Saturday, March 20, 2010

Three Thoroughbreds Snatched from the Jaws of Slaughter at Maine's Hemphill Farm

Brenda Hemphill isn't saying how two thoroughbred fillies from Florida ended up at her notorious farm in Maine. But what we do know is that horses who are unlucky enough to land there often end up on a one-way truck to a Canadian slaughterhouse. And if it were not for emergency intervention by Pure Thoughts Rescue's Florida Thoroughbred Rehab & Placement, these young horses would have met the same fate.

On March 16th, Pure Thoughts founders Brad Gaver and Jennifer Swanson were tipped off that the former Florida horses were in harm's way at the Hemphill farm. They became alarmed after having read a recent Boston Globe article in which Brenda Hemphill admitted that she makes her money by marketing horses for meat.

But when they called her, Hemphill tried to pass off the fillies as "camp horses" who had been living in Maine for some time. It was the first of many lies the Rescue would be told. "Knowing that one of the thoroughbreds had just turned three, had raced last summer, and that the horses arrived in the last 10 days, the story did not add up," said Gaver.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Hampshire's EPONA Equine Rescue Closes But Its Special Needs Horses Still Need Homes

For 10 years, Equine Protection of North America (EPONA) has saved homeless, abused, and neglected horses, and placed them in loving homes. But on Tuesday, March 16th, the Epping, New Hampshire-based nonprofit rescue announced that it was permanently closing its doors, leaving the fates of three remaining "special needs" horses still up in the air. They must find new placements by month's end.

EPONA President Catherine Blake explained that, "in this economy, we are just not able to make ends meet. It's heartbreaking."

On behalf of EPONA, Ms. Blake is reaching out to anyone who may be able to provide temporary or permanent care for:

Iceman, a 17-year-old thoroughbred gelding (pictured above), who is a grandson of the great Northern Dancer. In his earlier days, Iceman was quite an athlete himself, having had a successful career as a high-ranking jumper and three-day eventer. But by the time he got to EPONA, he had been the victim of long-term neglect. He was diagnosed with Uveitis, or "Moon Blindness," and had lost the vision in one of his eyes. The damage caused by the inflammation in the grand gelding's eyes made it necessary to remove them. Though completely blind, Iceman has led a happy life romping in the paddock with his seeing-eye companions, including Prize (below).

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"Herd Wisdom" is the Intangible Casualty as More Calico Wild Horse Elders Are Eliminated

With the euthanasia of two more elders from the wild horse bands that formerly inhabited Nevada's Calico Mountain Complex, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to conclude that the BLM has a calculated plan to break down the hierarchy of familial groups by eliminating their most senior members.

Within the last 48 hours, a 20-year-old "poor conditioned" mare was euthanized because of purported hyperlipemia and metabolic failure, the diagnosis du jour for most of the horses who have been put down. We don't know if she was in foal, or whether she had a foal by her side. We never do.

And just today, a 25-year-old stallion was euthanized due to "poor condition" as a result of "tooth loss."

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Photo courtesy of Pam Nickoles Photography

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The BLM Blames Its Wild Horse Victims for Dying

With today's deaths of two more older mares, the total number of horses who have perished in the aftermath of the Calico roundup is at least 62, more than 3% of the 1922 "excess" mustangs the BLM claims it drove from the Nevada Herd Management Area.

As has been the case during the three weeks since the end of the "gather," the deaths of most of these horses have been categorized as due to "hyperlipemia or metabolic failure," and that was the situation again today, when two 20-year-old mares perished because they were never able to recover from the stress of the chase and subsequent captivity.

A very disturbing mortality pattern has emerged, one which points to a much greater loss of life than has heretofore been reported. Since February 1st, 20 of the 28 horses who have lost their lives in the Indian Lakes Road feedlot pens near Fallon, Nevada have been mares of reproductive age. Until now, the BLM Gather Activity Updates have been suspiciously silent about the pregnancy status of any of these mares, but it seems reasonable to assume that most--if not all--of them were heavy in foal. So two lives were lost every time a mare died.

In fact, this suspicion was confirmed. . .

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Rescue of a Mare Named Gracie

Gracie is one of the lucky ones. Abandoned, emaciated, and crippled due to longstanding neglect, the 20-something chestnut mare's prospects were dim. She was in the temporary care of an Animal Control officer in Union County, North Carolina, with little hope of ever being adopted.

That's when Darlene Kindle, President of Carolina Equine Rescue & Assistance (CERA) stepped in.   Asked if she could take this hapless mare, Darlene thought to herself, "I just cannot take in another horse. We already have 13 horses, donations are down due to the economy, the spring grass has not come in, and we are already struggling to properly care for the horses we have."

Still, Darlene decided she needed to meet this mare. "When I saw her, my heart crumbled," she remembers. "She was severely emaciated, her hooves had not been trimmed in four or five years, and she could barely stand." Darlene's initial instinct was to walk away, but she just couldn't. "I was touched by the sparkle in her eyes, the expression on her face, and my gut feeling that this mare had the will to live and that she deserved a chance." Her name was Gracie.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Triumph of a Horse's Spirit and the People Who Believed in Him

You don't have to feel sorry for Picaro anymore. He's been to the brink of death, but now it looks like he's back for good.

The gutsy 14-year-old Paso Fino stallion, who was shot in the face and head by his suicide-driven owner in Spencer, MA in the pre-dawn hours of January 14th, is not only recovering from his life-threatening wounds, he's starting to thrive.

Bleeding and in shock, Picaro had been rushed to Tufts' Cummings Hospital for Large Animals in North Grafton within hours after sustaining his terrible injuries. He was stabilized by the veterinary staff there, and put in the care of Drs. Carl Kirker-Head and Jose Garcia-Lopez, who operated on him the next day. The prognosis was grim: Picaro's right eye had to be removed, as did multiple bone fragments in his jaw and face.

Within a few days, three-dimensional CT scans of Picaro's head revealed that more reconstruction work was needed, so Dr. Kirker-Head and his team went in again, this time stabilizing the horse's badly damaged right jawbone and shattered hyoid apparatus. That's when the hard work began.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Colt's death is the 46th among Calico roundup horses

With today's announcement that a 9-month old colt was "found dead due to colic," the terrible toll of horses lost from the ravages of the Calico Complex roundup now stands at 46 (the BLM says 41), more than 2% of the 1922 horses who were so cruelly scavenged from their native ranges.

One can only imagine the agonizing death this young horse suffered. If the horse was "found dead," what were the signs that he had colicked? Why did no one intervene to help this colt, or even notice that he was in distress? Many of the now 1800+ horses being held captive by the BLM at the Indian Lakes Road facility near Fallon, Nevada are struggling to adjust to their new, enforced diet of grass hay, and we can only brace ourselves as we wait for more to fall.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another stallion found dead in BLM wild horse holding facility in Fallon, Nevada

With the death of a 15-year-old stallion on February 10th, the unofficial death toll from the Calico Mountain Complex gather now stands at 45 (the BLM says 40), and the pattern of one or more daily mortalities does not appear to be slowing. Such was the nature of the grueling roundup that it is still causing extreme physical suffering and metabolic shutdown, even weeks after some of these horses were captured.

Based on BLM reports, there is reason to fear that more horses will die in the days to come. The agency reported today that it "is watching three or four of the Granite horses with poor body conditions."

For the last several days, there have been no public reports from the Indian Lakes Road facility near Fallon, Nevada, where the Calico horses are currently corralled, and it looks like there may be no witnesses to the actual processing of the horses, a time of panic and potentially great peril. According to Elyse Gardner, it is "deeply troubling" that the last public tour of the Fallon facility is now scheduled to be on Saturday, February 13th. She is "especially concerned about the horses left overnight without water after their grueling roundup on January 31st. How are they faring?" No one knows for sure, and the BLM isn't talking.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Way of a Cat

Cats have an energy that is different from dogs, that's for sure.  And that's true when it comes to telepathic communication, too.

When you call to a dog, he'll usually acknowledge you right away; there's not much of a lapse between the time you send the message and the time you receive a response.

But as I realized yesterday when I addressed my cat, Neil, his style is quite different.  Neil was cozily ensconced near a sunny window, alternately waking and sleeping on a quiet winter afternoon.  I said "hello" to him as I walked by, and was surprised when he acted like he hadn't even heard me.  But I knew he had.  I stopped to watch what he would do, and then, after perhaps 45 seconds had passed, he slowly turned his head, looked up at me, smiled, and returned the greeting.

That's interesting, because if I had been communicating telepathically with Neil from a remote location (or even the next room), I might have jumped to the conclusion that he hadn't heard me, or worse, that I wasn't hearing him.  What I saw today in Neil made me realize that cats can be quite considered and deliberate in the way they respond to a request or an inquiry, whether it's spoken aloud or in silence. 

I'll remember that the next time I'm talking telepathically to a cat who's far away, and try to create the time and space for him to respond--in his own time.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Speaking Out for Horses

I am pleased to announce that I have been named to be the national Equine Advocacy columnist for    I'm truly honored to have this vehicle for my passionate interest in protecting horses.  I don't write for the money; I do it because I want to bring awareness to situations in which horses are suffering, or not being treated with dignity.  And I do it to shine an appreciative light on those who are quietly working to save them.

I've been writing as the Boston Animal Advocacy columnist since June, 2009, but I wanted to be able to address equine welfare issues that are affecting horses on a national level. 

During my first week as the Equine Advocacy Examiner, I've written about the tragedy of the BLM wild horse roundups in Nevada, the plight of carriage horses in New York City, the Penn National jockey protest against owner Michael Gill, the desperation of horse owners affected by the recession, and the upcoming changes in Canadian regulations that may reduce the number of horses that are sent to be slaughtered there.

I am reaching out to everyone who cares about horses, and want to hear from you if you think there's something I should be writing about.