More than 1.5 million horses shipped to foreign slaughter from 2001 to 2020. A shocking figure, but far from the worst suffering unwanted horses endure in the slaughter pipeline.
Fight or flight
Horses are prey animals, which means they view virtually every unfamiliar encounter from the perspective of a predator’s next meal. Candy wrappers wafting in the wind. Walmart bags crackling within earshot. Humans approaching too rapidly. Even though they’re 1,200 pounds of pure muscle, horses fear just about everything. So, imagine a horse dumped by a longtime owner in an unfamiliar dirt pen crowded with angry, hungry, sick and confused horses of all sizes. Ponies crammed into pens with draft horses three times their size. Wild horses penned with pampered, well trained former champions. Stallions with mares. Worked to near death and mad as a March hare. Welcome to the slaughter pipeline.
The slaughter pipeline
The horse slaughter pipeline begins at livestock auctions, where unwitting owners convince themselves their longtime companion will land with someone like them. If the horse is healthy and well trained, he may get lucky and go home with a responsible owner. Horses with poor manners, that cost extra to maintain, or require the slightest extra attention, aren’t so lucky. No one wants an imperfect horse. If a horse can’t be used as a tool or polished up to win prizes, she’s outlived her usefulness. Too many owners squeeze out the last few hundred bucks as part of the natural life cycle: Buy the perfect horse, work her until she’s old, sick or lame, sell her at auction, buy a new perfect horse.
Enter the “kill buyer”
Unwanted horses move from auction to auction – whipped and shocked into chutes and trailers, rejected and dejected until a “kill buyer” steps in. Kill buyers pay bottom dollar for the dregs of horsedom, and those poor dregs get whipped, shocked, beaten, and jammed like sardines onto trailers. The least wanted horses – the weakest, lamest, sickest and saddest rejects of all – ship to kill pens where they either fight for whatever scraps are thrown onto the lot, or they’re not fed at all until their journey to hell.
Road to hell
The road to foreign slaughter can take days. Think about that formerly perfect horse – the one whose owner spoiled her rotten until the lustre ran out. Think about that poor, pampered princess standing terrified and confused in a packed trailer for days – without food or water. Many horses die, trampled to death on the journey. Others die on their feet, held up by the crowd until the trailer reaches the slaughterhouse. Weeks or months of grotesque neglect and abuse ends with one final inhumane act.
From slaughter to sanctuary
Swingin’ D Horse Rescue strives to spare horses the journey through the slaughter pipeline. Each horse costs a minimum of $1,800 to rehabilitate and nurse back to health. Most rescues must be socialized and trained, while all receive routine veterinary and dietary tune-ups. Some horses take months to socialize. Others will never leave Swingin’ D because of lifelong ailments and imperfections. Horses that find sanctuary at the rescue cost a minimum of $2,500 per year to maintain, while a couple of the residents cost well into five figures anually to keep comfortable.
Happily Ever After
The goal at Swingin’ D is to prepare healthy, socialized horses for productive lives with their soul humans. Dozens of rescues have translated into successful adoptions with humans who understand they’re entering a lifetime commitment.
With help from sponsors and donors, Swingin’ D hopes to develop equine therapy programs for the community. Anti bullying programs for youth. PTSD therapy for veterans. Equine therapy for dementia patients. Proceeds from the annual Lone Star Mane Event will help these beneficial programs take shape and take flight.
You can help
Swingin’ D Horse Rescue survives on the generosity of those who believe in our mission. You can help us save more horses and develop equine therapy programs in several ways:
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