70-year-old Miami-Dade County Man Charged with Illegally Selling Horse Meat

By Amanda Batchelor as published on Local10.c0m

Manuel Coto-Martinez faces up to 10 years in prison

Click Image to View Video

Click Image to View Video

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A 70-year-old man is facing prison time if he is convicted of illegally selling horse meat, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced on Friday.

An undercover investigation conducted by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Miami-Dade police and the U.S. Department of Agriculture led to the arrest of Manuel Coto-Martinez this week.

He is charged with unlawful sale of horse meat and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.

“The collaboration between my office, MDPD and the USDA has been essential in the first successful infiltration at this level, into the extremely close-knit and secretive world of an illegal horse meat operation in Miami-Dade County,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “This unregulated slaughter of horses and uninspected meat presents a real safety and food security issue that puts lives in jeopardy and our agricultural community at risk.”

Authorities said a confidential informant told them about the illegal business and directed authorities to two locations in Miami-Dade County where the meat was being sold, including at Coto-Martinez’s home in the 13200 block of Northwest 182nd Street.

Prosecutors said an undercover detective bought 20 pounds of horse meat from Coto-Martinez on Nov. 10 for $140.

According to an arrest warrant, Coto-Martinez also sold meat to the detective on Sept. 8, and his wife sold horse meat to the detective on Oct. 13 because her husband was not home.

Click to view Arrest Warrent

Authorities said the detective told Coto-Martinez that the meat was for an anemic child, because it is common belief by many horse meat buyers that it can cure or aid in treating anemia and other conditions.

The USDA tested the meat purchased by the detective and it tested positive for horse meat, prosecutors said.

Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela was outside Coto-Martinez’s home Friday when Cecilia Frau showed up to pick up the horse that she boards at the five-acre property.

“Never, never would I have thought that he was selling horse meat. I mean, that’s horrible,” she said.

According to the USDA, there is no facility in the U.S. that is currently licensed to slaughter horses for consumption.

Coto-Martinez faces up to five years in prison on each felony count if he is convicted.


In Support of Welfare Ranchers WDFW Spent $119,500 to Shoot Seven Wolves

By Don Jenkins as published in The North West News

“Government, be it state or federal, hard at work spending tax dollars to defend welfare ranchers while skewing natural predator numbers to the point that mother nature cannot take care of her own.  We have seen actual geological damage to National Parks, such as Yellowstone, due to these strong-arm tactics and as wild equine advocates we understand that natural selection and predation work far better in herd management than do helicopters and drugs.  When will man learn that nature was well balanced and functioned perfectly fine long before two legged predators ever walked onto the playing field?” ~ R.T.

“Washington Fish and Wildlife had planned to eliminate the entire Profanity Peak pack, which was preying on welfare cattle in the Colville National Forest.”

wolf-packWashington spent more than $119,500 to kill seven wolves, according to Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello, who said the agency will look at culling wolfpacks in the future in “the most frugal way we can.”

“We know that lethal removal is part of wolf management. It’s something that will occur again in Washington,” he said. “I do think that as an agency we have to think about cost-savings.”

Fish and Wildlife spent the money during an operation that began in August and ended Oct. 19 in northeastern Washington. Expenses included renting a helicopter, hiring a trapper, and paying the salaries and benefits of WDFW employees.

Public disclosure

A preliminary figure, $119,577.92, was tallied in response to public disclosure requests and was posted by an advocacy group, Protect the Wolves. Martorello said a final figure may be higher.

Fish and Wildlife had planned to eliminate the entire Profanity Peak pack, which was preying on cattle in the Colville National Forest. The department suspended the operation with four wolves surviving.

WDFW said the chances of attacks on livestock continuing were low because the grazing season was ending.

The department did enter the operation with a spending limit, Martorello said. “It’s something we think about, but money wasn’t a factor in suspending it,” he said.

The cost exceeded the roughly $26,000 spent to shoot one wolf in 2014 and the $76,000 spent to shoot seven wolves in 2012.

Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said lethal-removal costs will continue to be an issue.

“You have to remove the problem wolves if you ever want public acceptance in this area,” said Nielsen, a Stevens County rancher. “To say, ‘never kill a wolf,’ that is not a reasonable position.”

The state could authorize ranchers to remove wolves that are attacking livestock, he said.

“We would work collectively,” Nielsen said. “It would cost the state nothing.”

Martorello said he did not have any proposals for cutting the cost of killing wolves. He noted that Fish and Wildlife spends more on non-lethal measures to prevent wolf attacks on livestock, an expense ranchers are expected to share.

Non-lethal measures

The department’s two-year budget adopted last year included $750,000 for non-lethal measures.

Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity said the money spent shooting wolves would have been better used to move cattle off grazing allotments and paying for supplemental feed.

“I think the vast majority of the public would be very supportive of doing something like that, instead of killing wolves,” she said.

Wolves are not federally protected in the eastern one-third of Washington. The state’s policy calls for shooting wolves when measures such as putting more people on horseback around herds fail to stop depredations.

Ranchers are eligible for compensation for livestock attacked by wolves. Ranchers say many attacks go unconfirmed by the department and that compensation doesn’t address all the problems that have been created by wolves returning to Washington.

“I do not raise cows to feed to the department’s predators,” Nielsen said. “That is not responsible husbandry,”


TS Radio: Wildlife Whistleblowers! Ashley Binetti of National Whistleblower Center

painyJoin us live November 17th, 2016 at 7:00 pm CST!

WB15:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

Listen live HERE!

Call in # 917-388-4520

Hosted by Marti Oakley


whistleWhistleblower’s is presented in coordination with Marcel Reid and the annual Whistleblower’s Summit in Washington D.C

Note:  Stephen M. Kohn was called away and Ashley Binetti will be filling in for him.

Our guest: Ashley Binetti

Upcoming Global Wildlife Whistleblower Seminar Series

Washington, DC – July 21, 2016 — The  (ELI) and the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) have announced an upcoming seminar series on Global Wildlife Whistleblowers, scheduled for early 2017.  The first seminar in the series will explore enabling whistleblowers around the world to improve the enforcement of over 44 wildlife laws. The second seminar will address technical skills for lawyers seeking to represent wildlife whistleblowers

Ashley Binetti is the Chief Operating Officer of the National Whistleblower Center.  Formerly, Binetti served as the inaugural Hillary Rodham Clinton Law Fellow with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and previously worked with UNHCR and Amnesty International.  Binetti received her J.D. cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center, with certificates in Transnational Legal Studies and Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University with a bachelor’s in government and international relations.


Politics & Ranching Interests Will Overshadow Art at the 2016 Equus Film Festival

Guest OpEd by Susan Wagner, President, Equine Advocates

“Why did the organizers of the Equus Film Festival allow such a huge horse slaughter proponent who chairs and helps fund a pro-horse slaughter organization come on as its main sponsor?”

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

For a horse lover, film buff and native New Yorker like myself, what better experience could there possibly be than to see movies about horses at a film festival in one of the greatest cities in the world?

After all, New York is home to the world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival, as well as many others presented throughout the state, including the Chatham and Woodstock Film Festivals. All are celebrations of the art of film making and premier many future award-winning movies before they are in general release.

Sadly, the Equus Film Festival which runs from November 17th to November 20th in New York City has proven that it is clearly not in the same league with the others I mentioned or with the majority of film festivals that take place throughout the U.S. and Canada every year.

I and many other horse and film lovers will be boycotting this event for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the 2016 Equus Film Festival is being sponsored by the pro-horse slaughter, pro-puppy mill and anti-animal lobbying group, Protect the Harvest.

The chairman and founder of Protect the Harvest is oilman and rancher, Forrest Lucas, owner of Lucas Oil. He recently said of his group, “…we’re out here organized…” and “…we need to get horse slaughter back.”

President-Elect Donald Trump has Lucas on his short list for Secretary of the Interior. According to Politico, that prospect is being strongly condemned by environmental activists as well as animal advocates.

It seems Lucas has become involved in film to help promote his pro-horse slaughter/anti-animal agendas, as in his world, it appears that animals are definitely not sentient beings. Politico also reported that Lucas financed and produced a film called, “The Dog Lover,” which the news agency said, “…portrays dog breeders and puppy mills as being unfairly targeted by animal rights groups. The movie was backed by Protect the Harvest.”

Lucas also funded the new Sharon Stone feature film, “Running Wild” which will premier at the festival. The film has been widely criticized by horse advocates as it is being promoted by “horse slaughter pushers” intent on rebuilding equine slaughterhouses all across America. One of them is Dave Duquette, a close colleague of the late Wyoming state representative, “Slaughterhouse Sue” Wallis who dedicated her life to bringing horse slaughter back to the U.S. Duquette and Lucas are allies with the same deadly agenda for horses. Duquette was photographed on the set of “Running Wild,” posing for pictures with its star, Sharon Stone.

If Lucas gets into any position of power, horse slaughter will surely be back in this country with a vengeance. As Interior Secretary, he would oversee the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and America’s remaining wild horse and burro herds. He could condemn the 44,000 captured wild horses being held in long-term holding facilities to death. (These animals should be released back on the range.) Earlier this year, all except one member of the BLM Advisory Board voted to kill the horses but strong public outcry prevented that from happening and forced the agency to change course.

Why did the organizers of the Equus Film Festival allow such a huge horse slaughter proponent who chairs and helps fund a pro-horse slaughter organization come on as its main sponsor? With all the great companies out there that fund film festivals and the arts, how and why was Protect the Harvest given the opportunity to invade an animal-loving city like New York, using this film festival to further its pro-horse slaughter agenda?

What the Equus Film Festival organizers have done is extremely unfair to the legitimate filmmakers who worked long and hard to get their films ready for this event. Instead of this being an upbeat celebration of the Horse and serious discussion of equine issues, it will be marred by a pro-horse slaughter theme.

New York City is no place for this kind of politically-biased “film festival.” I’m staying home and watching “Black Beauty” instead.

Elaine Nash, Dir. of Fleet of Angels, on Wild Horse & Burro Radio (Wed., 11/16/16)


Wild_Horse_Burro_Radio_LogoJoin us on Wild Horse Wednesdays®, Nov. 16, 2016

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

Listen to the archived show (HERE!)

You can also listen to the show on your phone by calling (917) 388-4520.

This show will be archived so you can listen to it anytime.

Our guest tonight is ELAINE NASH, Founder and Director of Fleet of Angels, a grassroots movement of horse lovers who own trailers and are willing to help transport equines to safety when their lives are in danger.

Elaine will talk about how all of us can help to get hundreds of wild horses adopted from ISPMB by Nov. 29th, so that many horses won’t be sold at an auction and into the slaughter pipeline.

15036607_10211916579896457_9085751038782961273_n Elaine will also talk about the recent rescue efforts by Fleet of Angels in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew.

Fleet of Angels provides transportation for evacuating equines from floods, fires, and other natural disasters, organizing post-disaster equine search and rescue missions, coordinating foster care placement, doing equine fencing and facility repair, coordinating hay drive efforts, and offering other services as needed to save, protect, and care for at-risk equines.

Fleet of Angels helped to Keep America’s Wild Equines in America, by helping to find homes & transportation for the 10o wild burros that the BLM had planned to ship to Guatemala to become beasts of burden.

This show will be hosted by Debbie Coffey, V.P. of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

To contact us: ppj1@hush.com, or call 320-281-0585

Continue reading


By Elaine Nash of Fleet of Angels

“Even the newspapers are guessing and publishing wrong numbers…”

Do You Have Room in Your HeartWe’re seeing some funny rumors about how many of the ISPMB horses have been adopted since this effort started on Oct 14. People are watching our pics showing examples of the horses that are available, and counting the ‘Adopted’ comments as their measuring tape- even though only a few of the horses we’ve adopted out have been displayed in pics on the adoption page. Other wild speculations are being made, and there’s a lot of “I heard…” “I read…” “He said…” “She said…” Even the newspapers are guessing and publishing wrong numbers. Well, sorry, but because of the very difficult and usual circumstances at ISPMB, how many horses have left there is really the last thing we’re worried about. If I had to guess, I’d say the number is between 85 and 125 or so, but unless we’re about to run out of horses to adopt out- by some unlikely miracle, it really doesn’t matter, does it. The only number that matters is that there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of horses still available.

Here’s what I can tell you. It is very difficult to find good, SAFE homes for hundreds and hundreds of horses that have never had any handling or training, are in remote SD, and need to go to new homes at the very time of year that more people are parting with horses than acquiring new ones. It is difficult to safely gather, sort, and load horses that have never been gathered, sorted, or loaded. It is difficult and very time consuming to do all of this with the minimal equipment and infrastructure there, along with other logistical challenges. And, we are not allowed to ‘dip into’ some of the herds for horses to adopt out yet. So, that’s why there are still hundreds and hundreds of horses at ISPMB. They’re everywhere you look, and many of them are just beautiful!. We are getting as many as we possibly can- under the circumstances, adopted and transported to good, safe homes. We have applications coming in all the time, but the reality is that there is no way we’ll be able to save all these horses. That’s the most heartbreaking part of this mission. 100% success is not at all likely- but let’s keep getting as many into good homes until the very last minute- which is November 30 at 11:59 PM.

A lot of great people are stepping up to help. Some are offering to adopt, some are helping network the adoption page all over social media, some are helping us find and keep track of who mentioned in a post somewhere that they’re interested in adopting, some are helping do general housekeeping on the page, one true angel is helping locate, review, and approve adoption applications on site at ISPMB- as well as nursing an abandoned foal, and still others are arriving to help sort, load, and transport. Organizations, rescues, alliances, and individuals are all helping however they can. Still, it’s just a fact that we have only a tiny window of opportunity to have their lives saved before they will be driven- terrified, into a sale ring for ‘those who shall not be named’ to buy them and haul them across the border for a nice fat profit- just in time for Christmas.

We appreciate EVERYONE who is helping SO much! If YOU can ADOPT, DONATE to an adoptive rescue, CONTRIBUTE to a fund for portable panels to make sorting and loading faster and smoother, or ANYTHING else, please let me know! The ISPMB horses need you right NOW!

ISPMB Emergency Adoption page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ISPMB.Adoptable.Horses/

Adoption Project Management: www.FleetOfAngels.org
(Not affiliated with ISPMB)

Photo by Barbara Joe Rasmussen
Poster by Wendy Thomson

Decimation of the Donkeys: How 4 MILLION Animals are Slaughtered every Year to make Chinese ‘Miracle’ Youth Serum

By George Knowles In Dong’e, China and Ian Gallagher In London For The Mail On Sunday

“My deepest apologies for sharing this disturbing article just out of the gate at the beginning of the week but it is real, it is happening and it is cruel beyond all possible comprehension.  So if the bloody truth of human depravity turns your stomach and darkens your soul then I highly recommend that you do not proceed and instead, hit delete on this tab in your browser and please take away my apology.

But for the rest of us, be prepared to expose yourself to the reality of the cruelty being rained down upon one of the quietest, calmest and least assuming of all equines, the modest donkey.  In a third world country, you are considered to be wealthy to have a donkey live on your little farm as the lowly donkey is a car, pickup, dump-truck and tractor all rolled into one.  The thought of murdering the little beast of burden, not for food but for a cosmetic, is unimaginable.  But it is happening and the article below gives you the who, why, where and what is going on.  Please read on with caution and be advised that the bulk of the gruesome photos being published on the internet are not present here on SFTHH, the link at the bottom of the article will take you to that little part of hell.” ~ R.T.

  • Young donkeys are bred and slaughtered for factories in China
  • Ejiao is a supposedly youth-preserving gelatin found in their skin
  • Four million donkeys are killed each year to meet demand for the serum 
  • There is no medical evidence to support the belief in its effectiveness.

Destined for SlaughterStretching far into the distance, thousands of young donkeys contentedly graze on a farm in northern China. 

They are days away from slaughter – having been bred solely for ejiao, a supposedly youth-preserving gelatin found in their skin.

Every week, thousands more donkey hides arrive here in Dong’e, northern China – epicentre of an appalling multi-billion-pound industry built on vanity and superstition – from all over the world.

The boss of one factory boasted that he sold £140 million of ejiao products last year.

‘Our only concern is that one day soon there won’t be any more donkeys left to kill,’ he said. Tragically, he wasn’t exaggerating. For centuries seen as symbols of peace and humility, donkeys are being massacred across the world with industrial callousness.

A Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal:

  • Four million donkeys are killed each year to meet demand for ejiao;
  • China’s newly monied middle classes believe claims that it makes ‘men virile and women beautiful’;
  • The trade is having a devastating impact in Africa where donkeys are vital to livelihoods;
  • The head of a British charity warned of imminent factory farming of donkeys on a massive scale;
  • Chinese scientists are developing super-breeds of donkeys that grow bigger faster.

Ten thousand men and women are employed at the factories in Dong’e, where skins are boiled and liquefied to make health snacks, powders and face creams that Chinese people believe are the key to long life and lasting beauty. There is no medical evidence to support this belief.

A Mail on Sunday investigation found the industry, enthusiastically promoted by its government, has halved China’s donkey population. But as the numbers dwindle, so the trade now threatens donkeys across every continent.

Donkeys no older than three are being culled in their millions in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East and their hides exported to feed China’s insatiable appetite for ejiao.

Mike Baker chief executive of the Devon-based Donkey Sanctuary, which is closely monitoring the situation, said: ‘Suddenly we’re seeing an incredible demand. In Africa alone, the numbers could run into millions.

‘As an example, Burkina Faso, which has banned the trade, 65,000 a year are still being killed illegally.’

The value of a donkey has rocketed from £50 a decade ago to £250 today as Chinese customers pay up to £200 a month for ejiao.

As well as preserving youth, it is said to improve circulation and sex drive and makes workers indefatigable.

In sickening scenes in Dong’e, where more than 100 factories produce ejiao, we saw hundreds of donkey skins from South Africa being unloaded from a lorry by forklift truck and a donkey casually butchered on a street corner as locals ambled by.

China’s biggest ejiao factory – Shandong Dong’e Ejiao (DEEJ), which processes a million donkey hides a year, is negotiating to breed and kill donkeys in Australia and has set up a farm on the outskirts of Dong’e with 10,000 animals to breed, kill and skin.

The craze is driven by a potent mix of snobbery, superstition and state propaganda. A traditional medicine for nearly 2,000 years, ejiao was once made exclusively for Imperial China’s royal families and, later, Chairman Mao and the Communist elite.

Today, China’s burgeoning middle classes are clamouring for ejiao, which is officially promoted under President Xi Jinping’s nationalistic policy to develop the country’s traditional medicine market. Ejiao sales went into overdrive in China following a national TV advertising campaign promoting it in 2010.

The mythology surrounding the elixir dictates that the donkey skins can only be boiled during the winter months, with ejiao made during the three-day Chinese Winter Solstice the most valued with a 250g (8.8oz) slab made then fetching £2,560.

A saleswoman told us: ‘When a man takes ejiao, he will be strong and virile and have a long life. When a woman takes ejiao, she will keep her youth and become as beautiful as a princess.’

A MoS reporter joined a group of ejiao sellers on a visit to the factory from cities around China. They were told by a company official showing them the workshops: ‘If you sell ejiao to farmers in the countryside, they can work all day without getting tired.

‘We give two boxes a month to each of our workers and it makes them work faster all day long.’

At the company’s donkey farm on the outskirts of Dong’e, different species of young donkeys are kept in rows of pens. They rush to the sides of the pens to be stroked and nuzzled when anyone walks by. Here, workers told us, animal scientists are experimenting to create a new breed of donkey that grows bigger and faster to provide skins at a young age.

‘This is first of his kind,’ one worker said, showing us a sturdy, thickset black donkey he said was only a year old. Across the road from the DEEJ factory, the company president, Zhang Tengzhi, 42, invited us into his office, where he proudly handed out individually packaged square-shaped cereal bars containing ejiao mixed with dates and nuts.

‘If you take one of these every day, you will never get a cold,’ he said. ‘We give it to our workers every day and they are always full of energy and never get ill.’

Mr Zhang’s factory – which currently processes 3,000 tons of hides a year – is doubling its size and capacity to try to keep up with demand but he admitted it was struggling to source enough donkeys. ‘There are very few donkeys left in China now so we are now getting our hides from all over the world,’ he said. ‘People in China today are getting richer and living longer and they need more traditional tonics to prolong life and health.’

Tanzania is one country recently targeted by China. Only last week, 24 carcasses were found in a remote bush forest. They had been injected with poison before they were skinned. All the animals were owned by Maasai subsistence farmers who depend on them to survive.

‘We believe criminals killed these animals by injecting them with a drug,’ said Johnson Lyimo, director of the Meru Animal Welfare Organisation in Arusha, Tanzania.

‘It is very difficult to catch those responsible because they operate in such rural areas. To find these donkeys, my team and I had to drive 30 miles out into the bush and then walk another five miles to the forest where the slaughter was done.

‘We know they are injecting them, because there is no sign of fatal wounds. They have cut only near the hooves for skinning.

‘But we don’t know the chemical they are injecting. All we can say is it must be very dangerous because no hyena, no kind of bird – not even an insect – is feeding on the meat they left behind. The skins will have been exported to China.’

He said that despite their price increasing drastically, Maasai people did not sell them to the slaughter gangs. ‘The communities know the importance of donkeys to their families,’ he said. ‘They are everything – especially for their women. They provide the women’s transport.

‘Families will now have to walk many miles to market and their children will not manage to get to school because they will need to walk to fetch water to help their parents.’

He said MAWO had received funds from the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon to build ten community shelters where the Maasai could keep animals safe at night. ‘This is a very big challenge for the local people. They cannot afford to buy replacement donkeys because the Chinese trade has pushed the price so high.’

Countries across Africa have seen an exponential increase in the export of donkey hides. In Egypt, the price of donkeys has risen from £17 to £170, according to research by the Donkey Sanctuary. And in South Africa, the scale of the problem has emerged only in recent months. Nadia Saunderson, outreach officer for the Highveld Horse Care Unit near Johannesburg, said demand for ejiao in China had triggered ‘a huge explosion in illegal slaughter’.

‘In one recent incident in the Free State, we were tipped off by a registered abattoir,’ she said. ‘Our inspectors went to a location out in the bush and rescued 56 emaciated donkeys. They were in the process being cruelly slaughtered. Those responsible are unquestionably serving the Chinese medicine business. They are interested only in the skins.’

Ms Saunderson compared the trade to the poaching of rhino horns and abalone – a protected sea snail once prolific in South African waters. ‘We believe donkey skins may even be smuggled out of the country in the same consignments as abalone,’ she said. ‘It is a massive business. The slaughter of donkeys is having the same effect on their population in rural African communities as the poaching of rhino horn on rhinos.’

BARF ALERT: This is Ugly!

Feel Good Sunday: Veterans Retake the Reins with Therapy Horses

as published on The Blade

In 2007, Amanda Thompson saved Elise, a saddlebred quarter horse.

In 2016, Elise saved Matthew Nicolai. And Sam Hudson. And almost a dozen other U.S. military veterans seeking respite from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of their military service.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt

“[Elise] has a special gift for people struggling with their self-worth,” said Ms. Thompson, who rescued the now-12-year-old horse after Elise tore a ligament while jumping a fence and was going to be put down. “A lot of times when the vets have low self-esteem, she has a special way of planting her feet and saying, ‘Until you get right with yourself, I will not cooperate with you.’ She will really have a stand-down with you.”

Elise is one of 11 horses hand-picked by Ms. Thompson, a U.S. Air Force veteran and founder of H.O.O.V.E.S., or Healing Of Our Veterans Equine Service, a program in which Ms. Thompson’s horses work to break down barriers in one-on-one and group sessions with veterans at monthly workshops. Each horse has a special personality and therefore a special place in her program.

Shelby, a 12-year-old mustang, exudes a calm demeanor that seems to empathize with the emotion of apathy or depression in vets. Killian, a 14-year-old Clydesdale, would curl up in your lap if she could, breaking down the toughest of tough demeanors. And Tulip and Molly, both massive Percheron draft horses — one black and one white — react to the light and darkness in a veteran’s life.

“They are herd animals … and they have the innate ability to read our body language and mirror it. They all have different personalities that help veterans with different problems,” Ms. Thompson said of her horses. “The ones I have kept, I see something in them. They are not just horses, they are my staff, they are my co-facilitators, and they are doing some great work.”

Horses were a safe haven for Ms. Thompson, who was raised with them from a young age in Whitehouse.

It was about six years ago, after serving four years of active duty with the Air National Guard and struggling with PTSD, depression, and other effects of her active-duty service that she formed Riverbend Equine Therapy and H.O.O.V.E.S. with her father, Ron Coale, on their Grand Rapids farm.

Already someone who had trained with horses most of her life, Ms. Thompson found that traditional therapy wasn’t working. But by working with horses, she said she healed herself. She returned to Ohio and obtained training certification through the EAGALA Equine Assisted Psychotherapy certification program.

When her father died two days after Christmas in 2013, Ms. Thompson found herself with struggling to keep the farm going. She sold it in 2014 and moved the horses to a barn in Delta that was offered to her.

Determined to keep the program afloat without forcing veterans to pay for the services, she started fund-raising campaigns and used every penny she had to keep it going. In November 2015, she started day-long workshops where up to a dozen veterans can come and spend the day in sessions with her horses at barns in Swanton and Oregon.

“I can’t put it any other way than it was just magic,” said Mr. Nicolai, 32, of his first experience at H.O.O.V.E.S. “One of the horses came up to me… and she happened to just lay down on the ground. So I sat down with her and she put her head in my lap and let me stroke her like a dog.

“The moment that connection happened with that horse, it brought a wall down. I thought, ‘Whoa, what is this? I feel something again.’ I felt alive for the first time in several years.”

Ms. Thompson’s program is sometimes first met with skepticism, then oftentimes, success. One unwilling vet, dragged into the H.O.O.V.E.S. program by others, experienced major breakthroughs after working with the horses for a day. His wife thanked Ms. Thompson for bringing her husband back to her, a man who had been mentally and emotionally absent for 10 years after serving in Desert Storm.

A veteran who hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in three years went through a H.O.O.V.E.S. session with Molly and Tulip. Afterward, he slept through the night.

Some vets have felt the need to only work with the horses once; others return for more interaction with the horses, Ms. Thompson said.

Sam Hudson, 33, a U.S. Navy vet, shared all of the skepticism, fear, and other emotions some vets had before they tried the program. It took him three weeks to call about H.O.O.V.E.S. after his mother gave him a brochure.

“Last November when I went, I could not have been more terrified. I lived with a constant fear. But that day, I made a breakthrough,” Mr. Hudson said. “I went home and tried to figure out how in eight hours I accomplished more than I had in eight years with traditional therapy.”

Mr. Nicolai is a U.S. Army infantry specialist who was injured during active duty in Afghanistan. Since his medical discharge in 2011, he described his experience with traditional programming through Veteran’s Affairs as “three years of doctors, paperwork, endless therapy, PTSD treatments, and endless medication — bottles and bottles of medication, they were tossing it at me like it was candy.”

So when his wife Heather found H.O.O.V.E.S. on a social media page and suggested he try it, he shared the other vets’ trepidation.

“The infantry teaches you to be effective at some very, very dark things that people don’t like to talk about. My job was to be a leader and train young men for combat. Be effective,” he said.

“When my wife showed me the H.O.O.V.E.S., I was like it’s just another ploy to get veterans to come in and talk about their problems. It’s just another therapy session and I don’t want anything to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong about something affecting me so much, so quickly.”

Mr. Nicolai said the vulnerability with the horses he felt was strong, and the transformation almost immediate. He went home and began to connect on a deeper level with his wife, his kids, and his community. He returned to the gym and lost weight. He got involved with his church. He volunteered with H.O.O.V.E.S., a program he said “gave me purpose again.”

According to the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy, horses were first used in ancient Greece in the 17th Century to treat those with neurological disorders, low morale and gout. The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that there are more than 600 equine-assisted psychotherapy and learning programs worldwide, and while the therapy for those with physical and developmental disabilities has been around for decades, equine services for military veterans is a relatively new concept.

According to 2010 research done on equine-assisted psychotherapy for combat veterans by Nancy Masters, veterans with PTSD and horses share the same heightened fight-or-flight instinct.

“Being prey animals, horses experience this state most all of their existence and depend on it for survival, but as they are herd animals, they must also manage to learn effective communication and develop the means to cohabitate in their community or they will be isolated from the group, which leaves them highly vulnerable to a variety of threats,” Ms. Masters wrote.

The VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, which serves most of Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio, practices evidence-based, traditional therapy practices, but supports and refers any outside programs that are beneficial to vets, said spokesman Brian Hayes.

“Anytime we can do something to improve the function of any of our veterans emotionally, we know from studies that that improves their physical health as well,” Mr. Hayes said.

The next H.O.O.V.E.S. workshop takes place Nov. 20. For more information, visit hooves.us.

Contact Roberta Gedert at: rgedert@theblade.com or 419-724-6075 or on Twitter @RoGedert.

BLM Proposing Fence, Water Projects for Wild Horses in Colorado

The Horse

Piceance East Douglas HMA

Piceance East Douglas HMA

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public comment on two projects the agency believes would benefit wild horses in the Piceance-East Douglas herd management area (HMA) in Rio Blanco County, Colorado.

The BLM plans to reconstruct nearly a mile of four-strand barbed-wire fencing near Duck Creek as part of a larger effort to ensure the 137-mile perimeter of the HMA is adequately fenced to reduce conflicts resulting from wild horses leaving the HMA.

Additionally, the agency said redeveloping Corcoran Spring could help ensure the spring provides a reliable source of water in both wet and dry years as well as help protect the spring source.

The preliminary environmental assessment of these two projects is now available for public review at bit.ly/2eQ7chG or at the White River Field Office, located at 220 East Market Street in Meeker, Colorado.

Comments can be submitted to blm_co_wild_horse_management@blm.gov and will be most helpful if received by Dec. 15, the BLM said.

For more information, contact range technician Melissa Kindall at 970/878-3842.

Troubled Wild Horse & Burro Sanctuary Must Handle its own Adoptions, Sheriff Says

as published in The Rapid City Journal

“…Sussman has been emailing supporters and asking them to donate toward a $150,000 fundraising campaign to help return horses to the society’s ranch, which is only 665 acres and is badly overgrazed…”

too-weak-to-standThe sheriff managing a wild-horse sanctuary’s impounded animals in north-central South Dakota said Thursday that horse adoptions must be handled by the embattled sanctuary president, who has apparently received a deadline extension as she tries to get some horses back.

Dewey County Sheriff Les Mayer has been overseeing the care and feeding of 810 horses at the ranch of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros near Lantry. The horses were impounded at the ranch after a judge’s order on Oct. 7, following a state veterinarian’s finding that the horses were being neglected and allegations by a former ranch employee that some horses were starving to death.

The impounding order included a set of conditions under which the society’s president, Karen Sussman, could seek the return of the horses. She reportedly met an Oct. 21 deadline to draft and deliver a comprehensive ranch management plan, in which she reportedly sought the return of 400 horses to her control, according to Sheriff Mayer.

The state’s attorneys of Dewey and Ziebach counties, who are handling legal aspects of the impounding, have failed to return calls and emails from the Journal for the past several weeks. The two counties share a border that is straddled by the society’s ranch.

The impounding order set another deadline of today for Sussman to produce evidence that she has enough funding or feed for the next 18 months. Mayer said that deadline has apparently been extended to Dec. 1 following a meeting this week involving Sussman, the state’s attorneys and a state veterinarian.

Mayer also said the county governments will not lead or participate in the adoption of horses. He previously said he was compiling a list of potential adopters to consult after today’s deadline, when the counties would take over the adoption process. On Thursday, he said that action was the result of his misunderstanding of the terms of the impounding order.

All adoptions will instead go through Sussman, Mayer said, and inquires should be directed to her. He provided her email address, ispmb@lakotanetwork.com.

The local prosecutors and the state Animal Industry Board will meanwhile consider the adequacy of Sussman’s management plan. They will use their judgment of the plan, paired with the extent to which Sussman meets the Dec. 1 deadline to produce 18 months of feed or funding, to determine how many horses to put back in Sussman’s care.

Any horses not returned to Sussman following the Dec. 1 deadline will be put up for public auction, probably to buyers for foreign slaughter plants, with the proceeds directed to the counties to pay their impounding costs. Those costs so far total about $80,000, Mayer said, mostly from hay purchases.

A community of wild-horse enthusiasts around the country has been encouraging adoptions of the horses, largely through the use of social media. Mayer said Sussman has allowed about 55 horses to be adopted so far. Some in the online community have also called for criminal animal neglect charges against Sussman.

Meanwhile, Sussman has been emailing supporters and asking them to donate toward a $150,000 fundraising campaign to help return horses to the society’s ranch, which is only 665 acres and is badly overgrazed.