Welcome to my blog where you’ll hear from me often about horses, about me, and about my writing life.
Remember the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act? Passed last year, it bans the killing of horses for human food and the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for human consumption. A loophole inserted by Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) stated that “excess” wild animals more than ten years of age or an animal that has been offered at least three times for adoption without success can be sold by the Bureau of Land Management. Horse advocates warned that people would take advantage of this loophole to buy horses and sell them to rendering plants to provide meat for upscale restaurants in Belgium, France, and Japan.
February, 2005: HR 503 was introduced by Congressman John Sweeney to prohibit the “purchase, sale, shipping or receiving of horses for slaughter for human consumption.” The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. No hearing yet. www.horsecouncil.org
April 25, 2005: BLM temporarily suspended sales after 41 horses were killed. The agency requested help from Ford Motor Company to save 52 mustangs from slaughter. Ford bought all 52 and donated them to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary outside Hot Springs, SD. 16 of these horses were waiting to be killed in the Cavel International Inc. packing plant in DeKalb, IL, and 36 horses from Nebraska were on their way to the plant. Kathleen Clarke, director of BLM, said, “We do not have any clear authority to buy private animals.”
May 19, 2005: BLM announced it was resuming the sale of wild horses and burros, but would put tougher stipulations in place to prevent sale for slaughter. Buyers must agree that they will not knowingly buy horses and send them to a slaughterhouse. However, the House has voted to block the law allowing the government to sell wild horses and burros, arguing that it’s too easy for animals to end up in slaughterhouses. The proposed law would stop BLM from using any of its funding to sell the free-roaming animals. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7920971
June 8, 2005: The House approved an amendment to the US Department of Agriculture appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2006. It would cut off federal funds for USDA inspection of horses for slaughter. Congressman John Sweeney and other supporters hope that without the mandated inspection, people who buy horsemeat for food will be deterred and slaughter houses will be shut down. During the year the ban is in effect, supporters will work on new legislation to make the ban permanent. www.horsecouncil.org
November 13, 2005:After both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a ban on slaughterhouses killing horses and selling the meat overseas, President Bush signed the ban into law in early November. This new legislation, although operative for only one year, is welcome. But it doesn’t keep horses from being killed and rendered for use in other products. Animal-rights advocates will continue to work to make this ban permanent and keep people from shipping animals to packing plants here or in Canada or Mexico.
The anti-slaughter campaign was energized over the indignation felt three years ago when Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, was slaughtered in Japan. Breeder John Hettinger, said, “I became disgusted with myself, I guess you could say, at having swept this to the back of my mind for as long as I have. Anyone who’s lived around horses all his life and owes much of the pleasure he’s had in life to the horse owes them more than that.” Surprising opponents to the anti-slaughter campaign are the American Quarter Horse Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who say that the slaughterhouse has its uses: there are not enough adoption and rescue programs to take care of horses in need. The Tennessean, November 13, 2005.
Ford Motor Company will work with the government and the public to save America’s wild horses by:
- Providing funding for transporting up to 2000 horses to non-profit sanctuaries and Native American reservations.
- Establishing the Save the Mustangs fund for public contributions. Donations will be managed by Take Pride in America, and are tax deductible. Take Pride in America works toward preserving public lands, historical sites, and places and things that reflect American spirit. It has a Wild Horse and Burro Sponsorship Program.
The symbol of the Ford fund, as you can guess, will be the familiar Mustang Sport Car insignia, this time with a ribbon around its neck.
Ford Press Release:
FORD MOTOR COMPANY TEAMS WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT TO RESCUE THOUSANDS OF WILD MUSTANGS
- Ford to provide funding to preserve thousands of wild mustangs.
- Ford has created a “Save the Mustangs” fund to enlist public support to help ensure ongoing care for the horses in their new habitats www.savethemustangs.org
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management is resuming sales of wild horses and burros.
HOT SPRINGS, S.D., May 19, 2005 Ford Motor Company announced today that it will provide aid to help save about 2,000 wild mustangs that currently face an uncertain future. In addition, the company is offering a means for the public to help “Save the Mustangs” working with the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Take Pride in America to establish a fund to serve as a means for the public to contribute financial support to help maintain the wild horses.
“The wild mustang embodies the passion, spirit and heritage that are an integral part of the American experience,” said Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford. “We felt compelled to do what we could to help preserve these beautiful, legendary animals.”
The unique initiative brings together the government, Ford Motor Company and the public to help save the wild horses.
“This new partnership is an example of how the public sector and private industry can work together to help provide for long-term care of these animals, while sustaining the health and productivity of America’s public lands,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
Wild Horse and Burro Sales Resumed
The BLM is resuming its sales of wild horses and burros affected by a new Federal law after revising its bill of sale and pre-sale negotiation procedures to strengthen the agencyâ€™s efforts in finding good homes for the animals that must be sold, said BLM Director Kathleen Clarke. In addition, Clarke said the Bureau is working to persuade all three U.S. horse processing plants to refuse to buy any BLM freeze-branded horses sold under the new law. Today’s action ends the BLM’s temporary suspension of sales, which took effect April 25 in response to two incidents involving the commercial processing of horses that had been re-sold or traded after being bought from the BLM.
“Our agency is committed to the well-being of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range,” Clarke said. “With this support from Ford and Take Pride in America, the BLM will be able to carry out the will of Congress while finding good homes for wild horses and burros, which are a treasured symbol of the Western spirit and an icon of American freedom.”
Save the Mustangs Fund
To help provide a means for the public to contribute to the ongoing care of wild mustangs in their new habitats, Ford has established the Save the Mustangs fund. Wild horse lovers can learn more about the issue and can help support the cause by visiting www.savethemustangs.org. Contributions to the Save the Mustangs fund will be managed by Take Pride in America and are tax-deductible.
Preserving a Legend
After learning that thousands of wild mustangs were in jeopardy, Ford Motor Company approached the BLM to explore potential ways to provide support for the animal that has served as an inspiration for the company for decades. While working with BLM on a broader plan to provide safeguards for the wild mustangsâ€™ continued protection, Ford interceded at the agencyâ€™s urgent request on April 25 to prevent the slaughter of dozens of wild mustangs. The horses were no longer in the control of the BLM as they had been re-sold and sent to a processing facility for slaughter. Ford purchased the 52 horses and donated them to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary outside Hot Springs, S.D.
The initiatives announced today will help ensure that larger numbers of wild mustangs are relocated to good homes, primarily at non-profit sanctuaries and Native American reservations.
“The Humane Society of the United States applauds Ford Motor Company for being part of the solution, working for humane and sensible treatment of Americaâ€™s majestic wild horses,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “These symbols of the American west deserve Americaâ€™s ingenuity and drive, and it seems in Ford, theyâ€™re getting just that. We can do better, as a country, than to allow their destruction and demise.”
An American Icon in Jeopardy
Nearly 32,000 wild horses and burros roam public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in 10 Western states. These wild animals have virtually no natural predators, and their herd sizes can double about every five years. To maintain populations in balance with their habitat, the BLM removes excess animals from the rangelands every year. The BLM places thousands of wild horses and burros into private ownership through adoption each year. Approximately 22,500 Mustangs that have been removed from the rangelands are currently in federal holding facilities.
The BLM was directed to sell more than 8,000 wild mustangs as a result of a bill passed by Congress in December 2004. This legislation requires the BLM to sell gathered wild horses and burros that are more than 10 years old or have been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least three times.
The wild mustang, the symbol of the legendary Ford Mustang sports car, has had a unique place in Ford Motor Company lore. Although the original Mustang concept car was named for the American P-51 Mustang fighter plane, the production Ford Mustang was introduced with great fanfare in April 1964 proudly wearing the wild horse insignia.
“The Ford Mustang is America’s iconic sports car and takes its inspiration from the wild mustang, a true icon of American freedom,” said Bill Ford.
The Save the Mustangs fund will feature a new but familiar symbol â€“ the Ford Mustangâ€™s wild horse insignia with a ribbon draped around its neck.
Bureau of Land Management
The U.S. Department of the Interiorâ€™s Bureau of Land Management (BLM)manages 261 million acres of land â€“more than any other Federal agency.Most of this public land is located in 12 Western States, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1.8 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface minerals throughout the nation. The BLM’s multiple-use mission, as set forth by Congress in Federal law, is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, and cultural resources on the public lands.
“Take Pride In America”
Take Pride In America was created in 1985 to preserve and maintain American public lands and historical sites and has evolved to protect places and things that symbolize the American spirit. Through its Wild Horse and Burro Sponsorship Program, which offers a variety of sponsorship levels to assist wild horses that have been placed in holding facilities, Take Pride In America is heavily involved in the effort to preserve wild, free-roaming mustangs and burros.
“Take Pride in America has been tasked with the mission of working cooperatively with all citizens in the maintenance of our public lands and historic resources,” explained Take Pride in America Executive Director Marti Allbright. “The Save the Mustangs program is a great way to enlist the American public in a hands-on approach to solving the issues of the American west.”
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures and distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With more than 325,000 employees and 110 plants worldwide, the company’s core and affiliated automotive brands include Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. Its automotive-related services include Ford Motor Credit Company and Hertz. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.fordvehicles.com.
The 65th Running of the Iroquois Steeplechase was on Saturday, May 13, at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve attended since 2001. Unlike racing’s reputation for events meant only for wealthy horse owners, the Iroquois is very much a family event, with affordable tickets and children under 12 admitted free. Indeed, the Iroquois helps children and their families in a big way, since it benefits Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Everyone is encouraged to bring their picnic baskets, drinks (in plastic receptacles only, please), umbrellas, blankets and chairs. You should also bring your camera for truly magnificent shots of the horses leaping over the jumps and your binoculars if you want to see everything up close. And important: don’t forget hats and sun block. I’ve attended the steeplechase in all kinds of weather, through heat and cold, wind and no wind, rain and no rain, and I’ve loved every minute of it. The excitement starts right away, with the anticipation of the crowd that boards the shuttle busses to the site, laden down with all their paraphernalia. Then when you finally get yourself organized, put on your sun hat, and relax with a cold drink, the first race is announced, and you run to the rail to see those marvelous horses lift themselves up and over the jump, land on the ground, and immediately start running again as fast as they can to the finish line. There’s just nothing like it.
The history of the steeplechase starts in 1752, says the National Steeplechase Association, when two Irish foxhunters held a race from one church to another in Doneraile County, Ireland. Thus the word “steeplechase” comes from a race in which riders set a church steeple as the goal. The first steeplechase race in the United States was held by the Washington Jockey Club in Washington, D.C. in 1834. Today, the National Steeplechase Association lists 39 events in 12 states. The Iroquois course was built in 1938. The first race in 1941 was named after Iroquois, the first American-bred horse to win the English Derby. The steeplechase has been run ever since, with one suspension in 1945 because of the war.
The Iroquois website lists these interesting facts about steeplechase horses and jockeys: the average weight of a ‘chase horse is 11 pounds, while is jockey is about 145 pounds. The thoroughbred will be over 16 hands and must leap a hurdle of 54 inches. The approximate length of that leap is 20 feet. Race courses are from 2 to 4 miles long. There are about 12 jumps along the way. The three-mile Iroquois course is long and grueling, and puts a lot of strain on both horses and riders. When you watch the fiercely competitive riders who are vying for generous purses and the trophy for the winner, you realize that you’re seeing the finest riders, honed by their experience in races held all over the eastern half of the country, and horses trained by the most experienced and skilled trainers in the sport. Iroquois Day is an occasion not to be missed.
Here are some of my favorite pictures showing the color, drama, excitement and fun of the Iroquois. All copyright by Jeff Fisher.