That’s what freedom looks like

Grey Mustang Stallion by Randy Harris. See randyharrisphoto.com.

by VIVIAN FARRELL

My Dad was a single parent. He took me with him everywhere. One of those places was Las Vegas.

There wasn’t a lot for a 15 year old to do in Las Vegas. So when I asked him what I was going to do while we were there, he said something like, “You’re a smart kid. Find something. Just stay out of trouble.” So I went for a walk, looking for something that didn’t look like trouble.

I came across a sort of caravan, flea bitten looking mini bus sort of thing, with a handwritten cardboard sign that said “Wild Horse Tours”. There was an older gentleman standing nearby. I asked him about it and he told me for $5 he takes people out to see the wild horses. Having grown up with horses literally from birth, I was immediately fascinated by the idea, and knew I just had to go. So I eagerly gave him the $5 and climbed aboard.

As soon as he had enough people, we took off. We drove for some time. I started getting a bit nervous. We were in the middle of what seemed like nowhere.

Then our guide pulled over, parked and told us to get out and make ourselves comfortable. On some boulders. We sat there for a good long while. I am not sure how long now, but to a teen it seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, getting up he gruffly said, “I don’t think we’re going to see anything today”. As we got up and started dusting ourselves off, he whirled around and started shouting excitedly, “Wait. Do you feel that? Do you feel that?”

I didn’t discern anything at first, but then I began feeling what the old gentleman did. The ground had begun to move, to shake, ever so subtly. I asked myself, am I imagining this because of what he just said, or . . . ? Then it became stronger and more perceptible. “There”, he shouted, excitedly pointing to what look like dust clouds on the ground way off in the distance. I was transfixed. My breathing became shallow, my spine started tingling and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

Next we heard the unmistakable sound of hooves, distant but there, as the dust clouds got nearer. It seemed to go on forever. Then suddenly out of those clouds we saw emerging a band of Mustangs.

I took in a sharp intake of breath as I caught sight of them. It was electrifying. Remarkably, as far off as they were, we could not only see them but also hear them, their leader calling and his band responding.

Then for a moment they slowed down, then stopped for the briefest of moments, the lead horse angling his head around, listening intently and sniffing the air. My heart seemed to stop with them. Next the stallion pounded the earth with his front hooves, his magnificent neck arched toward it, and reared up and pawed the air. It was as majestic a sight as you could ever hope to see.

Before I could really take it all in, the stallion and his band took off again quickly beginning to disappear into the vastness and out of sight. Breathlessly watching them I remember saying to myself, “That’s what freedom looks like”. I looked around at our group to see their reaction and many were in tears, including our guide. He wiped his face and eyes with the back of his hand and said, “Dang. They never fail to get to me every time.”

It was an indelible experience. In that splendid capsule of time I witnessed and felt with all my being how it truly must feel to be free, truly free.

I learned something else that day in Nevada. The desire to live freely and unmolested is universal. All creatures share it. And that freedom is yearned for and longed for by every horse, whether domestic or in the wild. This has strongly impacted my beliefs about all horses.

When I started my horse protection organization decades later — to combat horse slaughter to begin with — I became acquainted with the many cruelties carried out against horses. Learning about the plight of America’s wild horses and burros left me stunned and heartbroken, witnessing humans robbing our Mustangs of what is rightfully theirs.

Preakness stakes entry Bodexpress unseats his jockey in the starting stall and comes home free.
Preakness stakes entry Bodexpress unseats his jockey in the starting stall and comes home free.

When racehorse Bodexpress dumped his jockey in this year’s Preakness, leaving him on the ground in the starting gate and galloping riderless down the track, I knew exactly what the horse was feeling. Freedom. You could see his elation. The commentators of course didn’t see it that way at all. Predictably, they said the horse was simply completing the race because that’s what racehorses do. They have no clue because racehorses are a means to an end. Their end.

Our Mustangs are also in terrible trouble, perhaps more than ever, and that’s saying something given their tragic history at the hands of man. My hope is that you will take an even stronger stand on their behalf and defend their right to roam, untouched and free.
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Image Credit: Grey Mustang Stallion by Randy Harris. More at randyharrisphoto.com.

 

The true celebration will be when we end horse soring

The 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013. HSUS.

Take action to eliminate horse soring and “big lick” animal cruelty. Elizabeth Fite, reporting for the Times Free Press writes:

The biggest competition for the Tennessee walking horse breed begins Wednesday in Shelbyville, Tennessee.

For some, the 11-day Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration — often called the Celebration — embodies the best of the breed and its traditions. For others, it’s tainted by the cruel practice of horse soring — when humans intentionally injure horses’ hooves or legs to make them step higher, creating an artificial gait known as the “big lick.”

Soring became illegal in 1970 and is not allowed at the Celebration. However, the current law doesn’t prohibit stacked shoes, chains or other “action devices,” and those will be used on horses at the Celebration in classes where the high-stepping “big lick” is still coveted.

Horse soring "stacks" on the front hooves of a Tennessee Walking Horse at Big Lick competition. HSUS.
Horse soring “stacks” on the front hooves of a Tennessee Walking Horse at Big Lick competition. HSUS.

Yes, horse soring and the “big lick” is still coveted by a minority of cruel people who continue to perpetuate horrific cruelties against the beautiful and gentle Tennessee Walking Horse. Together, let’s bring it to a final end.

SUPPORT THE PAST ACT OF 2019

There is a bill pending before Congress that will wipe out horse soring once and for all.

The House version of the bill recently passed by an overwhelming 333-96. The Senate version of the Bill — S.1007 — is pending right now awaiting further action.

Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections, part of an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.
Tennessee Walking horse watches worriedly during horse soring inspections, part of an undercover operation by HSUS. Photo: HSUS.

TAKE ACTION

Contact your two U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. and urge them to cosponsor and make an unwavering commitment to the passage of S.1007, the bill against the cruel practice of horse soring for Tennessee Walking Horse competitions.

Go to Senate.gov to contact your U.S. Senators online. Prefer to telephone? The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.  Go here for further information »

The Times Free Press article includes:

Clant Seay and the advocacy group Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty have peacefully protested outside the Celebration for the last four years.

Seay founded the group and regularly documents examples of “big lick” horse abuse on his blog, billygoboy.com, and Facebook page, which has more than 11,000 followers. One of his latest videos is of 2-year-old walking horses wearing weighted shoes and chains and displaying the “big lick” at a show on Aug. 3.

“Calling attention to illegal and abusive activity is every citizen’s responsibility. Animal cruelty is not a tradition just because it has been going on for more than 50 years,” Seay wrote in an email. “To say that this is a ‘tradition’ is just a propaganda technique. Nor is this an ‘industry’ any more than cockfighting or dog fighting is an industry.”

Amen.

TALKING POINTS

See The Horse Fund’s Stakeholders page at POPVOX.com for talking points regarding this legislation »

You can also create an account with an email and password at POPVOX.com to find and communicate directly with your lawmakers, follow bills that interest you and more. Highly recommended!POPVOX LOGL


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The 75th Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville, Tennessee on August 29, 2013. By HSUS.

Roy Exum: Soring Will Still Thrive

Horse soring "stacks" on the front hooves of a Tennessee Walking Horse at Big Lick competition. HSUS.

We quote the following from Roy Exum’s column of yesterday. Exum, who has covered the horse soring issue for some years from his home base of Tennessee for The Chattanoogan, states what appears to be patently obvious to many, sometimes even us.

It’s about the future of the anti horse soring bill in the U.S. Senate. We have already warned our readers that Sen. Blackburn (TN) and Sen. McConnell (KY) will do all the ugly they can to make sure the Senate version of H.R.693 (S.1007) is defeated — and that’s a whole lot of ugly. Powerful ugly. We didn’t mention Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) (we thought we had enough evil to contend with without listing him), but Exum doesn’t ignore Lamar like we did.

Exum writes:

Last week, after four tries having been blocked every year in Congress to “Prevent All Soring Tactics,” the PAST Act made it through Congress in a rousing “beat your chest” fashion. Where it takes a two-thirds vote to proceed to the Senate, Congress voted 333-96 on the bill (HR693). Oh happy day! That was the overwhelming response after the House of Representatives roll call on Thursday.

Then we go to Skopos Labs, a firm that claims they are experts in “automated predictive intelligence” to learn … what’s this? The Senate bill for the PAST Act has 40 co-sponsors which doesn’t mean diddley. When House Bill HR693 came to a vote last week, among the 96 members of Congress who voted against it were Tennessee Republicans Phil Roe, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, John Ross, Mark Green, and Davis Kustoff. Isn’t that peculiar? As a matter of fact, the Tennessee “bloc” has long embraced the “dirty lickers” with the lone exemption being Tim Burchett.

Tennessee’s two Senators are far worse. Years ago Lamar Alexander got saddled up with Steven B. Smith who agreed to be the treasurer of his campaign. Hello! Steven B. is the head of the dirty lickers and there is vivid proof that Lamar and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell have accepted hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from the dirty lickers.

Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais have also been generously awarded by dirty lick contributors. A cross match of dirty lick contributors who “support” Chuck and Scott will make you start laughing. But, in my opinion, the all-time Queen of Dirty-Lick Corruption is our newest Senator, Marsha Blackburn.

Marsha has accepted more “benevolence” from the dirty lick than you would believe, and, when you track her government-mandated financial disclosures from the time she was first elected to the House until she began her impassioned role as a Senator, her investment prowess boggles the mind. I’m talking nothing short of genius on a Congress woman’s pay.

Don’t you see? I thought the upper reaches of the United States Congress and Senate were beyond reproach. Several years ago the law enforcement officers in Maryville, Tn., where there is a Lamar Alexander Boulevard, caught a known dirty licker — Larry Joe Wheelon — at his worst. There were photographs, testimony, irrefutable evidence and … hello … Larry Joe never went to trial.

Blessed with such a den full of elected representatives, do you in your wildest dreams think the PAST Act will get through the Senate? I’ve been following the charade like a bloodhound but with Alexander, Blackburn, and McConnell lusting for the day they can once again champion the torture of horses, neither the Senate bill nor humane horse-sense stands a cut dog’s chance.

Read Exum’s full column here at The Chattanoogan »

It will be a dog fight for sure with the odds stacked heavily against us. H.R.693’s companion bill in the Senate, S.1007, has 41 cosponsors as of this writing. We would like to see at least 60 to give us a fighting chance, but that might be all it gives us. 72 would be much better so long as no one changes their mind. Can we possibly do it?

Check here to see if your two Senators have already cosponsored S.1007. If not please contact them via Senate.gov and ask them to please cosponsor S.1007 and vote yes when the time comes.

Be prepared to tackle this again with us after the August recess.

Thank you.

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Rapa das bestas Spain 2019

Spain is not a country any of us at The Horse Fund would spend vacation time or money on.

Spain retains a core savagery that is unsettling and disgraceful. Spaniards revel in holding on to their gory, barbaric and outdated customs and festivals, many of which involve the horrific treatment of animals. Horses are too often one of those animals.

RAPA DAS BESTAS

“Every year, wild horses are captured in the hills of Spain and then taken to a farmyard where they are branded and their horsehair cut during a traditional festival known as ‘Rapa das Bestas’ or The Capture of the Beasts, ” reports The Straits Times, from which we corralled the following series of images.

Villagers round up wild horses in Sabucedo, some 40km from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, on July 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
Villagers round up wild horses in Sabucedo, some 40km from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, on July 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
Hundreds of people watch the traditional Rapa das Bestas in Sabucedo, Galicia, Spain, on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Hundreds of people watch the traditional Rapa das Bestas in Sabucedo, Galicia, Spain, on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A man takes part in the traditional Rapa das Bestas festival in Sabucedo, Galicia, Spain, on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A man takes part in the traditional Rapa das Bestas festival in Sabucedo, Galicia, Spain, on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Wild horses fight during the 400-year-old Rapa das Bestas traditional event in the village of Sabucedo, some 40km from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, on July 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
Wild horses fight during the 400-year-old Rapa das Bestas traditional event in the village of Sabucedo, some 40km from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, on July 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
Men try to ride wild horses during the traditional event Rapa das Bestas, which takes place on the first weekend of July for four days, on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: EUROPA PRESS
Men try to ride wild horses during the traditional event Rapa das Bestas, which takes place on the first weekend of July for four days, on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: EUROPA PRESS
Some aloitadores struggle with a wild horse in the curro during the Rapa das Bestas traditional event in the Spanish northwestern village of Sabucedo, some 40km from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, on July 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
Some aloitadores struggle with a wild horse in the curro during the Rapa das Bestas traditional event in the Spanish northwestern village of Sabucedo, some 40km from Santiago de Compostela, northwestern Spain, on July 6, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

As disgusting as this is, is it any worse than what “we” do to horses in the U.S., Canada or Mexico? The Rapa Das Bestas lasts for a period of 4 days, once a year every year. It’s hard to look at the images of this festival, but can we say we treat our horses much better, especially our own wild horses?

AMERICAN MUSTANGS

No one in the U.S. government in particular seems to take into consideration how mentally as well as physically cruel the Bureau of Land Management roundups of “America’s” wild horses are — destroying their bands, tearing them away from the only habitat they have ever known, cramming them into claustrophobic transport, then forcing them to live unnaturally in captivity, never to have a hint of or enjoy their precious freedoms again.

As you wild horse lovers know, this is the only the beginning of the sorrow American Mustangs must endure, thousands of which at one point or another will be taken away and brutally slaughtered to satisfy the tastes of overseas diners.

HORSE MEAT

Speaking of horse meat, do Spaniards slaughter horses?

Horse meat is not generally eaten in Spain, except in the north, but the country exports horses both as live animals and as slaughtered meat for the French and Italian markets.

CAPULLOS

We thought maybe, just maybe, the Rapa Das Bestas horses might have gotten way with some horrific manhandling and a hair cut, but it doesn’t look that way.

British actor and comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted how disgusting Rapa das bestas is. One replied to him: “Never wanted to see someone’s teeth kicked in so bad in my life.”

Capullos.

RELATED READING

Dozens arrested in Spain for Europe-wide horsemeat scam; CNN; Mon July 17, 2017 »