Monday, June 21, 2010

Economic Effects of Horse Ownership & Being an Artist - Part 1

The artist and her Tony!

Maybe the better title would be Horse Ownership and Being an Artist during difficult economic times. It ain't easy. These days every horse owner knows of someone who has had to give up their horses because they can no longer afford the expense. And we have all heard the horror stories of horses neglected, abandoned, set loose and sent to auction. Good horses. Great horses even. Whose owners have been pushed to their limit by the stresses brought on by the economy. Am I allowed to call it a depression? I know the pundits don't, but as far as I can see...all the symptoms of depression are there.

Good people are facing the question of what to do with horses they can't keep...and other good people are being pressured into rescuing horses...that they themselves may end up being unable to truly care for. It is a terrible dilemma. I am not going to go into the debate about the horse slaughter bill in the US congress. Other then to say that the issue I believe is as much transport conditions and whether the slaughter houses do their job in a humane fashion. When we banned them in the US, we guaranteed that we would not have control over the process. Much like the meat industry in the US in our earlier years....if we had more control, we could inspect for the treatment of the animals. But I know that that is a bigger debate then I want to get into here. What I want to mention are two things that I think directly contribute to the problem in the US.

During these economic seem wholly irresponsible for breed associations to not stress to their membership the importance of controlling for overbreeding. We can no longer condone the behavior of those individuals who breed with no concern for the later fate of the number of animals coming from their breeding farms. I think the Thoroughbred industry is only the tip of the iceberg. But we know the huge number of T'breds that end up in rescues and auction houses outstrips all other breeds. But the backyard breeder is just as much at fault. People have to be conscious of the the potential fate of that foal they think they want. I believe that it behooves the breed associations to make a point of discussing this at every conference, every event, in every newsletter to their membership. Perhaps an advisable limit on new registrations could be in their bylaws. I don't know how if can be done, but something has to be done.

And I think it is the obligation of every VET to talk to anyone who contemplates breeding their pretty mare. To advise the gelding of all studs with negative breeding characteristics to reduce the potential for unwanted horses later on.

The second issue we seem to have is the high cost of humane euthanasia. Many of the horses that end up abandoned, neglected and at auction are a result of the owners inability to afford the huge cost of putting the animal down. Older, dangerous, sick and otherwise un-rehomable animals should have the right for a caring and painless end of life. If their owner is struggling with financial tragedy, they are certainly not going to be able to afford the cost of getting a vet to come and euthanize the animal and dispose of the subsequent carcass. We don't want to think about this, I know...but is there room in the debate over the slaughter of horses, to add a discussion of how we can make this decent choice available to owners? Can we help VETs to bring the cost down? Make some low cost or even pro-bono euthanasia's available for low income and financially destitute owners?

In these times, keeping even one horse is a luxury fewer and fewer of us are able to afford. I is a stretch each month to find the money to cover board for my one wonderful horse.

Stay tuned for Part 2, Being an Artist during times like these!!



Karen Thumm said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Juliet, on all points. I'm managing okay with my own horse, but one of the other boarders is struggling to afford her high maintenance horse who really needs to be retired. There are plenty of free horses around, but how does she then afford to board two horses?? It's a real problem for her.

At our barn we share horses because we all trust each other enough, so this gal rides other horses when one is available and her own guy is too sore to ride. I feel really bad for her.

Juliet said...

I think about that situation a lot. There will be a time not too far down the road, when Tony will not be ridable anymore. And I will want another I can ride. But won't be able to afford it. I hope when it comes, that my trainer will have a horse I can ride from time to time.