Open Letter from Ginger Kathrens ~ Volunteer Director of The Cloud Foundation
The Summit of the Live Horse & Pauls Valley
Dear Friends of Wild Horses and Burros;
Last week Lauryn and I attended Summit of the Live Horse in Oklahoma City, organized by our friend and a true friend of all horses, Simone Netherlands of Respect4Horses. Our summit was scheduled to coincide with the Summit of the Horse, an event many of us affectionately refer to as the “Slaughterhouse Summit” or “The Summit of the Dead Horse.” Then, just a couple weeks out, the organizers of the pro-slaughter affair called off their event. We hope it was for lack of support!
Nevertheless, our Summit of the Live Horse went off without a hitch. In addition to Simone and myself, we were joined by R.T. Fitch of Habitat for Horses & the Wild Horse Freedom Federation as well as Scott Beckstead, the Senior State Director of the Humane Society of the United States in Oregon.
Advocates interested in the welfare of both wild and domestic horses came from Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Texas, and the local media showed up in force. The event was streamed live online, but if you missed it you can still watch it here. Each of us gave a short talk about the different aspects of horse slaughter including alternatives, humaneness, health and safety issues, and wild horses. You can watch the local media’s story on the Summit here.
Unfortunately, captive wild horses and slaughter can go hand in hand. BLM has consistently denied selling wild horses to known killer buyers, but the fact of the matter is some mustangs do end up going to slaughter in Canada and Mexico. Once a wild horse owner receives title (which happens after a year after adopting), BLM has no authority over that animal anymore and the owner can sell the horse anywhere or to anyone they choose. Long-term holding horses can be purchased from BLM for $10 each.
BLM cannot deny that they have considered lethal solutions to the problem of thousands of once wild mustangs in holding. In 2008, BLM conducted secret meetings (the minutes and planning documents) the contents of which were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2009 by the Dr. Pat Haight, of the Arizona-based, Conquistador Program. The shocking document consisted of high-ranking BLM employees discussing ways to euthanize horses in holding while avoiding public and congressional scrutiny.
On day two of our visit to Oklahoma we drove to Pauls Valley, a BLM wild horse and burro short-term holding facility about an hour south of the city. Our Oklahoma friend, Stephanie Graham, who visits the facility, was our expert tour guide. It is a lovely looking facility with lush green pastures—very pretty, but completely inappropriate for wild horses. Most of the horses were in need of hoof trimming—some were worse than others. In the wild, on dry and, more often than not, rocky ranges, hooves wear down naturally and look as if the farrier just rasped them yesterday. Not so at Pauls Valley.
The first pasture we visited contained all mares. We noticed the four digit hip brands similar to long term holding brands. When we inquired about the brands the BLM facility manager, Pat Hofmann, explained that the mares are part of a SpayVac study. SpayVac is a longer acting infertility drug that has as its active ingredient, PZP, but is packaged differently than PZP, cannot be darted, and had some negative side effects in the past in a study in Nevada.
In addition to the facility manager, Paul McGuire, of BLM Public Affairs in Oklahoma City, very kindly came down from his office to say hello. We met Paul back in December at the Calico roundup in Northern Nevada.
As we were talking, I noticed several very small foals about 50 yards away in a muddy pen without their mothers. BLM told us that horses in long-term holding are only rounded up once a year. At that time the foals are weaned and shipped to Pauls Valley for adoption. However, some of these foals are as young as 2 months old! Our immediate question was “Why?” The answer? The private contractor would have to feed those few small foals for another year if they weren’t removed.
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Money? This was about the long term holding contractors saving a few bucks? That’s why these little foals were lying in the mud when they should be nursing their mothers? I also asked Pat what they fed a two month-old foal. He answered, “Grain and hay—grass hay and alfalfa!” We tried to stay calm at this point, but I know our distress was noticed. We hope that this cruel situation will be rectified.
Since the facility is on private land, we could not go into any of the pastures, but we could drive around the perimeter. When we drove around to one pasture full of geldings, they came up to the fence line.Stephanie knelt on the ground and they cautiously and sweetly sniffed her hair. Such a curious bunch! One yearling let Lauryn and I rub him from shoulder to butt. At that point we were ready to load him up and take him home. We sure hope all these young horses find great, loving, forever homes.
All too soon we had to head to the airport, but I’m thankful we were able to participate in the Summit and visit Pauls Valley. We met some truly wonderful people. Education is key in the fight to save America’s horses, and I hope you’ll take the time to tell a couple friends that wild horses are still out there on their wide western ranges. They need your voice to help them live free with their families.
- Petition: Tell Interior Secretary to Dump Pro-Wild Horse Slaughter Appointee (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Callie Hendrickson: “Pro-slaughter” Appointee to BLM Wild Horse Board Draws Protests (rtfitchauthor.com)
- The Lasso Tightens Around America’s Wild Horses (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Moran Calls for Ban on Horse Slaughter (rtfitchauthor.com)
- BLM Appoints Another Slaughter Supporter to Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board (rtfitchauthor.com)
- BLM Puts Public in Holding (rtfitchauthor.com)
- BLM Officially Confirms Attack on Cloud’s Herd is Eminent (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Breaking News: Summit of the Slaughter Horse Canceled (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Experts Calling for Horse Slaughter Ban Unite at 2012 American Equine Summit (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Summit of the Live Horse – April 3, 2012 (thecloudfoundation.wordpress.com)
- Horse Slaughter Coming to a Neighborhood Near You? ~ Summit of the Live Horse (wdneoh.wordpress.com)
- Horse Welfare Conference to Counter Horse Slaughter Conference (yubanet.com)
- Overview of the American Equine Summit (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Public Outraged Over BLM’s Anti-Horse Appointee on Wild Horse and Burro Board (rtfitchauthor.com)