Thursday, September 23, 2010

In the Eyes of a Horse

Horse Pendant by TSBeading

“When you look into a horse’s eyes, it’s like he can see into your soul”

That is a quote taken from my late mother when I asked her about her favorite animal and why. Throughout the years I have adored horses from close and from afar. I learned to ride before my back went out, and loved the sweet feeling of freedom on the back of this majestic animal who instinctively knew when I wanted to veer to the right or left, or whether I wanted to go trot, gallop, lope, or just walk quietly along. One particular horse that I rode had been kicked pretty badly when he had a child on his back. That horse took the full blow so as not to disturb or uproot the child, and the child went away unscathed, but for that noble horse it was a different story. The horse had to receive medical attention and therapy for a while, and while his body recovered, he was never the same in his mind. He was leery of other horses getting too close, and I was instructed to keep a distance from the others due to his nervousness. The horse’s leeriness didn’t only stem from the kick, it also stemmed from his instinct to protect his human rider.

Such as the way it is with many domesticated animals. They adopt their humans as much as we humans adopt them, and they instinctually protect their humans as much as most humans instinctually try to protect them. In my opinion, it is extremely unfortunate that not all humans understand and respect this relationship with animals, and even more unfortunate when humans abuse animals, whether they are big or small, whether they are domestic or wild, and that is what I am here to discuss today; wild horses. Wild horses have a long, interesting history in the United States that I won’t get into in this post because I would rather discuss the current issues with wild horses.

Current American wild horses are also known as feral horses because they were at one time domesticated and then set free. These are the horses that helped form the fabric of the United States. Our ancestors had horses that were not only their servants but their companions. These horses aided us in battles, they worked our fields, they pulled our carriages, and they were also our friends. The USA wouldn’t be what it is today without our horses. Yet, today many of them are left to roam and wander the plains, left to fend for themselves. It is deeply disturbing to me that at one time we couldn’t live without them, revered them even, but after that need was gone because of the advances in technology, we leave them out in the cold, and then if that wasn’t enough, we go to extreme measures to get rid of them altogether.

While it may be true that these horses wander out of public lands in search of food or water, it is beyond my comprehension how people can be so cruel to this wondrous animal that was brought here, served us, and was once indispensible. The largest issues with wild horses today are: slaughtering them for animal and human consumption, transporting them for slaughter, the use of experimental drugs on them, the methods used to catch or trap them, and the methods used to transport and care for them after they’ve been caught.

While the last horse slaughterhouse was closed down in 2007 due to the enactment of a state law, there still is no federal law banning horse slaughter for human or animal consumption. Many horses are stolen or caught and then brought across the borders to be slaughtered in less than ideal conditions. No animal deserves this kind of abuse, and I wonder why the US hasn’t enacted a law to protect horses from slaughter and being transported to be slaughtered in other countries. While slaughtering is one way to get rid of horses in an inhumane manner, there is another being used the United States Humane Society that is claimed to be a more acceptable method of reducing the number of wild horses: Experimental drugs.

The United States Humane Society is currently darting mares with a drug that is not approved by the FDA or publicly available to create infertility. This is an experimental drug known as PZP. This drug has been known to backfire and sometimes it doesn’t work at all, further, it is outlawed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What are we doing to these horses? While it is stated that the drug is short-term and only lasts a year or two, does it really? Is it meant to slow down the birth rate of wild horses, or are they looking to make them extinct altogether? Once again we are messing with natural evolution. We are taking it upon ourselves to weed out gene pools in animals. Haven’t we learned our lessons throughout history? Why would any government allow this to happen to a former icon of its country?

Wild horses are managed through the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM. In 1971 the Wild Horse Annie Act was established prohibiting the use of motor vehicles or aircraft to catch or trap wild horses, but eight years later that law was amended and currently reads that the BLM is excluded from this law. If you look around on the internet you will find many videos, articles, and testimonials of the ways in which wild horses are being caught today by the BLM and by those who think they are above the law. Helicopters are being used to chase down herds of wild horses, and if that wasn’t emotionally and physically distressing enough, they have repeatedly done this during foaling season. The mares end up aborting their foals or their foals are too young to keep up and are left orphans in the pasture. The ones that are able to keep up get trampled as they are herded into pens, end up orphans because they lose their mothers, they end up dying from exhaustion and distress, or are otherwise injured. Herds of horses end up losing members of their families. If you are brave enough to stomach the videos, you too will see stallions and mares running for their lives, you will see the fear in their eyes as they are chased by helicopters; the injuries they sustain from the long, frightening run. You will also see horses so frightened they severely injure themselves to escape, and when they do they’ve also lost their entire family, their herd.

Why? Why does the BLM do this? They do it to appease the people who complain about being intruded upon. They round up the horses and send them to large ranches who then attempt to adopt some of these horses out to the public. Sometimes these horses are lucky and end up in a loving home to people who know how to handle a horse that has been frightened and removed from his home and family, but many end up living out their lives at the BLM ranches where they are brought because they are unadoptable for any number of reasons. These BLM ranches get a daily stipend per horse that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year. Although there are other ways that have been proposed that would be easier on the horses and taxpayers, the BLM insists on doing things the same.

What is the solution? The solution lies in compassion for these revered animals who were brought here, who faithfully served us in our times of need, who were our companions. There are many organizations out there that are working towards a solution, some have better ideas than others, some are fad organizations, and some really are making a difference. One thing they all have in common is that they believe they can help in some way, but they need our support. They don’t all need money contributions, some need volunteers to work with the horses, some need help writing letters, and some need item contributions such as items they can sell or use while working with the horses. The solution also lies in helping to get the BLM to change their tactics, helping to change US Legislation, helping form a sanctuary where wild horses can continue to roam, or in opening up your home and taking in one of these majestic animals so that they can regain their honor and once again serve us and be our companions. You don't have to do everything listed here to help all horses, but a little help can mean the world to a horse in need.

If my mother was right and a horse can indeed see into our souls, what would a horse see in yours?

Written by  Tsilos Schohener


El at Tantalizing Stitches said...

Hey TSBeading,

Thanks for sharing this with us. Your insight into this really shows your devotion to animals.

TS Beading said...

Thank you El, my devotion is to all animals, my compassion runs deep. My aim is to help with awareness and maybe even spark interest in various animal issues.

Pam said...

Thanks for all the effort that went into this post, with its multitude of information about wild horses, and the conditions under which they live. It made me sad to think about the plight of these magnificent animals.

TS Beading said...

Thank you for stopping by Pam, it makes me sad also. There are people out there who are trying to help and offer solutions that are easier on the horses, but no single person or group can do it all. My thought is that the first step in helping any cause is by raising awareness. :)

JLynnPro said...

TS, this is a beautiful post.

I, too, love horses. I rode until I was a teen, but then my family could no longer afford for me to ride. As an adult, I have not managed to come up with the money to get back into it, but I'd love to.

This is shocking to me and also reminds me of the whole feral cat issue. There are many parallels there.

It just blows my mind how we (society) can just use animals up and then toss them aside like a used tissue. It's disgusting, and we should be ashamed of ourselves.