Wednesday, May 21, 2008

West Douglas Wild Horse Herd to Disappear

Every day the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) makes decisions about America's wild horses. More often than not, the decisions are NOT in the best interest of the horses, but in the best interest of cattle ranchers. As a matter of fact, I am probably giving the BLM more credit than they deserve. Frankly I have not seen a decision made by them that was made in the best interest of the horses at all, but I am trying to be diplomatic. Yes, last year they did a removal of horses who were suffering from lack of water, but that condition was brought on by decisions the BLM made which caused the lack of water.

The issue of the West Douglas Herd is a similar situation. In August 1997 the BLM decided that the West Douglas Herd Area couldn't sustain the number of horses on the range. They decreased the "appropriate management levels" (AML) on this 128,000 acre reserve to between 0-50 to "improve range conditions". At the time the BLM accepted public comments for this decision, many protested that this would leave the herd levels too low for genetic viability. At that time the BLM stated that it would introduce mares into the area to counter this argument. However, today in 2008 they are "phasing out" the herd BECAUSE it is below genetic viability! Exactly the argument made in 1997.

The sister area the North Piceance herd Area is also being wiped out to allow for the exploration of oil and gas. Wild horses do not need to be removed for oil drilling. They avoid the area where drilling occurs and don't interefer with work being done. However, the BLM's policy for drilling was determined by the actions of cattle who will follow the equipment and will actually injure themselves by drinking the water and chemicals used in drilling. Their policy is that all wildlife should be removed from the area during drilling and be returned later once the drilling companies "rehabilitate" the land. However, once horses are removed from any area for any reason they are never returned and this includes drilling. They will reintroduce cattle, elk, big horned sheep and other wildlife, but not horses.

The BLM can and should reintroduce mares to bring the herds back from genetic extinction and stop all removals in these areas. However, returning horses has never been a decision the BLM has made, even though it is an option available to them. The area can certainly tolerate a larger herd. At this time the number of cattle on the land is 41,478. The BLM also manages other wildlife on the property including elk. The number of elk exceeds their management levels and has for over 20 years. Yet there is no move toward reducing those numbers, just the horses.

What makes this decision worse is that they plan on doing the removal in the winter season. Of course they have generously offered to not do removals when temperatures fall below -10 degrees or run the horses more than 5 miles when the snow is more than a foot deep. How generous of them! The area where the West Douglas Herd lives is in a mountainous region where danger abounds for horses being run with a helicopter, but in the winter when many hazards are hidden by snow and ice it is a recipe for disaster.

The ranchers who run cattle on this land receive government subsidies. One, the Cripple Creek Cowboy Company received over $77,000 between 1996 and 2006. They also seem to have the support of Senator Wayne Allard, who has been an advocate for the cattle companies. It isn't that the Senator shouldn't support his constituents, however he shouldn't do it at the expense of our wild horses and certainly not at the expense of violating the federal law which protects these horses. These companies are creating a financial burden on the taxpayer with their subsidies and the cost of the removals the BLM does to satisfy their lust for more land. These cattle companies are taking our tax dollars to operate their business, are getting preferential treatment AND decimating OUR wild horses!

If forage for these horses was decreasing in 1997 the BLM had the right to remove all or part of the cattle on the range. BLMs Code of Federal Regulation 43 CFR 4710.5(a) Closure To Livestock Grazing, which states: "If necessary to provide habitat for wild horses or burros, to implement herd management actions, or to protect wild horses or burros from disease, harassment or injury, the authorized officer may close appropriate areas of the public lands to grazing use by all or a particular kind of livestock." Instead they began a campaign to remove all wild horses from the range.

Why should we care about this? First, these horses may be the oldest documented herd. Reports of their existence go back as far as the 1770's making them a historical tie to this nation's beginning. The BLM is counting on the American public not responding to their call for comments, and apathy for how they manage our wild horses. We are asking that as many people as possible offer their comments to the BLM protesting this removal as inhumane and the fact that these horses should be preserved. The Cloud Foundation is working on stopping the removal through the courts. But we cannot leave it to them to do all the work. Please send your comments to the BLM by May 23,2008 by 4:30 pm Mountain Time. Comments should be sent to Bureau of Land Management, White River Field Office, Attention: Melissa Kindall 220 East Market Street Meeker, Colorado 81641 or you may email your comments to

Please take a few minutes to put your comments into writing no matter how short your comments may be. Ask your friends and neighbors to also write because these are their horses as well. The BLM needs to know that the American public is not apathetic to the plight of our wild horses.

I would like to thank The Cloud Foundation and the American Herds for their assistance in resources for this post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

HBO Follow up

The filly No Day Off who was filmed during the HBO show on horse slaughter was no the only Throughbred who was transported from Mountaineer Race Track to Sugarcreek auction and then on to slaughter. Thanks to Gail Vacca we know a bit more about those horses, as well as No Day Off.

While the story was focused on race horses, there were many other horses at that auction as they are each week. Their stories were not recorded and we know nothing about them other than their lives were cut short by an industry that claims they are there "helping" the horse while they profit from their flesh. Sugarcreek is a well known kill auction, but there are others across the country and every week there are wonderful kind people who are there to do whatever they can to save them. In the show we saw the colt, Little Cliff, who was saved because of his name and reputation. Thankfully, Another Chance for Horses was there for him, but there are unsung rescues around the country doing the same thing for the no name horses.

In 2007 the AHDF working with an online group were able to save 42 horses that were in the Bel-Tex feedlot waiting transport to the Juarez Mexico slaughter plant. These mare were either pregnant or had just given birth. Among them was a TB mare whose tattoo was so faded we couldn't read it. She had scars from her racing career and many pin firings. We don't know her history, but we do know that she has a bright future. She was adopted into a loving home with a girl to call her own. We called her Fiona, but she was just one of many. There was also the stunning paint mare, Phantom and her foal Arrow. The minimal paint mare Joy and her foal and so many more. Most have found new loving homes, while others are still waiting. Hopefully the HBO show will move people to action, to support the anti-slaughter bills and to want to help these slaughter bound horses because we can all use all the support we can get.

If the show or the information I provided moves you to help please visit our website for information on how you can help. Don't forget to sign up for our action alerts and updates. Our site also provides contact information for rescues nationwide where you can adopt or help horses locally.

The horses who were lost on April 18, 2008 in order that truth of this hideous cruelty could be brought to light.

No Day Off: 2004 Dark bay or brown filly. Tattoo # H19563. 10 starts 0-0-3. Earned $3,993.00. Last raced, 4-12-08 at Mountaineer Park for owner/trainer Ricardo Hernandez. No Day Off was sent to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08, only 6 days after having not been able to finish in her last race. The comment on her race record reads "gave way, eased upper stretch." No Day Off's only crime was that she was too injured to race competitively. No day off was bred by Jerome C. Burdick and was foaled in Pennsylvania. No Day Off was slaughtered in a Canadian horse slaughter plant in April of 2008 at only 4 years of age.

Balachour Prince: 2001 Bay gelding. Tattoo # E14092. 26 starts, 3-7-3. Earned $43,485.00. Last raced 4-12-08 at Mountaineer Park for trainer, Bart Baird and owner, The Estate of Dale Baird. Balachour Prince was sent to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08, only 6 days after his last race in which he finished 10th, beaten 151/2 lengths. The comment on his race record reads "lost ground, tired."

Balachour Prince was bred by G.J. Collins Bloodstock and Holly Collins and was foaled in Ontario, Canada. Balachour Prince was slaughtered in April of 2008 at 7 years of age.

Crow Autumn: 2002 Dark bay or brown mare. Tattoo #F20759. 37 starts, 0-2-4. Earned $26,370.00. Last raced 4-12-08 at Mountaineer Park for trainer Bart Baird and owner, The Estate of Dale Baird. Crow Autumn was sent to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction only 6 days after her last race in which she finished 7th beaten 171/2 lengths. The comment on her chart reads, "in tight start, tired." Crow Autumn was bred by JB Enterprises Inc., and was foaled in California. Crow Autumn was slaughtered in April of 2008 at 6 years of age.

Arranged Marriage: 2004 bay filly. Tattoo # H27783. 6 starts, 0-1-2. Earned $18,897.00. Last raced

4-7-08 at Mountaineer Park for trainer Bart Baird, owner The Estate of Dale Baird. Arranged Marriage was sent to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08, only 11 days after her last race which she did not finish. The comment on her chart reads "bad step, vanned-off." Arranged Marriage was bred by Bass/Seeligson Partnership and was foaled in California. Arranged Marriage sold for $10,500 at the Barrett's Equine Limited 2007 Fall Mixed Sale. Arranged Marriage, clearly suffering from the injuries sustained in her last race, was slaughtered in April of 2008, at merely 4 years of age.

Point of Attack: 2004 Dark bay or brown filly. Tattoo # H05614. 22 starts, 2-1-5. Earned $25,654.00. Last raced on 3-25-08 at Mountaineer Park for trainer Penny L. Mathias, and owner, The Estate of Dale Baird. Point of Attack was sold for slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08, only 25 days after her last race in which she finished 6th beaten 11- 1/2 lengths. The comment on her chart reads, " Rated pace, wore down.". Point of Attack was bred by Point Break Partners and was foaled in California. This daughter of Bertrando sold for $32,000 at the Barrett's Equine Limited 2006 Mixed Sale. Point of Attack was slaughtered in April of 2008 at only 4 years of age.

Explosive Light: 1991 Bay gelding. Tattoo # U00446. 16 starts 1-1-0. Earned $9,375.00. Explosive Light was a steeplechaser who last raced in 1997. At the time he was last raced, he was trained by F. B. Miller and owned by John H. Peace. Explosive Light was bred by Fares Farm and was foaled in Kentucky. The well bred son of Majestic Light (73) -- Explosive Tobin (86), by Explodent (69) sold at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 1992 for $220,000. Explosive Light was sold to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08 and was later that month slaughtered at 17 years of age, following many years of service to his human connections.

Emerald Crossing: 2002 Bay mare. Tattoo # F24713. 7 starts, 0-2-0. Earned $3,339.00. Emerald Crossing last raced on 3-8-06 at Penn National where she finished 2nd, beaten only 1-3/4 lengths. The comment on her chart reads, "3-wide, evenly stretch." At the time of her last race, Emerald Crossing was trained by George R. Albright and owned by Landslide Farm. Emerald Crossing was sold to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08. Emerald Crossing was bred by Redmond C. S. Finney and was foaled in Maryland. Emerald Crossing was slaughtered in April of 2008, at 6 years of age.

Bohica: 2002 Bay mare. Tattoo # F34049. 34 starts, 3-7-3. Earned $33,290.00. Bohica last raced 7-9-07 at Mountaineer Park for owner/trainer Ashley J. Lewis, where she finished 9th, beaten 32-1/2 lengths. Bohica was sold to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08. Bohica was bred by F. W. Allen and was foaled in Florida. Bohica was slaughtered in April of 2008, at 6 years of age.

Another Passion: 2004 Bay filly. Tattoo #H14386. Starts 2, 1-0-0. Earned $6,925.00. Another passion last raced on 6-17-06 for trainer Art Sherman and owner Frederick J. Liebau, Sr. Another Passion won her last race by 3 lengths. Another Passion was sold to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08. Another passion was bred by Janet Sexton and was foaled in California. In January of 2008 Another Passion sold for $900.00 at the Barrett's Equine Limited January 2008 Mixed Sale. Another Passion was slaughtered in April of 2008 at only 4 years of age.

November News: 2003 Dark bay or brown gelding. Tattoo # G28014. November News never raced. He was bred by Kathryn C. Schultz and was foaled in Florida. November News was sold to slaughter via the Sugarcreek Auction on 4-18-08. November News sold for $3,000 at the Ocala Breeder's Sales Company 2004 Winter Mixed Sale. November News was slaughtered in April of 2008 at only 5 years of age.

***Please note that Balachour Prince, Crow Autumn, Arranged Marriage, and Point of Attack were all owned by the Estate of Dale Baird. All but, Point of Attack (who was trained by Penny Mathias) were trained by the late Dale Baird's son, Bart Baird.

Dale Baird has been heralded as the most winning trainer in US history, winning over 9,000 races before his death in 2007. Baird has been twice nominated for consideration by Racing's Hall of Fame. Thankfully, he was denied entry both times. What a lot of people didn’t know about Dale Baird was that while he was no doubt America's winning-most trainer, he was also a man who thought nothing of sending hundreds if not thousands of horses to slaughter, once they were no longer of any use to him. He may very well have been the trainer who in his lifetime sent more horses to slaughter than any of his counterparts.

The sale of Balachour Prince, Crow Autumn, Arranged Marriage, and Point of Attack to slaughter on April 18, 2008 proves that despite Dale Baird's death, his legacy of cruelty and total disregard for the welfare of horses, continues on with his son, Bart Baird. The Baird family reign of equine cruelty must end. Dale Baird must never again be considered for entry into racing's Hall of Fame. To do so would be an insult to all true horsemen. "Trainers" such as Dale and Bart Baird have no place among the many fine horsemen within the racing industry, and they along with others like them, should be banned from racing. ***

The above information about the horses was provided by Gail Vacca who assisted in identifying the horses during the filming of the HBO show.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

HBO Special on Horse Slaughter

Last night on HBO's program "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble" (Episode 134) a segment aired about the issue of horse slaughter. The segment ran about 15 minutes and was well done. For those who were unable to watch the show, I thought I would share what the show said. I do want to say that the show had VERY graphic scenes and while I will try in my description of the show to be sensitive, the topic is far from being a tame one and not everything can be sugar coated.

The segment was called Running for Their Lives, produced by Joe Perskle, edited by Tres Driscoll and narrated by Bernard Goldberg. The intro by Bryant talked about the death of Eight Belles (the filly who came in second at this year's Kentucky Derby that broke down after the race and was euthanized on the track). Bryant said that those concerned with the welfare of horses should look beyond the tack because while a "handful" break down many more horses face a different and much crueler fate when racing is done with them.

The opening sequence and much of the segment was shot in West Virginia at Mountaineer Park. In the barn area a black trailer pulls in, heading for the stable of a horse who had raced there a few days ago, it's last race. Bernard Goldberg tells us that this is the story of horses who run for their lives literally, where thousands of Thoroughbreds become somebody's dinner.

The scene moves to Becky Care, who quotes the slaughter industry's favorite saying, "Stable to table in 7 days". Ms. Care previously worked as an assistant to trainers at race tracks and specifically Mountaineer, but now runs a rescue for horses. What she saw drove her out of the business. She says that a horse that can't win races and doesn't win enough money is worthless and they "want it gone". She says that a "meat man" (known by this name because the horses he buys ends up slaughtered for their meat) visits the track every week looking to buy horses "on the cheap". Ms. Care said that the trainer she worked for sold horses to the meat man regularly, even though she tried to place them. She said that handing a horse to them was like handing it off to the grim reaper.

The show then shows a race in which a filly named No Day Off ran. She came in fourth in the race, which wasn't good enough because the meat man is there to see her. They filmed with hidden cameras the horse being loaded on the trailer. The horse refuses and is beaten by her trainer until she enters the trailer. No Day Off is 4 years old and they ask the trainer why she is being sold and he says she just "don't run too good". The next day she is taken to the Sugarcreek auction. No Day Off exits the trailer first, followed by other horses from the track and enters the kill pen. In the pen horses are shown fighting and in overcrowded conditions. They also show a weak horse down, left for dead, while the others are sold off to their deaths. Ms. Care tries to buy horses from the auction and has often been outbid by the kill buyers. Unfortunately, nobody is able to save No Day Off and she is sold to a kill buyer for $425. She is packed into a double decker trailer and sent to the slaughter house.

The segment then shows the slaughter video where one of the horses is hit with the bolt gun at least 5 times and a horse fights having it's throat slit. The show states that one week they are treated like kings and the next week they are a meal. Stable to table in 7 days. Mr Gold berg talks about the closing of the slaughter plants in the United States saying that was good news for American horses, the bad news is that now horses are crammed into double decker trailers where they are shipped thousands of miles on trips that last day and night to go across the border to slaughter plants. They then show a Canadian plant where they use a 22 rifle and a Mexican plant where they stab at the horses with knives. When the worker finally severs the spinal cord of the horse, he is applauded.

Mr. Goldberg returned to Mountaineer after No Day Off is slaughtered to speak to the trainer who sold her. The trainer says that he doesn't know what happens to the horses he sells and that he prefers not to know. Mr Goldberg tells him that No Day Off went to the slaughterhouse, the trainer doesn't look surprised. However, apparently he didn't like being told because security shows up and tells them to quit filming and that they must turn over the tape to him or erase it. He even refuses to allow them to leave until he is given tape. The tape he got was blank, which they found out later and they left with the real footage of what goes on at the track. (Personally I think they should have called police because they were restrained and prevented from leaving which is a crime.)

The next part shows Christy Sheidy from Another Chance for Horses. She shows Mr Goldberg a horse that she found at auction. When she called in to find out about him everyone was shocked and said she couldn't have found him at auction. It was Little Cliff, two years ago he was a Kentucky Derby contender and he had won over $200K in purses. In March he ran a little too slow and was sold to a meat man for a few hundred dollars. It turns out that Little Cliff had just missed the truck heading to the slaughter plant. Mr Goldberg and crew follow Christy to an auction where they save a dozen horses with funds from an online group. They buy a nice looking paint horse from a kill buyer who jacks up the price from what he paid a few minutes earlier. He paid $475 and sold him for $525. After the auction Sheidy says "You bred it, you own it, you raced it, you destroyed it so you euthanize it or put it in a home". She calls it a "compromise of ethics, integrity and responsibility". Last year AC4H placed over 200 horses and they say that the horses are in demand. Becky Care agrees saying she has never had one she was unable to place in a new home.

Sheidy says that she wonders about the horse who was standing next to Little Cliff, what his story was and who owned him. Mr Goldberg says that "We do know one thing about who was standing next to him". Sheidy finishes the thought "He's no longer here".

Gumble and Goldberg talk about the segment saying it was shot at Mountaineer Race Track. Gumble asks if most tracks have a meat man to which Goldberg responds yes that the track is like most others. They talk about it being practical that horses do have to be sold. Gumble asks if there are standards for retiring a horse or disposing of one. Goldberg responds that it is private property and that it isn't illegal to sell them to whoever. he does mention that some tracks, like greyhound tracks, have a retirement/adoption program. Goldberg says that although many people may want horses, there are limits like for those living in apartments. He also says that "some may disagree, but you can't adopt out every horse in America". Then Goldberg does mention the pending bills in Congress that would ban the transportation of horses to slaughter for human consumption.

I found the show to be pretty fair and balanced. Although it didn't cover all the issues and failed to mention the bills by name or number.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tradegy at Kentucky Derby

As almost everyone knows today was the running of the Kentucky Derby. Some may have even seen the race and it's energizing end. However, just after the race one of the horses suffered an unrecoverable injury and was euthanized. The filly Eight Belles who came in second in the race, only the 5th filly in history to ever finish in the top, was galloping out and suffered fractures to both her front ankles. She was euthanized on the track, the first time ever in the 134 year history of the race. Those on-hand were at a loss to explain exactly what happened and why and that included the track vet.

I didn't watch the running of the Derby, I was packing for my trip, but when I heard the news I turned on ESPN who showed the full race as well as Eight Belles going down. First, I have to say she was one heck of a horse. She came from the middle of the pack to place second, 3 full lengths in front of the 3rd place horse. She was the only girl in the race against 19 boys. She wasn't out of her league, she could have run that race easily. So, the question is why?

There are a number of things that can be done to make racing a safer sport for the horses, but in an industry hesitant to change those changes are coming too slowly. While plans are underway to begin changing track surfaces to make them safer for the horses, they have been delayed. Could a surface change have helped this filly? I don't have that answer. I do know it couldn't have hurt. The track vet says that the injuries could have started out as a microbreak that expanded. That says surface might have helped. I have to say from watching the race a few times, that she didn't look in pain at all during the race. She was running full out with no hesitation and never slowed down. Changing the age of racing would help insure that bones and joints are mature enough to tolerate the rigors of racing. Again, I don't know if that would have saved Eight Belles, but it darn sure would have lessened the chance of an injury like the ones she sustained. BTW, this was the second tragedy in two days, yesterday a colt, Chelokee, slipped on the sloppy (muddy) track and suffered a fracture similar to that suffered by Barbaro at the Preakness. Chelokee has been given a 50/50 chance to survive. Chelokee's prognosis is similar to that given to Barbaro and he also had the same trainer.

No matter how you feel about horse racing as a sport, we can and should all mourn the passing of such a record setting filly with so much potential. It is a tragic ending to a day that is supposed to be happy and joyful for those who love racing and for the horses who love to run.

The only decent people I ever saw at the racecourse were horses. James Joyce