Horse News

Equine Welfare Groups Work Solutions That Horse-Haters Don’t Want To Hear

Information supplied by National Equine Resource Network

NERN and R-Vets to create 100 new geldings in just 8 days

No Unwanted Horses ~ by Terry Fitch

ENCINITAS, CA – National Equine Resource Network (NERN) and a group of colleagues including equine vets, vet students, and equine rescue sanctuaries gelded a total of 100 stallions and colts throughout central California.  This week-long rolling series of low-cost gelding clinics potentially reduced the future horse population of the state by 500, at a time when the continuing economic downturn has significantly reduced the number of good homes available for horses.

“When NERN was formed two years ago to assist the equine welfare community in saving and caring for at-risk horses, our goal was to make an immediate impact,” noted Shirley Puga, NERN Founder and Executive Director.

“Low-cost gelding clinics held in partnership with equine veterinarians were an obvious way as they require a relatively small financial commitment while producing major results by impacting the number of horses that might be neglected or abandoned in the future,” she said.

Since the average privately owned stallion will sire five foals in its breeding career, every stallion and colt gelded at these clinics reduces the future equine population by that number.  According to Puga, this series was part of NERN’s continuing pilot program to provide a model for these clinics throughout the country.

The traveling gelding clinic series was a partnership between Shirley Puga, Director of NERN, Dr. Eric Davis, DVM, Founder of Rural Veterinary Experience Teaching and Service (R-VETS), and his partner Cindy McClinn, RVT, who work together to bring quality care to animals that might not always get professional veterinary treatment.

In addition to gelding 100 stallions and colts through this recent series, Puga and Davis plan to partner on future clinics throughout California.  NERN also continues to refine the low-cost gelding program for distribution to rescue sanctuary operators and other equine welfare advocates throughout the country.

“The need to reduce the country’s equine population, a key component in ending equine slaughter, has never been greater and NERN will take a leadership role in this aspect of that solution”, Ms Puga stated.

She is also working with other segments of the country’s horse welfare community to convince the commercial equine industry to practice more selective breeding and provide for aftercare for their horses to eventually eliminate equine slaughter.

The eight-day traveling series held eight gelding clinics in eight cities; covering more than 1,000 miles in the heavily horse populated central part of California.  The clinic locations were Salinas, King City, Lodi, Auburn, Petaluma, Woodland, Orland and Cottonwood.

Participating equine rescues were the SPCA of Monterey County, Valley View Ranch Equine Rescue, Oakdale Equine Rescue, The Shiloh Foundation, Sonoma Action For Equine Rescue, and Safe Haven Horse Rescue.   Contributing sponsors for this series of clinics were One Horse At A Time and Redwings Horse Sanctuary.  Professional photographer Jim Westin volunteered his time to document the entire event on film.

In addition to providing this much needed service to horse owners, the clinics also served as an important training experience for a group of UC Davis vet students who traveled with NERN and R-VETS.

In April, NERN has four, one-day, gelding clinics scheduled – April 7th in Oakdale, April 15th in Ramona, April 21st in Bishop, and back in Oakdale on April 28th. Clinics are in the works for May and June as well. Interested parties can check NERN’s website at for future clinics.

Ms Puga said planning is underway for the first out-of-state clinic, to be held in Western Washington State in late Spring/early Summer.  The states of Nevada and Texas are under consideration for the Fall.

“We are proving that the equine welfare community is willing to step up to the plate to do its part in reducing our country’s horse population and therefore eliminate the need for equine slaughter and we hope the commercial breeding and racing industries will accept their responsibility also” Ms Puga concluded.

NERN’s goal for 2012 is to geld 250 stallions and colts this year, representing a future population reduction of 1,250 horses.  They are well on their way.  With financial assistance, they could likely do even more.

32 replies »

  1. YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Soooo great to hear of this….Finally heading in the right direction. I hope & pray that there will be more like this in the near future. Saving our horses & a film documentary to boot on this….makes me overwelmed with joy !!! Thank all of you for taking part in this!


  2. I think this s a great idea and certainly much more humane than the horror of slaughte. How do you manage the continued care of the wounds till they heal?


    • Jagadamba,

      Not knowing your background, I will attempt to explain; I know most peoples from rural backgrounds know the procedure. I was privileged and unprivileged to know the joys of ownership and the complications of stallion castration; I had the resources to provide for my charge and he is still walking the right side of the dirt. It was not cheap….even by US standards, but worth every dime because he was 4, a TB, not handled as a youngster (I didn’t own him then) and had one undescended testicle.

      If anyone would like to chime in here, please educate Jagadamba on the process as it differs on age, health and location….none of you have said squat yet and a question was asked.

      The process, done at the right time of year, with knowledge and meds (depending on how the “owner” feels about an animal feeling pain) and a great barn/farm management team can take care of this routinely. This includes access to a GOOD vet in emergencies.

      Some geldings are done in the field, but require an attentive eye to pain, stress, eating, water consumption, flies, movement, sociability AND infection at the castration site, etc. They all require antibiotics and wound cleaning; sometimes as simple has a cold hose in the groin 2-3 times a day.

      My gelding required surgery and more management….best thing I ever did. I and he (it?) had no complications. He was separated from mares/fillies, individual attention, weekly checks, fly spray, cold water baths, etc. After surgery, it was basically 3 people (all women) that handled everything; the vet for a few checkups, the boarding/farm owner where he was stalled to keep him away from any excitement (who did all the daily work and observations) and me checking on the post op, the barn manager and the vet.

      Any more questions….ask away; maybe someone else will pay attention to your questions. ( I was waiting all day to hear something)


  3. Each and every clinic like this will take a big step forward in helping to control the population problem in horses. Great for the horses, good for the owners and kudos to all involved!! Private citizens step up for the greater good of America’s equine and the politicians slide us back. Perhaps we should rethink about the “kind” of people we VOTE into positions not the affiliation! So proud of you all.


  4. Excellent program. I’ve got a stud colt and the cost of gelding is near $200.00. Not a lot to some people but it’s a month’s groceries for me.


  5. Other equine welfare orgs have done this….some also held euthanasia clinics that are JUST AS IMPORTANT. Sometimes, I think the euth clinics are MORE important….that takes guts!

    That people have to do this for OWNERS is maddening, but I understand why. Afterall, if we want slaughter to end, we have to give financially handicapped owners an option to slaughter. But the killers don’t take equines (as a rule, there are exceptions) without enough flesh or travel endurance for that trip to H*LL.

    Thanks to the gelding and health welfare team for this effort…..certainly sounds like it is the best organized and puts the Unwanted Horse Coalition’s (American Horse Council…check out their member list!….like the freaking Farm Bureau) effort to shame.


    • Denise,
      I totally agree with you about euthanasia clinics. Although I hate the thought, if owners are going to stop sending their horses to slaughter they do need an easier way to put their animals down. And the pro-slaughter are always using that as the main reason for slaughter. So by proviidng euthanasia at a discount, then I think that takes away their argument.

      I think that any assistance at this time will help improve our odds at doing away with slaughter. The other thing is why do we need horse slaughter when the number of horses is going down? I think you should be seeing much lower numbers of horses being born except in the TB industry, there I don’t think they will ever slow down as long as they have a place to dump their “unwanted’s”. But I think the mantra of the pro-slaughter needing horse slaughter for the unwanted horses will soon be mute unless they start to breed for slaughter. That WE MUST NOT LET HAPPEN!


      • The TBs are down too, but still too high and it does appear there is a slight increase (don’t think the final numbers for 2011 are in yet; the Jockey Club does track breedings). It was correction due to the economy…..many breeders either got out or drastically reduced breeding. The racing industry is in a real mess, regardless of the economy.

        Horseback has a story about the nefarious American Horse Council….everyone should go read it and comment. Their infamous Unwanted Horse Coalition sent out a press release a few weeks back about THEIR gelding program……..PATHETIC! The current AHC press release is about their “ride-in” slated for D.C. Clueless creeps.

        As to euth clinics, they are more costly and logistically difficult.


  6. I have to say I disagree with Ms. Puga’s statement that reducing the horse population will “eliminate the need for equine slaughter”. The slaughter industry does NOT exist because there’s a “need” for it. It exists because there’s demand for horse meat and it’s profitable for French and Belgian interests to process American horses, and we have irresponsible owners willing to meet that demand.

    I wish people would truly understand the driving factors for this industry. There is demand and a willing supply. You can geld thousands of horses in the United States, which will benefit the horse industry as a whole, but will do diddly squat to stop American horses being bought for slaughter.


    • Well said, CanAmFam.

      I know why slaughter exists, but this does help. Yes, billions of pounds of equine flesh belong to geldings….but it does help. That is why I brought up the euth clinics and the service they provide.

      The most compelling argument to end HCHS in North America is the use by owners of prohibitive drugs for equine health that makes them ineligible for the human food chain. That GLARING fact is worse than the cruelty imposed on the slaughtered equines as it has a cumulative effect on humans consuming the horseflesh AND the system purveyors KNOW these equines have been exposed to prohibitive prophylaxes. And yes, their (equines) murder is immoral to boot!


  7. Met Shirley Puga and the gang last month when they swung through my town. Great org doing really good work. They even got some dental work in on a horse. Wanted to hop on the bus with this merry band of gelders! I think they are in the hills of Mexico now.


    • Your state department of agriculture, horse council, veterinary associations, or ag school may be able to help with this. A local vet told a group of us that the backyard breeding in our area had subsided as a result of the recession, but I know that is not the case everywhere.


  8. This is wonderful, and working towards a real solution. I commend every person involved and the horse owners responsible enough to take part. It’s not just backyard breeders that need to get a handle on overpopulation. But the real solution won’t be found until we change people’s thinking. Case in point: The former 2009 AQHA President, Jim Helzer, was planning on breeding his 29 Stallions to over 100 mares EACH this Spring (2012), putting 2900+ new foals on the ground and making $8.25 MILLION in stud fees in the process (according to his own website). Not to mention, he has just completed a huge multi-million dollar fertility facility for additional breeding (In-vitro, etc.) How many of them end up at slaughter? This kind of wanton disregard for equine welfare needs to be exposed as well as the two-faced, self-serving nature of oganizations like the AQHA that spent over $60,000 a year paying lobbyists to help lift the ban on slaughter. Needless to say I don’t belong to the AQHA any more.


  9. These clinics are an excellent idea and great way to help the average horse owner. Combine this with low-cost euthanasia options would be even greater.


  10. We need to figure out a way to permanently discourage the French, Belgian, & any other foreigners, from even wanting American horses!! Do those idiots have a death wish, or, are they really just that stupid!!?? Stop the demand, & the supply will stop. Until we figure out how to stop their wants & demands, the next best things are low-cost gelding (done humanely!), &, in worse case scenarios, low-cost humane euthanasia & removal, & for breeders to become more responsible by not bringing more babies into the world than are absolutely necessary, or even being put on a maximum annual breeding quotia/ratio, limited to a certain number of foals allowed per year/breeding season. Just ideas to think about. Have a great weekend everyone!


  11. Perhaps not euthanasia clinics, but a voucher program of some sort so that owners would be able to afford the cost and disposal. That is where the hardship hits many people, some who have already spent enourmous sums in veterinary care. I have seen that happen. Somehow, that could be administrated and overseen in the same way as gelding clinics and hay banks. Just an idea. It’s all a matter of where you place your money and resources.


    • A number of states’ departments of agriculture, veterinary schools, and states’ horse councils have funds or other resources to held with gelding, as well as euthanasia and body disposal. In our state body disposal is supposed to be done by a licensed contractor, and last I heard, there is only one licensed to dispose of livestock bodies. Whether people who own pasture actually follow this law or not may depend on the size of the operation or which county the farm is located in.


  12. You are all right. As long as those European companies continue to hound the US and taught the
    millions that can be made in this business someone will try and get a plant up and running. I’ve read about the gelding clinics and I think its a great idea. I understand the need for euthanasia, but I hate to hear about horses in their brime and to think that somewhere there are numerous great horses that have provided years of training to children and adults. I also think that we need a better network system of matching available horses with those wanting horses. Believe it or not,
    there are still people from time to time looking for that older horse that has been through it all. I also think that many of our breed associations must step up and do a better job of bringing the above people together. I remember seeing a picture of a quarter horse in the lot in Kaufman, TX.
    The horse still had its shoes on and I swear was ready for the show ring. I often wondered if the horse was stolen because it certainly did not look like it belonged there like so many others. We need to educate people about these auctions and search out the “Killer Buyers.” If I was one of the “Dregs of Society”, I would certainly be somewhat worried about the Eureopean Union regulations. I have heard some people say that it will not make a difference. However, several articles have appeared regarding European’s becoming sick on horse meat. We need to start
    emailing some of the foreign newspapers and informing them about the pharmeciticals that are
    given to American horses. I wonder how many of them know they are ingesting meat which will cause cancer or do they even care. Its all about money and greed. Let them raise their own horses and eat them and leave ours alone! Excellent job on the gelding clinics.


    • In the last year or so EU inspectors have found banned substances in our horses in their plants in Mexico and Canada. Along with falsified documentation stating these horses were free of drugs. The EU has told Mexico and Canada – which are both implementing passport-type traceability – not to accept any more of our horses after the end of this year if we don’t implement a similar traceability system ourselves. Since we seem to be totally oblivious to all this, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.


  13. Many spay and neuter programs for cats and dogs implement the voucher method. It seems to run pretty well and keeps everyone happy…the owners, the local veterinarians, and the animal control agencies.


  14. Not that it actually matters, but the QH breed 3 to 4 times the amount of horses that the TBs do.
    I think the implementation of vouchers or clinics for euthanasia and gelding are a good start in the right direction.
    But we must fight for a solution to the Mustang mismanagement. Isn’t that what we are all about?


  15. Shirley, EXACTLY! We are fighting on both fronts at the same time. We all know that our Wild Horses and Burros are NOT overpopulated, and we also know where they will end up if the slaughter proponents are allowed to manipulate the press. We have to be a United Front on both fronts.


  16. ACTION ALERT. This is where the decisions on land use and Wild Horse and Burros Herd Managements Areas are made and this is where your voice can really make a difference:
    Easy Action: Please Protect Wild Horses & Burros in Carson City District’s 21 Herd Areas
    Easy Action: Please Protect Wild Horses & Burros in Carson City District’s 21 Herd Areas

    Comments must be received by April 29, 2012.

    The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Carson City District is seeking comments on the preparation of a new Resource Management Plan (RMP), which addresses the management of wild horses and burros in 21 Herd Areas (HAs), including six zeroed out HAs in central/western Nevada, north of Reno.
    This area accounts for roughly 1.8 million acres of Nevada’s wild horse herd management areas (including one burro herd management area). Included are the Dogskin Mountains & Granite Peak, Flanigan, Pine Nut Mountains, Clan Alpines, Desatoya, Garfield Flat, Lahontan, Pilot-Table Mountain, South Stillwater, and Wassuk Herd Management Areas and the Marietta Wild Burro Range.
    This is the stage of the planning process when the BLM sets management strategies, allocates resources, and sets “appropriate” management levels for wild horses and burros. Now is the time to raise our collective voices to demand change for the wild horses and burros in the heart of mustang country!


  17. Shirleywh, I came to this site originally to learn what I could about wild horses because a large percentage of horses that came to our rescue were traumatized mustangs or very young horses with injuries that could have been a result of the manner with which they were rounded up, transported, and held. I never imaged that I would go down all the trails that trying to help her has led me down. It might seem like the subject of horse slaughter is getting more attention now, but I assure you that the fate of our wild horses rests in large part on whether or not we are able to keep horse slaughter plants from opening in this country. If a horse slaughter plant opens in this country anywhere near where our wild horses are being held or run free, it will spell the end to all of the ones managed by the federal government.

    If any of our domestic or wild horses are to be safe, we must prevent the re-opening of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. If the horse meat industry wins this, we will know that the dark side has seized our country’s soul.


  18. Gelding also makes the horse safer to handle. I am amazed at the people who do not understand that a stallion around a mare in heat is much more dangerous as is the mare who is listening to her strongest hard-wired need.


    • HoofHugs:

      When an equine is at the front of the meat for profit line, doesn’t matter stallion, mare. filly, foal, pregnant, sick, old, lame………….IT DOESN’T MATTER TO THE KILLERS!

      Again…back to ENFORCEMENT OF FOOD SAFETY FOR HUMANS which is nonexistent for North American Equines.

      Anyone having a chuckle about the BSE dairy cow in CA? I am….the “authorities” say NONE of it got in the food system”! Sure it didn’t, BUT, (and here is the hoot)……they are looking for her 11 calves.

      I just love legalese, government spin BULLSH*T!

      They can’t get cattle right, but they can continue and promise it is OKeeDokee for US equines.

      Lying sacks of BSE, bute poisoning, Ecoli, salmonella infused human waste…..non-compostable.


  19. California is the leader in equine welfare. Hopefully some of these other states will follow their example and the breeders will curtail their mass production behavior. AHA needs to rethink their breeding policies. We are in an economic crisis after all.


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