Thursday, February 26, 2009

Slate Article on Horse Slaughter

The recent Explainer column on Slate describes how horse slaughter works. It's a brief, matter-of-fact piece and isn't too gory, though it disturbed me to read it. There is a video link I totally did not click on.

The main difference between horse slaughterhouses and cattle plants is that horses are more difficult to herd, often getting into fights en route to the holding pen. That's partly because they're raised for racing or riding, not consumption, and thus aren't accustomed to cramped quarters. (Federal transportation regulations for horses don't have a space requirement, so buyers tend to pack them in tight.) Horses also tend to be more excitable than cows—hence the blinders—and the smell of blood makes them nervous.

I kind of take issue with this part because I don't think cattle slaughter is much better than what they do for horses. Well, okay, situations might be worse for horses than cows for the various reasons outlined in the article, but I don't think that excuses the way other livestock are treated on huge factory farm conglomerations. Anytime you put profits over anything else, these animals are going to suffer.

There is a brief mention that horses in the United States are sent to Canada or Mexico for slaughter, but I think this (and its implications) should have been stressed more, because the average person reading this might think it sounds just peachy we don't really have horse slaughter in America.

Lately, I've seen the issue of horse slaughter or abuse crop up more often in non-horsey places. I recently saw this video on the Onion. At first I thought it was going to be funny but it grows more upsetting, especially when they show a few pictures. When they say they are going to roll the video, look away for a few seconds if you don't want to see the photos! I always avoid viewing this stuff because it's so upsetting. I suppose this makes me part of the masses who prefer to "just not think" about such horrible things, but just as I don't view factory farm footage because I don't feel I contribute to it (I'm vegetarian) I also don't really feel I directly contribute to horse slaughter, so I don't feel like being horrified by the footage of it. Of course, I guess this is the same type of excuse everyone comes up with to not view horrific realities.

In any case, I suppose it's good horse slaughter/abuse seems to be getting more coverage. A little awareness never hurt, right?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Past Lives

I had a very nice, relaxing weekend that included a good ride on Marve (no spooks!), lots of couch-book-coffee time, and a fun night out with some friends. While out, I was getting to know a new acquaintance who learned that I ride. He had all sorts of questions, such as when I started riding, whether I ever owned a horse or if I would like to own one now, and so on.

So I relayed my history -- how I grew up riding, my mom and I had two horses, the type of riding I did (bareback, trail riding, just having fun) and, of course, the Arab mare I owned and loved through my teen years.

As I talked about my past, I started to feel sad. Those happy, horse-loving days seem so far away. Before I became a re-rider and started up again with horses, all I had were these memories. And they are very idyllic. Sure, most of it is just plain old nostalgia, and also wishing for the simpler times of being a kid. How awesome was it to have summers off and go hang out at the stable for hours at a time? So part of it is missing the good times of my childhood, and of course that bonding time with my mom.

But I couldn't help but feel a little sad that now, riding is so different for me. I no longer have a trustworthy horse of my own I love, I can no longer hop on this horse and explore the countryside and just enjoy nature. That is what riding always meant to me. But now, in my roughly 2 years as a re-rider, I think of it as working to improve at dressage, feeling like I'm just not as good of a rider as I could/should be, trying not to be terrified of a spooking TB, and so on.

I miss the old days. And even more, I'm sad that they feel so far away now. My childhood and teen years spent at stables are past lives now. Everything has changed and I have a new perspective and I can't ever go back. That's how life is; I know that. But I can't help feeling a big melancholy about it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Worn Down

I want more free time. I want the time to go to yoga class after work, to cook and bake, to write.

I want to save more money to prepare for this ever-increasing state of economic doom and gloom.

I want to never again have that slight yet present dread all day, thinking, "I have to go ride tonight and Marve totally flipped out last time and what if it happens again?"

I want to forget about rearranging my schedule and making complicated, down-to-the-minute plans of when I should get to the stable and ride to avoid the worst crowding of the lessons and other riders in the indoor ring.

In short, it seems like I want to stop this lease. For real this time.

But why can't I? Why haven't I just told them? Never mind that I can stop at any time. Never mind that I spoke with a girl last week who said she just might be interested in leasing Marve herself.

I think I'm having a hard time because I feel like Marve is mine. He's not the perfect horse -- certainly not the horse I'd buy when I'm finally ready to be a horse owner -- but for now, he is mine. I take care of him, at least as much as a half-leaser can. And even though I want all this time and money back to myself, I can't quite face going back to not having a horse of my "own" to care for. I've had that since Mae last spring. If I stop leasing Marve, I wonder if within a few weeks I'll be antsy to try to lease another horse...only now there won't be one to lease.

So no final decisions have been made. But I'm thinking about it. Again.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Or Hippophobia. Whichever you prefer. Bottom line, it equals a fear of horses.

I just found out one of my coworkers is afraid of horses. Has been her whole life. And as far as she knows or remembers, she never even had significant contact with horses. There was no dramatic accident, fall, bite, or kick from her childhood. No weird situation where she walked into her parents' bedroom to see daddy dressed up like a horse or anything freaky like that. She's just terrified of horses.

I invited her to come to the stable to meet Marve (or, okay, one of the smaller, fuzzier, friendlier horses) and she almost jumped out of her skin. No way. This woman does not want to be around horses. They scare her, they freak her out, and she "hates all of them." For no real reason.

I am intrigued now, and am busy thinking how so many of us have irrational fears, or fears not based in anything concrete, while more real threats -- car crashes and so on -- don't concern us at all.

I am thinking about how there are people in the world like my coworker, who never even had a negative experience around a horse and yet is terrified of them.

There are people like her, and there are people like me:

People who get up on a 17-hand TB with the full knowledge that he has the potential to spook and freak out enough to cause significant injury. In fact, he has run off with me more times than I can count and scared me to no end...yet I continue to ride him.

I have come to one solid conclusion today. Out of any and all mental/personality quirks, disorders, or deficiencies I might have, equinophobia is most decidedly not counted among them.

Good work for a sleepy Thursday afternoon, I think.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The post where I inappropriately compare spooking to childbirth

So I realize my latest post was all about no fear, huzzah! but, well, these things come and go.

In the last month or so, Marve has freaked out and spooked more than I'd like to count. I'm guessing at least 5, maybe only 4....but probably five.

Some of them have been only at a medium scary level, but others have been downright terrifying and I can't believe I didn't fall off. Like one that happened a few days ago: People actually came up to me in the barn for the rest of the day and congratulated me on staying on that hot mess of a spook.

For the most part, I'm proud of my attitude. Once the spook is over, I immediately get down to business and get Marve back to work on whatever we were doing pre-spook. But I'm not immune to fear, as I find myself thinking back now and then to that really bad spook from a few days ago.

In general, I feel like riding out his spooks is kinda like childbirth. No, I don't have any kids, so I'm sure this analogy will be both offensive and inappropriate. :) But here's the deal: When the spook is actually happening, it's the worst thing in the world. As he starts to take off I can't believe how bad he's freaking out and how I am possibly going to remain in the saddle. My rapid, terrified inner dialogue goes: "What is wrong with me he has done this before and I knew how bad it was why did I ever get on him again in the first place I can't believe how bad this is NEVER AGAIN!" So, yeah. The spook is like being in labor, in case you're not catching on to my clunky analogy. :)

But then, once it's over and my heart stops pounding, it doesn't seem that bad and I gradually forget about how scary it was. I did stay on, right? And now he's being good. If I can handle that spook, just as I did the last two or three or four, then surely I can handle the next one that comes my way.

I forget the fear so much that it doesn't feel like a big deal to keep riding...but then when the next spook happens, my mind tells me, "You moron! Don't you remember how much this terrified you?"

So I don't know. I'm glad that in general, I'm not letting the fear consume me. But I don't like that little nagging worry about his last big spook. And in the end, I kind of feel like Marve is mine now, so I'm going to ride it out -- spook or no spook.

(But please, horsey gods, make it "no spook" for me, okay?)