Horse owners struggling during pandemic

Black horse peers out from his stall window. Free Image.

As we watch the news for issues that impact the well-being of horses during the pandemic, there is some that looks like good news, such as the cancellation of events where horses are abused, injured and even killed. And then there is the news that looks not so good.

One in particular that has been catching our attention over several weeks centers on horse ownership More and more horse owners are saying they do not know how much longer they are going to be able to meet their costs. A few have gone so far as to say they may have to “relinquish” their horses. What does that mean exactly, “relinquish”? To whom, or what?

In a CBC News article entitled, “Horse lovers going into debt as COVID-19 closures continue,” they report what is becoming a crisis situation.

Open quote

Business owners in Ontario’s equine industry are worried about how they’ll stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic — given they have more mouths to feed than just their own.

“Horses, they couldn’t care less about a pandemic. They require their care every day, and we feed them five times a day,” said Ryan Theriault, who owns Tranquil Acres, an equine therapy centre in the rural Ottawa community of Kars.

Theriault said he spends $100 a day just to feed his nine horses but doesn’t qualify for the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan or Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) because he doesn’t have a payroll.

Emily Bertrand runs the Royale Equestrian Centre and Royale Ranch in Ottawa, and while she does qualify for both CERB and a $40,000 loan through CEBA, she’s worried that money won’t last long. That’s because it costs $18,000 a month, she said, to care for her more than 40 horses.

“It’s so stressful,” Bertrand said. “I need to make my money now through the summer so I can feed the horses in the winter … I’m not so worried about the next month or two, I’m worried about six to 12 months from now.”

Can’t simply sell horses

Both Theriault and Bertrand said they would like more federal assistance for the industry, because it’s not as simple as selling some of their horses to help cover the bills.

“If everyone is strapped for cash, who can buy and who can maintain and care for these horses?” said Theriault.

So . . .

We have put our thinking caps on. In a country as vast as the U.S. we feel that a federal assistance program would be unwieldy to handle. It seems to make more sense to work at the State level. Your thoughts? Suggestions? We would like to put together some workable suggestions to present to the Governors of each State. Please leave them in comments, or use our Contact Form. Thank you everyone.

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Horse Cents: Cost effective horse care

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief of The Horse writes this about the August issue:

HHorse in neatly arranged stable. Photo credit: Andy Bernay-Roman / Flckr.
Horse in neatly arranged stable. Photo credit: Andy Bernay-Roman / Flckr.

“This month’s cover story breaks down the copious financial aspects of horse ownership. In any area of life—and especially with horses—being deliberate in planning for a variety of expenses typically can save you money and offer some peace of mind. And in a time where board payments and farrier appointments might seem to come around more quickly than we like, and early drought-dried pastures foreshadow larger hay and grain bills, planning for expenses becomes especially crucial. (This includes expected and unexpected expenses—yes, your horse will find a way to lose a shoe or scratch a cornea.) To this end we’ve built a downloadable budget form to help you with your planning.

“Among the additional aspects of ownership that can get spendy are facilities. And who better to walk you through building a barn on a budget than Alayne Blickle, who authors the Smart Horse Keeping Blog on Alayne and her husband recently moved their ranch from Washington to Idaho, and they put a lot of time and thought into planning their guest ranch before planting the first post. She provides a number of practical, horse-health focused barn solutions and time savers in her article on page 51. (If you’re not already subscriber, you can purchase the August issue of The Horse. Preview the cover story.)”

Photo credit: Andy Bernay-Roman


Insuring Your Horse for a Humane End; Vivian Grant Farrell; Int’l Fund for Horses.

Be Alert: NAIS vs the Equine Owner (US)

by R. M. Thornsberry, D.V.M., M.B.A.

Dr. R. M. Thornsberry, DVM, MBA, President of R-CALF USA
Dr. R. M. Thornsberry, DVM, MBA, President of R-CALF USA

It is important for horse owners to know why NAIS is being forced on the equine industry within the United States.

The United States and many other countries signed a World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty in the 1990’s which obligated the first world countries, which had spent literally millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to eradicate contagious animal diseases, to develop a system of individual animal identification.

The individual animal identification was demanded by the Organization of International Epizootics (OIE), a WTO world wide governmental agency, tasked with developing trade rules and internationally obligated trade regulations that would force animal and meat trade between countries that had eradicated contagious diseases with those that had not eradicated contagious animal diseases.

In other words, the United States, which had eradicated Equine Piroplasmosis in the 1980’s, a tick borne protozoal infection, would, by identifying all equines, be forced to trade with countries that had not eradicated Equine Piroplasmosis.

In general, the argument goes something like this: Once you can identify every equine at birth and trace their every movement off the farm from birth to death, a first world country that has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to eradicate Equine Piroplasmosis, can no longer prevent trade with those countries who have refused to spend the necessary resources to eradicate Equine Piroplasmosis.

The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) no longer seeks to carry out their mandate to prevent the introduction of foreign animal and plant diseases into the United States. Currently, USDA-APHIS in supporting NAIS, spending millions of tax payer dollars to entice livestock and equine owners into the system by promoting the acquisition of a free Premises Identification Number (PIN) from their respective state departments of agriculture.

Producers of cattle, and equine owners, are the two classes of livestock owners who have overwhelmingly refused to receive an internationally sanctioned encumbrance to their private property. The USDA says a PIN is the first step to a painless process of identification of all livestock owners’ physical locations, and that this PIN number is essential for the USDA to find a farm and quickly trace the movement of animals in the face of a contagious animal disease outbreak.

Yet, in any location within the state of Missouri, and I am sure in most states, you can simply punch 911 into your phone, and in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes, the police, the fire department, the ambulance, the sheriff, and usually the Conservation Commission Agent will be at your doorstep, but the USDA says they cannot find you? At every Agricultural Services-USDA office in the United States, you may obtain a description of your farm or ranch, including a current aerial photograph.

You can go on Google Earth, type in your physical address, and privately obtain a detailed satellite photograph of your farm or ranch, providing such detail, that you can actually count individual cattle or horses in your pasture, and the USDA says it cannot find your farm or ranch in a contagious animal disease outbreak? The reasons the USDA want you to obtain a Premises Identification Number have nothing whatever to do with the USDA’s ability to find your farm or your cattle or your horses. My 10 year old grandson can find my farm, a detailed satellite photograph of my farm, my telephone number, my mailing address, and my physical address on his computer in a matter of seconds. It’s called Google!!!

The USDA-APHIS has testified before the United States Department of Agriculture, House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, March 11, 2009 that the NAIS would have to be electronic in nature to function as envisioned by the WTO. This simply means no visual tags, hot or cold brands, tattoos, ear notches, or individual color markings or descriptions will be allowed for individual animal identification.

While this is a problem for other types of livestock, for the equine industry, it becomes a major hurdle to overcome. For equines, dogs, cats, fish, poultry, and many exotic animals, the only acceptable means of electronic individual animal identification is a surgically implanted glass enclosed electronic microchip. This implant is not nearly as simple to surgically implant within an animal as some are led to believe.

When I implant a chip into an animal, I clip or shave the area. I scrub the area with surgical preparation soap containing iodine, and I finish by spraying the area with a surgical site disinfection iodine-alcohol solution. Lastly, I inject the area over the site of implantation with lidocaine to render the skin and underlying tissues devoid of sensation. The chips come individually packaged in a sterile container. To maintain this sterility, I must be sterile, which requires a surgical scrubbing of my hands, and the donning of a pair of sterile surgical latex gloves. Only after this extensive preparation, am I ready to actually implant the chip in the nuchal ligament of the mid neck area of my equine patient. Compare this process to the cattle producer who simply places a small eartag in his cattle.

The glass enclosed chips do not always stay put.

Like a splinter in your finger, the body often mounts a response to a foreign body, even one as innocuous as a piece of sterile glass. The response may include the formation of a sterile abscess around the chip, or it may simply be painful and generate a negative response from the horse as it turns its neck or tries to graze, or attempts a performance endeavor at a race, show, or event. Chips have been known to migrate quite extensive distances within the body of an animal. Ask any veterinarian that works in this area of interest.

Simply finding a chip to make a reading in some animals becomes a major undertaking. Only recently, has another side effect of chipping become known. A small percentage of veterinary patients have developed a cancerous growth at the site of implantation. While the incidence is low in animals whose lives are relatively short, an equine patient, living to the age of 20 to 35 years, has much more time to develop a cancerous growth around the implanted chip, than does a dog or cat, whose lifetime is closer 12 to 15 years.

For a very complete summary and analysis of the scientific literature on microchips and cancer, see Katharine Albrecht, Ed.D., “Microchip Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature, 1990 to 2006,” available at www.antichips. com/cancer .

With all that being evaluated, the primary reason the USDA-APHIS desires to force the NAIS system onto the livestock sectors of the United States is simple: Bruce Knight told a large group of bovine practitioners at our annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada in September 2007, when asked why the USDA was pushing so hard for NAIS, and I quote, “It is quite simple. We want to be in compliance with OIE regulations by 2010.”

Now I don’t know about all you equine owners, but we cattle producers do not look kindly on an international agency in Belgium telling us what we can and cannot do with our livestock in the United States. Our grandfathers and fathers spend untold millions of dollars to assist the USDA in eradicating many serious contagious animal diseases during the last 75 years. Why would we now acquiesce to a system that will open up our privately owned animals to contagious animal diseases that we whipped and wiped out many years ago, for access to our marketplace to animals and meat from countries who have chosen in that same time period to ignore eradication of contagious animal diseases? No way!!!

We live in the United States, not the WTO. We have a Constitution that directs our legal system, not the OIE. We have a government by the people, for the people, and of the people. It is time for the people to stand up and say, “Enough with the one world government junk!!!”

If equine owners do not stand up and unite their voices with other livestock producers, NAIS will become mandatory in the United States. It will cost the equine owner in excess of $50.00 a head to implant the electronic microchip desired by the USDA and the WTO. You will then be required to report any movement of your horse or horses off your property, and for any reason.

Imagine the bureaucratic nightmare and the paperwork requirements of reporting to your government every time you go on a trail ride, every time you go to a show or an event, and every time you trailer a mare to go to the stud. There will have to be an NAIS office in every county seat to process all this data, keep track of your information, and report any violations to the USDA.

Just imagine the fines and enforcement actions that will be carried out to enforce this NAIS system on the livestock industry of the United States of America, including equine owners.

R. M. Thornsberry, D.V.M., M.B.A.
March 28, 2009


Max Thornsberry, D.V.M., is R-CALF USA’s President of the Board of Directors. Thornsberry and his wife Brenda reside in Richland, Mo. He is the owner and manager of TNT Cattle Co., as well as Avanco Feeds.

Thornsberry has a B.S. in Agriculture and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture. In 1977, Thornsberry received his D.V.M. from University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1992, Thornsberry acquired his M.B.A. at California Coast University in Santa Ana, Calif.

Thornsberry is a past president of both the Missouri Stockgrower’s Association and the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. He also is a current member of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Families forced to put down their horses as recession takes hold (UK)

Cross-posted from The Telegraph

Middle-class families are resorting to having their horses put down as the recession means they can no longer afford the expense of keeping them.


In the past decade the number of 'pet' horses in Britain has risen sharply to more than 1.2 million.  Photo by GETTY
In the past decade the number of 'pet' horses in Britain has risen sharply to more than 1.2 million. Photo by GETTY

As many as one in 10 horses in Britain faces an uncertain future of suffering, neglect and even death because owners cannot spare the money for feed, bedding and veterinary bills.

The situation has become so desperate that the price of horses has dropped from around £3,000 for a good-tempered “hacker” to virtually nothing.

But many people are unable to sell or even give their animals away, with riding stables and charities reporting hundreds of requests for help.

Lee Hackett, head of welfare for The British Horse Society (BHS), said: “People are struggling to keep afford horses and they are struggling to sell them.

“Sanctuaries often cannot take them because they are full, and stables do not want them, they are not getting pupils.”

Keeping a horse is no longer the preserve of only the very wealthy, and in the past decade the number of “pet” horses in Britain has risen sharply to more than 1.2 million.

However, the cost of caring for the animals is not cheap at a minimum of £1,500 a year and far more if they are homed at livery stables, which cost between £50 and £160 a week.

With Britain now officially in a recession the BHS has such serious concerns over welfare that it has issued “credit crunch guidance”, a list of comprehensive cost saving measures, on its website More >>