Unwanted horses

By: Tamara Evans Email
By: Tamara Evans Email

With the recent closure of the last horse slaughterhouse, many are beginning to notice a national surplus of horses. Kentucky is also being impacted by unwanted horses.

It isn't surprising that the state known for horses would be full of them, but a surplus of horses is leading to many of them being mistreated or abused.

Last year alone, more than 100,000 American horses were sent off to be slaughtered for human consumption.

As of this past January, there were three horse slaughter plants in the United States. They have all now been closed.

Some say they are already seeing the impact from this with a surplus of unwanted horses.

"Ever since I was little, I've been around horses," Illinois native, John Veague said.

Veague came to the Bluegrass state to follow his horse career. He is now a horse trainer and farrier who travels the state.

"... Working on horses feet everyday. It's physically demanding," Veague explained.

Veague sees around 700 horses regularly in the state, but he isn't limited to Kentucky. He's also been out of state for his work and has noticed a common theme.

"Everywhere you go there's an abundant supply of horses," Veague said.

Now with the last of the horse slaughterhouses in the nation closed, there's even more of a surplus.

This has led to prices of horses dropping, horses being neglected or abused, or even let go.

"There are some horses that are being turned loose because they aren't being fed and taken care of. There's alternatives that you can do with the horses. If you cannot take care of the horse, you need to find someone who can," Veague said.

For people who can't take care of their horses anymore, one alternative is to send them to a retirement farm such as this one.

"It was started because I love horses," April D'Amico said.

D'Amico helps run the Stony Ridge Retirement Farm.

"We started off with simple little classified ads, built a barn for the horses and they started showing up," D'Amico said.

The retirement farm is a place where unwanted horses, or horses that are no longer needed or used are sent.

"All the horses we have here, their owners have chosen to send them here and to pay us to take care of them because they love them so much. It's better than just giving them away even, cause you never know where they'll end up," D'Amico said.

Now D'Amico and owner John Bourne are taking care of forty horses.

"It's what I've always wanted to do," Bourne said.

She said they've been lucky so far. They haven't had to see a horse that's been abused or neglected, but Veague has. Recently he had to rescue a horse.

"There was six carcuses laying in the back - no feed - no water - very little grass and there was one horse in particular tied up to a trailer or a building. For four days, the neighbors had been watching - four days without food and water," Veague said.

He said with the surplus the nation is currently seeing he hopes owners will think twice before turning their horses away.

"There's so many alternatives than just letting your horse get neglected," Veague said.

There's no question, taking care of horses can be expensive, but there is good news for horse owners.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell introduced a bill on April 30th, 2007, designed to promote the state's horse industry.

The Equine Equity Act will provide tax relief for race horse owners.

The horse industry currently contributes $3.5 billion to the state's economy and employs 50,000 Kentuckians year round.

To view more facts on unwanted horses from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, click here.

Also to view extended coverage on Kentucky Facing Crisis of Unwanted Horses by the Associated Press click here.


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