- I’m usually sceptical about “horses stolen for meat” stories (unless they come from Florida), but this one rings true. A Romanian has been arrested in connection with the theft of several draft horses in eastern France, allegedly for the slaughter trade. Some of the horses were already being raised for meat. (The Horse)
- The English police horse who was punched by a drunk football fan has received boxes of polo mints from fans of the opposing team. (Daily Mail)
- A British university claims that the Carneddau ponies that died of starvation and exposure in Wales earlier this year are part of a genetically distinct breed that shares a common, but centuries-removed ancestor with Welsh Mountain ponies. (BBC)
- Ipswich Transport Museum is restoring a horsedrawn tram. The lightweight draft horses that drew these vehicles were dubbed “trammers” and in the nineteenth century typically only lasted a year between the shafts because of the effort of drawing the tram through often clogged tracks. (BBC)
- “Thank God for the horses. Thank God for the bloody horses,” – a trooper at the 1917 Battle of Beersheba. (ABC)
- Wild horse and burro sanctuaries in California, and how to visit them. (SFGate blogs)
- Awards for teenage boys who saved a trapped Shetland pony from drowning. (HorseTalk)
- I can’t keep up. Now the NYT is saying there will be federal approval for a horse slaughter house in New Mexico.. (NYT)
- A horse had to be euthanised in Belfast after hitting a car. The case raises ongoing concerns about horses that are kept untethered (or tethered, come to that) on housing estates in the city. (Belfast Telegraph)
- Interesting, given the cheap meat scandal: the value of horse meat exported from the UK has more than doubled in five years. (This Is Wiltshire)
- Horse racing begins again in Libya. (Al Arabiya)
- Seventh century horse armour/tack unearthed in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun)
I was away! Things happened! But first – a round up of curious happenings in the horse world!
- Looks like I got rid of the virtual racing stable I ran in the early 1990s far too early. An unraced imaginary horse from the Digiturf game has just been sold for $5,225. Yes, not only is it nonexistent, it’s also unproven. $5,225. You could get a real racehorse for a lot less. ESPN reports.
- The Guardian’s dance critic was dispatched to review para-dressage: “With their tightly plaited manes and long ballerina necks, they perform tightly controlled pirouettes and piaffes with impressive finesse; they float across the arena with a silken stride that is like a horsey grand jeté.”
- An Australian study suggests that Monty Roberts’ methods should be re-assessed. (Horse Talk). UPDATE: Monty responds with a link to an earlier peer-reviewed study of his methods from Anthrozoology.
- A riding school in Kenya thrives, thanks to its enterprising owner. (BBC).
- Yahoo has a mighty fine photo gallery of an Icelandic horse round up. Iceland: a nation where horse shoes are sold at garages. MSNBC has sulky racing on the north German coast.
- The Bloggess brings us the worst example of equine taxidermy I’ve yet seen – and I love bad taxidermy. It’s meant to be a falabella.
- Kazakhstan is shipping its own horse-meat sausages to London for its Olympic Team. (The Atlantic)
- As a US Senate hearing calls for stricter rules concerning drug use in horse racing, the New York Times gets hold of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another’s vet sheet. The colt had been battling tendon problems and osteoarthritis for some time before he even began his Triple Crown bid. That’s an unsound horse, racing on dirt at the highest level. Since the NYT’s report, other racing figures have come forward to say this is no big deal and in fact, common and legitimate. (New York Times).
- Meanwhile, here’s a less depressing NYT blog post on using dressage to train both competing and retired racehorses. (NYT)
- Riding school ponies stolen in area of Florida notorious for blackmarket horse-meat slaughters. (CBS Local).
- And so that we don’t end on a bum note, here’s North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s girlfriend, Hyon Song-Wol, singing her smash hit “Excellent Horse-like Lady” or “A Girl In The Saddle Of A Steed”. Enjoy.
A couple of weeks ago a friend emailed about a developing horse welfare situation in the US – one that’s not uncommon these days:
“I am re-posting this for somebody…’FREE horses!!! 52 thoroughbred horses need homes. Will go to Sugarcreek this Sat. for slaughter. Gentleman died and his son wants nothing to do with them. FREE and papered. Friend of the deceased is trying to find homes 1-440-463-4288 Barnesville, OH. Please help — call if you can save one of these amazing animals, or re-post this to get the word out to others.'”
I referred him to equine welfare blogger Fugly Horse of the Day, as I thought she would be the best person to broadcast it and get the horses rehomed. I should have done a little more research. There really were 52 horses, and they really did need to be rehomed, but this all happened in February.
Earlier this week, someone started a thread on Horse and Hound Online about 52 thoroughbreds that needed a home. This time, there was a new phone number attached:
“URGENT – 52 Thoroughbred horses need homes. Will go to slaughter this sat. Gentleman died & his son wants nothing to do with the horses. Most broodmares, broken in & some in foaling/weaning, 2-3 yrs old, most geldings- free- Contact Chett Wallace 0842 748538 . Please re-post -this message has come from a friend of mine in Cheshire – Sue Westwood-Ruttledge”
Nice and emotive, eh? Another HHO poster replied saying it was a scam, and adding a link to a 4th February 2011 piece on the case by Fugly Horse of the Day. There really was a gentleman who died – a vet named Dr Stearns – and there really were 52 thoroughbreds in Ohio who were about to be sold. After that, it all gets a bit woogly. The horses’ alleged plight was publicised on the net first by Lynn Boggs and then by people who hinted strongly that the horses would end up in the food chain if they were rehomed. As FHOTD points out, there were some gaps and inconsistencies in this story – it had happened over an extremely brief timeline, for a start, as Dr Stearns died on the 27th January and yet all the horses were rehomed by the 4th of February. The Horse ran an item on the phenomenon of social networks and horse rescue:
“After Stearns’ son dismantled his father’s breeding and racing farm, he gave Boggs and her boyfriend, Jerry Noss, a week to find homes for the 52 horses. He planned to send any unadopted animals to auction. … Although Boggs avoided mentioning ‘slaughter’ in her original posting, subsequent posts by other concerned parties mentioned this as a possibility, should the horses not find new homes. ‘I didn’t want to say slaughter; I hate that word,’ she said, noting she didn’t believe they would have that end. She thinks the post gained even more momentum when the word ‘slaughter’ entered the description.”
One concerned member of the public talked to staff at Dr Stearns’ old practice, who said that:
“They [the horses] ALL went to other owners/trainers and members of the racing community. These were very well bred, healthy horses. All have good homes. They were never, ever at any risk of slaughter. The son has worked tirelessly with the community to get the horses into safe homes.”
So, as FHOTD put it, who is lying? She asked for commenters to come forward and say if they knew of any of the rehomed horses, and several piped up with the intelligence that Dr Stearns’ thoroughbreds were now installed at good establishments. Lynn Boggs popped up too, and you can follow the fun here if you’re curious and have a big bag of popcorn to hand.
So why, seven months on, did this story get a revival and Dr Stearns die all over again and the 52 thoroughbred pack their hobo bags? The “urgent appeal” has popped up several times in my Twitter feed in the last week. The clue is in the new wording – specifically that new phone number:
That’ll be a phone call at 4p or 5p a minute in the UK. Scamholio. Thanks to HHO commenters for pointing this out.
A San Bernardino County woman was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $273,000 in restitution for defrauding people who sought to buy horses from her.
Trina Lee Kenney, 32, of Wrightwood, painted horses to make them a different color and drugged the animals to make them appear more docile, prosecutors said.