For Our Horse`s Sake

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In April I started writing a weekly blog at www.myhorse.com, a website administered by the Horse Journal’s parent company, Belvoir Publications. My new blog complements the work we do here at the Horse Journal, since it’s more timely and interactive than a monthly publication can be. So I’m inviting you to read it and send me your ideas, to make it a dialogue.

My most commented-upon blog so far has been the first one, on the economics and pitfalls of sporthorse breeding. My perspective was that of a commercially struggling breeder, but a reader named Donna went in a different direction.

She asked, ”What about all the unwanted horses in the U.S.' What if all the breeders only produced half of the foals they were planning on, or, better yet, took a year off' The price of horses would go up, and the number of unwanted horses would go down.”

Yes, I responded, it would help the unwanted-horse situation if we bred fewer horses. But we’d still be left with thousands of horses that are injured, sick, or that someone has lost interest in.

Euthanasia, or humane destruction, is an emotional subject. No one who loves horses ever wants to see them die, but the unchangeable fact is that death comes to every single human and animal on earth. To try to inform readers more about help for unwanted horses, I went to the the American Association of Equine Practitioners (www.aaep.org) and the Unwanted Horse Coalition (www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org).

The AAEP encourages euthanasia for injured, sick, old and unwanted horses, but there’s a gray area. What about the 7- or 8-year-old mare, who’s never been trained' That’s the kind of horse who’s a reminder that the best insurance policy you can have for your horse is training. It’s a reminder that if you can’t do it or you can’t pay for it, don’t breed that mare or buy that horse just because it’s inexpensive.

These unwanted but otherwise healthy horses are the problem that’s overwhelming the good-hearted folks in the Unwanted Horse Coalition. The UHC lists more than 100 sites that will take retired or unwanted horses (some for a fee, some not), but most offer caveats like, ”Currently have space for one/two additional horses.” They can’t accommodate all the unwanted horses.

In this new last page — and in my weekly blog — we want to create a problem-solving dialog about the myriad issues facing us today. We want to maturely discuss issues like unwanted horses, euthanasia, training and more, without the hard-line acrimony so prevalent in public discussion today. We hope to hear from you online or on the page.

John Strassburger
Horse Journal Performance Editor