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☛ U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules against BLM wild horses




Release by 10th Circuit Court Of Appeals
Oct. 15, 2016


For the second time this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has ruled in our favor on a precedent-setting issue concerning wild horse management on public lands.


In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) treated more than a million acres of public land in the Wyoming Checkerboard as private land for purposes of wild horse management.  The “Checkerboard” is a large area in Wyoming that consists of alternating parcels of public and private lands.


Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that BLM violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by removing hundreds of federally protected will horses from public lands under the agency’s limited private land removal authority, and in the process ignoring the legal requirements that BLM must satisfy before permanently removing wild horses from public lands.


Because all herd management areas either contain private lands within their boundaries or are adjacent to private lands, today’s ruling has enormous precedental implications for wild horse management throughout the American West.

For the court ruling, click here.


On Jan. 9, 2016, Rick Dennis posted an article on this site where he notified the Office Of The Inspector General requesting a criminal investigation into the BLM regarding the wild horses and burros, due to their violation of the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 , which he felt would not only save taxpayers dollars but  also for the protection of America’s wild herbivore populations being born and living on public land. He also encouraged  punishment of any federal employee found violating this law and encouraged individuals to write or call the Office of the Inspector General. His philosophy regarding this matter was directly in line with this ruling.

Click for Rick Dennis Jan. 9 article>>








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☛ Dual Peppy moves to Babcock Ranch 10-4-16




By Rick Dennis
Oct. 4, 2016


Dual Peppy today!

In my opinion piece entitled “The Dual Peppy Saga,” dated Nov. 1, 2014, the article illustrates a highly publicized Colorado animal abuse case involving the NCHA World Champion Cutting Stallion Dual Peppy and his then owner Sherry Brunzell. Notwithstanding, the article includes other horses involved in the abuse case aside from Dual Peppy, e.g., cutting horses previously owned by NCHA Non-Pro World Champion Kay Floyd of Stephenville, Texas.


After an executed search warrant by law enforcement, Brunzell was arrested, prosecuted and convicted and a number of horses were seized by the State of Colorado – including Dual Peppy.


The seized horses were placed with a horse rescue in Colorado that cared for them throughout this ordeal with Brunzell being court ordered to pay the bill. At last information, Brunzell was appealing her conviction. For the record, this horse abuse case received National and International attention under the moniker “Justice For Dual Peppy.” For additional information in this case refer to the following link:

Click for Dual Peppy article>>

Today there is a new saga for Dual Peppy as he has been purchased by Jim Babcock, Sanger, Texas, one of the leading breeders in the cutting, reining and reined cow horse industry.



Dual Peppy came into this world in 1992 through the breeding genius of Greg Ward of the Ward Ranch, Tulare, Calif. Greg, a member of the NRCHA Hall of Fame, was well known in the reined cow horse industry as “The Master.” His accomplishments are scribed in the “Book of Legends” and his successes will be forever listed in the annals of history.


Dual Peppy was born at the legendary Ward Ranch in Tulare and was the second full brother in the four-brother creation by Greg Ward. These wonderful and famous creations are commonly known in performance horse circles as the “Dual Pep” line of horses.


The other full brothers include Dual Pep, Mister Dual Pep and Dually Pep. All four of the brothers are sired by Peppy San Badger and are out of the Ward Ranch mare Miss Dual Doc by Docs Remedy. Keeping it all in the family, Miss Dual Doc’s dam, Miss Brooks Bar, is another one of Greg Ward’s creations. Each of these brothers has become an icon in their own right in the performance horse industry.


After he sold Dual Pep, Greg realized he had formulated the “magic cross” with this match up of Peppy San Badger and Miss Dual Doc. Greg started breeding Dual Peppy at the age of 2 and his first foal, Dual Train, was another magic cross for Greg and later became the foundation mare of my reined cow horse training facility in Louisiana – the Wind River Ranch.


Dual Train is by Dual Peppy and out of Nics Train by Reminic. Reminic is still another legendary Greg Ward creation. Reminic is by Docs Remedy and out of Fillinic, the Ward Ranch’s legendary foundation and Hall of Fame mare.


Dual Peppy was broke, trained and shown by Greg Ward and the pair accumulated a successful money-earning show career. In 1998, Dual Peppy was sold to Colorado purchasers Rick and Sherry Brunzell and Dual Peppy was transported to Jim Babcock at the Babcock ranch in Texas where he was successfully shown. Later Dual Peppy was transferred to the Kay Floyd training facility where he was shown in NCHA cutting events by Glen Blankenship under the watchful eye of Floyd. The cutting team accumulated an NCHA World Championship Cutting Horse title.



Sire records reveal Dual Pep is the No. 7 all-time leading cutting horse sire with offspring earnings in excess of $19 Million, Dual Peppy has offspring earnings in excess of $700,000, Mister Dual Pep has offspring earnings in excess of $1,611,109 and Dually Pep is standing at stud in Brazil.


The uniqueness with this line of horses is their ability to traverse and master the three disciplines required in the NRCHA events: reining, cutting and cow horse, as well as other specialized disciplines. Also, they have all become prolific sires in the performance horse industry.


Other Ward Ranch stallions include the No. 6 NRCHA leading sire Just Plain Colonel, with foal earnings of $1,581,453; NRCHA Hall of Fame inductee Master Remedy with foal earnings in excess of $756,000; Smart Lil Pepinic, with foal earnings in excess of $1,319,543 and NRCHA No. 4 leading sire; NRHA Hall of Fame Inductee Boomernic, with foal earnings in excess of $1 million, Hall of Fame Inductee Reminic, with foal earnings in excess of $3,800,000. Overall, Greg and the Ward Ranch produced five million-dollar sires and five Hall of Fame inductees – including Greg himself, who is in the NRCHA Hall of Fame. The Ward Ranch is still the second leading breeder of reined cow horses with $2,422,280 in lifetime earnings.


Fillinic is in the AQHA Hall of Fame, Master Remedy is in the NRCHA Hall of Fame, Boomernic is in the NRHA Hall of Fame and Dual Pep is in the NCHA Hall of Fame.




Dual Peppy shown today in his new stall at the Babcock Ranch.

From the Ward Ranch, I trained and participated in NRCHA events for three years riding and promoting my own stock: Nic Chex and Dual Train. While competing in these events, I had the opportunity of observing a myriad of horses competing in the NRCHA West Coast events that came from breeders around the country. Having had stock participating in and in the finals of every NRCHA event, I was appreciative of the fact each show was a meeting of the best horsemen and best horses striving for a coveted Championship title.


Aside from the coveted GW brand, the next brand I became familiar with was the Babcock Ranch brand.  First hand, I saw offspring of the legendary Smart Chic Olena being shown by some of the best trainers in the industry. One of the things that entwines all three of us is the fact that Greg bred, trained and showed Reminic; I owned and had a son of Reminic competing in the NRCHA West Coast events and Reminic later stood at stud at the Babcock Ranch.


However, Reminic wasn’t the only Greg Ward creation wearing the coveted “GW” brand that eventually gravitated to the Babcock Ranch. The other two are Mister Dual Pep and now Dual Peppy.


Greg’s theory with Reminic was that he wanted to send his creation to Texas to improve his breeding capability. Thus, respecting and having confidence in Babcock, the transfer was made and the rest is history. I’m sure if the truth were known, Greg is smiling down from heaven and approving the Dual Peppy transition to Jim and the Babcock Ranch, if not for one reason. Dual Peppy was Greg Ward’s favorite horse. In the evenings, Greg and Dual Peppy enjoyed roping steers at the ranch after training was over.


Unfortunately, the entire horse industry lost a legend when it lost the four-time NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion, to cancer on Dec. 6, 1998 at the age of 63. Just two months earlier, Greg had claimed his fourth NRCHA Futurity World Championship with an inspirational performance, while visibly battling the illness that would kill him only months later. He was showing Reminics Pep, a fourth-generation NRCHA Futurity Champion he had raised. He handily won the event with a 12-point lead over the second-place horse.


For the record Babcock is a successful breeder of performance horses. The May 15, 2016 statistics published by Quarter Horse News, show Babcock as the fifth leading breeder of all time in the cutting and reining industry, with total earnings of $994,831 – cutting  $148,823 and reining $846,008. In the Oct. 15, 2016 Reined Cow Horse issue of Quarter Horse News, listing Equi-Stat Lifetime Reined Cow Horse Statistics, Babcock was also fifth, with reined cow horses he bred earning $854,106.


Babcock said that stallions he owned, showed or stood as breeding stallions at his Texas Babcock Ranch during the past 47 years included Smart Chic Olena, Reminic, Trashadeous, Cowboy Smarts, Paid by Chic, Lucky Little Lena,  Mister Dual Pep, Ima Chairman, Elans Playboy, Chic Please, Peppy Badger Chex, Bueno Fritzinic, Bristol Pep, Lenas Wright On, Lenas Sugarman, Steady Tradition, Talk About Smart, Smart Peppy Doc, Smart Peppy Lena, HB Instant Choice, Royal Blue Quixote, Bar Passer, Poco Ray Mount, Two Eyed Request, Scorps Mister Tuffy, Bonanza Scorpion and  Mito Commander, Top Impressive, Dynamic Deluxe,  Aguila Baron, Dealin Dirty, Start Me A Tab, Smart Equalizer, Boomernic, Deluxe Doc Smoke and Elan Dynabid.


According to Babcock, he and the Babcock Ranch have also owned many great mares including Cowgirls Are Smart who won the NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman title; A Captive Heart, AQHA World Champion Cutting Horse; Boons Holly Bar, AQHA World Champion Cutting Horse; Playboys Sugar Baby; AQHA Reserve World Champion Cutting Horse; Docs Michelle, AQHA Reserve World Champion Cutting horse and Jenny Montana, AQHA World Champion Cutting Horse.


During 2017 Jim and the Babcock ranch will be standing Heaven Sent Chic, Define Good, El Senor Red, New Addition and another Greg Ward creation Dual Peppy.



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☛ BLM won’t kill 45,000 horses & burros 9-18-16






By Glory Ann Kurtz
Sept. 18, 2016

Wild horses being rounded up by helicopter.

Just hours after my article was published on Sept. 15, the BLM is having second thoughts about the wild horse population on public lands and has said they “won’t kill wild horses.”


Also, the morning after my previous article was published, Rick Dennis, who wrote a lot of the articles published again yesterday, had a phone call from the BLM this morning in response to the article. They are listening.



Following is a response from the BLM published by Reuters.




The US government said on Wednesday (Sept. 14)  it has no plans to euthanize a large share of the more than 45,000 wild horses and burros removed from lands mostly in the U.S. West, after an advisory panel’s proposal to kill some of the animals sparked outrage.


U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials said they struggle to find people to adopt the growing number of wild horses and burros, which costs the agency millions annually to maintain in corrals and pasturelands.


The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board on Friday recommended the bureau consider euthanizing the animals that cannot be adopted, or selling them to companies that might slaughter them.


But Tom Gorey, spokesman for the bureau, said in an email that the agency will “continue its current policy of carrying for unadopted or unsold wild horses and burros” and will “not sell or send any animals to slaughter.”


The bureau is expected to formally respond to the panel at its meeting within months.


The panel’s recommendation created an uproar among animal rights activists and highlighted the challenges ahead for the U.S. government as it seeks to control the population of wild horses and burros.


Gillian Lyons, wild horse and burro program manager for Humane Society of the United States, said members of the public were quick to criticize the idea of killing the wild animals.


“It’s something the American public just doesn’t know about, you don’t think of wild horses being held in facilities all across the United States,” Lyons said.


She added that the bureau has a responsibility to the animals because it captured them.


Even after decades of round-ups of wild horses and burros, 67,000 of these animals roam the United States, mostly in Nevada and California, according to government estimates.


Without natural predators, they have proliferated far beyond the roughly 27,000 animals the U.S. government says would be a population low enough to prevent overgrazing and preserve land for other animals. The bureau spends nearly $50 million a year in upkeep for captured horses and burros, Gorey said.


The Humane Society alleges the bureau spends so much paying private contractors to hold the animals that it cannot afford to expand its program to administer birth control to the animals on the range, which it contends would be more effective for population control than round-ups.


But the bureau counters fertility control is difficult in part because the birth control drug wears off in less than two years.


(Posted by Reuters, reported by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Marguerita Choy)


Some of the facts in the above response from the BLM don’t make sense, with of them being that they claim above, “Without natural predators, they have proliferated far beyond the roughly 27,000 animals the U.S. government says would be a population low enough to prevent overgrazing and preserve land for other animals.”


The BLM is the government agency that spent over $80 million a year to kill the predators, 10 times more than what they spent to get rid of wild horses and burros. If they left the predators alone, nature would take its course and keep the horse population sustainable – as well as the cattle population.


An article published by The Daily Pitchfork entitled “Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West,” contains many more interesting statistics, including the fact that 21,000 ranchers who graze their livestock on Western rangelands are estimated to have cost the taxpayers $500 million in 2014 – and every year for the past decade and that a large number of them are millionaires, billionaires and multi-billion-dollar corporations.


The fee that livestock operators paid a month for an AUM (animal unit month) in 2014 was $1.35 – the lowest price that can legally be charged. The market price to graze on private land is $21.60. Fees set by other federal agencies and individual states on public property are also significantly higher. The majority of this money is spent on range rehabilitation, leaving only approximately $7.9 million going into the Treasury.


It also costs the BLM over $80 million a year to kill predators, that’s $380 per rancher and 10 times that much ($3,809) to get rid of wild horses and burros – with most of them going to slaughter. In the end, special interest welfare (money going to ranchers, EPA, USDA, Dept of Justice and US Army Corp of Engineers) is estimated between $500 million and $1 billion a year.


In 2014, BLM and USFS permit holders paid an estimated $18.5 million in fees to graze 1.14 million livestock units on the 229 million acres of federal land used for grazing. But only a fraction (between 1/3 and ¼) of that actually went into the Treasury. In other words, 2/3 to ¾ of the low fees ranchers pay go back into their pockets. Public land ranchers were paid $376 for what cost taxpayers $6,838 last year.


Click here for article>>


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☛ Abusive horse trainer ordered to pay $160,000 settlement 9-13-16






By Glory Ann Kurtz
Sept. 13, 2016

Bella Gunnabe Gifted, a money-earning reining horse, was put down from a basilar skull fracture after being bitted up with a curb bit and left alone in a solid round pen for more than an hour. Trainer Mark Arballo recently settled with the owners for a $160,000 settlement, plus he is servinhg three-years probation and not allowed to triain horses during the sentence.

According to an article on, a trainer that three years ago caused the death of a horse he was training recently reached a $160,000 settlement with the horse’s owner. Although the trainer’s settlement is not an admission of liability in civil court, he pleaded guilty to felony animal cruelty in March 2015, which is now a felony in all 50 states, and is serving a three-year probation sentence in North Carolina and is not allowed to train horses during his sentence.
Click for FBI article>>


Mark Arballo, an NRHA reining horse trainer who was working as Arballo Reining Horses LLC for Martha Torkinton at her River Valley Ranch,  in the County of San Diego, Calif., at the time of the incident, currently resides in the County of Nash, N.C. According to court records it was reported that Arballo’s co-defendant and former partner Patrice Hohl, are believed to be romantically involved.


Arballo, who along with other trainers were permitted to train horses at the River Valley Ranch, joined the group in February 2011. In September 2013, Arballo bitted up 6-year-old Bella Gunnabe Gifted with a curb bit and left her alone in a solid round pen for more than an hour with her head “tied around,” while he taught lessons.


When the mare was discovered, she was unable to get up, had blood in her ear and her eyes moved rapidly back and forth. Bella’s euthanasia ended her suffering and it was a veterinarian’s determination that she had suffered a basilar skull fracture or a broken skull. A basilar skull fracture is a fracture of the basilar bone of the skull, which is part of the floor of the skull that holds the brain, resulting in the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, to leak from the nose or the ear.


Bella, a Paint mare was sired by Colonel’s Smoking Gun, an NRHA Hall of Famer better known as “Gunner,” and like her sire, she had found success in the reining arena. Torkinton said that her eggs would be valuable due to her great pedigree.


In August, the defendants’ dog bit Bella on the nose and in September, they noticed a bump on the mare’s head after a training session, which Arballo denied causing. Torkinton was working on a process to terminate Arballo’s contracts and remove the defendants from the property when the training incident and death of Bella happened.


Even though the defendants tried to add two additional terms regarding a “confidentiality agreement,” Torkinton’s attorney said that “a confidentiality clause that restricts First Amendment rights is anything but standard and was not discussed with the court,” and the defendants did not get their confidentiality clause – but rather got a huge fine.


However, the plaintiffs were responsible for a lien as Torkinton’s property insurance carrier, Markel Insurance Company, asserted a lien for payments made to the Torkintons after the death of Bella.


However, trainers must keep in mind that the court’s decision and the FBI’s felony law on cruelty to animals now has a “set precedent” on cruelty to animals in a training situation.


Rick Dennis wrote a great article for in the May 15, 2015 issue called “Bridles, Bits and Abuse,” that everyone should read – even if they have read it before. It is an indepth study about the abuse of horses by trainers , including how they do it, what equipment they use and what the horse associations are doing about it.


Following is the one paragraph that I like the best and encompasses the answer to horse abuse:

The truth of the matter is there are no shortcuts in training a horse – only lazy trainers!  To properly train a horse requires hard work, hours-upon-hours of saddle time, wet saddle blankets and devotion to the job at-hand. I know this truth to be self evident, as I’m a judicially certified professional multiple-event reined cow horse trainer. The antiquated abusive training techniques developed over the years by unethical self-professed horse trainers should be prohibited and removed from the industry, along with the trainers practicing these unorthodox and abusive training practices. At my training facility, horses are ridden into submission, not beaten into submission, and trained the right way.”

Click for Bridles, Bits & Abuse>>





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☛ Deaths mount at Utah wild horse round-up 7-12-16

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in BREAKING NEWS, EQUI-VOICE, HORSE ABUSE, INDUSTRY NEWS, WHO, WHAT & WHERE | 0 comments



From American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign press release
July 12, 2016


Wild horses in Utah being rounded up by a low-flying helicopter.

On July 7, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign sent out a release saying that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) helicopters were in the air terrorizing and stampeding beautiful and innocent wild horse families who, until last week, were living peacefully with their families on our public lands in western Utah.


Summertime roundups are particularly inhumane, as horses are forced to run for miles in soaring high desert temperatures. It’s also the time of year when foals are very young. When these tiny, fragile animals are stampeded by helicopters, they often fall behind and are unable to keep up with their mothers. Left behind on the range, they are either roped by BLM wranglers and dragged into the trap, or are simply lost….orphaned and left alone to die.


This 10-year-old dun mare was slammed into a trap panel, broke her neck and died. She had a yearling and a tiny foal, who  is now an orphan.

According to the BLM, as of yesterday, 258 wild horses had been captured and permanently removed from the Conger Herd Management Area (HMA). Four horses have died from traumatic injuries:

  • A 2-year old colt rammed into a trap panel, broke his neck and died.
  • A 3-year old pinto mare died slammed into a trap panel, broke her neck and died.
  • A little sorrel foal was kicked in the mouth at the trap site, sustaining a severe fracture. He was euthanized via gunshot by the BLM.
  • A 10-year old dun mare slammed into a trap panel, broke her neck and died. A Return to Freedom observer captured photos of this beautiful mare moments before she died, being stampeded into the trap with her offspring – a lovely yearling and a tiny foal, who is now an orphan.


It’s possible that the high number of traumatic deaths and the number of foals reported to be left behind in the stampede can be attributed to the relative inexperience of the BLM round up contractor, Samson Livestock, as compared to the usual BLM contractor, Cattoor Livestock. It’s also testament to the shortcomings of the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program Standards (CAWPS), which allow helicopter drives to be conducted in temperatures up to 105 degrees F., and even allow roundups at temperatures below 10 degrees F. at the discretion of the BLM staff person in charge.


This is counter to a recommendation by livestock handling expert Temple Grandin that the BLM should avoid rounding up wild horses and burros in temperatures that exceed 90 degrees or fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The CAWPS also fail to include any firm restrictions on the distance or speed at which horses or burros can be chased in helicopter drives — everything is left up to the discretion of the BLM.


The roundup now continues in the Frisco HMA, where the BLM intends to permanently remove 272 wild horses from their home on the range in a roundup that will continue traumatize these federally-protected animals and rob them of the two things they cherish most – their freedom and their families.


After removing more than 50% of the Conger and Frisco wild horse populations and leaving just 100 horses behind in each of these HMAs, the BLM intends to conduct a research study on the “natural behavior” of these herds. However, no valid data on natural behavior can be obtained from wild horse populations that have been completely fractured and traumatized with a violent roundup, which removed over half the population and shattered the social organization of these herds. Even worse, the BLM intends to use this research as an excuse to geld (castrate) 75% of the stallions in the Conger HMA, an action that will further destroy the integrity and viability of this federally protected wild horse herd.


The tragedy befalling the magnificent wild horses of western Utah at the hands of the BLM is emblematic of the agency’s entire devastating approach to management of our remaining wild horse and burro herds. In memory of the beautiful horses who have lost and will lose their lives in this most recent BLM roundup, we carry on our work to save our remaining wild horse and burro herds.


Click for more info and graphic photos of roundup>>

Click for Wild Horse Preservation release>>


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☛ Think horse slaughter is over – think again! 6-26-16




June 26, 2016

The following is a reprint from the San Antonio Express-News via AP




Published by John MacCormack San Antonio Express-News via AP
June 16, 2016


Salvador Baeza, owner of a stockyard in Presidio, exports unwanted horses to Mexico where they are slaughtered. Thousands of horse bound for slaughter in Mexico are exported through Presideio each year.

A roadside memorial south of Balmorhea, Texas includes a metal sculpture of a horse in jaunty pose, a rusty cutout of a dozen steeds in full gallop and an old ranch saddle astride a cottonwood log.


Visitors have left more than 100 cards on the fence, each with the same poignant message: “Dedicated to all the slaughter-bound horses, burros and mules that have been hauled down this highway on their last ride.”


Their ride down Texas 17 in crowded stock trailers includes a stop at the stockyards in Presidio, where they are weighed and inspected before continuing south into Mexico.


“Their nightmare journey begins when they enter the slaughter pipeline at the auction house. My ultimate goal would be to keep them all out of those ‘kill-buyer’ trailers,” said Neta Rhyne, 65, of nearby Toyahvale, who erected the memorial last year.


Nearly a decade after the last three horse slaughterhouses closed in the United States — including two in Texas — the trafficking of American horses for slaughter continues and the controversy burns as fiercely as ever.


In 2014, it flared anew when a legislative loophole prompted efforts to open slaughter operations in Oklahoma, New Mexico and elsewhere. That opening since has closed, leaving foreign slaughter the only option.


Since 2007, almost a million American horses have been sent to Mexico and Canada to be killed, butchered and exported to Europe and Asia, where local palettes find the meat a delicacy. A small amount of meat is returned to the U.S. to feed zoo animals.


Last year, the U.S. exported almost 75,000 slaughter horses to Mexico, through Presidio, Eagle Pass, El Paso and New Mexico, and another 40,000 to Canada, the San Antonio Express-News reported.


But in the land of Trigger, Black Beauty and My Little Pony, there is a deep aversion to killing and eating what many consider a national cultural icon.

“Public opinion is on the side of the horses,” said Holly Gann of the Humane Society of the United States. “National polling in 2012 showed that 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter for human consumption.”


Opponents, some of whom see the horse as a noble, companion animal, claim the practice of shipping them long distances, with little state or federal oversight, often involves abuse and neglect.


Others, however, say that the roughly 130,000 or more horses exported each year represent an unwanted domestic surplus, and that slaughter, even in Mexico where it can be less than humane, is better than neglect and abandonment at home.


Many of the horses acquired at auctions and shipped by “kill buyers” are young and in good health. And with horse rescue groups already overloaded, there is no obvious way to absorb more unwanted animals.


Repeated legislative attempts to halt the practice have failed since 2006, when the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was first introduced.

A bill pending in Washington takes a different approach. HR 1942 would declare horse meat unsafe for human consumption because of drugs given to the animals, and also prohibit transportation of horses for human consumption.


If passed, the bill, now lingering in committee, would end horse slaughter.

But for some animal welfare groups already struggling with too many unwanted horses, the prospect of 100,000 or more new animals materializing, year after year, is alarming.


“It’s a terrifying question from a horse rescue person’s perspective. I don’t know what would happen. We would be flooded and we’re already flooded,” said Jennifer Williams, president of Blue Bonnet Equine Humane Society in Austin.


“I think over the course of 10 to 15 years, maybe fewer, it would stabilize. People would realize they don’t have a low-end option to dump all the foals they breed that have no purpose, but that would take time. Horses can live 25 to 30 years,” she said.


The last stop

For tens of thousands of horses a year, the dusty stockyards east of Presidio, an isolated border city south of Marfa, are the last stop on the way to slaughterhouses in Ciudad Chihuahua and Zacatecas, Mexico.


For most horses, the layover in Presidio is brief: After being inspected by Mexican veterinarians and weighed, they’re reloaded on trailers and sent south on the final leg of the ride.


On a recent morning, about 170 newly arrived horses waited in the pens at the Baeza Cattle and J&R Horse lots, nibbling hay and oat straw.

To the untrained eye, almost all appeared in good health, with only a handful showing signs of aging, neglect or minor injury.

In the subsequent inspections by veterinarians, only one horse was rejected, lot operators said.


“The most common reason for rejection is wounds. The second is ticks. If they can’t walk or are sick, they are rejected,” said Dr. Fernando Trujillo, one of three veterinarians who inspected horses that day at the two lots.

Other horses, Trujillo said, can be turned back because of irregularities in the paperwork and their microchip information.


“Overall, the quality of the horses has improved over the last five years,” he noted.


Horses rejected by Mexican inspectors must stay behind in Texas, and, having suddenly lost most of their commercial value, can be returned to their owners or face a still more uncertain fate.


Five years ago, 46 carcasses were found in a creek bed behind C4 Cattle Co., which went defunct. The illegal dumping prompted an investigation by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, although no citations were issued.


Earlier that year, an animal welfare group complained about hundreds of starving horses and cattle in the Alvarado pens.


The county sheriff concluded the animal cruelty claims were unfounded but sequestered 300 hungry horses until their owners could claim them.

This spring, as first reported in the Big Bend Sentinel, Presidio was forced to confront an extraordinary surge of large animal carcasses being brought to its municipal landfill.


In 2012, city officials say, 12.5 tons of dead horses and donkeys were disposed of there. Over the next three years, 330 tons of carcasses — representing about 1,000 dead animals — were dumped, almost all by the exporters.


City officials said the longstanding charge of $22.50 a carcass is much too low and that the life expectancy of the small landfill is being shortened by the flood of large dead animals.


“Very few other places have this problem. It was really created by the USDA stopping the butchering of horses in the United States. So that forced them down here on the border,” said Brad Newton, Presidio’s economic development director.


Each dead horse, he said, requires a large hole and 3 feet of dirt cover, while normal trash needs only 6 inches. The space taken up by each dead horse could hold $200 worth of compacted trash.


“I guess the people who were trying to protect the horses actually made things worse for them. These are not Presidio horses, we’re just the end of the trail,” he said.


After much haggling with the horse pen operators, the City Council last month approved an increase in the dumping charge to $60 for the first eight horses delivered each month, and $70 each for all beyond that.


Unwanted horses

The reason for the dramatic 10-fold increase in dead animals in Presidio remains unclear.


Ruben Brito, who runs the J&R Horse pens east of town, which in November alone dumped 75 animals, attributed the sharp rise to normal attrition during a period of very high volume.


In November, J&R shipped 110 loads of horses — representing about 3,300 animals — to Mexico. All told, J&R disposed of more than 400 dead horses and donkeys in 2015, according to city figures.


“I have been accused of being a horse-killer,” said Brito, who has had confrontations with animal protection people on his lot. “The thing that bugs me is they accuse me of all kinds of things, but it’s all just a game to get people to send more money.”


He said the horses end up in Presidio because they’re apparently unwanted elsewhere.


“What are you going to do with these horses here?” he asked.


Pointing to a large black and white paint leaning curiously over the pen fence, he noted: “This mare has never been ridden. Look at its shoes. It’s gentle but it’s not broken, and its never been bred. Who is gonna buy this horse?”


Motioning to another, a stout gelding with numbers branded into its hip, he said, “That’s a rodeo horse, but if you don’t buck, what then? It’s like everything else.”


And because the nearest veterinarian is an hour and a half away, if an injured horse must be euthanized, it gets a bullet in the head, a practice some others have found shocking, he noted.


“We’ve got too much regulation, too many goody-goodies. You can’t be a rancher without having a lawyer by your side,” he complained.


The other currently active operation, Baeza Cattle, is far smaller and disposed of only about 50 animals last year, the city’s figures show.


“If a horse is broke down, if it can’t make it into the truck, you have to put it out of its misery,” said Salvador Baeza, most of whose business is importing cattle from Mexico.


“I’m not in the horse business. I never buy horses. I never own horses,” he said, adding he merely provides a temporary way-station at a charge of $6.50 a horse.


“Our suppliers send us good horses. Do you see horses that have been mistreated?” Baeza asked. “Anytime you put horses in a trailer they can get hurt.”


Brito said that lately, the horse traffic to Mexico has slumped significantly.

“We were doing 15 to 20 loads a week, but now were down to seven or eight. It’s the devaluation of the peso,” he said.


Horse slaughter in the U.S. 


Before 2007, horses could be slaughtered in domestic plants for consumption by humans or zoo animals. Since then, all horses destined for slaughtering have been shipped to plants in Mexico and Canada.




Exports to Europe banned

Last year, the number of horses exported to Mexico dropped by about 20,000 to just under 75,000. This year, the pace of exports is even slower, with only about 25,500 horses exported through May.


One reason for the slowdown was a move last year by the European Union to stop accepting horse meat from Mexico. It acted over fears of drug contamination and claims by activists of cruelty and neglect.


The decision came after a welfare group called Animals’ Angels, which regularly does on-the-scene investigations of the trade, from the auction to the slaughterhouse in Mexico, shared its findings with the Europeans.


Its reports, which sometimes include graphic photos of badly injured, starving or abused animals, include accounts of visits made to the border stock pens.

“The Presidio slaughter horse export pens in Texas have a long, sordid history of violating environmental laws, illegal carcass dumping and animal cruelty,” Animals’ Angels wrote in one recent assessment.


In late 2014, Animals Angels’ submitted a thick report to the European Union detailing abuses and possible contamination by pharmaceuticals of horse meat processed in Mexico.


“We flew to Brussels and I met with the European Commission myself,” said Sonja Meadows, founder of the Maryland-based group.


“We showed a video of our findings for the past seven years. We gave them a 100-page report highlighting the transport issue and the food-safety issue,” she said. “I could see they were truly appalled and surprised at the amount of cruelty they saw. I think it kind of caught them by surprise.”


In early 2015, the EU, which had also sent its own inspectors to Mexico and the U.S., including to the stock pens in Presidio, imposed a ban on horse meat from Mexico.


Noting that 87 percent of the Mexican horse meat came from U.S. horses, the final report cited “animal welfare problems” and a lack of confidence in the system designed to ensure the animals have a clean drug history.


“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not take responsibility for the reliability of affidavits issued for horses originating in the US, and the FVO audit team found very many affidavits which were invalid or of questionable validity,” read the report.


Where Europe had regularly imported most of the horse meat produced in Mexico, that market has vanished. Now, Mexican horse meat is believed to be going elsewhere, and consumed domestically.

“We have found they have shifted to the Russian market, and some to Vietnam,” Meadows said.


Animal welfare issue

Despite its nearly 200 co-sponsors, and fervent support from the Humane Society, ASPCA and other animal welfare groups, HR 1942, the so-called Safeguard American Food Exports Act, appears mired in the political mud of Washington.


Nevertheless, ASPCA vice president Nancy Perry said, the bill has brought progress in the public and political realms on the underlying issue.


“The administration has been overtly supportive of a ban on horse slaughter. (Hillary) Clinton has an animal welfare platform that includes a prohibition on horse slaughter. It just hasn’t been part of the dialogue at that level before,” she said.


And, she said, the ASPCA is convinced that millions of Americans would adopt horses if they were no longer being exported for the benefit of the horse industry.


“Yes there would be disarray and chaos, but the horses would be better off. If we quit incentivizing overbreeding and discarding horses, the market would adjust to the circumstances,” she added.


But some groups that oppose the bill believe it would create bigger problems.

“It’s strictly an animal welfare issue for us,” said Ward Stutz of the American Quarter Horse Association, which, along with the Farm Bureau of America and others opposes HR 1942.


“What do you do with all those horses if that act should pass? I just think the potential for abandonment and neglect is much greater,” Stutz said.

Things probably were better for horses before the closures of the domestic slaughter plants effectively ended oversight by USDA inspectors of the industry, he said.


“For both sides, the humane treatment of horses is paramount. It’s just that some don’t agree that a horse should be euthanized and processed for food,” he added.


Even the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes a legislative ban on horse slaughter without adding protections for the surplus, unwanted horses.


Impasse continues

An operator of a North Texas horse auction, who has been involved in the business for 30 years and has sold thousands of horses to the “kill buyers,” says the current impasse will likely continue.


“I think nothing is going to change about this situation. There are people who want horse plants back in the States. That is not going to happen,” he said. “There are people who want to stop the horses from going to Mexico and Canada. That is not going to happen.”


The auctioneer, who asked that his name not be used or business be identified, said the issue has become an untouchable third rail for politicians.


“It’s too controversial. No one will vote for it. No one will vote against it. It doesn’t matter which way they go, people are going to be upset. So, these bills will continue to lay there,” he said of pending legislation.


The closing of the U.S. slaughterhouses in 2007, the economic crash of 2008, and the multiyear drought that followed all have conspired to force the price of horses to record lows, he said.


“They went from about 60 cents a pound to about 20 cents a pound. Now we are running into a shortage of horses. We are lower than anytime in 15 years,” he added of market bottom horses.


Mostly, he said, he just wishes the whole thorny issue, which is bad for business, would just go away.


“We need this deal to quiet down as much as possible. There’s a lot of rescue people who come and buy horses, and we’re OK with that. Anyone is welcome. We sell to the highest bidder and we want the highest prices possible,” he added.




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