Department of Zero Surprises and Some Hope

Illustration from Nutztierhaltung & Tiermedizin & Pferd by Georg Simon Winter, 1678 via Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration from Nutztierhaltung & Tiermedizin & Pferd by Georg Simon Winter, 1678 via Wikimedia Commons.

Tons of low-grade Canadian horse meat were purchased and passed off as halal beef by the Dutch businessman who is now in custody as French authorities investigate the scandal in which horse meat from Romania wound up labelled as ground beef.

(The Globe and Mail – and for my background piece on the scandal, Spiegel Online.)

Yesterday the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) announced bold steps designed to improve endurance horse welfare, proposing unprecedented athlete penalties for equine injuries, extended rest periods, and increased accountability.

(TheHorse.com)

 

 

Whole Heap of Little Horse Links: the Pony Adventure Edition

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  • A sanctuary in Devon provide an orphaned foal with teddy bears for company. Video ensues. (ZapIt)
  • A pony in Canada is attacked by a bear while minding its own business. (Kamloops)
  • A cob called Buddy goes for a swim in Kent, and requires the help fo the fire brigade. (Kent Online) A pony in Essex also took a dip with the same results. (Epping Forest Guardian)
  • Two-headed pony discovered in Wales. Sort of. (Daily Mail)
  • A man in Rhode Island took a shetland pony called Willy Wonka into his local Liquor store. Something entirely predictable ensued. (ABC News – thank you Ed Ward)
  • A psychic helped rescue an adventurous Norwegian Fjord who wound up in a ravine in Seattle. (Seattle Times – thank you to Christina Wilsdon)
  • Edinburgh decides it’s really rather nice to have pony rides in the centre of town. (The Edinburgh Reporter)
  • Mumbai teenagers rescue a tiny, sick pony they found grazing on a garbage dump. (dnaindia.com)

Whole Heap of Little Horse Links

Prague carriage horses

  • Questions are raised over the treatment of horses on film and TV show sets. Are trainers’ welfare concerns being overruled? (LA Times)
  • A “horse palace” in Montreal seeks donors for a makeover. (Montreal Gazette)
  • A woman “gives birth to a pony” during a church service in Nigeria. (PM News)
  • Lady Gaga arrived at the launch of her new signature fragrance in a horse-drawn carriage shaped like the perfume flask. (Ace ShowBiz)
  • Don’t touch the horse! An arrest for drunkenness and touching a police horse. (Tampa Bay Times) Elsewhere, in Philly, a police horse is punched. (Policeone.com)
  • Claims of assault fly in the fight to save wild horses in Reno. (Examiner.com)
  • A smalltown official who defrauded millions sees her illgotten gains – pedigree quarter horses – sold for over a million dollars at internet auction. (Chicago Tribune)
  • A little girl’s dream comes true when she comes home from school to find her very own pony waiting for her. (This is Gloucestershire)
  • The first Exmoor Pony Festival works like a charm (This is the West Country)
  • Muslims in Gaza have to break Islamic “best practice” and eat horsemeat. (NYT)
  • The number of horse rescues in the US has nearly doubled in five years. Major welfare groups suggest accreditation for newcomers (Ventura County Star)

The Princess of the Eighth Hussars

Please excuse lack of posts lately – I’ve been ill and very busy trying to wrestle my ambitions for book two into a viable proposal. I caught this lovely World-War-Two tale of a Canadian equine mascot called Princess Louise via The Brooke’s Facebook feed. Another war horse for Remembrance Sunday! Enjoy (via the Telegraph Journal):

“At the time, we were soldiers doing a difficult job and mostly thankful that we were still alive,” Frank Gaunce, 99, says as he sits beside his hospital bed in Sussex, where he is recovering from a broken hip. A member of the 8th Hussars Regiment, he was on the battlefield on the sweltering night of Sept. 16, 1944, when Princess Louise was discovered, months old and crying with a belly wound and walking circles around her dead mother. “Having that horse around helped raise our morale.”

A battle unit based in Sussex with ties to Canada’s oldest cavalry regiment, the Hussars retrieved Princess Louise from the front lines with artillery above their heads. They then took her to a company medic, who treated her wounds, and after that they took turns changing her bandages to prevent infection.

As the war ground on, they concealed her in a truck in which they had built her a stall and took her everywhere they went, through Italy, France and Holland.

When they war ended, they placed her in a pasture in Holland and, against orders, arranged for her to be shipped to New York aboard a Dutch liner.

A few months later after crossing the ocean, Princess Louise was met by one of the Hussars in New York, and then placed aboard a train and taken to Saint John, where she arrived on March 27, 1946 and was greeted by a military honour guard, the city’s mayor and thunderous cheers.

Neglect and the Manhattan Carriage Horse

This week a horse that pulled tourist carriages in New York dropped dead in the middle of Manhattan, provoking cries of cruelty and mistreatment. I’m aware that there’s a long-standing campaign to end the practice of using these horses in the city, and that the only other equines in central New York, at the Claremont Academy, have now gone. I’m aware that some of the carriage drivers may not have great records, that a nine-hour shift is very long and that the worst days of summer in that sweltering city are not good conditions for horses. However, it’s autumn now, not August, and humane societies are satisfied with the welfare measures that are in place for the horses, as Mayor Bloomberg pointed out in this NYT piece:

“The horses here are supervised by the health department, the A.S.P.C.A.,” he said. “They’re well taken care of. And most of them wouldn’t be alive if they didn’t have a job.”

And this, I think, is the nub of it. The grey who died had only been working a month, and frankly from the photos I’ve seen, he did not look neglected. He looked like he was in great shape. Horses are mortal and, like humans, they do die of heart attacks without being overworked – in fact, they’re far more likely than humans to have such an episode. As this Horse and Hound article shows, a horse doesn’t have to be “worked to death” to have a cardiac crisis:

In a recent study funded by the International League for the Protection of Horses 25% of sudden death fatalities were pleasure horses, and exercise doesn’t even have to be that strenuous or fast. Healthy horses are on average 50 times more likely to die during exercise than healthy people, but the causes of death are very different. The human casualties who collapse during marathons are much more likely to have succumbed because of an inherited disorder of the heart muscle or of the electrical activity in the heart. These conditions do not exist in horses to our knowledge. When the sudden death of an apparently healthy horse occurs during exercise, almost half are due to massive fatal haemorrhage (bleeding) from arteries or veins of either the chest or abdomen.  The remaining, largest and most perplexing group of sudden death fatalities has no distinct abnormalities to explain the demise at post-mortem, except non-specific signs of sudden cardiac failure. Unfortunately, the underlying reason for a large blood vessel in the abdomen or chest breaking and causing major bleeding in a horse is usually not clear.

Bloomberg may sound callous when he says that the horse would be dead if it had no job, but he’s also correct. The US horse population is in crisis. Even before the recession a surge in hay prices led to a rise in welfare cases, and this problem  has only worsened – as I noted in an earlier post, there are an estimated 100,000 unwanted horses in the States, and only 13,400 places in sanctuaries and recues. If you want to see what neglect and cruelty look like, here are some current cases in the US, drawn from a quick Google News search of the last week or so:

And that’s without counting the 140,000 horses per year making long, cruel journeys to slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

EDITED TO ADD: Aaaaand the necropsy results. Charlie had only been on the job a few weeks after a working life with an Amish farmer, and by the looks of it, a more thorough vetting should have been done.  He had a tooth problem and stomach ulcers. Would a five-stage vetting have picked up the ulcers? The teeth should have been one of the first things to be checked. Whether either of these resulted in a heart attack, I have no idea, but if something like a cracked tooth wasn’t assessed before he started work in the city, then there needs to be stricter monitoring of the horses chosen for work.

EDITED TO ADD: the vet who spoke on behalf of the ASPCA on the necropsy has retracted her allegations of neglect. The ASPCA promptly suspended her. From the NYT:

… a few days later, the society’s head equine veterinarian took it upon herself to issue a “correction” stating that in fact there was no evidence that the horse, Charlie, was experiencing any pain, that the ulcers he had were common in all breeds of working horses, and that any implication that Charlie was being abused was misleading.Now the vet, Pamela Corey, has been suspended without pay by the society in the latest volley over the contentious subject of carriage-horse welfare in New York City.

The society declined to discuss why Dr. Corey had been suspended but said it had gone back and forth with her over drafts of its original news release about Charlie’s death. “We believe there are no factual differences between our original statement of 10/31/11 and the one Dr. Corey asked to issue,” said Elizabeth Estroff, senior vice president of communications for the A.S.P.C.A.

Here’s a link to an open letter concerning the pressure Dr Corey felt she was under to spin the necropsy results – which, along with Charlie’s body, have not been released by the ASPCA.

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December 4th, 2011, update. A new piece in the New York Post:

An NYPD cop-turned-animal-welfare agent is stepping forward to charge that the ASPCA is cutting ethical and legal corners in its attempt to abolish the city’s horse-carriage industry.

“It’s like targeting. It’s like racial profiling,” Henry Ruiz said of the agency’s efforts to uncover wrongdoing in the century-old industry.

Ruiz said the ASPCA commissioned an independent study about four years ago that determined the horses were well cared for. He said the study was never released because it clashed with the ASPCA’s agenda. The agency claimed no such study exists.

In his nine years with the ASPCA, Ruiz said he never witnessed cruelty involving a carriage horse.

But he said that didn’t stop the agency from routinely dispatching agents to patrol the horse line outside Central Park, especially around the Christmas holidays.

“You were supposed to give out at least 10 [summonses] that night,” he recalled.

Necropsy report for the horse here.

Sweet Corn

This really rather cute internet game was devised by a little girl called Cassie and her dad, who provide the game for free but accept any donations that players would like to make towards Cassie’s college fund. Remember, ponycorns are the best thing in the world cuz they’re like ponies AND unicorns!