National Horse Protection Day
Animals of all kinds throughout the world are exposed to severe mistreatment every day. Horses are a staple of the American image and have transitioned from livestock to companion animals, pets or even members of the family. As such, it is only fitting that we have a holiday dedicated to their welfare and good health. National Horse Protection Day was founded by Animal Behaviorist and Pet Lifestyle Expert Colleen Page on March 1st 2005 as a day for public awareness, to educate communities about the troubles that horses face throughout the country. The horse is an established symbol, representing the history and creation of the United States. Yet, despite this fact, many go unwanted, are sent to slaughter and suffer needlessly from abuse and starvation.
While horses have been categorized as production animals in the past, they are, today, for the most part, considered companion animals. This includes horses that are used for athletic competition and very much respected as athletes themselves. Per the Humane Society of the United States, dogs are the most commonly abused animal, yet horses can be categorized as “pets” and constitute a portion of the 24.1% of other animals that experience serious abuse. Types of misuse include, but are not limited to, soring, drug abuse and withdrawal of feed and water. Soring is the use of devices or harsh chemicals to intensify a horse’s animation in movement. This practice has historically been used in the competition of gaited Tennessee Walkers. Although outlawed over three decades ago, partly due to a lack of funding, the USDA is unable to regulate soring and, as a result, this tradition persists within the equine community.
Horses from all types of backgrounds can also be mistreated when they are abandoned and/or sent to slaughter. The Humane Society of the United States claims that each year, nearly 100,000 American horses are inhumanely transported for long distances, while deprived of water, food and rest. After viscous slaughter, the meat from these mostly healthy horses is then shipped overseas for human consumption. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would prohibit the slaughter of horses within the United States for human consumption, in addition to the export of live horses for the same purpose. This act is important not only to help prevent the inhumane treatment of horses, but also to reduce health risks for humans. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, there is currently no means for detecting whether or not a horse that has been sent to slaughter has received substances known to be dangerous for humans. While helping horses to find sanctuary in good homes may not be an easy feat, it provides an alternative to sending these horses to slaughter and eliminates the possibility of distributing questionable meat for human consumption.
So how can we help? Beyond caring for personal horses as best we can, there are a number of other ways we can help better a horse’s life. When adoption is not possible, foster care is always an option. Also remember that a little bit can go a long way. Be a good neighbor or barn mate and help out a friend when their horse may need some financial support, exercise or basic care. Plan an adoption event in your area, help out a local adoption center or organize a food and supply drive. Social media is a very powerful tool that you can also use. Promote local adoption on Facebook or Instagram. Write an informational blog and share it via social media to increase awareness and encourage others who may be more willing and able to adopt or foster. Help protect our horses. Stop abuse. Speak up, and remember, no matter the contribution, anything helps.