Horse Abuse/Neglect

Horse abuse can happen in more ways than one,Beating, Starving, Neglecting, Using the horse for money, Drugging, Letting the horse suffer, Not feeding him properly, Not taking him to the vet when needed, That’s only a few of the ways to abuse a horse or pony.

What I think.

I think that abusing a horse is just a selfish way to make money, Look at horse racing legend Eight Belles the jockey did not pull her up and in result she was put down. I say that horse racing needs to end, It is truly horse abuse, More horses die than they do finish the race, A horse may be drugged beaten or over trained in order to win the race

Horse abuse is also found at the slaughterhouse horses are beaten over the head with crow bars, stabbed in the head with knives, or are shot with a gun, Some horses are prossesed alive they just get stuned and then prossesed. Below is more info on the diferent types of abuse and neglect.

What Is Abuse Versus Neglect?

In order to better understand the dynamics of horse neglect and abuse, it is entirely relevant that we understand the vast difference between the two.

Horse abuse, simply put, translates into the intentional physical abuse of an equine animal. During the course of my career as an equine neglect and abuse specialist, it has been said that I have processed somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 complaints. Regardless of the final number, it suffices to say that there have been many. Actual horse abuse cases have accounted for less than 5% of my total caseload. In other words, horse neglect cases have comprised more than 95% of my caseload. This information, in and of itself, tells us a great deal of information.

The fact that neglect cases outpace abuse cases by such a staggering number suggests that our emphasis in terms of education and prevention be placed on neglect intervention first, and then abuse intervention. Ironically, even though abuse cases account for less than 5% of the overall incidents reported, it is actually these cases that have left the most indelible mark on my mind personally and professionally. It should come then as no surprise that the media feel the same way. For this reason, abuse cases garner far more attention from the media, subsequently creating the impression with the viewing public that abuse cases are more common than neglect.

Indeed the intentional physical abuse of an animal is an appalling notion to us all and one which must not go unnoticed. In 1998, FBI Special Agent and Profiler Jim Fitzgerald accompanied me as we presented a conference on “Animal Abuse as a Gateway Offense” in New York City. We presented documented proof of the common thread in family violence as well as abhorrent crimes against society by individuals who got their start torturing or otherwise physically abusing animals. Therefore, it would be wise to pay close attention to those intentional abuse cases regardless of their standing in the overall percentage of cases.

What Is Training or Abuse?

The intentional physical abuse of an equine animal can occur in any number of settings. The most common and hard to define being during the training process. How do we determine what constitutes abuse versus training? Who is in a position to say that what looks like training to one person is abuse to another? This dilemma has been the center of many hot debates and a political time bomb among various equine professionals. The courts are hard pressed to separate the two. Seasoned abuse and neglect investigators have struggled to maintain continuity on this issue.

Various animal rights factions argue over this issue. Is there a pat answer? After twenty years investigating complaints, I am approached time and again by various groups and organizations asking me to define the line between training and abuse and while I have attempted to maintain some level of political correctness, I have also gained a level of autonomy at this point in my career which now allows me to be more blunt. In my opinion: Legitimate training involves acceptable methods and mechanisms that gradually influence and modify a horse’s behavior to the extent that it receives positive rather than negative reinforcement. Acceptable training includes devices and methods which do not inflict prolonged and/or substantial discomfort. Training which, in my opinion, constitutes abuse that rises to the level of morally unacceptable behavior includes devices and/or methods which cause prolonged stress, discomfort, fear and/or anxiety to the detriment of the horse. Training which rises to the level of criminal wrongdoing would include any device, practice or method that inflicts intentional injury, scarring, wounds and/or deprivation of necessary foodstuffs, water and care. More specifically, depriving a horse of food or water as a leverage mechanism during the training process is criminally actionable. Inflicting physical cuts, bruises and abrasions during training is legally unacceptable.

I recently handled a complaint where a “cowboy” would tie up the horse, throw him down and urinate on him as part of the training process. The cowboy would contend that this was a long established practice handed down from generation to generation. I would contend later in court that this is an unacceptable form of abuse handed down from one idiot to the next. Now, I look to you as an audience and ask you to show me by the raise of hands, how many of you find the above describes practice acceptable? How many, by the show of hands find this form of training to constitute abuse?

We have learned through the countless books, videos and clinicians, that there is gentler and kinder way to condition your horse. The old excuse that “my granddad did it that way” no longer holds water in my opinion. If we were to subscribe to that philosophy where it came to the way we treat people, we would still be “bleeding” sick people out in order to rid them of most illness. The point being this: As we evolve we learn new, more progressive methods of training. These methods are designed to support, strengthen and enhance the relationship between human and horse. It is therefore incumbent upon us to implement any new method or practice that provided the maximum amount of benefit to the horse, with the least amount of stress, injury, discomfort and fatigue.

WhaT Are Other Common Forms of Physical Abuse?

Next to training, loading seems to be the most common platform for physical abuse of equine animals. The horse and the human ego often collide when there are spectators present. Have you ever seen someone attempting to load a reluctant horse? Obviously, any one of us who have been around horses for any length of time has encountered this scenario.

When we are asking a horse to walk into a small, often dimly lit enclosure, we are asking him to do something that goes against every instinct he has developed in order to survive. While most of us exercise great care and patience during the loading process, there are those who turn the event into a traumatic ordeal for the horse. It is during these events that the seeds are planted, and often cultivated into physical abuse. I have always insisted on quiet voices and quiet hands during the loading and unloading process. On more than one occasion, I have been gently coaxing a reluctant horse into a trailer only to be approached by some well intentioned “cowboys” who strut up and boldly announce something like, “Hey, I’ll load that sunofabitch for you.” Naturally, I always decline these offers of assistance. Nonetheless, many of you have found yourself in this situation and not wanting to be rude, have accepted the help of a stranger only to be confronted by a bully trying to show off for onlookers. I have seen physical abuse during the loading process on many occasions. I have seen two horses killed through mishandling during the loading process. In both cases, physical abuse was the key element leading to the death of the horse in question.

I would implore those of you who are trailering horses to become well versed in this process. There are several excellent videos and publications, which offer solid, common sense methods to safe, stress free loading. Each of these methods has one common thread: patience and quiet voices and body language. Waving arms and cracking whips are an invitation to an accident or injury.

What Are Other Types Of Intentional Physical Abuse?

This is the most uncommon yet unpleasant form of equine abuse I have encountered. Intentional physical abuse, unlike training or loading, is a deliberate act intended to inflict torture, injury and even death upon a horse. Thankfully, during the span of my career, I have only encountered a dozen or so such cases. Ironically, these cases stand out in my mind still today to the extent that I can recall every detail of each case. These cases typically involve an elevated form of domestic violence. In other words, someone uses the horse as a leverage mechanism during an ongoing cycle of family violence and then follows through on their threats. Other cases not involving domestic violence usually involve some form of chemical addiction such as methamphetemine use.

I recall a case I handled in Durango, Colorado where a man found his estranged wife dancing with another party in a local tavern. His response was to drive to where she kept her horses and systematically kill them. These cases involve the most dangerous type of perpetrator and should always be reported immediately.

In summary the physical abuse of an equine animal is the most unacceptable and preventable form of mistreatment leveled against today’s modern horse. There is no valid excuse, reason or even mitigating circumstance to support the abuse of a horse. Subsequently, as equine professionals, owners, enthusiasts and admirers, we are compelled to educate, prevent and report such events.

What Is Neglect?

Neglect is far and away the most common issue we handle. Neglect involves a wide scope of situations. Owner ignorance is the leading cause of horse neglect. Financial setbacks are another. Apathy is a third cause and chemical dependency is yet another.

Owner ignorance accounts for the vast majority of horse neglect cases. These cases simply involve folks who are in over there head. Many people, searching for the country life, relocate from the city looking for freedom. Once they set up house in a rural area, they acquire a horse with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, we have become an instant gratification society and so, the person who has never owned a horse before, upon deciding to acquire one, will do so in short order and without making the necessary preparations in advance. It has been my experience that owner ignorance cases are the most simple to resolve.

When we encounter a horse owner who lacks the education and resources to care for the horses properly, our first reaction as a knowledgeable equine professional should be to render assistance to the horse owner. This assistance should come in the form of an easy to understand “grocery list” of things the horse owner needs to do, in order of importance, to get his or her horses back on the road to good health.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things I have witnessed during my career are poorly educated animal welfare officers citing, or even seizing, when all that was needed was a little education. Granted, there are cases where seizure and even arrest have been warranted. Nonetheless, there have been many times more cases where a little education and follow up would have far greater results for everyone involved. Once you have seized the horse, you have set a series of events into motion for which there is no turning back. Lengthy court battles, staggering animal care expenses for the agency seizing the horses, and lives ruined are the end result.

My rule of thumb and my advice to neighbor and animal welfare officer alike is simple: If you can educate and assist, always do so first and foremost. Use the criminal justice system only after you have exhausted other conventional means.

Naturally there are exceptions. Exigent seizure cases involving an animal’s immediate ability to survive as a result of severe neglect or mistreatment, require fast action and cool heads. Let’s examine some other common definitions of neglect.

What IS Environmental Neglect?

Once the transplanted city person decides they want a horse, there is usually a great rush to obtain one without much thought to housing requirements. Subsequently, we find scores of horses living without adequate shelter or any shelter at all. We see hastily thrown up fences made of everything from bailing twine to bubblegum. Horses injure themselves on debris, fallen wire, poorly erected fences and other hazards. This constitutes environmental neglect.

In cases of environmental neglect, our goal is to provide the horse owner with a list of remedies and a reasonable time frame within which to accomplish them. The construction of a common windbreak, the addition of elevated feeders, and/or secure, safe fencing, may be all that is required. Indeed, there have been a great many debates around the country about what constitutes adequate shelter for the horse. My answer to that is simple: It depends on where you live. Climate and geography have everything to do with shelter requirements. Horses all need shelter from wind, cold, heat and the elements so it is fair to say that no matter where you live, the most basic form of adequate shelter involves some place where your horse has free access to shelter from the changing elements.

What About Diet and Adequate Food/Water?

Certainly the type of neglect most often reported is a lack of adequate food and/or water resulting in the textbook “skinny” horse complaint. I should mention an ironic side note at this point: While the “skinny” horse generates the vast majority of citizen complaints to animal welfare officers, it is the hoof of the horse that is the most unreported form of horse neglect. Translation: People most often report “skinny” horses because the skinny horse is the most visible form of neglect to the passing motorist or pedestrian. It has been my observation that in reality there are four to five times more hoof neglect cases that are never reported. Ironically, it is the hoof that is the very foundation of the equine animal.

Getting back on track: It is a fact that a lack of adequate food and/or water triggers the majority of all neglect complaints. A lack of food and water might be the result of a deeper, pre-existing problem within the home. Perhaps the person responsible for providing has been laid off from work or has experienced a physical setback. It has been my experience that when you help people in these unfortunate situations, they return later as better horse owners and big supporters of your agency. In some cases, if the illness or financial setback is significant enough to rule out a speedy recovery, you can help the parties disperse their horses through a sale to a pre-approved home. Later, if the person gets back on their feet they are in a better position to revisit horse ownership.

Make it a practice to render aid and education first. If you encounter someone who is neglecting their horses and refuses your advice or assistance to the continued detriment of the horses involved, drop the hammer and remove the horses. Anyone who resists legitimate aid, education and assistance to the extent that their horses continue to suffer has demonstrated a level of intent. Remember, when someone intentionally harms their horse, it is no longer a case for charity. It is a case for the criminal justice system.

What About Apathy?

There is no doubt about it, we have become an “instant gratification” society. When we want something we want it now. Instant credit, instant home loans, cars, jewelry and yes, even the instant acquisition of animals are all staples of modern culture. The unfortunate backlash to instant gratification is instant divestiture. Easy come, easy go. We are likely to divorce ourselves from anyone or anything that does not bring us constant pleasure. This includes wives, children and even companion animals.

Many novice horse owners will encounter some unpleasant experience on the trail that they do not fully understand, or perhaps they are even frightened by the event. A horse balking at a stream or bridge or even bucking are common examples. Subsequently, when the horse does something that displeases us, we divest ourselves. The horse is relegated to the barn or back pasture. Feeding becomes a chore. Worming, floating teeth, hoof care and other routine health maintenance issues become too burdensome. The end result is a horse neglect case born out of apathy.

There are few remedies for this sort of neglect. The bottom line is, you will either love and care for your horse, or you need to find a better home for your horse. One answer to apathy related neglect is to have the person resolve the issue (if one exists) that caused the distance in the first place. Go to a riding instructor who will mend the gap between you and your horse. Get enthused again. In any event, apathy caused neglect is a lazy person’s excuse for not caring properly for their horse.


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