improve much on the real thing.
Parkhurst said, "I can buy a whole load of mules for $60 million."

Second Chances - Correctional Inmates Help In The Care Of Retired Racehorses

This is a wonderful, inspiring article!  It's amazing what horses can do to help us! ~Declan

There Is Such a Thing as a Second Chance

Wallkill Correctional Inmates Help in the Care of Retired Racehorses

Inmate William Douglas with horses in the Second Chances program at Wallkill Correctional Facility. Richard Beaven for The Wall Street Journal
Lots of prisons have vocational programs. But Second Chances, the one I visited last week at Wallkill Correctional Facility, about 80 miles north of the city, may be the most aesthetically pleasing of all.

Just as long as you don't get kicked in the head.

"I was scared," admitted Noel Jaminez, who comes from the Bronx and said he's serving time for assault. "I took the job because I was afraid of them. It was a challenge."

"Them" are retired racehorses that may have been injured, abused or neglected and have come to Wallkill to be rehabilitated by inmates through the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. During his former life in the Bronx, Mr. Jaminez didn't have much contact with horses such as Klabin's Gold, who was sired by Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold and has almost $350,000 in earnings.

"You stand behind the hip," he explained. "Lean your back against them."

Mr. Jaminez said working with horses has helped him address his violence and anger management issues.

"I never had any kind of patience," he said. "Dealing with these horses helped me have patience. You can't come at them if you're feeling aggressive."

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation operates the Second Chances program at prisons in 10 states. But the one at Wallkill, on an abandoned 50-acre prison dairy farm, was the first to be established—in 1984. The program celebrated its 30th anniversary with a ceremony last week.

Of Wallkill's 581 inmates, 14 work in the program. To qualify, the men must be "outside cleared," which means qualified to work outside the prison's security perimeter, and must have no history of sex crimes, or of absconding or escape, according to James Tremper, who has been the farm's manager and vocational instructor since the program's inception.

"We start with the real basics," Mr. Tremper told me. "Grooming. Animal health care: bandages, poultices for their infirmities. We do nutrition."

"They get out here and see they're the only one to provide for these needy animals," he added. "Most of them start coming around."

Inmate John Cook and one of the thoroughbreds during morning chores. Richard Beaven for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Tremper cited one inmate in particular. "He's done every type of drug and as big a quantity as he can get his hands on." But working with horses has changed him. "He has a mission. He's found he's useful here. Whereas, he didn't feel important in anybody's life before."

Scott Coyle, a prisoner who said he's serving 3½ years for drug possession, talks about the five horses he's responsible for like a proud father whose kids made the honor roll.

"Globalization," he said pointing to a 9-year-old thoroughbred sired by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, and with $102,972 in earnings. "He's a real gentleman. Only when the farrier comes he's not a gentleman."

Mr. Coyle would have liked to have watched this year's Belmont Stakes, where California Chrome ran for the Triple Crown. Unfortunately, he couldn't.

"I just heard about it afterward," he explained. "They had a facility movie on that day.

"I'm compulsive," he went on. "I was a heroin addict. This teaches me patience and it makes me introspective about myself. Especially the situation we're in—this spot is a little special when you can come out and do this."

He and the other inmates buy the horses candy—spearmints, candy canes—at the prison commissary. "We can bring almost anything out," he explained. "We can't bring it back in."

Some of the inmates hope to find jobs working with horses when they're released. But Mr. Tremper said Wallkill doesn't have a placement program. "It has to be done by outside agencies," he said, "and nobody has picked up that ball and run with it."

However, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation helps inmates find jobs—informally, said Diana Pikulski, the group's vice president for external affairs.

"I have connections in the horse industry," she explained. "When Jim calls me we start calling around.

"It's a little tough from here," she admitted, comparing New York to states with Second Chances programs such as Kentucky and Virginia with a larger horse industry and more jobs in the field. "Guys usually get paroled back to the city," she added. "Lots of times they want to be with their families and their families are in the city."

John Cook, a prisoner from Brooklyn serving time for burglary, wants to find a job working with horses when he gets released in February.

"I'm looking to move to South Carolina," he said. "They told me they have a lot of horses down there."

He glanced at the horses in enclosures named after New York state prisons—Sing Sing, Altona, Attica.

"They're locked up like we are," he observed. "I can't keep coming back to these places."

Upon reflection, he realized the horses were freer than he was.

"They don't have to sit in here and deal with doing a [head] count."