Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Realization Hitting Home

The article I posted in my last blog still has me rattled. I thought maybe it was the upcoming weather but in reality it's the realization hitting home about the horse industry, slaughter, and the welfare of the horse. So to try and calm my raw nerves I wandered through pictures from our summer vacation.

I'll leave you with some views of the stream next to the cabin. Hope these help you to relax as well.

Dark Horse

I saw this in my Inbox.
Someone called it profound.
I am speechless.

I'll apologize up front if I'm not to distribute this document but ... I simply must.

With tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and a terrible ache in my heart here is the profound writing by Lisa Couturier

Dark Horse
For many equines that have served humans faithfully, an undignified end awaits

I WENT TO AN AUCTION last Monday. Not an auction for foreclosed homes. Not an auction for priceless art or jewelry or land. I went to the New Holland Livestock Auction in the Amish and Mennonite country of New Holland, Pennsylvania, where each week horses are sold—though I’d no intention of buying one. I know a thing or two about horses. I spend a significant amount of time with them and can groom them, bathe them, saddle them, walk them, run them on a lead, ride them, feed them, blanket them, work them in a round pen, give them medicine, soak their sore hooves, lift and stretch their hindlegs and forelegs, clean the undersides of their feet, bandage their legs, and minister to their wounds. But I could not foresee, in the spare few minutes each horse at such an auction is given to demonstrate its abilities, personality, strength, or lack thereof (whether young or old, muscled or thin), that I’d be able to determine whether any particular horse would be the one for me.

Besides, it was hard to even think at the auction. I took a seat in the large crowd of people—with the Amish men wearing straw hats, black pants, and jackets; with the Mennonite men in their black hats and suspendered pants; with the city slickers from somewhere else and the country folk from nearby; with children and their grandparents fussing over spilled sodas. People talked, laughed, visited, ate hot dogs, Amish pies, and French fries. We all sat sandwiched together in the steep, gray bleachers that formed an oval around the dirt ring in which the horses were shown, one after another, from ten a.m. until midafternoon. A “loose horse” was a horse that came into the auction ring without a rider; the horses with riders were called “saddle horses.” Loose horses are at a disadvantage in terms of finding a good home because even though they are often saddle broke they nonetheless sell for less without a rider atop them in the ring.

The fate of those horses that entered and exited the ring quickly—such as one thin copper-colored Thoroughbred mare I remember—seemed bleak, the implication being that the horse was barely worth the time it took to auction off. That particular Thoroughbred mare, whose long, flaxen mane and tail were braided, must have had someone who had cared enough for her to make her pretty, perhaps believing this would help sell her to a good home, where a girl might braid her once again. Her head hanging low, she slowly walked around the ring, only once, and then stepped out a side exit. If there was any bidding for her, I didn’t hear or see it.
More than once the black-bearded Mennonite man running the auction—someone called him Zimmerman—asked the audience to settle down. Given the noisy crowd and the loud, stern voice of the auctioneer calling out in rapid-fire succession the back-and-forth bidding for the animals, I did not expect the saddle horses to try so hard to do well. Horses are flight animals; they flee at the unfamiliar; fear is their dominant emotion. But they are social creatures, too. They aim to please because they’ve learned to trust, which meant that even the strong and healthy horses, of which there were many, obediently did as they were told amid the chaos of the auction: go forward; go back; turn left, now right; stop, immediately; go fast, go slow; stand still. They were willing to do as asked, as they’ve been over the centuries—to churn the soil in our fields, to fight our battles, to run our races until their lungs bleed or their bones break. This might possibly be their last chance to perform, and they mustered up that certain nobility and courage possessed by horses, as though they had upon their backs the Navajo of long ago, the warriors who, before battle, would whisper into the ears of their horses: Be brave and nothing will happen. We will come back safely.

BEFORE THE AUCTION BEGAN, I had walked through the barns adjoining the auction ring where the horses stood tied to their posts. There are approximately 9 million horses in the United States, and at the auction there were two hundred of not necessarily the unwanted but surely the unlucky. Unlucky because, though I suppose going to a horse auction might sound like a day in the country—Amish food and horse-drawn buggies and all that—this particular auction is frequented by men known as “kill buyers,” which, by association, makes New Holland a kill auction, one of the largest east of the Mississippi. Kill buyers (KBs) also are called “meat men”—the men who purchase horses, typically from the major kill auctions, and deliver them for slaughter, though they also visit Thoroughbred racetracks and wheel and deal with horse dealers who’ve secured horses elsewhere: former show horses from the hunter/jumper/eventing/dressage worlds whose unsuspecting owners believe the dealer will place their horses in good homes; horses listed in newspaper classifieds or on Craigslist (you can find them for sale for a dollar); surplus lesson horses; horses that start out at smaller auctions, such as the Hickory Auction in Pennsylvania, the Camelot Auction in New Jersey, or any of the other nearly one hundred horse auctions scattered across the U.S. All these places are entry points for what is termed the “slaughter pipeline”; and those horses unlucky enough to stay in the pipeline eventually arrive at bigger and potentially more deadly places such as New Holland, where, the day I attended, the younger Mennonite and Amish boys managed a parade of breeds and types (drafts, minis, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, fit and fat and healthy horses, tired and skinny horses, carriage horses, work horses, mares and geldings and stallions and foals) by whipping in the face the more frightened horses that took longer than a few seconds to understand what they were being told to do. Of course, not just KBs attend such auctions. And the horses being sold could have many possible new homes and potential uses—with families who want a trail horse, say, or with horse trainers, or with competitive riders looking for a strong event or endurance horse. Nonetheless, by the end of the day at any number of auctions around the country, the KBs have “bid for horses against private buyers, against each other and other dealers, as well as against horse rescues,” says Christy Sheidy of Another Chance 4 Horses, in Bernville, Pennsylvania. “The horses the kill buyers took could’ve easily been re-homed and gone on to live happy lives with families who want and appreciate them. They were not unwanted.”

Ultimately, kill buyers take what they need to satisfy their contracts with slaughterhouses. The day I visited New Holland, they were taking horses going for $500 or less; and though sometimes these were the young or the old, the sick or the skinny horses, it was clear that the healthy ones were preferred—the more body weight, the more money for the load. The buzz at New Holland that day was that a KB would receive about $600 from the slaughterhouse for each horse, though prices fluctuate depending on location, supply, and demand. A report quoted by a USDA slaughter statistician for that time period indicated the price of a horse at auction to be around forty-three cents per pound, but horse meat can fetch as much as fifteen dollars per pound in the retail market.

Because Americans don’t eat horses, it is surprising to learn that people of other cultures do. “Horse meat became popular after World War II,” says Carolyn Stull, animal welfare specialist at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. It was an inexpensive protein “for lower-income people in Europe, where beef was scarce, and old or lame draft horses were processed as affordable meat.” Prices have risen since World War II, but the market continues to be highly profitable for the foreign companies that process horses from the U.S. and Canada, both of which have large horse populations. In a paper concerning horse transport regulations, Stull cites the different types of horse meat various cultures prefer. For instance, the Japanese prefer draft horse meat, she writes, referencing a 1999 article titled “Horses Destined to Slaughter” (though at New Holland I heard that the Japanese and French like Quarter Horses the most because of the lean muscle mass). The Italians, cites Stull, prefer eighteen- to twenty-four-month-old horses; the French go for ten- to twelve-year-old horses; and the Swiss take the two- to three-year-olds.

There are currently no horse-slaughtering facilities in the U.S., which means horses are transported to Canada and Mexico before being put to a typically untimely death. In the 1980s there were sixteen slaughterhouses in the U.S. By 1993 there were about ten, scattered across the country—in Connecticut, Texas, Oregon, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio. By the fall of 2007, the last three—two in Texas and one in Illinois—were shut down by courts that upheld state laws banning horse slaughter. The fight against slaughter within the U.S. grew from outrage over the fact that ex-racehorses like Ferdinand, Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year, as well as a racehorse named Exceller, who’d defeated two Triple Crown winners, had slipped through the cracks and been purchased for slaughter overseas (Exceller in Sweden in 1997, and Ferdinand in Japan in 2002). Slaughter opponents included the general public (seven in ten Americans are against it, according to Madeleine Pickens, former racehorse breeder and wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens); a majority of the Thoroughbred racing industry; and professionals within the horse industry (trainers, riders, breeders), all of whom, once they spoke up for horses, were labeled “animal rights activists” by the proslaughter contingency as a way to discredit them.

Slaughter, however, is not banned at the federal level, and individual states that have not banned it could see new slaughterhouses opened in the future. In early 2009, a Montana state legislator, aptly named Ed Butcher, tried and failed to lure the Chinese (who eat a lot of horses) into building a plant there. But Butcher has not given up. As of March 2010, even though he decided not to run for re-election, he told a reporter for the Montana Independent Record that he’s still “shepherding his horse slaughterhouse idea by trying to find a market.” According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are drafting initiatives to reintroduce the possibility of slaughtering of horses in the United States. This is why slaughter opponents ceaselessly fight for the passage of the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 (H.R. 503 / S. 727), which would end at a national level the slaughter of horses for human consumption as well as the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for human consumption.

A new plot turn in this story is that, as of July 31, 2010, the European Union (EU) will require that horses destined for slaughter and human consumption are free from certain drugs, including many that long have been in the bodies of horses, most notably phenylbutazone (a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory commonly called “bute,” which is given to an estimated 98 percent of American Thoroughbred racehorses as well as to just about any breed of horse to relieve occasional pain or swelling). Kill buyers will be required to provide a signed statement for each horse claiming that to the best of their knowledge the animal has not been treated with these particular substances. “Some kill buyers claim openly that they will simply fill in bogus forms,” says John Holland, president of the Equine Welfare Alliance. The fact is, it would be impossible for KBs to tell the truth, because the horses they pick up could have had numerous owners, and it is rare for papers of any kind to travel with horses to auction, let alone an animal’s lifelong medical history.

It is unlikely that this new hurdle will suddenly stop kill buyers from shipping horses across our borders, as they had been doing even before the last three U.S. slaughterhouses closed. The figures for 2009 show that horses slaughtered in Canada were sold to as many as twenty-four countries, with France, Switzerland, Japan, and Belgium receiving 92 percent of the exports. The demand from countries where horseflesh is considered a pricey delicacy is the predominant reason horses go to slaughter. Some slaughter proponents suggest that the demand is met by horses that are no longer useful to their owners and are therefore better off slaughtered than suffering starvation and neglect. Neglect does of course occur, but neglected and starving horses are not necessarily the ones chosen by the KBs, and such horses don’t always make it to auction to begin with. Consider the nearly two hundred mustangs found starving—seventy-four of them already dead—at the Three Strikes Ranch in Nebraska in 2009. With such a large enticement of horseflesh, the owner of Three Strikes could have chosen to have the meat man come hither; he could’ve sent his neglected horses off with a KB who would’ve paid him for the animals. But he did not.

It is more often the case that horse owners do not wish their healthy animals an untimely death, are unaware that dealers flip their equines like real estate, and would be horrified to know that their animals had been sold into the slaughter pipeline. Bottom line: a horse is a commodity and someone is making money off of it somewhere down the road. And it is all perfectly legal, since horses are deemed livestock by the U.S. government, even though they are not part of the American food chain.

Horses in America today are used less for agricultural purposes and more for sport, competition, trail rides, and showing. They are bred and raised to be companions, not dinner entrees, which is why slaughter seems incompatible with our country’s relationship to this animal. And the manner in which these horses are killed only makes it more so. Before a horse is ostensibly unconscious and hung upside down by one of its back legs, and before its throat is cut and it is bled out, the horse must enter the killbox, or knockbox, where it is shot in the head with a device called a captive bolt gun, which is a four-inch-long, retractable, nail-like instrument. The captive bolt gun does not immediately kill the horse but is meant to render it insensible to pain.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a captive bolt gun will work effectively under the following conditions: if it is clean and in proper working order, if the horse stands still, and if, shall we say, the gun is dead-on the right spot on the horse’s forehead. These conditions are hard to ensure.

“It is a dangerous practice to equate the medical procedure of chemical euthanasia performed by a veterinarian to end an animal’s life with that of a slaughterhouse worker killing an animal,” says Nena Winand, a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. “There are many differences. Vets monitor vitals to cause the least amount of trauma, mental or otherwise. [Slaughterhouse workers] don’t take the time to monitor that the horse is dead. The horse gets hit multiple times with the captive bolt gun. We don’t know that they’re always insensible to pain. This treatment of horses has been going on since I was a kid, and I’m fifty-two now. The industry has never been successfully regulated. We pay taxes to monitor and enforce the humane treatment of these horses, but nothing’s enforced and it never has been. Whoever says otherwise is misrepresenting the history of this industry. To say it’s all perfect—well, it’s just insane.”

It all seems like the ultimate betrayal to a horse that likely served its owners for years and, at some point in its life, experienced human kindness. But there is not an exchange rate for kindness, while there is one for demand. In 2009 alone, demand resulted in the slaughter of 93,812 horses in Canada; of those, 56 percent were American horses; Canada’s revenue was $86.9 million; and the largest importer was France, paying $27.8 million. Worth noting, in a reflective and economy-minded sort of way regarding the issue of demand, is something comedian Jon Stewart said, which was referred to by racing columnist Jay Hovdey in the Daily Racing Form: “There’s demand for cocaine and hookers, too.”

“There are two things that flourish in the dark—mushrooms and horse slaughter,” said the late John Hettinger, a Thoroughbred racing legend and former member of the board of trustees of the New York Racing Association. “Most people don’t know it’s going on. We must deny them the darkness.” To shine a light inside the darkness, various humane groups (the Humane Society of the U.S., the Humane Farming Association) have taken undercover videos inside slaughterhouses, where workers poke, whip, and beat the animals’ bodies with fiberglass rods. Video from inside Mexican slaughterhouses reveals horses stabbed repeatedly with knives, which paralyzes the horse but leaves it conscious at the start of the slaughter process. The videos are exceedingly difficult to watch. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the USDA recently disclosed some nine hundred pages (including photos) documenting hundreds of violations of humane treatment to horses during transport to slaughter and at the American plants prior to their closings in 2007. The photos (available on depict horses with severed legs, crushed skulls, and missing eyes, as well as pregnant mares. Late-term pregnant mares, foals, blind horses, and horses who cannot stand on all four legs are not supposed to be sent to slaughter. Those animals that do make the trip are to be fed, watered, and rested. Often they are not.

“The whole thing, it’s a boondoggle on the American people,” said slaughter opponent and oilman T. Boone Pickens to a Chicago NBC reporter. “People that are for slaughter should be forced to go down on that kill floor.”

For those of us who will never get to the kill floor, or who have not the stomach to watch the videos on YouTube, here are two short excerpts, the first from the notes of an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Investigator at eleven-twenty a.m. on April 13, 2005, at the Cavel slaughter plant in DeKalb, Illinois:
Eight horses were in the alleyway leading directly to the knock-box. . . . The employee who is routinely assigned to work on the kill floor, hanging the horses on the rails, was using a riding crop to whip the horse in the alleyway closest to the knock-box. This horse continued to move backward, away from the knock-box causing the other horses behind it to be overcrowded. As the whipping continued the horses in the alleyway became extremely excited. I immediately told the employee to stop but he did not listen to me. During this time, the last horse in the alleyway attempted to jump over the alleyway wall and became stuck over the top of the wall. Eventually it had flailed around enough to fall over to the other side of the wall. I went to the kill floor to find the plant manager, could not find him. . . . Meanwhile two more horses fell down in the alleyway. The first was the second horse in line to the knock-box. It had fallen forward and the horse behind it began to walk on top of it as the downed horse struggled to get up. The second horse to fall was the fourth horse in line. It had flipped over backwards due to the overcrowding and was subsequently trapped and trampled by the fifth and sixth horses in line in their excitement. . . .

And in this statement taken from records in Cook County, Illinois, a former slaughterhouse employee testified to the following:
In July 1991, they were unloading one of the double-decker trucks. A horse got his leg caught in the side of the truck so the driver pulled the rig up and the horse’s leg popped off. The horse was still living, and it was shaking. [Another employee] popped it on the head and we hung it up and split it open. . . . Sometimes we would kill near 390, 370 a day. Each double-decker might have up to 100 on it. We would pull off the dead ones with chains. Ones that were down on the truck, we would drag them off with chains and maybe put them in a pen or we might drag them with an automatic chain to the knockbox. Sometimes we would use an electric shocker to make them stand. To get them to the knockbox, you have to shock them . . . sometimes run them up the [anus] with the shocker. . . . When we killed a pregnant mare, we would take the guts out and I would take the bag out and open it and cut the cord and put it in the trash and sometimes the baby would still be living, and its heart would be beating, but we would put it in the trashcan.

I’D FOUND MY WAY to New Holland with a horse rescue worker I’ll call Pat. Like many people who start up rescues, Pat was a lifelong rider and horse owner before opening her rescue in 2008. When I first visited her on a cold winter afternoon several weeks before the auction, I was led into a paddock of ex-racehorses rescued from nearby tracks. While we walked, Pat recounted for me the injuries that ended the horses’ careers and commented on the “bottom-dweller trainers who would’ve sold them to the meat man” and the “good trainers who call rescues to come take them.” The horses gravitated toward her, while chickens poked about and ran under the horses’ legs of gold and a Labrador puppy jumped up to kiss the horses’ long sculpted faces. “These are Thoroughbreds?” I asked, surprised by their calmness. “They’re here for a few weeks or so, they settle in,” she told me, while leaning into the horses’ bellies and cooing to them. “Isn’t that right?”

Pat was willing to take me to New Holland—driving us north for three hours in her 100,000-plus-mileage truck, her old trailer trailing behind us. “I need a new trailer, a new truck, fences. Everything. But it works out, somehow. It just does,” she said after jump-starting the truck that morning as the sun rose and the fog settled into the foothills and roosters called in the background. We were heading to Pennsylvania to meet a man named Frank, who runs an auction in New Jersey.

“Frank is a kill buyer, plain and simple,” says Anne Russek, a former Thoroughbred racehorse trainer who trained out of Monmouth Park Racetrack in New Jersey and who worked with HBO producers on an episode of Bryant Gumbel’s Real Sports that aired on May 12, 2008, titled “Hidden Horses.” The segment was an exposé that followed the path of a four-year-old Thoroughbred bay filly named No Day Off, who raced for the last time at Mountaineer Park Racetrack in West Virginia on April 12, 2008—just one month before the program aired. When a Thoroughbred racehorse reaches the end of its career or is simply no longer profitable on the track, said the HBO trailer, it is often taken directly to auction and sold for meat.

“Frank wants to work with the rescues,” says Pat. “But when he has a full load of horses, he will ship them to Canada.” Pat implies, as we talk in the truck about meeting with Frank, that he has of late softened a bit. When finally I glimpse him at the auction sitting not far from us on a row of bleachers, I notice that he is older than the other KBs; he has white hair, a wide face, blue eyes, and a heather-brown, zip-up cardigan that gives him a rather grandfatherly look. Later in the day, after Frank has assisted Pat with rescuing a small pony that her daughter might like, the first thing he says to me when he learns I am writing about auctions, racing, and slaughter is: “I have an excellent attorney.”

The purpose of meeting Frank at New Holland was to pick up two Thoroughbred mares, former racehorses. Thoroughbred racehorses are not supposed to end up at horse auctions, nor are they to be disposed of directly off the track with the KBs in what is euphemistically referred to as “stable to table in seven days.”

“I’ve been involved in the Thoroughbred industry for thirty-eight years,” says Russek, who is now chairperson of the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show series, which exclusively features off-the-track racehorses. “As much as I was involved, I never realized how many Thoroughbreds were going to slaughter. It was a secret. Everybody’s dirty secret. You have to show so much identification to get onto the backstretch of a racetrack, where the horses are kept, but you show nothing to get a horse off the track. When I started working on this issue I couldn’t have been more surprised by the denial. Every track said, ‘It’s not happening at our track.’ It became very apparent to me what was happening. For instance, at a track like Belmont, where it wasn’t happening so much—but then a horse loses and goes to a lower-level track and the horse starts going down. They end up at Mountaineer Park, at Charlestown, at Beulah Park, Penn National. Those are where the East Coast horses end up.”
Some racetracks profess that their horses do not end up at auctions or in slaughterhouses because the tracks have instituted zero-tolerance policies for such behavior from trainers and owners. But the reality, explains Monique Koehler, founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, is a “Thoroughbred industry made up largely of owners with only modest resources and current economics that dictate that among all owners, no matter how responsible and well-intended, only a relatively few are capable of maintaining even a single Thoroughbred once it is unable to earn its keep on the track.”

Though it would not be impossible to list the policies of the nearly one hundred racetracks in the U.S., consider it safe to say that there are a good number of tracks with ostensible zero-tolerance, or “no kill,” policies. These “no kill” tracks attempt to clear away their injured and their low earners through more acceptable channels—retirement, retraining and adoption, or rescue; all three options are carried out by various high- and low-budget rescue groups. One inventive effort at the Finger Lakes Racetrack involves a transition barn of sorts, called the Purple Haze Center, where horses no longer able to race are retrained and stabled on the grounds of the track until they are adopted. It is the first Thoroughbred track in the country to have an in-house adoption program that is run collaboratively between track management and horsemen. And some tracks, such as Suffolk Downs in East Boston, are connected to CANTER (the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses), a group that works with trainers to identify racehorses who need homes and lists available horses on their website.

But not all horsemen take advantage of groups like CANTER or other rescue options and, apparently, resort instead to unscrupulous practices. Russek describes a place not far from New Holland that is run by a Mennonite man. “I went there hoping to establish a relationship with him,” she explained. “He told me dealers bring horses from the track saying they must go to slaughter because trainers don’t want it known what they’re doing.” In other words, a dead horse is harder to trace than a horse that ends up at auction when it’s not supposed to.

Take the story of Twilight Overture, a gelding who came from Thistledown, “which is a ‘no-kill’ track,” says Nena Winand. One of the rescues alerted Thistledown’s general manager that the horse had been purchased by a kill buyer at the Sugarcreek Auction in Ohio. At the request of the manager, the rescue called the KB, who, surprisingly, turned his double-decker around and returned Twilight Overture to Sugarcreek for the rescue. Thistledown and Winand paid the KB $850 for the racehorse. “I renamed him Next Stop: Mars,” says Winand. “Why? Because if you look at his record, he was in training from track to track to track. What does he think of his life? He was shipped every two weeks somewhere. Then he’s on a double-decker to get his head bashed in. He’s big, extremely athletic. His story epitomizes that slaughter is a convenient disposal system. This horse is very usable. There’s no limit to what he can do; he’s not bad-minded. It’s default; it’s convenient. That’s why it’s happening. Why would a trainer kill this horse, my horse? Because they want the 300 bucks they get for him from the kill buyer.”

“Zero-tolerance at the tracks? Yeah, right. There’s no enforcement,” says Pat, when two weeks after our trip to New Holland I arrive at her rescue and find her all in a flurry trying to raise $1,500 to rescue three Thoroughbreds from Mountaineer Park. “The trainer wants $300 each or she’s letting the meat man take them. And I need $200 each just to get them here. And I need it now.” She scampers from the field to a stall to the computer to check in with contacts about the amount of money being raised to rescue the Thoroughbreds. “Everyone wants me to take two of them; you know, I just got those others. I don’t have enough money to do it.” Pat sighs, slipping in and out of various website forums and boards where people from across the country shoot messages back and forth. This is their battle—to save horses —and the computer is both their weapon and their battlefield. Pat pulls up photos of two of the Mountaineer Park horses in immediate need. One is a chestnut named Nitro, the other a black horse named I Gotta Go. Seeing their photos makes them real; and I am reminded that, as another Triple Crown season winds down—that time of year when Americans watch the fastest of the fast run their million-dollar races—thousands of the lesser-known Thoroughbreds like Nitro and I Gotta Go await their fate, having not only never made it to national television, but potentially never making it out of racing alive.

All of this sheds light on—but in the end proves nothing about—how a tall, slender, dapple-gray Thoroughbred gelding that had raced at Suffolk Downs in Boston and at Tampa Downs in Florida ended up at New Holland the morning I was there, still wearing his racing plates and standing quietly in front of me, roped to a post against a concrete wall. He already had been claimed by a KB, whom Pat would have to find and then pay more than he had paid for the gelding if she wanted to take the horse home. About a month later, I will call this kill buyer to inquire about the dapple-gray gelding. Where had the horse come from? Who’d shipped him? The KB will inform me, rather politely at first, that he is on the road with the rig and cannot give me any phone numbers. As I ask again about the journey of the dapple-gray, I picture this KB standing ringside at the auction, closest to the horses entering, along with the other KBs, all Caucasian, most in their midforties, wearing baseball caps, slouchy jackets like high-school football players, jeans, and colorful studded leather belts. Soon enough he tires of my questions.

“Who the fuck are you? Are you the horse’s owner?” he rages.

“No,” I answer.

“Then why the fuck are you poking your fucking nose into this?”

OF THE TWO THOROUGHBRED mares we’d planned on retrieving from Frank at the auction, one was pregnant, due imminently, so Pat had spent the weekend building a foaling stall for the mare. When I called on Sunday morning to confirm our arrangements, Pat was hammering nails into plywood with a retired neighbor who volunteers. Later that afternoon, though, Pat called back to say that the pregnant mare had been inadvertently sent off on the slaughter truck a few days earlier. It was not clear how this had happened. Despite the fact that it’s against regulations, she nonetheless had been dispatched on the long trip to Canada.
Probably, said Pat, she was already dead.

At the auction, Pat leaves the bleachers frequently to track down Thoroughbreds, and while she is away, quite a few of them stream in and out of the noisy bidding ring, along with other breeds, too many to list, all in and out so fast it is hard to keep track of the numbers and prices. All of the following, which is in no way a complete list, were taken by the kill buyers:
– Thoroughbred bay gelding: $310
– Thoroughbred chestnut gelding: $325
– Palomino gelding, whipped several times by rider: $450
– Two Thoroughbred geldings, lost track of price
– Thoroughbred gelding, no price that I can hear, exits early
– Standardbred mare, leaves the ring early. On her way out, Mennonite boys whip her repeatedly in the face. Russek will tell me later that some of the Amish and Mennonites can be “truly heartless” in the way they treat their horses, an observation that is, in all but the same words, repeated by a horse rescue worker who reported her experience at an Indiana auction on the Grateful Acres website: “The kill pen is full of Belgian draft horses, the powerful, living machinery of Amish farms. . . . [T]he Belgians in this pen are grievously and horrifyingly injured. They have been worked until they literally cannot stand any longer. . . . No matter that the animal has slaved . . . for any number of years, no matter that his swollen, oozing knee is collapsing at every forced step. Just as a broken plow would be sold to the junk man for the metal, these broken animals are sold to the kill-man for meat.”
– Thoroughbred / Quarter Horse cross: $125
– Farm horse sold “as is” leaves ring early
– Paso Fino gelding, eleven years old, brown with white face: $160
– Brown and white Paint pony: $250
– Paint gelding: $360

After two hours it becomes increasingly difficult to watch, so I walk with Pat back into the barns to be with the horses, though the decision to be with the animals suddenly feels worse than staying in the bleachers. Standing so close to so many of them, looking into their faces, rubbing their bodies, listening to them eat hay, watching them watch us, I realize the emotional blackmail of the moment. There is the wish to save them all, knowing full well no one can, and that by tonight many of them will be heading to Canada, or to feedlots to be fattened up for a slaughterhouse in Canada. To the extent that one can, Pat has crossed this threshold, and her time in the barn is more goal-directed: She weaves through the lines of animals to find the Thoroughbreds. “Here’s one,” she yells out to me, while lifting the horse’s upper lip and calling out the tattoo number for me to write down. Racehorses are required to have a tattoo inside their upper lip, which identifies the horse and links it to its registration papers. Soon enough she is off with a list of tattoos to call in to a contact waiting to help identify the racetracks to which the Thoroughbreds were last connected. Meanwhile, I scan the rows and rows of horses and ponies, looking for the copper-colored mare I’d seen earlier in the day, the one with the braided mane and tail. Pat hurries back to say she has the dapple-gray racehorse. The KB gave it over for $600. “It’s a lot, but I’ll train him to jump,” she says. “He’ll make a good jumper, and people love the dapple-grays.”

People love ponies, too, Pat had said at the beginning of the auction. “They’re always asking me for ponies.” And so more than midway through the auction she has bought, for about $200 each, several ponies to adopt out as 4-H projects or as pony club mounts. One is a large, brown, bulldozerlike Hackney gelding she later will name Edward; another is a small gray boy just gelded and still shot up with testosterone who will be called Merry Legs; an unbroke Paint mare with one blue eye will become Maeve, or “the cause of great joy” in Gaelic. And then, finally, the gray roan Pony of the Americas (POA), who tentatively walks into the ring, scared enough that she’ll barely move forward. She is led to stand near the fence by the kill buyers. Her eyes look up into the bleachers, her skin twitches when someone touches her, and the bidding begins. “Do you want that pony, Pat?” I ask.

“I don’t have any money left. She’s cute, though.”

I raise my bidding card and so does a kill buyer. We start low, $35.

The KB raises his card for $40.

I go $45.

He goes $50; I raise for $60.

Zimmerman, the bearded Mennonite, looks up to me. I am new here, and I sense at that moment he knows it. He raises the bidding by $20.

KB agrees to $80. I go to $90. KB takes $95.

The auctioneer calls out $100. Zimmerman’s dark eyes stare straight to mine. Once we get to $100 the price could keep climbing, and I am unsure what I can do; at the same time, I look at the POA. As much noise as there is around me—the old couple bickering, kids playing and laughing—it suddenly seems as if there is no sound, and I feel like the student in the classroom who everyone’s looking at because I’ve been asked to answer a question I don’t have an answer for.

I raise for $100.

Zimmerman looks at the KB. There is a pause. But the KB does not bid. It is over, suddenly, in a matter of seconds. “One hundred dollars for number 730-1,” the auctioneer calls out.

I climb the stairs to the New Holland Auction office to pay for the pony I later will name Bridget and give to Pat, and I think how often I’ve blown a hundred dollars on a meaningless trip to Target. The cashier gives me the name and number of the person who unloaded Bridget at the auction because I request it. I am still naïve at this point and I assume her owners brought her here. I want to call them later to ask about their pony and tell them I have her now. That she is safe. “Charlie, here,” the voice answers, when a few days later I call. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout her, ma’am,” the man says. “Bought her cheap at the Hickory Auction. I sell tack there and someone’s sellin’ her. So I take her. I bought her on Sunday and took her to New Holland on Monday. Ain’t gonna lie to ya ma’am, don’t know nothin’ ’bout her. I buy cheap horses and resell ’em. That’s what I do.”

Down on the auction floor, Pat is gathering up Bridget to put her in the pen with Edward, Maeve, Merry Legs, and the dapple-gray Thoroughbred. Not long after, we will meet up with Frank and transfer the mare he brought down from New Jersey. In the afternoon, when the auction is over and we are loading the horses and ponies onto Pat’s trailer, around the corner will come the thin copper-colored mare with the long flaxen braids. The bones of her skinny shoulders and hips poke up from her body when she walks. She is led by a KB.

He instructs her onto his trailer. She does not move. He yanks hard on her lead rope. As thin and weak as she is, she jumps back from the trailer, her long braided mane flopping against her neck. He yells at her, harsh and fast and low, and whips her over and over in the face and on her shoulders and belly. She jumps up and throws herself against the inside wall of the trailer.

He shoves her into the horses already on the rig and they all jostle together, colliding, biting, and agitating one another. As the dust floats up and is set aglow by the afternoon sunlight streaming into the trailer, the mare stumbles. Finally, she finds a place by the window and gazes out.

Upcoming Storm

Guess I know what I'll be doing tonight...preparing stalls.

From Keloland Weather:

Sioux Falls-Southeast:
Rain showers will develop with drizzle late Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Rainfall will be .10 to .20” through the day, with some icing still possible north of Highway 14. Temperatures will likely stay in the lower to middle 30s through Thursday early afternoon. Temperatures will start to drop by the late afternoon to around 20 by 5 p.m. Thursday.

Winter storm watches will go into effect for Friday in southeastern South Dakota as a second storm lifts north out of Nebraska Friday morning. Heavy snow, strong winds, and bitterly cold wind chills will be the problem Friday afternoon and evening. The heaviest snowfall accumulation is forecast to be west of I-29, but the final track of this storm could still change, so viewers in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota need to pay attention to the forecast. This watch does include Sioux Falls and means 6+” of snow will be possible. Snow and wind will diminish through the day on Saturday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back to Reality

I have to admit that Christmas was a blur this year. The poor herd got the short end of my vacation. I didn't get a chance to play with anyone but did spend a lot of good family quality time (which was a must have this holiday season).

With the new year fast approaching, I've been thinking about my new year's resolution. I won't share it just's pretty much the same every year but maybe if I write it down, I'll actually work towards those goals.

This morning when I went to feed the mares, Mayhem wandered up to me. Because I've been doing evening chores in the dark (starting at 7pm), I haven't messed with Mayhem. I've only had time to throw some hay over the fence and keep trucking along. I guess Mayhem was bored with the old mares and wanted to see what I was up to. She is such a doll. We are truley blessed to have her at Borderlands.

The weatherman is calling for another storm Wed night through Friday morning, starting with freezing rain and switching to snow. I'm not sure how to prepare for this storm. Freezing rain is not good for the oldsters but I don't want to throw on blankets. Even though the blankets may be weaterproof I dont' want heavy old blankets sitting on their backs. I need to pay close attention to the weather the next few days so I can get my act together and decide how I want to handle this storm. I have a feeling that starting in January the temps are going to drop and we're going to get a bit more snow. I'm not ready for it so I better get myself prepared.

We had the most beautiful scenery the last few days with the frozen fog but I didn't get a chance to take any pictures. Once again, another blog post with just my ramblings. At some point I'll get better about posting pictures of the herd more often.

Until then, I best get back to work. On the bright side, the days are getting longer (it's very hard to tell but it's happening!) Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and that Santa was good to them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

From our herd to yours....Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Countdown

I can hardly believe we are only a few short days away from Christmas. This Friday will be a celebration all in itself! Mayhem will turn six months old! She really has become an amazing little girl. I can't wait to see how she grows and learns. She stands patiently to be haltered and tied and she leads better than some of the oldsters.

I am starting to see ads again for cheap and free horses. Of course most of them are too far away from me to pick up. I'm also afraid I am maxed out although there will always be space for an emergency one in need. I can't get the two that ran through the Mitchell sale last Saturday out of my head. They both went as No Value. I need to work with the auctions to see if the No Value horses can start coming home with me so I can put some time into them and adopt them out. My problem is that I picked a name out for the weanling. I know better than to come up with names before they step hoof on the place because it breaks my heart when it doesn't work out. But there will always be another one.

I need to look on the bright side. With the help of my devoted sister, we are getting much farther along with the sanctuary. Of course, two brains are better than one. I'm great at coming up with ideas but I'm terrible with the follow through.

Another storm is predicted to blow through tomorrow. I decided to work from home in the morning tomorrow and take the afternoon off to prepare for Christmas. It will be nice to have some time off to actually enjoy the horses (and get ready for yet another storm). Hopefully this storm won't turn into a blizzard.

The wind was terrible last night so I threw Rain's blanket on him. He didn't seem to mind. Rain stood perfectly still while I threw his blanket on and adjusted, even with Maverick picking on him. He tends to hang out in the leanto when the wind blows but I wanted to make sure he had an extra layer just in case he did get pushed out and while he was eating. I sleep better knowing that "the kids" are happy and warm.

Not much else to report at this point. Hope everyone is getting their last minute shopping done. But don't forget the true meaning of Christmas. And if I forget, try to sneak out on Christmas Eve at midnight to hear the animals talk. :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vacation Pictures

Thought I would share just a few pictures from our vacation back in August. I know the Black Hills are covered in snow right now but it helps to look back at the beautiful scenery. It gets me through the daily grind when the ground is covered in snow. Hope you enjoy.

Panic Before Christmas

Starting to go into panic mode. There's only a few short days before Christmas and I'm still a month behind! I may not blog much more until after Christmas.

Thanks to my wonderful sister, I didn't have to go alone to the Mitchell Open Consignment Horse Sale this past Saturday. Only about 100 total but only about two no saled. I'll talk a little bit more about it later if I can ever get caught back up.

Until then, the countdown begins!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lots of Action

The last few days have been absolutely insane. I realized earlier in the week I absolutely had to do something for Babe. Rabbit kept picking on her and Babe was getting pushed away from her food. I do NOT tolerate anyone picking on a blind horse.

So, Tuesday night I pulled Rabbit out of her pen with the mares and put her in the barn. I proceeded to halter Mayhem, who has only been haltered and led less than a half dozen times, and led her in to the mare pasture. I was nervous but knew it had to be done. Right as I was haltering horses, it started to snow. The sky was so beautiful, it lifted my spirits. And then to watch Mayhem interact with the mares, was even more beautiful. Queen took to Mayhem right away. Babe was a bit spooked thinking it was still Rabbit but she's slowly coming around.

Babe has since adjusted to Mayhem and the three are never very far apart from each other. It's rather cute. Mayhem looks so small next to those old mares. She was bonding with Tommy who flew into hystarics when I pulled Mayhem out. Apparently Tommy and Mayhem had become best friends. There was still the bond between the ponies but the bond between Tommy and Mayhem was much stronger. Apparently Tommy took a strong liking to Mayhem.

I did have to put Rabbit in with the ponies, much to their dismay. They tried to touch noses but in their haste and excitement they rushed her, spooking Rabbit to the point of not wanting anyone around. Rabbit has since settled down but she is for sure the boss in that pen. The ponies constantly run and play and she just watches with an annoyed eye at their shenanigans. I was worried that their size would be a hinderance but they seem to be doing just fine with Rabbit.

On Thursday morning as I was finishing up morning chores (in the dark), a piece of hay went into my eye. I couldnt', for the life of me, get the darn piece of hay out. So I finished chores one eyed (and one handed) and headed in to the house. We had to wait until the clinic opened at 7:30am. I had to wait two hours before having the piece of hay removed from my eye. And for those that didn't know (which I didn't know), chemicals on hay (or possibly hay itself) can dialate your eye. So for the rest of the day, my eye was dialated. As we were driving to the clinic, we saw a coyote just to the north of the farm. At first I thought it might be a deer or a dog. Unfortunately it was a coyote. We have a pack of coyotes in this area. One coyote doesn't bother me too much, but the pack does. Having small ponies, a baby who will be six months old a week from today, and having a blind mare makes me very nervous when I hear and now SEE coyotes.

Luckily last night and this morning, chores were quiet and easy. I am going to start teaching Mayhem to stand tied. I haltered and tied her to a fence post last night while the old mares ate their alfalfa. Mayhem stood patiently the entire time, even with me coming and going. She is the easiest horse to work with at Borderlands. And to think, I originally wasn't going to take her. I was only interested in Rabbit. But Mayhem has turned out to be an easy one to handle. She just blows my mind every time I play with her. She patiently waited for me to untie her and she walked away to investigate what the mares were doing. I'm so glad that I didn't miss the opportunity to have Mayhem in our lives. She will be a spokes horse to show people that just because you were born a certain color doesn't mean you aren't worth ten million dollars or more!

A Rescue Story

For those that follow horse rescue, you may have heard of the New Holland Horse Sale, which is held every Monday.

Project Sage (a New York based rescue, headed by a 20 year old woman) rescued five horses. Here is her story. I thought it would be good for everyone to read:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Worried about Babe

I'm worried about Babe. Rabbit keeps pushing her away from the food. I'm afraid she's already started to lose weight. I'm going to have to come up with a plan and fast. Any suggestions are welcome.

To try and ease my worries, here are some pictures of Thor back in October. One of these days I'll go take some recent photos of the herd.

Slippery Sam

Nothing takes five years off my life like seeing a horse go down. I few weeks back, Jim was being nasty to others and slipped on the ice/snow. Luckily he recovered himself with no harm.

This morning I went to let Sam in the barn but he was fighting with Jim. Jim is a kicker and has a big attitude. What he lacks in size, he makes up in pure attitude.

Sam is always so excited to get into the barn for morning alfalfa that he practically takes the door off. He rushed the door this morning because of Jim, lost the footing on his left hind, and DOWN he went! It was all in slow motion.

Sam lost the footing on one hind foot and then the other. Which meant he went toppling down. He landed on his side and then rolled with all four feet waving in the air. I figured he'd go down hard but wouldn't roll like that. I think he was a bit shocked but luckily he didn't hurt himself.

It was all in slow motion and I can still see the scene clear as day. I swear these draft horses take five years off my life every time they get sick or do something silly. Sam is too old to be falling like that. Luckily he had his winter blanket on to take a small portion of the blunt fall.

I need to figure out something in front of the door so that Sam doesn't fall again. I can still see Sam rolling almost onto his back with his legs straight in the air.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Leading Mayhem

When I put Rabbit and Mayhem in the smaller drylot, I did mess with Mayhem a little. I put a halter on but nothing really fit. I left a halter on one day just to see how she would react. She wasn't thrilled but didn't care enough to try and get it off.

When I pulled Rabbit out to begin the weaning process, I did halter Mayhem and lead her a round to distract her (just in the small dry lot). She was responsive but still scared. I messed with her only one or two times since then.

Until Saturday.

Knowing that she's not even six months old and that we were in the middle of a blizzard I was determined to get her into the box stall in the hay shed. But how do you lead a horse that's not even halter broke?

Well, there's no time like during the middle of a blizzard to start teaching a youngster to halter and lead. Mayhem watched as I haltered Tommy and Skippy. She was a little naughty but nothing out of the ordinary. I proceeded to take Tommy and Skippy into the other box stall. She let out one or two whinnies but the other horses were still out.

I think went back for Mayhem. He had just a small discussion about walking around the water bucket but otherwise she lead like a dream horse. She didn't crowd, she didn't spook, she didn't rush or lag behind. She was the epitome of a perfect horse. She walked right into her stall, stood in the middle, and took in her surroundings. I figured there would be some issues but she was a total Diva!

In the morning, I haltered her up and she walked right out without giving me any issues. She totally blew me away. This second time she didn't even balk at anything. She went in just like the little lady she is. She really is something.

For not really wanting a baby, she sure has turned into a keeper. The people who breed her and the person who didn't want her because of her color will just have to eat crow. She's turning into a majestic diva.

I can't believe that she will be six months old in only two weeks. I need to get the camera out so we can watch her progress. I was going to keep a log of her growth and I ran out of time. Maybe I'll shoot for 3-6 month progress shots so everyone can see how much she's grown. She is a true sweetheart.

Pesky Queen

We had our work cut out for us this past weekend. Blizzard conditions followed by freezing temps. I was worried that the oldsters and the fair weather horses would take the brunt of this storm. I ended up blanketing some Friday night but left them out. I should have held off on blanketing. But come Saturday morning, I was glad the oldsters had them on.

Even though Rain was in the barn, some Sunday morning he couldn't get warm and was shivering like crazy. I ran and got his blanket and it seemed to help him out. I need to get his blanket repaired before too long. When I had it on Jim, he ripped out the back leg strap. But I do think Rain was much happier having a protective layer.

Rain has a compromised system. He has to stay out of the hot weather as we believe he experienced heat stroke in the past. He now hides in the shade during the hot summer months. But because of his compromised system, he also gets colder faster, probably the quickest out of the entire herd. With the rapid temp change, Rain could adjust but all is well now that he's sporting his blanket.

This morning as I was adjusting Queen's blanket before I haltered her to take her to the pasture, she reached around and nipped me. She really does hate wearing a blanket but she can't seem to stay warm and dry once the wind blows and the skies open up. Luckily I was so padded that I could feel her pull my coat but couldn't feel her teeth.

That old Queen is a handlful. She's a grumpy old girl that deserves the utmost respect. And because she and I are of the same age, I try to respect her as best I can. She on the other hand thinks I'm torturing her by throwing on blankets.

Hopefully the weather will turn better and we won't have to deal with these freezing temps again. I tried posting a picture this morning but the internet is painfully slow right now. I'll try to post pictures soon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

Looks like we are in for some nasty weather this weekend. The temps are going to drop rapidly tonight into tomorrow. 40s today and only in the low teens tomorrow with below zero temps Saturday and Sunday night. uuugh is all I can say to that!

We will again not be home tonight to do more than minimal chores. Unfortunately the nasty weather is supposed to blow in first thing Saturday morning. I'm hoping I can get up early, get chores done, and get everything set in the barn and stalls so that I can run some of the herd in. It'll be interesting as I don't have stalls for everyone (but there is the one open front).

We haven't had a chance yet to do anything with the openfront we started building (that subsequently blew down). I'm planning on putting the ponies and Mayhem in but it'll be interesting since Mayhem is not even close to being halter broke yet. Yet another project I haven't had time to do. Maybe I can convince Mike to help in the mornings to get them out of the stalls and back into the pen.

It'll be interesting this time around since I'll be putting Rabbit in the barn. Hopefully there wont' be any fighting and I can figure out who goes where in the different stalls.

Sam, Rain, Babe, Queen, Rabbit, Zeke, and Ivan will go into the barn.
Tommy, Skippy, Mayhem will go into the hay shed stalls.

I'm planning on building out two temporary stalls tomorrow morning so I'll have two more I can put in. I havent' decided who will go in but I'm leaning towards Jim and Maverick (Maverick only because he's friends with Jim) or possibly Brego since all of his buddies will be in the barn and he's a bit more sensitive to the cold weather than Maverick. We'll see how it all goes. It's always a learning curve for me.

So the next 24 hours will be very busy for me getting temporary stalls set up, getting the other stalls set up and making sure everyone is comfortable. I did talk with someone who mentioned wanting to sell some of their used blankets. I'm planning on contacting that person to see what sizes and what prices. I have a few blankets but I'd feel much better if the entire herd had a blanket (although not all of them need one). But I'd feel better having one and never having to use it than not having one at all. I know some people dont' believe in blankets and others believe in them hold heartedly. I still have mixed feelings on it. So tell me, what is your opinion on blanketing horses?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reaching Exhaustion

One full week of weaning. Rabbit seems to have forgotten about Mayhem and is hanging out with the mares, much to Babe's dismay. Rabbit and Babe don't get along. Hopefully Rabbit will adjust to Babe's blindness. I remember Queen having the same issue. But my concern is the ten year age difference. An 18 year old is more spry than a 28 year old. I'm keeping a close eye on the mares to make sure everyone is ok.

The trainer returned Tommy and Skippy Saturday afternoon. I didn't have any of the small pens set up for them. The ponies were kept with yearlings and weanlings these past four to five months so I thought it might be ok to have the ponies in with Mayhem. There was a bit of running, snorting, and whinnying but all have settled down. Tommy seems to cut Mayhem but it's good for Mayhem to be in with other horses. I'm keeping a cautious eye on them to make sure everyone is eating and the ponies don't push Mayhem out. It's funny to watch the three of them. Mayhem is only five months old but is already taller than Tommy, although Tommy is much wider. I can only see the top of Skippy's ears when I first walk up to the pen. He too has packed on the pounds. But that's what happens when they are drylotted with free access to a round bale. They aren't thrilled with their new diet. I'm hoping to trim them down and get rid of the rolly polly that they've become.

Internet has died on us for the most part so there may not be many blogs. Also with the fast approaching holidays, family issues, and being swamped with work I may not blog much. As it currently stands I'm doing my chores and that's about it. Morning chores take a half hour (from 5-5:30am in the stinking dark), and evening chores take two hours (5-7pm) and I end up finishing chores in the dark. Hopefully I can start getting home from work early enough so that I can at least do a once over on all the horses before the darkness sets in.

So if you don't see me for a while, it's not because we aren't busy; it's because I'm so swamped that I'm too exhausted to do anything more than crawl into bed each night, too tired to even dream of horses.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Weaning Process

Without a doubt, winter is here. I had high hopes of getting a few more things accomplished but it didn't happen. The only high priority left is building the open front, more because the lumber is sitting out and getting covered with snow. Once the open front is built, I can do some make shift fencing and all will be well until the April thaw.

I've been a naughty pony mom and haven't called the trainer. It's on my todo list for today. I am not sure where the ponies will go but I've sure missed them and will be glad to get them home.

Weaning is going much better. I opened the pasture gate last night so the big herd can go out into the pasture again. Rabbit hasn't been hanging out on that fence line since the wind comes blowing down in that exact spot. She's discovered a much more protected area where she can keep an eye on Mayhem.

Mayhem is adjusting although still very unhappy. When she can't see momma, she whinnies. I've learned a few things during this process.

  1. Rabbit is an excellent mother and very devoted even if there are two fences and a herd of boys between her and her baby.
  2. Rabbit is finally progressing to a better feeding spot but still wont' come up to the fence to eat since she can't keep an eye on Mayhem.
  3. Water, water, water. Since Rabbit won't leave, I have to haul water down to her "post". The big water tank is happily plugging way with warm water but Rabbit would rather go without water than be out of eyesight of Mayhem.
  4. Mayhem hangs out with the boys. Unfortunately she stands next to the fence where I through the first flake of hay. That flake is designated as Dude's and if it's big enough, he'll eat that instead of harassing the rest of the herd. So Mayhem is hanging out with Dude .
  5. Feed Mayhem her grain mash first to distract her and then feed Rabbit. That way Mayhem is distracted and wont' whinny, which sets of Rabbit at a gallop back to her "post".
  6. Weaning is hard on everyone, including momma, baby, all the boys, and me!

It's definately been a learning curve. I've started Rabbit on alfalfa and she devours it the same way I devour chocolate. Hopefully I can increase her alfalfa intake so she can finish packing on the last few pounds. I still say she's at least 50 pounds underweight (but I'm always a poor judge of weight).

Rabbit has put on a winter coat, not as thick as I like but it's getting there. I can't throw a blanket on since she stands in between trees and would rip the blanket to shreds. Hopefully the sub zero temps will stay away for awhile yet until she's back to proper weight.

Rabbit is coming at a trot to eat her grain and if she's in eye sight, she'll stick around and polish of her grain. Silly girl prefers her alfalfa to grain but eats her grain like a good girl.

This has all been a huge learning curve for me. It's only day five of the weaning process. This Saturday will make a full week. I need to do some reading up on how to handle everything. I was thinking of putting the ponies in with Mayhem but not sure just yet. We'll see.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lots Going On

Looks like we are gearing up for another storm. I had this winter storm marked on my calendar so I shouldn't have been surprised, but I always am. Much has happened since I last posted. It's all a mix of work, extra work, family, and horses.

But here's the gist of the horse related activities:

  • The trainer who had Tommy and Skippy this summer/fall is ready to bring the kiddos back.
  • That means I need to find a place to put them. All the corral panels are either in use or ear marked for temporary pens/stalls for this winter.
  • We pulled Rabbit out of the pen to wean Mayhem. Rabbit is hanging out on the fence line watching Mayhem. I've never weaned a horse before so this is very stressful for everyone involved. The boys have never been around a mare and foal before so this is all new to them too. I've had to lock the geldings in the dry lot otherwise they want to hang on the fence next to Rabbit. And Rabbit gets upset because she's not in eye sight of Mayhem (because the boys are blocking her view).
  • Rabbit has aggravated her right hind leg so I'm not sure what to do with her now.
  • A winter storm is coming and I don't know where to put everyone. Rabbit will destroy the barn but if I put her in the hay shed next to Mayhem, will that ruin the weaning efforts?
  • Jim and Thor always fight. But this weekend pointed out that Thor is more in charge than I thought.
  • Ivan CAN pull his "man part" into his sheath. We measured him for a blanket but I haven't had time to order it yet. But on the bright side, Ivan can pull it in to his sheath so he's really ok (but I'll still buy him a blanket). Not sure if it's uncomfortable to pull it into the sheath or if he prefers to let it all hang out. But either way, we won't have to worry as much. When the weather warms again, I'll return to applying Nitrofurizon just to keep everything lubed up.
  • Brego scratched his eye and now has a spot on his right eye. It's getting better and he can still see out of it. But there is always that concern that he'll have problems in the future.
  • Still don't have the leanto built or the fence put up (going to attach the temporary fence to the lean to). Not sure if we'll get it built now that everything will be covered in snow.
  • We did repair a portion of the fence along the mare pasture and the dry lot. There wasn't much holding it all together. Luckily the boys don't push too much. I still need to do some fencing so that I can pull the electric fence down. I forgot the solar panel fencer last year in my hast and I don't' want to lose it again (and in the process re-break it).

So that's it, in a nutshell for everything that's been going on with the horses at Borderlands. Lots of other things going on that seem to be taking a majority of my time. I know I'm letting the little things bother me so maybe if I tackle some of the smaller projects I'll not be so stressed out.

It'll be nice to have the ponies back. I sure have missed those naughty ponies. I'm anxious to hear how they behaved for the trainer. I'm sure I'll have stories to tell you all when they come home. I need to make arrangements to get them home. The trainer wanted to drop them off this weekend but I wasn't around. So hopefully they don't mind hanging on to them until tomorrow when I can have a plan in the works for where I want to put them for the winter.

There's always something going on at Borderlands!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. We are truly blessed at Borderlands to have such wonderful horses and such caring people. Thank you for all you do and for all your support. We couldn't do it without you.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy 5 Month Birthday

Happy five month birthday Mayhem. I can't believe that you're already five months old. It seems like just yesterday we brought you home. Of course you were 2 1/2 months old when we brought you home.

You have grown so quickly (and I haven't even gotten any recent pictures to record your milestone birthdays and growth spurts). You've also come along way. You're turning into such a diva. Even though I don't get to spend more than about a minute with you in the evenings you are such a doll and insist that I groom you.

Even at five months you're starting to come into your own. You are a sweet girl. Hard to imagine the place without you now. I look forward to many more monumental birthdays with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Apologise and Rambling

I want to apologize for yesterday's blog. I realize I need a thicker skin to do rescue but it's aggravating none the less. I will do my best to keep my cool and point out the facts and not let my emotions get in the way. But remember, this is a blog and the information is what I have been provided or know about a horse. Some people might not appreciate their horses being called "rescues" or the matter in which the horse came to Borderlands. For those that are offended by the word "rescue" perhaps I'll look for a different word that better associates these horses. For those that are offended by the facts about a horse coming to Borderlands, they are facts and will remain that way. Tracking the history of a horse is very helpful but not always necessary. The goal of Borderlands is the horse. If you don't like how Borderlands is run, provide positive comments or no comments at all.

Now moving on to better topics, it looks as though the winter is officially here. Unfortunately I didn't get everything done that I needed to. Good thing for corral panels. I may need to do some temporary fencing to fix an issue that I overlooked all summer.

We had terrible weather yesterday (freezing drizzle) and it sounds like we'll have freezing rain and snow on Wednesday, along with below zero temps. Just thinking about the temps makes me exhausted. I don't yet have everything set up to pull horses so I'll be working frantically tonight to get stalls ready for tomorrow when I get home from work.

And on a side note, Borderlands is run solely through my paycheck with very little assistance from anyone else. We don't ask for donations as we aren't a non-profit just yet. We also don't have volunteers to take care of the horses. My paycheck funds the sanctuary and all of my free time is taken caring for the horses. I dare anyone to work 40+ hours (but be gone for 10 hours a day, working and drive time), care for 17 horses (ok so there's only 15 right now as the ponies are at the trainers), house work (yup, I'm the only one who does the skirt work), and does family activities (more activity now due to personal issues). Let's see how someone else stands up to that grind for more than a month before they decide it's too much for them. Ok, I'll stop with my ranting.

Thor came up lame early last week so we took him to the vet but without stocks he was not helpful. Luckily I think it was only a stone bruise as he's walking just fine now. Sam also is doing better. It seemed like he was losing weight and was very unhappy about the hay feeding situation. I think I've fixed that by giving him morning soaked alfalfa while I toss out the hay and toss out hay while he's still in the barn at night so there's no uproar by the rest of the herd. Thanks to some new friends, I'm following their advice and giving Sam Tums. Yup, that's right Tums. He eats them like treats (and he insists on his Tum when he walks out the barn). He seems to be doing better and has kept on the pounds.

I'm a little worried about Ivan. After contemplating, we decided to leave him out but he'll be going in when the weather drops below zero and when the wind chill is below zero. With his "man part" permanently sticking out, I want to protect him as much as possible. As Mike pointed out, he's probably dealt with it for years (for sure since last January/February). We measured Ivan, so I'm going to order him a blanket. If anything I hope that the blanket will buffer some of the wind. And since he's a Thoroughbred with thin skin, we're both thinking he'll need a blanket during the cold months of winter.

I'll be switching Rabbit over from her waterproof sheet to a waterproof blanket. She was just starting to put on a winter coat when this nasty weather hit. She doesn't have enough padding yet to withstand the wet weather so I insist on, at minimum, a sheet. We'll see how things progress but I'm betting the blanket will go on soon and stay on. I also noticed she's lame on her left rear. Not exactly sure what's going on but will have the vet look at her when we get her teeth floated. Not sure when that will be. Mayhem will be five months old tomorrow. Still debating on weaning a month early to give Rabbit some time to pack on the pounds. But with the nasty weather coming, I may leave them together over the long holiday and see how things play out.

Keep your fingers crossed that the nasty weather will be short lived and we wont' receive too much nasty weather this winter as a whole. Pray for those horses left out in a pasture with no protection. My heart goes out to them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ranting and Raving

I am aggrevated, irritated, insulted, and down right sick of people telling me what I should and should not be doing. All I am doing is presenting facts. Nothing more. I am not trying to be rude about it, I'm simply giving the facts that I know.

I am tired of people insulting me along with those people who are trying to do the right thing. Instead those people are bashed time and time again for doing what they thought was right. It might not be the right thing, but at least they tried.

I'm tired of people preaching to me about certain things but in the same breath telling me that they are going to avoid the situation (and stick their head in a fricking hole.. not their words of course).

I'm insulted by people telling me that I didn't provide the correct information. No, what information *I* was given is what I'm providing. Is the information *they* where provided correct, who knows.

Once a horse leaves an owner's possession, who knows what will happen. Contract or no contract, the horse is damned anyway. I'm not willing to change my practices and I'm not about to change any of my information.

Any horse in Borderlands possession is the sole property of Borderlands. I have signed only ONE contract for a horse. I have, and will abide by that contract. All other horses have been taken in on good faith and will follow BORDERLAND POLICIES and no one elses. If someone begs differently, to bad, you gave up the horse.

What I have provided in this blog are the facts as best as I can provide. Some obviously is my ranting and raving. But remember, this is MY BLOG NOT YOURS. DO NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO. If you don't like it, follow Fugly's advice ( and stop following this blog.

My aplogize to those innocent of this rant.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I saw another shooting star last night while doing chores. Not sure if that's a good sign or not.

I pulled Thor from the mare pasture last night. After having the farrier look at Thor, I decided I'd put Thor in with the mares so he wouldn't be on dirt/concrete and pestered by the geldings. Well, last night was the last straw for that. I DO NOT tolerate kicking a blind mare. Thor made it clear that he was going to protect Queen and not Babe and lashed out at Babe when she bumped into him. He also managed to demolish one of those over the fence plastic feeders.

Into the big herd Thor went. He was not thrilled but I won't tolerate kicking a blind mare. I didn't see Thor this morning so I'm guessing he was out in the pasture snoozing. I did come up on him yesterday morning while he was sound asleep and dreaming. He spent a large portion of his time curled up in the mare pen these last few days.

Thor does seem to be doing better so I wonder if it wasn't a stone bruise. We are going to wait before we make another attempt at going to the vet. I'll not even mention the hassle of getting Thor to the vet on Monday.

Both Babe and Queen seemed relieved when I pulled Thor out. Wonder what will happen when I put Rabbit in their herd. No luck in finding her heaves medicine at the local shops. Guess I'll order some for her. She does seem to be doing better but I think it has something to do with allergies (now that the combining is done and there isn't as much dust).

Mayhem has become a total diva. She walks right up to me and patiently waits for me to groom her. She is getting a bit naughty so we'll need to start working on manners (and working on halter breaking her).

I was worried that Sam was starting to lose weight. I think his ulcers are back. I was told to try Tums so we bought some but I haven't had a chance yet to try it out on him. I also discovered a better way to grain him. I've always had to deal with soupy grain because of the beet pulp. Now that I'm dealing with pellets instead of shreds life is easier and getting even easier. Sam now gets three separate dishes for his grain mash. One for soaked beet pulp, one for soaked hay pellets (going to switch him over to alfalfa pellets), and one for soaked senior and calf manna. It only took me a year to figure it out. Sam is enjoying his grain. I've also taken to feeding him a small amount of soaked hay pellets (which will switch over to soaked alfalfa pellets) in the morning. He doesn't seem to look as bad as last year (although he had ulcers and a cold last year).

I'm keeping a close eye on everyone to make sure they aren't losing any weight. So far everyone is plump and sassy. I don't have the herd up to full hay ration just yet. Was hoping to wait until the first of December but I don't think that's going to happen. The temps are starting to plummet so we'll see how everything goes. It's about time to turn on the water heaters too.

I'm also debating on when to wean Mayhem. The day before Thanksgiving she'll turn five months old. I'd really like to keep her with Rabbit until she's a full six months old but that puts us right at Christmas. I'm worried that Rabbit won't have enough weight on her yet. She's still thin along her ribs and topline. She's also not putting on her winter coat like I'd prefer. Her belly is starting to get her coat on but nothing else. I did keep a waterproof sheet on her a few days back so I hope that didn't cause any problems. I just don't think she can handle trying to stay warm during a downpour. I need to get more pictures of Rabbit so everyone can see how well she has progressed (and how big Mayhem has grown).

I'm struggling to do chores these days. Still haven't adjusted to daylight savings time. I seem to be doing chores in the dark these days (both morning and night). We also have a pack of coyotes. It bothers me that they are so close. I just hope that they stay away and don't bother the really old and the baby.

No measurable snow as of yet but I'm sure that will change very soon. And then it will be back to the daily grind of winter chores I need to regroup my thinking and figure out how I'll handle winter chores. It means hauling warm water from the house out to the barn and taking in beet pulp to soak.

I'm in communications with another very new horse rescue/sanctuary. If something falls through, we may be getting an old, thin mare. We'll see. Luckily the people involved want to do the right thing (and were totally uneducated about slaughter). Every time I talk with this other rescue, I get so enthusiastic about rescue and education. I really do need to sit down and get things figured out. There's so many who are uneducated about slaughter. Maybe that will be my winter project I'll work on after chores are done and the horses are tucked in for the night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thor and a Shooting Star

Saw a shooting star this morning. I took it as a good sign. Well, part of the morning is good. I have an appointment for Thor at 2pm today. It's the latest we could get in. Unfortunately the normal vet is out so we're headed to a different vet office. We'll see if I like them better. Keep your fingers crossed that whatever is wrong with Thor is not major. I dont' want anything life altering. I can handle "pain in the butt", I can't handle life/death altering.

Also, this morning as I was pulling in to the gas station, who should be pulling out but the local (and very skummy) horse trader/killbuyer. He had half a load in his big gooseneck. I'm positive he was headed to Corsica. Luckily it'll be the last sale of the year for Corsica and then they are changing to weekends so maybe I can go and save the worst of the worst. That trader/KB makes me want to punch him in his face. It makes me feel slightly better that he thinks he's a big shot until he goes to one of the more major sales and then he's a nobody and no one bids on his horses. Still, it's disheartening to see horses headed to a fate so unknown. I'm sure he bought them at Saturday's Kramers sale (which I didn't have the energy to attend), and that he's going to take them through as loose horses. Never ending. Need to start fundraising to pull horses from auctions.

I must remember seeing the shooting star and to keep that as a good sign of good things to come. Keep your fingers crossed and please keep Thor in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thor Pictures

For all that Thor has been through, he still has a laid back attitude. He's now in with the mares so that he's not harrassed by the geldings and so he's on softer ground. I'm calling the vet tomorrow to see if we can't get him in. The following are pictures I took of Thor the day before we lost Joe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Injured Thor

I'm feeling a bit guilty. Drove right past Kramers this afternoon but we didn't stop to see what horses were there. I just don't seem to have the energy today. After not being vocal enough at two separate auctions and with Thor being injured I just dont' have much energy.

We'll be headed to the vets early this week. Thor is having some serious hoof problems. I hope it's nothing serious but it's definitely painful for him. We had the farrier come out right away Saturday morning but he couldn't find anything. And with Thor being so large and uncooperative (didn't have stocks to put him in), we decided it might be safer to take him to the vets.

The only problem, no vets are available today. We I have to wait until Monday morning to make a couple phone calls. My vet is gone until Wednesday so I will try to get in to a different vet. Hopefully it's nothing too serious. But whatever it is, it'll be another vet bill. At minimum we were thinking it's an absess but it could be something bigger like ringbone or navicular. We wont' know until we have an x-ray done on him.

Poor guy. I put him in with Babe and Queen so that he wouldn't get picked on by the rest of the herd, and so he'd stay off the concrete and dirt. He's been curled up ever since I put him in the pen with the mares. Luckily the mares are laid back. I just feel bad. I wish I would have caught this sooner but I still would have struggled finding a vet.

Tis the season for vet visits.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Because of Love

This email came through and I wanted to share. It brought tears to my eyes. I must be one of the "old ones".

Because of Love
A brother and sister had made their usual hurried, obligatory pre-Christmas visit to the little farm where dwelt their elderly parents with their small herd of horses. The farm was where they had grown up and it had been named Lone Pine Farm because of the huge pine, which topped the hill behind the farm. Through the years the tree had become a talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark in the countryside. The young siblings had fond memories of their childhood here, but the city hustle and bustle added more excitement to their lives, and called them away to a different life.

The old folks no longer showed their horses, for the years had taken their toll, and getting out to the barn on those frosty mornings was getting harder, but it gave them a reason to get up in the mornings and a reason to live. They sold a few foals each year, and the horses were their reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's end.

As their children prepared to leave, the young couple confronted the old folks "Why don't you at least dispose of The Old One? She is no longer of use to you. It's been years since you've had foals from her. You should cut corners and save so you can have more for yourselves. How can this old worn out horse bring you anything but expense and work? Why do you keep her anyway?"

The old man looked down at his worn boots, with holes in the toes, scuffed at the barn floor and replied, " Yes, I could use a pair of new boots. His arm slid defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew her near with gentle caressing he rubbed her softly behind her ears. He replied softly, "We keep her because of love. Nothing else, just love."

Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man and his wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward the city as darkness stole through the valley.

The old couple shook their heads in sorrow that it had not been a happy visit. A tear fell upon their cheeks. How is it that these young folks do not understand the peace of the love that filled their hearts?

So it was, that because of the unhappy leave-taking, no one noticed the insulation smoldering on the frayed wires in the old barn. None saw the first spark fall. None but the "Old One". In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a cry of horror and despair, the old man shouted to his wife to call for help as he raced to the barn to save their beloved horses. But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground, helpless before the fire's fury. His wife back from calling for help cradled him in her arms, clinging to each other, they wept at their loss. By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking, glowing ruins were left, and the old man and his wife, exhausted from their grief, huddled together before the barn.

They were speechless as they rose from the cold snow covered ground. They nodded thanks to the firemen as there was nothing anyone could do now. The old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon his shoulders as his shaking old hands clumsily dried her tears with a frayed red bandana. Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much, but God has spared our home on this eve of Christmas. Let us gather strength and climb the hill to the old pine where we have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look down upon our home and give thanks to God that it has been spared and pray for our beloved most precious gifts that have been taken from us. And so, he took her by the hand and slowly helped her up the snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back of his old and withered hand. The journey up the hill was hard for their old bodies in the steep snow. As they stepped over the little knoll at the crest of the hill, they paused to rest, looking up to the top of the hill the old couple gasped and fell to their knees in amazement at the incredible beauty before them. Seemingly, every glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in the glittering, snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine, and it was aglow with heavenly candles. And poised on its top most bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas tree such as this. They were breathless as the old man held his wife tighter in his arms.

Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of wonder and incredible joy. Amazed and mystified, he took his wife by the hand and pulled her forward. There, beneath the tree, in resplendent glory, a mist hovering over and glowing in the darkness was their Christmas gift. Shadows glistening in the night light. Bedded down about the "Old One" close to the trunk of the tree, was the entire herd, safe. At the first hint of smoke, she had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led the horses through it. Slowly and with great dignity, never looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping cautiously through the snow. The foals were frightened and dashed about. The skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling, hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they licked their lips and hopped like rabbits. The mares that were in foal with a new years crop of babies, pressed uneasily against the "Old One" as she moved calmly up the hill and to safety beneath the pine. And now, she lay among them and gazed at the faces of the old man and his wife. Those she loved she had not disappointed. Her body was brittle with years, tired from the climb, but the golden eyes were filled with devotion as she offered her gift--- Because of love. Only Because of love. Tears flowed as the old couple shouted their praise and joy... And again the peace of love filled their hearts.

This is a true story.