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."

Pony Snapped On Speed Camera At 59kmh

That would have been cool if the pony was actually going that fast! ~Declan

Pony snapped on speed camera at 59kmh

As posted on Horse Talk

He's on the move, but certainly not at 59kmh. Photo: City of Eppstein, Germany
He’s on the move, but certainly not at 59kmh. Photo: City of Eppstein, Germany

A German pony minding his own business was caught on a speed camera at a supposed speed of 59kmh.

However, the sprightly little chap is unlikely to be making the Guinness Book of Records any time soon, nor is he likely to enjoy success in a racing career.

The camera was actually snapping the car behind the pony, which had been caught exceeding the 50kmh limit in the area.

The pony’s intervention saved the driver from a ticket, as his rump obscured the number plate at precisely the time the camera was snapping the number plate.

The City of Eppstein in Hessen released the quirky image, which was taken last month
As for the lucky driver, he or she will be able to keep their wallet firmly closed, and keep the 10 euros the fine otherwise would have cost.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Burger King Admits Burgers Contain Horsemeat

YUCK!!! ~Declan

Burger King Admits Burgers Contain Horsemeat

June 25th, 2014  By Anthony Gucciardi via natural society  As posted on 
In a piece of highly disturbing news, Burger King has now admitted after continuous denial that it has actually been selling UK customers both burgers and Whoppers that containhorsemeat. This admission comes just after The Guardian reports that Burger King reps offered a round of ‘absolute assurances’ to customers that it did not ever use horsemeat in its products.
A series of tests done on the burger products now reveal that Burger King has been issuing completely phony statements, with burgers made for the fast food chain from the Irish company Silvercrest containing measurable levels of horsemeat. It’s important to note this is the same company that processes meat for Tesco, Asda, and the Co-op. The managers at Silvercrest have been revealed to be utilizing non-approved ingredients within their burger assortment – even for ‘household brands’.

Burger King Admits to Horsemeat in Whoppers, Burgers

Burger King admitted just a few hours ago that the samples did in fact contain horse-meat:
“Four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown the presence of very small trace levels of equine DNA… we have established that Silvercrest used a small percentage of beef imported from a non-approved supplier in Poland. This is a clear violation of our specifications, and we have terminated our relationship with them.”
It is not yet clear which of these top brands could be containing such concerning ingredients as horse meat and other ‘meat cut offs’. What is known is that tens of thousands of burgers from suppliers like Silvercrest and others in Germany have been shipped into Burger King alone to meet demand just in the UK. According to the Daily Mail report on the study results, the horsemeat contamination can be traced back to a full year, or at least since last May.
The investigation into this issue started after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found that burgers out of Ireland contained horsemeat. The disturbing findings highlight yet another reason not to consumer fast food, which contains a host of problematic substances such as ingredients banned in other nations.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

10 Things Your Barn Worker Wants You To Know

Here is a cool article with some tips for the barn ;) ~Declan

10 Things Your Barn Worker Wants You to

Here's how to help out the people who care for your boarded horse.

By Patrice Bucciarelli | June 17, 2014
As posted on

Horse in BarnBarn workers are paid to keep stalls clean and horses fed and turned out. Yet without much fanfare, boarding barn workers often do much more. Even so, owners sometimes ignore their own roles in helping barn staff help their horses.
Suzette Waldron, one of five staffers who care for 25 horses at the Parrish Equestrian Center in Florida, believes that looking out for a horse's best interest is a cooperative job.
So here's what Waldron wants owners to know:
  1. Your horse needs you. Owners whose horses are boarded on a full care plan often pay barn staff to perform a range of tasks from bathing and grooming to fetching a horse from its pasture before a ride. As a result, barn workers sometimes spend more time with a a horse than its owner does. That's why Waldron says it is critical for owners to spend as much time with their equines as possible.

    "You shouldn't just ride your horse and put him back in his stall or pasture, without entering his world,” Waldron says. "Even if you just get in the stall an talk to him or go into the pasture and watch him graze; it's all quality time to the horse.”
  2. Assume we're trustworthy. Generally, barn workers take their jobs seriously, and most have at least a working knowledge of horses and their care. As a result, owners should count on barn staff to make day-to-day decisions about certain situations such as foul weather turn outs or the use of routine items such as fly spray.

    "Everything I do is for the care of the horse,” Waldron says. "It's always helpful when owners trust me to make the right decisions about simple things.”
  3. Communicate through the proper channels. Owners frequently have special instructions about feeding, the use of supplements, and veterinary and farrier care. Those instructions be discussed with the barn owners who will pass owners' directives down to the barn staff. Going through channels is crucial to ensure that the message is heard by all, Waldron says. She also recommends putting special instructions in writing.

    "The more back-up information we have, the better it is for the horses,” Waldron says.
  4. Replenish materials when we ask. Even under full care plans, owners may be expected to provide feed supplements, fly spray and other consumable items. Barn staffers often let owners know when those items should be replenished. Horses miss out when their owners don't replace consumables in a timely manner

    "It's even better if they replenish those items before we have to ask for them, ” Waldron says.
  5. Listen to what we say. Barn workers are often the first ones to notice changes in a horse's movement or routine behavior. So it's important that owners listen to barn workers when they notice small changes in a horse acts or moves.

    "We spend a lot of time with your horse and we know what's usual and what's not,” Waldon says. "Whether or not you act on what we say is up to you, but please listen to us.”
  6. Barn StaffTake our advice. Barn workers may suggest changing the location of a horse's paddock or exchanging one pasture buddy for another. Waldron says the changes are always made to benefit the horse, and owners should should take the advice of barn staff in matters such as these.

    "Owners should always ask us if they have questions,” Waldron says.
  7. Don't assume we are not knowledgeable. According to Waldron, some owners assume that barn workers have little or no horse care knowledge. Generally, that is far from the case, she says. Instead owners should keep in mind that most barn workers are experienced horse handlers, who can assist veterinarians, farriers and equine dentists when owners are not present.

    "People don't take these jobs [if] they hate horses or don't know horses,” Waldron says.
  8. Don't jump to judgment. Boarding barns are sometimes rife with owner gossip, and frequently the tales revolve around horse care. Waldron recommends that owners judge their horse's care objectively.

    "Judge your horse's care by the way the horse looks and acts, and not what you hear from others, ” Waldron says.
  9. Ask for help when you need it. Whether they're fitting new equipment or trying out a new grooming tool, owners need an extra pair of hands from time to time. Barn workers are generally happy to help whenever owners ask, Waldron says.

    "Basically we're here to take care of the horses, but we are here to take care of owners, too,” Waldron says.
  10. Say Thank You. Most barn staffers do their jobs because they love horses. Still, acknowledgment from owners goes a long way.

    "Barn staff is generally doing the lowest jobs there are,” Waldron says, "Just just saying 'Thanks' means a horse owner has noticed the staff's hard work.”

Members Of Congress Tackle Horse ‘Torture’

Horse soring is cruel, PERIOD!  I am glad people are trying to make it stop! ~Declan

Members of Congress Tackle Horse ‘Torture’

By Tom Glusto

Jun 20, 2014 4:04pm  As posted on

It was an unusual sight — show horses parading around the Capitol. But these Tennessee Walking horses came to bring attention to what many see as horse abuse.

It’s a practice called “soring” — using pain-causing chemicals, chains and pads on a horse’s ankles to make it walk with a higher, unnatural step.

It’s called the “Big Lick” and it wins at horse shows.

“It’s cruelty, it’s intentional torture,” said Keith Dane, Vice President of Equine Protection for the Humane Society. “These horses are suffering pretty much their entire lives of their show ring careers in order to give blue ribbons and prizes to their owners and trainers.”

The Humane Society has also released undercover videos alleging abuse of horses undergoing soring.

Soring has been illegal for almost 45 years under the Federal Horse Protection Act. But the problem for many is the industry is allowed to police itself. It trains and certifies its own inspectors.

“The people that determine whether or not soring is taking place are inspectors that are hired by the shows where the owners are abusing the horse with the soring practice,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-KY, who is sponsoring a bill designed to make sure the practice of soring ends.

Dane said, “The self-regulation in the industry is like the fox watching the hen house and it doesn’t work.”

GTY close up horse running 127844340 jt 131228 16x9 608 Members of Congress Tackle Horse Torture
(Getty Images)

Many horse owners don’t see a reason to force horses to learn to step higher.

“Walking horses have a beautiful natural gate that does not need to be enhanced by chemical or mechanical means,” said horse owner Mikal Spooner, of North Carolina, who attended a rally at the Capitol Wednesday to draw attention to the problem.

Spooner and the other horse owners who went to the Capitol didn’t see any need to make their horse walk in what they felt was an unnatural manner.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Horse Rescue Saves Orphan Nurse Mare Foals

Horse racing's darker side and some people who are trying to make a difference. ~Declan

Horse Rescue Saves Orphan Foals

June 5, 2014
South Florida

Over the last several weeks, the world has turned its attention to horse racing and the exciting possibility of a Triple Crown winner after a 36 year drought. During all the pomp and circumstance, there have been articles highlighting the shady side of racing: drugging, racing injured horses, and the most appalling, horse slaughter have all been covered by several mainstream media outlets. What no one has discussed is one of the dirtiest secrets in the sport horse industry. Nurse Mares, and the foals that become the tiniest victims of a billion dollar industry.

Nurse Mares are often used when a mare who has died, is sick, or has rejected her foal. Another reason, one with only one thing in mind, money, is sending Thoroughbred mares to breeding farms for live cover breeding. In order for a Thoroughbred to be eligible to race, it must be a product of a live cover breeding, not by artificial insemination.

Transporting high priced Thoroughbred foals is a risky business, and while some breeders will take the chance, many don't see it as good business, so they lease local mares from farms that are in the business of only breeding mares so they can become Nurse Mares. Hundreds of mares a year, mostly draft and draft crosses (because they produce higher yields of milk) are bred, and when a breeding farm calls, the Nurse Mare's own foal is pulled from her side and she is transported directly to the breeding farm.

This now leaves the Nurse Mare's foal an orphan. The foals are often only a few days old when this occurs. Even more tragic, it is common when there is a high demand for mares, they will be less than 24 hours old. Some foals do not even receive the mother's 'first milk' which contains the colostrum critical for their survival. Though it is not a common practice among the majority of the industry. Equine babies usually get 4-6 months of their mother's milk and time with their dams. During this time they grow, they learn, and they begin their journey to being someone's pride and joy.

Nurse Mare Foals do NOT get that option.

For many years farmers would often kill the babies outright, usually with a hammer, as to not waste bullets. They were viewed as a disposable by-product of a necessary industry. Other practices were to leave the foals in barns in the back of the property, and if they survived and were female they would eventually become Nurse Mares. The male horses didn't even get that option at these farms.

Jump forward to present day, and these nurse mare foals that once had no chance have been now given one. Horse rescues, private buyers, and even Nurse Mare farmers have recognized the value in the foals left behind. And these foals, while still at high risk for infection, depression, and death are often sold for a fee. And, there are still farmers who do not view the foals as worth anything and continue with inhumane practices such as culling by neglect.

One of those rescues, Pure Thoughts Horse Rescue, in Loxahatchee, Florida, has been involved in the rescuing of orphan foals since 2007. And thanks to co-founders, Jennifer Swanson and Brad Gaver, along with devoted volunteers in North Carolina and Florida, they have been able to help close to 150 foals. Volunteer and foster mom, Michelle Tolley and her husband Bobby, travel to Nurse Mare farms outside of Florida to pick up foals as young as a few days old. The orphan foals need intensive care and must be stabilized before making the trip to Florida. This means teaching the foals to drink replacement milk from buckets, which in the first few weeks must be given to the orphan foals every 2-3 hours.

"These foals are often separated on the day they are born or soon after," Michelle explains from her home. "The condition of a nurse-mare foal is fragile at best, and they need round the clock feedings, and continuous monitoring in order to survive in the first weeks of their lives."

Once the foals are strong enough for the rest of their journey, the Tolleys bring the foals to Pure Thoughts' farm, where they are often greeted by several volunteers. In order to care for as many as a half dozen foals at a time, along with the 50 plus rescue residents, many of which are former race horses, the rescue relies on volunteers to help with the feeding, halter training, and socializing of the young orphan foals.

Michelle also shed light on what the future could hold for the Nurse Mare industry, "There are viable alternatives to intentionally breeding large numbers of mares just to produce milk, now that technology has started to catch up with this practice. If it is implemented with the Nurse Mare farms, all that would be needed is giving mares a hormone shot to induce milk production. It is the only way to cease this senseless breeding for profit. And there would no longer be thousands of unwanted newborn foals. As it stands now, this is an annual occurrence that causes the crisis we face in our foal rescue efforts. And as long as the breeding continues and produces these unwanted foals as a result of the business practice, then we will be there to do whatever we can to save the lives of as many foals as possible."

The "Baby Barn" at Pure Thoughts will have two new residents this Saturday, June 7, 2014. The same day a horse named California Chrome will race to become an American sports legend. The two foals who will be looking for a forever home, lost their mothers to foals who may go after that same glory three years from now. And Michelle sums it all up in one final statement, "Tragically, there are many foals who do not survive, they are killed or starved by the farmers who only see them as a 'by product' of this industry. However, we see them as individual and precious equines, complete and full of love, curiosity, playfulness and loyalty to the ones who saved them."

An Inability To Connect With Horses Isn't Why Racing Is Failing

Something to think about... "People who connect with horses just aren't at the race track, because racing is a business, and true connections aren't about business. They are about love."  ~Laurel Dalrymple

An Inability To Connect With Horses Isn't Why Racing Is Failing

Hoke, like most off-the-track thoroughbreds, had to be treated for ulcers that he incurred from the stress of racing.
Hoke, like most off-the-track thoroughbreds, had to be treated for ulcers that he incurred from the stress of racing.
Laurel Dalrymple
People don't connect with horses. That is the reason some people say horse racing is failing. Horse racing needs a hero to revive the sport, they say. And that is why all eyes on Saturday will be on California Chrome, the favorite going into the Belmont Stakes, the last and most grueling leg of the Triple Crown.
"Horse racing thrived when a lot of people still had a connection with horses, and when it was not legally possible to bet on much of anything but horses. But, of course, in America today, gambling is wide open. And horses are so much out of our daily lives that we rarely even have Western movies anymore; films based on true stories rarely involve horses. ...
Americans would rather play slot machines and point spreads and watch automobiles race, because they grew up with cars and can relate to them."
Is that really the reason the sport is failing? Because we don't connect with horses? I don't think so. I think we connect with horses just fine. I think we don't connect with horse racing.
The industry has become so rife with cruelty, drugs, slaughter and abuse that after I adopted an off-the-track thoroughbred, the sport I used to enjoy became one I can no longer stomach.
rescued my horse from slaughter. "Urban Jungle," or "Hoke," as I call him now (Navajo for "abandoned" because that is what he was), could no longer cut it on the track, could no longer bring in the cash. When that happens, most thoroughbreds, which are overbredbecause of the global meat and racing industries, end up in kill pens.
They are piled into tractor-trailers under the most overcrowded and inhumane conditions, and carted off to Canada or Mexico, where slaughter is legal. Some don't even survive the trip, in fact, 30 horses died recently in a truck fire while en route to Quebec for slaughter.
Their meat is shipped off for dinner plates worldwide. Sometimes that meat has been pumped full of drugs that are perfectly legal for use in racing. Those drugs mask pain so horses can ignore their injuries and run faster.
I'm still working with Hoke. He'd never seen a path through the woods. Never crossed a river. Never been ridden by a child. He's afraid of everything, and at the same time, he's like a child opening presents on Christmas morning. We are building a bond, slowly but surely. He's come so far in the past year — from a terrified, bucking spitfire to a horse that loves discovery, hanging out with his herd and rolling in the mud. He spooks, and slowly learns to get over it. I constantly show him new things. He constantly shows me new things, too. I am teaching him not to be afraid. He is also teaching me not to be afraid. And he is also teaching me ... patience. Quiet calm. Inner strength. Silent communication. And how to roll after a fall.
When I watch Hoke run through a field, it's awe-inspiring. He's an athlete ... maybe not fit for the track, but certainly fit for the life of a horse, which is all I ask him to be. His body moves like a well-oiled machine, with power, beauty and grace. The best part: He runs because he wants to.
That is what I liked best about horse racing. It showed off the magnificence of the animal. But at what cost? For me, one that has become too high to pay.
From where I stand, I see people connecting with horses everywhere. There are rescuers, trainers, riders, veterinarians, dentists, children and seniors. Vets with PTSD are learning to bond with nonthreatening live beings. An 83-year-old near-blind woman has taken up riding.A woman in hospice asked that her miniature horse peer through the window just before she died.
People who connect with horses just aren't at the race track, because racing is a business, and true connections aren't about business. They are about love.
Laurel Dalrymple is an editor and writer for