Equine Rescue

Many Warriors, but None of the Valor for Horses

By Debbie Stoutamire of the Galveston Daily News

Our horses have been willing warriors in many wars started by men

Mary Jane and Ventura recovering at Habitat for Horses

British author and ex-cavalryman J.N.P. Watson once said, “The horse is so lacking in malice and yet so dutiful and grave that when he suffers, it makes man so ashamed for the human race.”

Our horses have been willing warriors in many wars started by men. In the first world war, about 1.5 million horses were used as cavalry, and an estimated 500,000 died.

With few exceptions, horses sent to war in Europe did not come home. Some died in transit, many died from pneumonia from lack of shelter in England, and countless more died on the battlefield.

At the end of the war, those horses who survived were sold to butchers in countries desperate for food. Even in death, the horses served men.

Unfortunately, even today, horse slaughter — a cruel parade of death — continues. Canada and Mexico are the only North American countries that practice horse slaughter openly.

President Barack Obama recently signed a bill that will revive the U.S. horse slaughter industry, exporting horses north and south of our borders. Not only are horses being slaughtered in grotesque, inhumane ways, but the racing industry in our country has remained silent about slaughtered thoroughbreds.

In addition to horse slaughter and abuses by the racing industry, the Tennessee walking horse, sweet, gentle animals originally bred in the Southern United States to carry owners of plantations around their land but now trained to win championships that feature their high-stepping gait, are suffering in yet another war.

I was horrified while watching the abuse of these wonderful horses on “Nightline” on May 16, which included cattle prods, burning horses with cigarettes and applying chemicals to their pasterns and putting chains around their hoofs. What hurt my heart the most was a video showing Jackie McConnell and his helpers striking a horse around the face and head until he went down.

I cannot help but wonder if that was what happened to Ventura before he came to the Habitat for Horses in August 2011, bone thin. He bears his scars from a war that he did not enlist for — a crushed muzzle inflicted by man. He does not complain but nickers softly when I approach him. Ventura is one of the lucky ones.

He graduated from rehab at the habitat and has made a new friend — Mary Jane. Unlike Ventura, Mary Jane bears no visible scars. You can see the trust in her eyes. I shudder to think what might have happened to Ventura, Mary Jane and the rest of the horses at the habitat had they ended up on a truck bound for slaughter.

There are 150 horses who have been buried by the Habitat for Horses — casualties of their own wars. These horses were not willing warriors like those who have died throughout history.

Like Ventura and many others, they came in with many scars, but they were all loved and cherished by Jerry Finch, the man who has worked tirelessly for more than years in his rescue mission. Heartbreak has been his constant companion. He not only works to rescue horses, but also to end horse slaughter in this country.

When I see Ventura and Mary Jane waiting patiently at the gate, I see their eyes pleading — “please tell them about us, please help us to help them — please help us to end the suffering.”

Debbie Stoutamire lives in Galveston.

8 replies »

  1. The words are so true but HOW do these words and the truth reach not just us, who have been mired in the horror of horse abuse on all levels, But the rest of America??? So someone Lots of someones will join and fight for the horses dignity ??We are the choir we know, we hurt ,we are furious but despite RT and Jerry and John etal most of America still doesn’t give a damn!??


  2. I believe the whole issue is just now surfacing. The American people are just seeing how man has and continues to harm the animals. A small majority compared to the whole are inflicting injury and death. The pit bulls, the fighting roosters, and the list goes on to the disturbing facts regarding the show and race horses. It all needs to be shown and the faces of the violators too.. Where is the compassion for them? Evil abounds and was glad to see CBS air the Walking horses. I sent an email to CBS asking them why they don’t tell the American people about the Wild Horses and Burros being rounded up in record numbers and the inhumane treatment that they receive. I do think many Americans care, but just don’t know how to help. The laws already on the books MUST be inforced and people must report cruelty when they see it. Many people don’t like to view, but it is a must if we are going to do anything about it …to the treatment of farm animals, to the dog and cats thrown out of cars ect, our own government allowing the BLM the right to inflict injury and death to our horses and burros who just want to be free. It is up to the rest of us to spread the word of compassion and denounce those who care very little if not at all.


  3. To Ellieroo, Sometimes these words fall on ears needing to hear them. Three years ago I had no idea about what was going on with horses. Thanks to my good friend, Linda who is with the Cloud Foundation another voice has been added to your ranks. We all just have to do what we can, one day at a time, step by step. I have only started on this journey and can see how frustrating it can be, but if everyone who’s an advocate adds just one more voice it all adds up. Thanks to all of you who’ve been doing this for a long time.


  4. Dear Paula Todd King,

    I agree with you that each of us has to do what we can step-by-step, day-by-day, person-to-person. People have to be ready to receive a message, and sometimes in the haste of daily life, it may take multiple exposures to an issue before a light goes on in each individual. Unlike gas prices that obviously affect everyone’s day to day life, what happens to horses while sad, cruel, or unfortunate does not affect the day to day existence of the American people or so they think.

    What is so much harder to get across is that the stories behind the horses, burros, and other equines affect every single one of us on multiple levels, yet the media seems far more focused on whether Lindsay Lohan is going to have a reality show than they do about government corruption.

    There is enough fraud and waste in Washington, D. C. that if it were cleaned up, tax dollars could be used to fund Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for the next 100 years. But we seem far more interested in highlighting the superficial sparring of Republicans and Democrats, to get at the real reasons our country is going broke.

    There are enough different levels of this story to earn the right writer a Pulitzer Prize.


  5. Huge Kudos, to RT , Terry ,Vivian Grant , Ginger kathrines, Creg Downer, Jo Diebel and the many here who fight for the Honor and Freedom of all the Horses……


  6. Perhaps that is my problem I’ve been fighting for 50 plus yrs and it is the same now as then.Yes there are new faces and better phrased words but the horrific vile actions are still on going. At the store people listen are upset say, No Way we don’t do that to our horses Oh yes we do ! I’ve talked and talked 99% of the people are appalled by what I tell them ,do I think they go home and do anything? Sadly not .. For those who have joined in recent years Thank you from the bottom of my soul!


  7. When i awake in the morning I am so saddened i always think of the horses and what they have to endure needlessly from greedy humans , who hurt them , whip them burn them , abuse them, the BLM rounding them up needlessly, and terrifying them daily, i also think of Mr, Fitch his daily endless battle for them….I also think of the 80% of America who is against horse slaughter and where are they, I will stand for them, unitedly any time any place any where…. They have given themselves in honor of us through many many wars, Without them i wonder would there ever have been a West????? the horses are the unsung hero’s, of many things we take for granted I wonder where is the Honor they deserve????? The Honor that they have earned time and time again, We all want that for them ….. I also wonder through all of this , never ever once have i seen any of them give up their attributes, they remain the pillar of Spirit, pride and strength and courageousness , and as always their Beauty un flawed ….. it is people like , Rt Fitch, Terry Fitch, Ginger kathrines, Laura Leigh, Greg Downer, Vivian Grant, Jo Diebel and many more here who dedicate and commit themselves completely…… unselviously everyday in this Quest who are so amazing ……….My thoughts are also with them…….. There is a answer , and all of us will find it !!!! of that I am so very sure of ……………


  8. I too have felt ashamed of humans for this treatment of animals. In some far off place and time, where a horse is NOT fed bute and other drugs, I can see how the starving might make the choice between the horse and their family. But to casually treat them as nothing, as something to be tossed aside for mere human convenience and all opinions of other more compassionate humans ignored, makes me wonder if the human race even remembers what the word ‘honor’ stands for. And the fact that some in DC choose to ignore it tells me that they think little enough of our sense as citizens. For this cruelty gets us NOTHING but a tax bill.


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