Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Who's fault is it that Ellie ended up at the slaughter house?

Someone raised an interesting point with me  - it had to do with Ellie and how she ended up at the slaughter house. Who is to blame? Is it wrong to sell horses at auctions? Was it wrong of me to sell Ellie in the first place?

I thought it interesting enough to share my two cents....

I think there are many reasons horses go to slaughter ......

  • There are too many horses: racing industries don't help because the market is flooded with Tb's, Standardbreds, and Quarter Horses because of so much breeding
  • Horses cost money: they are really expensive to keep and care for properly... and people's financial situations change so it can be hard to keep a horse if things don't go as planned
  • Horses are meat: I hate the idea of eating a horse, but the reality is that they are a meat animal and many countries do eat horse meat regularly
  • Auctions are a quick and easy way to sell a horse: they just are... and it's legal for kill buyers to be able to purchase horses at auction
  • It's legal to breed as many horses as you want, and it's legal to slaughter horses. 
To give you my point of view - why I sold Ellie and why I continue to sell some horses - there are a few reasons. 
1) I really enjoy re-training horses, and helping to take a horse that was unwanted, or unused, train them and make them safe and useful. I enjoy finding them new owners that can then give that horse a new look on life, and at the same time spread awareness about natural horsemanship in how the horse was trained. 
2) Horses aren't cheap - I would happily keep all of my horses if I could, but the reality is I'm not rich. I can afford to keep things running and care for my horses, but to be able to re-train and save new horses I need to sell some horses that I have retrained both to recuperate some costs, and to meet the farm tax quota. 
3) Horses are happiest with a purpose and person - I only have so many hours in a day, and I can't give all of them enough attention on my own. Horses thrive when they have a good human partner to keep them fit and engaged. I like getting horses to a point where they are safe and trained enough for a new human partner to be able to enjoy them. 
4) I know I can't save all the horses, but I know I can save a few.... I feel I give them the best chance at a happy life by making sure any horses that I own, or am going to sell get solid training basics, and become safe to handle so that someone else can enjoy them...... I know that if people enjoy a horse because they feel safe with them, that horse is much more likely to have a forever home. 

In Ellie's case, she was an off the track TB mare and a chestnut which are known for being bold and unruly - much like Thetis. I bought her and loved her to bits, got her fully trained, but in the end had to sell one of my horses if I was going to continue taking on new ones to retrain.... if not for me then Ellie could have very well ended up at auction and slaughter before she was given a chance. 

I've changed a few of my practices in selling horses to help make sure horses I sell don't go bouncing around from home to home, or end up at an auction - 
  • for starters I charge less money....  I mostly cater to the pleasure rider looking for an easy horse to trail ride, do low level shows, etc - horses are more likely to have a long term home with these types of buyers because its less likely these new owners will out grow the skill/usefulness of the horse (I'm guilty here too and sold my very first horse because he couldn't handle jump courses over 3'3" and I wanted to go higher). 
  • I sell to clients, or people willing to take some lessons and/or learn about natural horsemanship.... if you show up to ride one of my horses and insist on using a bit, wearing spurs, using a crop, and just hopping on with no ground work... you're not getting on
  • I include a contract with a first right of refusal for me to have first chance to buy a horse back if they decide to sell, and that they will never take the horse to auction or send for slaughter
  • I don't sell a lot of horses each year, I focus my efforts on a couple horses that I think would be able to find good homes and/or do better with one on one attention rather than being used in our program with summer camps, etc. 
  • I spread the word that I am willing take horses back that don't work out, or if for some reason I can't... I will help in whatever way I can to rehome/sell the horse
I don't know that it's important to place blame in Ellie's case - was it the TB breeder's fault for breeding too many TB's? the government for allowing slaughter houses for horses? The drought that caused really high hay prices and therefore a lot of people to get rid of their horses?  Her past owner's fault for allowing her to slip into those hands? or mine for not keeping her? I think you could make a good argument for any one. 

What I think is more important is to try and save the horses we can, do our best to ensure good homes if/when we need to sell a horse, and advocate for responsible Canadian horse breeding/care/slaughter laws. 

What do you think?


  1. Absolutely in line with my beliefs......focus on the positives & the negatives will recede! And that, Lindsey, is why you are so good at what you do!

  2. I think anyone who eats meat/doesn't try to save horses shouldn't point a finger at others who try to save horses, retrain them and rehome them. Obviously Lindsey can't keep every horse she takes in. Lindsey had confidence that the person who bought Ellie was going to give her a good home and notify her if she didn't want her any longer. Anyone who criticizes Lindsey for not having been able to keep Ellie, or other horses she rescues/trains, should ask themselves how many horses did they save this year? Spend hours training for free? And if they eat meat, what did they think happens to terrified, underfed, badly treated horses, cows, pigs, etc? They spend their last days and moments knowing that they're in a bad place and that no one gives a damn about them and that no one is going to save them. Ellie is one of the lucky ones. She had a saviour - Lindsey.