Horsemen Helping Horses
From the Director...
by Tina Snyder
Monday Morning Blues
Most people dread Monday morning as the beginning of the work week, the end of two days "free time" for family, rest, friends, and domestic chores. As for me, I wake up each Monday morning now, knowing that today 200-300 horses will quickly be run through the low end auction just 100 miles up the road from me in New Holland, Pennsylvania. Many will be bought up by kill buyers and be in a Canadian slaughterhouse by Wednesday.
There at New Holland you'll find horses, ponies, minis, and donkeys. Mules and equines of every kind imaginable. All the horses are packed in side by side, like sardines so close they can't easily kick their neighbor, and heads tied to the wall to prevent them from biting. No water in sight anywhere.
And there they stand all day until that moment when they are taken to the auction floor, one after the other. Within 90 seconds, their fate will be determined. Many are handled roughly, many have injuries incurred in transit to or at the sale. Every now and then a loose horse wanders by and nobody seemed to care. I was in a world of human Zombies—heartless and oblivious souls unaware of the chaos and pain surrounding them. The horses search with their eyes for someone, anyone who might help them. They're scared and have no idea how they got there. Or why.
None of these horses started their lives in these circumstances. Most were once in good homes, loved and cared for by someone. They were once show horses, racehorses, lessons horses, camp horses, carriage horses and back yard pets. Now these same horses are scared, mistreated, thin, some lame and injured, some blind, some pregnant. Imagine serving as a lesson horse all your life, and now that you're old and blind, you're thrown away into this nightmare. Imagine the fear, the undeserved terror these horses are enduring.
So many just get caught up in our "throw away" society. Several are older and have served their owners well, but due to age, illness, injury, money and other circumstances, they are discarded like an old car driven into the ground, junked. People! What does this say about the human race?
Despite the efforts of the many rescue groups found at New Holland week after week, each just trying to save a few souls they may be able to rehome, the number of horses that slip threw the cracks is staggering. Last year alone, over 135,000 American horses were sent to slaughter. None, not one, deserved to die that way. Yet week after week the kill buyers sit in that front row just waiting for the horses that aren’t lucky enough to catch someone’s eye. For him, it’s a business. He's hired by the slaughterhouses and has a contract to fill. So he buys up any horses on which he can make a profit. When they can’t get that quota from the auctions, kill buyers also search places like Craig’s list and other media looking for the "free" or very cheap horse that can turn any profit. Most aren't beneath stealing horses as well.
Once bought, these horses are shoved tightly into an aluminum-floored trailer all together. None are tied; there is no food or water. There is no separation of stallions and mares, draft and mini, injured and elderly. In a very short time the aluminum floor is slippery with urine. Any horse that loses his or her balance will most likely be down for the remainder of the minimum three-day haul. And often trampled to death.
Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse the nightmare continues; horses are packed into feed lots until it’s their turn to die. The "downed" horses are taken first. Each horse is run through a chute and then has a bolt lodged into his or her head. This is a regular method of death for cattle who have short necks. But for a horse with a long swinging neck, often the bolt misses and the horse is still somewhat conscious as they are hung up and dismembered.
By now I'm sure you think the kill buyers, the shippers and the slaughter houses are run by the most despicable people. But that’s not entirely true. They are like turkey vultures on the side of the road. The mess is created by over breeding, irresponsible horse ownership, and an ever changing economy in a throw away society
While I don’t have the answers to the problem, the whole topic has burned a hole in my soul for a long, long time. The more I learn about this dirty secret of how we " dispose" of unwanted horses in this country, the more I'm called to try and change or save something, anything. To let people know that this too can happen to their beloved horse in an instant. To ask people with children going to camps to investigate where their horses come from and go to at the end of the summer. To educate people who sell a horse, breed a horse, give a horse away.
So now I've recruited an amazing group of people who feel as strongly as I do. Together we have formed "HORSEMEN HELPING HORSES". (3H) Together we will "talk the talk " and " walk the walk." Our Mission is simple. We will bring attention to this underground society that "eliminates" excess horses in the cruelest of possible ways. We will shout, "Responsible horse ownership!” and "Stop the over breeding!"
We'll work hard to make changes in the laws, make the laws enforceable, all the while rescuing one horse at a time from certain death.
Each horse bought by 3H from New Holland will be a horse destined for slaughter. We will rehabilitate and train, then rehome, making space to take another. Cost of the first six months will be about $3000-$4000. Each horse will have multiple visits from our vet for evaluation, vaccination, fecal testing and de-worming. Their teeth will get floated, and any other medical needs will be addressed. Additionally, new horses will be kept at a quarantine facility for a minimum of 30 days. Each horse will be cleared by a veterinarian before coming to the main farm in order to protect our herd from the many diseases that run rampant through the auctions. Once healthy, well handled and loved, each horse will be placed in a suitable home where they will live out their days healthy and happy. The trauma of New Holland will only be a distant memory.
Horsemen Helping Horses is incorporated and in process of becoming a 501C3 non-profit organization. Won’t you join us in this new life saving adventure? A donation in any amount will help us save a life. Along with funds, suitable homes are needed for these horses. All horses are stabled at Safe Haven Farm post quarantine to continue their rehab and training until suitable homes can be found. Safe Haven Farm is a small, privately owned lesson barn in Sykesville Md. Students of Safe Haven Equine Learning Center actively participate is the care and training of the rescued horses; hence we are developing a generation of caring, knowledgeable horse people to continue our work for generations to come.
Please don't throw up your hands and say, "What can I do?" or " This is too hard to think about.” Help us be the voice for these horses. Help us get as many as we can out and into homes. Help tell the story and bring about a new awareness and sense of responsibility to horse lovers everywhere.
by Tina Snyder
It's always been my dream to save horses bound for slaughter. Thanks to 3H I have the privilege of now living that dream. On Sept 23rd I went to the New Holland Auction to buy a horse from a kill buyer. It's funny how things work out as they are supposed to. We got a late start that morning. Once there, everything was a bit confusing, from where to park to how to find the horses. My first door led me to a bovine auction, the second door to the cows, and finally I found the horses. Hundreds of them, all hoping for another chance just to live. Once we got a bidding number, we worked our way through the hundreds of horses to be auctioned that day. So many sad faces, so hard to choose. I wrote down several numbers of cute ponies as possibilities. All were shoved together, making the job so much harder. Not much could be seen.
Michael, my husband, and I took our seats with a scattered plan at best. As the auction began I watched for each of my choices to come through. Every time, I wondered if I should bid or wait until the next horse on my list came in the ring. But as my favorites came through, each was bid on by another rescue or an independent buyer looking for a nice pony. Everything moved so fast; it was hard to keep up.
The sale was coming to an end and now the less desirable horses were brought in. Everyone was gone. Everyone, of course, but the kill buyers hoping to get the "leftovers" for cheap. My favorites had all been bought up, and there I was feeling like I'd failed the mission. And then around the corner she came. The scared, injured black mare being dragged by her ear. No one rode this one. No one was left to bid but the man in front of me who had bought everything that no one else took. The kill buyer. I saw the fear in her eyes, the pain she felt. Bleeding, she had been kicked and bitten in the lot. Now just dragged.
I told Michael to bid on her. At first the auctioneer wouldn't even acknowledge us. We were "outsiders". But Michael stood and yelled louder until he was recognized. The kill buyer ran the price up to his limit in an attempt to outbid us. But he couldn't go beyond $200. So for $225 she was ours.
After we went to the office and paid for her, we had to find her. She had been tied out back with the cattle. She was so scared and panicked that we approached her with extreme caution. Michael looked at me and asked, "What have you done?" And honestly, for a fleeting moment, I thought about just leaving her there. She was so freaked out I didn't know how I would touch her, never mind get her on the trailer.
I summoned the vet at the sale--I don't know how he can do that job--and had a coggins drawn, a tetanus shot given due to the bleeding injury, and a heavy sedation to get her to the quarantine barn without her killing herself in the trailer.
We were picking up another horse for our barn manager that we had bought through "Another Chance 4 horses", also saved from the kill pen. But that's another story.
Once all the paperwork was done we headed home. Two lives saved.
Once at the quarantine barn where we unloaded, Pearl was still a little under. We'd need to wait until the next day to see who and what we really saved at that auction.
The following morning we couldn't wait to see them. Pearl was a different animal. Still shy and weary of humans, but kind and wanting so badly to trust.
Her hind legs looked different from anything I'd seen. Straight in the hocks and angled in the ankles. Didn't know what to make of that. Our vet, Dr. Lewis, came and examined her and helped us get a rehabilitation plan together. Several weeks later, once she had gained her strength back, he came to float her teeth, give us a worming protocol since she was extremely infested, and check her for pregnancy.
By October 22nd she was cleared to come to her next stop at Safe Haven Farm. There she began her training and daily handling. Her wonderful and kind personality shone through to everyone who met her. The staff and I quickly fell in love. We did the ground training and even got on her, but I still couldn't figure out the hind legs.
Jackie Cowan, an expert in gaited horses, was referred to me. I contacted her, and being the wonderful, generous person she is, she came and gave all of us a lesson in the gaited horse with Pearl, our little Rocky Mountain horse. Her legs were just as a gaited horse should be. A little arthritis due to age, but she had a good future as a riding horse ahead of her. Pearl was on her way! Now healthy, beautiful and sound, Pearl could show us what she was capable of doing, thanks to what Jackie taught us. Now it was up to me and my student trainers to take it from there. It was amazing to me that once we did things the "gaited horse way" Pearl lit up and knew what we were talking about.
Shortly after, we deemed her ready to be the first 3H horse up for adoption/lease. Her picture was taken and an ad was put up at the local feed store. Soon, the call came. A lovely woman, Connie, was looking for an older gaited horse so her grandson to learn how to ride. Connie and her husband came out to meet Pearl, and I just had the feeling that they would give her a good home. The barn inspection was done, references were checked and they were hands down approved. On November 30th they came to take Pearl to her new forever home. What I didn't know was that Pearl was to be Connie's 45th wedding anniversary gift. What a good guy! In return, her husband got a purple pitch fork. An hour after they left, I got a message that Pearl had arrived at her new home safely and had already made a new friend with Connie's mare.
It's been a long road for Pearl. Obviously she was once cared for and well trained. How she ended up at New Holland, we'll never know. From there she went to quarantine and then to Safe Haven. Finally today she arrived "Home." Her future is bright and her days will be spent grazing in green pastures and loved by her new family.
I will sleep well tonight knowing that because 3H exists, a life was saved. Thank you to all of you that support our mission and gave a horse like Pearl a chance to live and find a forever home. Thank you so much, Jackie, for your generosity and kindness. And to Connie and John...Happy 45th Anniversary, and many many more!
Our Wish List
New forever homes for our horses
Panels for a round pen