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☛ The evolving horse industry 9-2-15





By Rick Dennis
Sept. 2, 2015
In recent years the horse industry has undergone significant changes. Some members have viewed these changes as good and some have viewed them as bad. However, the significant aspect of change is identified and voiced by the dichotomy of the membership. Moreover, meaningful conversation, separate ideologies and intentions are the economic engines that drive change in any industry. Overall as debaters, whether we agree or disagree, we should all strive to have meaningful conversations about certain topics and always, “agree to disagree!”


A topic that has dominated the horse industry in 2015 relates to the abuse of the beloved horse. The year 2015 has seen an ever-increasing number of individuals being arrested, prosecuted, convicted and receiving jail sentences for heinous animal-abuse crimes involving the horse. The United States Justice Department has entered into the animal abuse foray with criminal indictments by a Grand Jury. The most notable case involves the Thoroughbred Racing Industry in Pennsylvania and involves the pre-race doping of horses competing on the racetrack. In this ongoing, high-profile criminal investigation, Federal Prosecutors have devised a method to indict offenders suspected of violating racing drug policies using wire or mail fraud along with other law violations as the catalysts for such indictments.


Wire or mail fraud are eligible indictment options due to the fact that purse money is transferred either electronically (wire fraud) or by mail (mail fraud).  As a former Drug Enforcement Special Agent, I used this same criteria to dismantle drug cartels and indict, prosecute, convict and imprison individuals violating Federal and State drug laws. In my opinion, the inclusion of this type of criminal prosecutorial activity is a clear signal that the U.S. Department of Justice is exploring their prosecutorial powers to broaden their scope of authority in certain elements of the horse industry. Those convicted of such criminal activity under Federal Statues are certainly facing a host of adverse consequences such as lengthy prison sentences, fines, penalties, enormous legal fees and court costs not to mention suspension or complete revocation of licenses.


In the Pennsylvania case, four trainers and four veterinarians have been indicted. The four veterinarians have already plead guilty. The case is still an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI. Another interesting aspect of these animal abuse cases involves the seizure of owner stock. Today, abused horses are being seized by the court more than ever before, with the owners having the option of paying for the care of the horses while awaiting trial or relinquishing ownership to the court. However, as in the Sherri Brunzel case, a conviction usually brings with it a forfeiture of all horses and paid proceeds after trial and conviction.


I witnessed this same type of Federal intrusion in the late 1980s when the Feds required all private drug-testing organizations to submit annual reports of individual drug-testing results of private sector employees and participants. The reports were not name inclusive for privacy law reasons but did include categories such as number of tests by category, number of individuals tested, job description of individuals tested and test results; for example, number of positives, number of negatives and category of drugs in positive tests.


From the initial onset of Federal involvement, certain sections of private industry soon evolved into the complete federalization of private-sector drug testing under the Department of Transportation 49, CFR, Part 40 moniker, including rules, regulations and reporting procedures.


In my opinion, it’s quite possible for the equine industry to possibly see the same standardization of equine drug testing under a federal mandate simply due to the betting and purse money awards for participation and driven by the manner prize money is transmitted – electronically or by mail as in the Pennsylvania case.


Click for FBI enters equine drug war>>

Click for Sherri Brunzell sentencing>>



Effective January 2016, the FBI rules and regulations of how abuse cases are classified and reported go into effect. Essentially, all animal abuse cases will be reported in a felony classification manner indicative of other felony classifications already in existence.



From an economic impact point of view, the year 2015 has also become problematic for the big-name nonprofits such as AQHA, NRCHA, NRHA and NCHA. A downturn in the horse industry has forced these large organizations to rethink their operating budgets and methods of operation. A leaner, more streamlined and efficient operating organization is on the horizon. The organization producing the most changes is the American Quarter Horse Association. This year members have witnessed a regime change, as well as broad changes throughout the nomenclature of the organization, including rule changes.


AQHA has broadened its focus on ensuring the organization is in full compliance with its mission statement: “To ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times.”


A recent publication distributed by AQHA announced a complete dissolution and restructuring of their AQHA Stewards program. This announcement, by AQHA and Alex Ross, provides a brief “statement of intent” by this organization to greatly enhance its objective to protect the American Quarter Horse. 


However, at the end of the article the reader will understand that AQHA is still promoting their horse-slaughter agenda, including supporting legislation to ensure the safe and humane transportation of horses that are bound for processing facilities and backed guidelines for how horses must be treated at the slaughter facilities. Since horse-processing plants are located outside the continental United States, I wonder exactly how AQHA is going to ensure these supported humane practices are being adhered to?


Click for AQHA restructuring steward program>>



Since the reintroduction of the SAFE ACT, in 2015, proponents on both sides of the aisle have been vigorously involved in this debate. One fact is sure: the U.S. has an overpopulation of horses with more and more being bred every year. However, the problem is not resigned to just one particular category of the horse industry. It’s an industry problem. Actually, the issue can be split into two categories: the wild mustangs and burros and the rest of the horse industry. Statistical data has already proven that wild mustangs and burros suffer from the intrusion of cattle production on public Bureau of Land Management property that provides a huge loss for the American taxpayer.


Statistical data clearly illustrates the Bureau of Land Management’s annual tab for the American taxpayer is around $500 million dollars annually with another $80 million for predator control and removal. A simple analogy could be “give me a subsidy check each month so I can continue to gobble up more public land for my cattle and the American taxpayer is paying the bill.”  The reality of the issue is that public land grazing is minuscule in relation to overall beef production in the U.S. but the havoc they impose on wildlife is catastrophic. The end result for a lot of mustangs and burros is the Kill Pen!


For a large part the rest of the industry is producing unwanted horses due to the economic downturn in the industry and the U.S. Horses have become an unaffordable luxury for some folks, period. Horse rescues are receiving more and more horses, sometimes on a daily basis. But the industry is still breeding more and more horses every year. In my opinion, this ”kill-more-breed-more” mentality is an illogical approach to the issue. Certainly, everyone should have the right to dispose of his or her horse in any manner deemed legal by law. On the other hand, what we’re seeing in the U.S. right now are the same issues of our European neighbors: contaminated horsemeat, or horsemeat in general, infiltrating the U.S. food source market.  Whichever the way these issues work out the industry is certainly evolving in 2015.


Click for Horsemeat in US Products>>

Click for Bureau of Land Management statistics>>

Click for Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Rancher>> 


“Until Next Time, Keep Em Between The Bridle!”


Copyright 2015, all rights reserved, Richard E. “Rick” Dennis



Richard E. “Rick” Dennis

Managing Member

(985) 630-3500

Web Site:





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  1. Excellent article Rick. Could not feel better about the attention being put forward against horse abuse. Is about time and social media has made it possible to raise awareness and outrage against abusers! Good for them. I attended all of the Brunzell trial and wrote many notes and am so happy to see the results! Shannon Gerhatt did a great job but I think Judge Sletta was awesome! He gave the maximum. This brings up toe problem I keep seeing and that is no matter how many laws pertinent to abuse/abusers they aren’t worth a damn if they’re not enforced and, in my opinion, to the full extent of the law ie: Judge Sletta! Example, one of many, the TERRIBLE soring issue of Tennessee Walking Horses. It is against the law and these owners, trainers could care less because no one enforces the law!. SHAMEFUL!!!!! Am proud to join people like you in fighting abuse in whatever little way I can. Thank you Rick!!!!!

  2. Well written article Mr Dennis.
    Michele Rosenvelt

  3. A fantastic article. My informative article. Love the attachments.

  4. I agree with you. The horse is changing but not for the good.

  5. Your articles on horse abuse are incredible.

  6. AQHA sure has shown their true colors. Thanks for the insight.

  7. If I had your writing talent, I would tell them too. You’re doing a great job. Keep telling ’em. LOL

  8. One day the world is going to wake up and see the damage humans have done to animals.

  9. Mr. Dennis,
    Your articles never case to amaze me. Very well done and very inclusive. Thanks.

  10. Rick,
    Your articles are the best I’ve ever read.

  11. I’m appalled at what’s happening in the horse industry.

  12. Rick, Once again your article tells it like it is. Refreshing to have honesty in journalism in the horse industry.

  13. Can’t you find something else to write about besides AQHA and the cattle industry? They should be tired of you by now.

  14. Your article is well written but I disagree with the horse slaughter portion. I’m for horse slaughter. We have too many horses. If there’s a better way of managing the over population, I’m all ears.

  15. I really like your articles. I learn the most amazing stuff.

  16. Your many articles have pointed out a poignantly very bad position AQHA has created for themselves. Their mission statement vows to protect the horse while their position on horse slaughter is ever increasing. Crazy philosophy.

  17. Rick,
    One thing we have to agree to disagree on is horse slaughter but I really like your approach to engaging in meaningful conversation on the subject. I also agree its an industry problem and the industry needs to come together to solve it. Thanks.

  18. Great article. Thanks for sharing your talent.

  19. Your criminal investigative background is a tremendous asset for the horse industry. Thanks for the clarifications.

  20. Awesome article Rick. I always enjoy reading your opinions on the horse industry.

  21. Your manner of writing an article is uncanny. Your delivery in addressing multiple topics at once is simply amazing. Thank you for your coverages of the horse abuse, wild mustang and burro issues. You have made a tremendous impact! Thank you!!!!

  22. Rick,
    You have a unique writing style and information dissemination system like no other I’ve ever read.

  23. OMG. The truth is startling. Those poor animals.

  24. Rick,
    Here in Norway we don’t have the abuse problem as U.S. does. My heart goes out to those poor horses. Thank you for championing their cause.

  25. Thank you so much for offering issues affecting all of us in the horse industry. Whether a person likes the article or not. Hard to argue with facts.

  26. Love Your article. It’s tops!

  27. I’m sick to my stomach reading your article about horsemeat in our meat. Would have never dreamed it if the facts were not attached. Wonder what AQHA thinks now?

  28. What a great article! Really good info!

  29. Your articles on horse slaughter and abuse are the best I’ve ever read.

  30. Really interesting article Rick. glad your writing for the industry.

  31. I have a complete list of all of your articles. I like your approach to diverse topics as well as your individual knowledge of the subject. Thanks for your very talented writing.

  32. Glad to see someone has the guts to take on the establishment.

  33. I agree horse slaughter and horse abuse have been hot topics for 2015. Horse slaughter is an individual issue. There’s no excuse for abuse. Glad to see you addressed both issues in fine fashion.

  34. The feds should do their job and protect the wild horses and burros. To hell with the cows on public land.

  35. Great job of putting so much powerful info in such a small package. Great job

  36. Way to go Rick. Another good one.

  37. I don’t believe in horse slaughter. I will never believe in horse slaughter. AQHA should read the history books and quit being hypocrites.

  38. Glad your articles are published in No one else would have the guts to print the truth about the nasty side of the horse industry.

  39. As an AQHA member, I’m appalled at the direction the association has taken. I’m certainly not AQHA proud. LOL

  40. Nice article. You should be a writer. LOL

  41. I checked out some of your articles and found them very interesting and informative. Damn right you’re good. I’m impressed! Thanks for sharing.
    Sharon Baldwin

  42. Rick is another great writer against horse slaughter.
    Sue Carter

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