Friday, April 22, 2011

Rush To Judgment

Let me emphasize this entry is about horses, although I will also tell you what this day means to Christians.  I have a whole herd of little Christians around me on the farm. It astounds me that not all of them know the significance of this day.

I'm a wayward anything, by anyone's standards and even I know this stuff. Not today, nor on Easter Sunday, will I be in church.  I don't have anything against most churches; it's just a necessary fact of my life that I work on weekends.

My farm is a holier place for me than church, to tell you the truth.  If caring for God's creatures isn't holy, I don't know what is. I know what is in my heart and so does God.  So, I really don't care what you believe or what you think of me. Are you getting good and confused?  It's ok.  Keep reading.  You'll get it.

Again, this is not a religious entry although I have carefully chosen the Christian Good Friday for it.  For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning of Good Friday, it is the day Jesus was crucified and died.  Without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday.

For Christians, Easter Sunday is the day Jesus rose again and then ascended into Heaven.  It is through His death on Good Friday, through what many would say was a rash judgment by Pontius Pilot, that "saved" Christians from going to Hell.  These are simply facts of the Christian belief system.

I am not arguing it either way to you. This is about horses not religion.  It is merely an appropriate day for me to ask you to consider your own rush to judgment.

This is a long entry.  This may be a difficult entry for you to read.  If you say you love horses, please read it.  It is one of the important lessons I will impart.  It is a decision that faces many horse owners in a bad economy.

Thank God, it hasn't been me.  Always realize: There but for the grace of God go I. Again, this is not a religious entry.  It is still important.

Although what I've written may be difficult, and may make you cry, read it all the way through anyway.  Hear me out to the end, please.  It made me cry writing it, as a matter of  fact.  But, this is a fact you need to know.  It took me a long time to realize it, too.

Ok, so let's get on with it.  Bring the pain, as some would say.  Well, that's appropriate for Good Friday, too.  As my mother, the religious scholar of our family, says, "Good Friday is a sad and painful day."  Well, here we go.  No, don't stop now.  Keep going.  Just like Easter it has a happy ending.  I'm not giving you any chocolate Easter bunnies or jelly beans, don't get that excited.

In this economy, let me take a minute to take-up for some horse owners who are not bad people or unskilled owners.  Right now, there are a lot of people who own horses who can't afford to own them.  Maybe they could afford to care for them in the beginning, but now they can't.  They can't sell them either.  This is a bad economy for horses and people.

There's no market to sell horses now.  Sometimes you're literally giving away a high price horse just to get it off your hands.  I've found homes for horses like these when I was asked to help by complete strangers.  I did it for the horses not the people.  I'm out of options to find homes for horses now.  Like I said, it's a bad economy for horses and people.

When these well intentioned people run out of money, their horses suffer.  They can't feed them as much or at all.  They can't worm them.  They can't afford to call the vet to take care of them.  Sometimes, they can't even afford to put them to sleep.

There are still a few "kill markets" open that slaughter horses.  Some pet products and garden products come from these slaughter houses.  Where do you think "bone meal" and "blood meal" come from in the garden department?  It's not synthetic, folks.  It's some sort of livestock, sometimes, horses.

A "kill market" or "meat lot" or "meat processing plant" sounds horrible.  I'll give you that.  I've rescued horses from there, as you know.  Horses who turned out to be fine animals.  I can only guess that their previous owners were in a difficult situation and didn't know what else to do.  I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt when I can.

Let me tell you, a humane death in a slaughter house, which is required by law in the US and enforced by the USDA, beats the hell out of a horse starving to death.  I get mad when I receive those petitions going around about horses getting ready to go to slaughter because someone doesn't care about them.  It's why I generally don't even respond to them.

When I see these petitions, here are the questions that run through my mind:  How do you know?  How do you know the person doesn't care? How do you know their financial situation?  Do you even have any first hand information about the situation?  Or is it just something you read on Facebook?  Do you even know anything about horses?  Do you know the difficulties faced by people who rescue horses?

Maybe it's the best thing for the horses to go to slaughter instead of starving to death. That's a difficult thought even for me, but it's true.  I seriously doubt I could send a horse of mine to slaughter.  But, I've never been that desperate either, thank God.  You never know what you'll do when you're desperate.

To put a horse to sleep and then dispose of the body costs $600.  By disposal I mean either paying someone with a backhoe to come dig a hole on your farm--because that's the only way to get a big enough, deep enough hole.  Or "disposal" by taking your horse's body to an academic institution for study and then cremation.

I've chosen the second option when faced with an equine death.  No, you don't get the ashes back either.  There are no easy choices in horses sometimes.  In this economy, there are a lot of difficult choices for people and horses.

In this economy, some people can't afford these options.  So, they send the horse to slaughter.  Don't be so quick to judge.  And, definitely, don't receive my opinion on this issue as being pro-horse abuse or pro-slaughter.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe there is a special place in Hell for people who abuse animals, including horses.  So, don't lump me in with them for giving you the facts.  Hear me out instead.  Hear me out, especially if you claim to love horses.

Remember, I put my money where my mouth is.  I rescued three horses from a slaughter house when I bought this farm. Bringing a horse back from the condition he's in at a slaughter house takes time and money--a lot of both.  Slaughter houses don't feed them a ton of food.  They feed them enough to get by.

It took me two years to get Shadow back to what I consider a good weight.  And, I was lucky, the other two gained weight easily.  None of them appeared to have been physically or emotionally abuse.  That made my job of giving them a meaningful life much easier.  Remember, I also have a staff, time, and money.  Most people don't have any of that, yet they rush in to rescue a horse.

Helping a horse recover from abuse is even harder.  I struggled with feeling sorry for one of the horses who came with the farm.  He was the stallion I had gelded.  He was young.  He hadn't had much exposure to normal horse life. My pity didn't help him get better.  Mack, my vet, confronted me about that head on one day.  He was right.  I stopped treating that horse like a pitiful little thing.

We trained him more.  But, he'd never be a lesson horse.  He was too high strung.  That is often the case with abused horses.  They may be ok with a true horseman, but they rarely become kid horses. Horses who've recovered from abuse are rarely suitable to people with limited or no experience.

It was RW's opinion that the horse needed to leave my farm.  He was born here.  The wrong that was done to him, before I owned him, was done here.  He needed a change.  It was hard for me to accept.  I needed to let go of this horse I'd brought so far.

I knew in my mind, and eventually in my heart, that RW was right.  I asked RW find him a home with a true horseman.  In order to make this happen, I gave away an expensive, registered horse.  He was the kind of horse who comes with a DNA card--for genetic proof of what you're paying for.  That kind of expensive.  I know what I'm talking about here folks or I wouldn't be "preaching" to you.

That horse is now living a productive life in the mountains with good people.  He's a better horse for it.  He's a happier, calmer horse.

It's easy to judge me for letting that horse go.  It's easy to feel like I should have protected him the rest of his life.  Don't think I didn't give myself a going over like this, too.  As always, RW's voice of reason was important in my decision.  He helped me to stop judging myself.  He helped me to understand sometimes the best thing you can do for a horse is let him go.

It took me several months to come to this decision.  Don't think I could just let go so easily.  Don't think that others who send their horses to slaughter or to an auction or surrender them to the county let go easily either.  I'm sure some of them do.  I'm sure some of them don't care.  But, I'm sure some of them care very much.

It has taken RW 15 years to get me to understand there is a place for a "kill market."  Sometimes the horses that need to go there are dangerous.  Those horses will kill a person eventually.

At least as often, the horse who goes to slaughter comes from owners without much other choice.  They are trying to be humane, as difficult as that is for you to comprehend.  It took me 15 years to understand it. I don't expect for you to get it right away, either.

Again, do not hear this entry as my plea for slaughter or for horse abuse.  It is the furthest thing from it.  It is an acceptance that slaughter can keep horses from abuse.  It is a sad acceptance.  It is an acceptance that has become very real to me in this economy.

It is an acceptance that has come with seeing the Humane Society confiscated horses on Mack's farm.  He is the vet for the local Humane Society.  Some of those horses he can save, some he cannot.  The Humane Society finds homes for those horses once the case has been decided by a judge.

The people who take these horses have a long road ahead of them.  I hope most of them know that.  Rescuing horses is not an easy choice, just as the decision not to rescue some of them isn't an easy choice either.

I've made both choices.  I have not taken the horses in those petitions, yet I've taken the horses I've already spoken of.  My difficult decisions on both sides of the spectrum have made it easier for me not to rush to judgment.

I hope this entry will make it easier for you to keep an open mind.  If you're tempted to rescue a horse, I hope my experience tempers your passion with reason.  I hope you'll consider if you really have the time, money, and experience to do that horse a favor.  If you see a petition to save horses going to slaughter, I hope you'll think that maybe that is the humane option.

If you really do love horses, understand there is indeed a time not to rush to judgment.  This entry is in large part a response to people who pestered me to no end a few months ago.  It was about horses going to slaughter that they heard about on Facebook.

It has taken me time to give a thoughtful response.  I barked at some of you on Facebook about it at the time.  I didn't answer others of you.  This is my reasonable answer.  I hope you learn from it.

I hope it helps you to understand me more than you thought you did at the time.  For nearly all of you, it will show you a side of me you didn't know existed.  And, as I say, so many people think they know me so well, yet they don't know me at all.

I wish all horses could have the home I give my own.  They cannot.  Me taking them all in will not make it so.  It will make me broke. Everyone has their financial limits, including me.

If I succumbed to your pleas, it would eventually send these horses to an undesirable end. If I go beyond my means,  I become as desperate as the people I've asked you not to judge.  I cannot allow that to happen. Do you understand?  I hope so.

Thank you for reading.  This is one of those entries I hope you've learned from.  In this economy, it is an important lesson to understand--especially if you say you love horses.

So what was the connection to Good Friday?  What did that have to do with anything?  Good Friday teaches Christians that death is sometimes the necessary and merciful solution.

It was through Jesus' death that Christians believe they are saved, remember?  It is through death that Christians believe they will be united with Jesus in everlasting life.  I don't care if you believe that or not. I'm simply explaining the connection to you.

For horses, sometimes a merciful death is the necessary solution.  Maybe it's not when he's old or sick.  That's when it's easier for us to accept.  Maybe it simply saves him from starving to death.  Starving is a terrible death, for human or horse or any other creature.

It took me such a long time to understand that death isn't the worst thing that can happen to a creature.  Don't take as long to understand that as I did.  Don't stand in judgment of people who chose this merciful out for their horses as long as I did.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe there is no other merciful choice?

Dry your eyes now.  It's going to be ok.  I also believe all animals have souls.  I also believe all animals go to Heaven.  If you spend your life with them, I challenge you to tell me otherwise.  You can't.

Bye, now.  I'll be spending Good Friday and Easter Sunday with my horses, my dogs, my cats, my rabbit, my beloved family and my loving Bart.  I hope you have some special creatures to spend your time with, too.

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for hearing me out.

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