Monday, September 7, 2015

Good karma

It all started when I spent a couple of lunch breaks trying to force myself to watch a video produced by the Canadian Horse Defence Coaltition. Non-horse people have no idea how many horses are sent to slaughter every year. And even though no horse slaughter plants operate in the United States, it doesn't stop the horrific transportation of horses across both borders to an awful end at a slaughter house. I have to admit to not being able to watch parts of the video and had to fast forward, but I'm not the one who needed to see it. I already know the staggering numbers slaughtered. It's the people cheering at the track, the parents sending their kids to a camp that sends it horses to auction at season's end, the traveler seeing mustangs in a holding pen out west, and yes, even the shopper, unknowingly buying meat possibly tainted with horse meat not fit for human consumption.

Horses in the United States are wormed with medicine that specifically states, "Not for horses intended for human consumption". And then there are the other medications, especially in performance and sport horses as well as backyard pets. So tell me, how do Canada and Mexico get away with sending this "tainted" meat overseas? Through deception? Ignorance? Falsifying documents? Probably all of these.

The video plagued me--I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had to hug my horses and murmur, "You are so lucky.." into their necks. Coming off the racetrack, they were fortunate Suffolk Downs had a "no slaughter" policy meaning the race horses could not be sold to a kill buyer when they were done racing. But that's not true for all tracks.  A public outcry just forced Louisiana's Evangeline Downs to revisit its policy. The sheer numbers of horses bred to run is staggering. And some should never be bred at all. Seeing a picture of a mare in foal, who gave birth in the kill pen, brought to mind the concentration camps. Now some may see that as a stretch, but think about it; a mare having her foal in a filthy, overcrowded environment, that will inevitably be sent along with her to slaughter. How can someone be so callous as to toss her into such a horrific place, knowing what she will face? God help the person with so little compassion for their fellow creatures.

But on the bright side, a number of outstanding people work tirelessly to rescue horses from kill buyers and from auctions where kill buyers fill up their trailers for non-stop treks to the borders. I don't know how these people do it, but each week they attend auctions and visit kill buyers, looking for candidates, asking for donations, flipping lips on end-of-the-line racehorses, and networking like mad. It must be exhausting, and depressing, knowing they cannot save them all.

So this Saturday, as my horses were basking under cool fans, munching on alfalfa hay, I checked up on Facebook to see what was happening in the horse world. Two horse remained with a two hour deadline before they would be shipped to slaughter--two perfectly sound horses (jog videos available), not old, not sick, were headed for Canada and a bolt to the brain, if people didn't step up and help.  I had never donated before, and honestly didn't think my little bit could help. But I couldn't sit by and let this happen without trying to make a difference. I messaged the group to find out how to help, how much more did they need for those last two horses. I waited, no answer--less than an hour to go--someone sent me the link and I grabbed my wallet. Less than a half hour left--were they safe?

I needed to go feed my horses their dinner, but I had to know the status on the two last standing. Just as I went to put on my boots, I checked Facebook one more time. The horse community had pulled it off--SAFE! I broke down in tears. 

So fellow equestrians, please don't assume someone else will pick up the tab, someone else will save the horses. Share this knowledge with others. Get involved, give time, give money, or both. While you're uploading selfies of you and your horse, network the less-fortunate horses in the gravest of danger. Even a few bucks can get them to safety. Help make a difference. It's good karma. Now go hug your horse.

Back in the saddle again

Astride his mare, once again, John and I took Rolex and Harley for a spin on Saturday. We started out with a brief walk around the "ring" which is essentially an meadow that gets mowed now and again. Everyone seemed good, so we decided to ride the fence line and see where we need to do some work. I've cobbled together a number of broken spots--looks like it may be time for another trip to Lowe's for planks. Unfortunately, our pasture is deemed "Playland" by Harley. First. he spooked at a tractor on a trailer rattling down the hill. Then he proceeded to do the sideways canter and began to buck. John's hollering at me, "Chin up, chin up, feet forward" as Harley grunted and boinked like a pogo stick. He antics were enough to give me a sore neck and a bruised knuckle. Since he wouldn't move forward without being naughty, I jumped off, walked up the hill, remounted outside the pasture and we re-started the ride.  Two hours later, we'd taken the edge off, but our OTTBs were far from tired.

Rolex watching the woods
 And Harley, well he always has enough energy for another spook! It was a treat to ride with John again--and I think Rolex missed him too!

Harley watching whatever Rolex is watching!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Two old duffers went for a ride...

August is over and yet it seems like summer just began a few weeks ago. The summer reading program ended at the library and the kids are heading back to school another two days. Leaves are starting to let go on the ancient maple over the house, a gentle reminder of what's to come. Is autumn really just around the corner? As summer winds down, I look forward to cooler, bug-less rides, and horses not permeated with the odor of fly spray. The horses will stop stamping and swishing, enjoying fly-free meals with a lot less irritation. But it will also be time to say goodbye to evening daylight and rides after work.

August raced by me as I faced a number of obstacles. John was injured in a fall which landed him in the hospital for 5 days. They sent him home with directions to not lift more than 20 pounds and to stay home from work for 3 weeks. In the middle of that hiatus, my hay farmers called with approximately 450 bales of hay I needed to come pick up in one weekend. My stomach churned as I stressed about how I was going to get the hay. My wonderful family and a few of John's friends pulled through for us. My father brought his pickup truck and trailer, one brother came over from New Hampshire with his pickup, another brother and his son came all the way from Connecticut. Without their equipment and muscles--well, let's just say I might have missed out on getting most of our winter hay! With all the extra help, we moved a total of 422 bales of hay. I feel blessed to have such support.

And then Harley managed to injure himself! We brought the horses inside late one night as a thunderstorm began to brew. So I still don't know if I missed the injury at that point, or whether he did it in the stall. But when I turned him out the next morning I saw a gaping hole in his buttock. Back inside we went while I washed it out and treated it with Vetericyn. There was no bandage to fit this, but we did manage to track down giant square pads for protection, although his swishing tail manages to rip each one off, every day. The wound has healed up a lot and looks much better now. When injuries like this happen, I think of that picture making its way around on Facebook of the horse wrapped in bubble wrap. Not a bad idea!

So all the exercise duty has fallen on me as well as the daily barn chores. I always wanted a career with horses; so this wouldn't be too bad if I didn't have a day job too. Unfortunately, I haven't ridden the beasts nearly as much as they need it! Rolex Girl has become a bit feisty, to say the least, and spooked more than Harley on my last ride with her!

After all his time off waiting for the wound to close up, I expected Harley to be full of himself. He managed to put in only one stop and spin as we headed to Orris Falls, but we made it past the "scary woodpile" without another hitch. On the trail, we met a cyclist--no big deal--and I have to admit I was proud of my boy! In fact, I called John to tell him I'd made it home safely and that Harley was a star. It's not often I can say that when we ride solo after a few weeks off.

Saying that, John and I might invest in a pair of safety impact vests. We just don't seem to bounce quite like we did in our twenties.  And after our last debacle--we can't afford to both be laid up! The thought of wearing an nice insulating layer of foam doesn't really appeal to me for summer riding, but it sure beats being injured.

My best boy mowing the lawn after our ride.
Now with the onset of September,  I'm thinking about what I need to get done before winter hits: buy oil, buy firewood, touch up peeling paint on the house, and think about finding a snowblower. If this coming winter is anything like the last, I'm not sure I can face it armed with just a shovel! Keeping the house and the barn cleared it a tremendous amount of work and not for the weak-armed. If the Farmer's Almanac prediction is true, Southern Pines, North Carolina will be mighty crowded with horse trailers from New England!

So, what a guy to do when he can't ride? Why spoil the horses, of course! Hand out treats, brush coats, comb manes and tails, give out more treats. I think Ruffy would follow John anywhere for another bite of carrot.