Yes, Virginia, they do. Despite the fact that the last horse slaughterhouses in this country were shut down (only a few years ago!) horses are still being euthanized by the government as part of a roundup of wild horses on public BLM lands in the West. Or sold in the auction yard by racetrack owners who no longer want them, Premarin farms who no longer require them, or private owners who can no longer afford them. These big, strong, beautiful animals are incredibly vulnerable to a bad economy and man’s dark side, and are in rather desperate need of protection.
Actually, the wild horses are supposed to be protected under a 1971 federal law that prohibited their “capture, branding, harassment and death” as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the American West.” Well, yeah. But somehow that mission has been conflated with BLM’s job to establish “appropriate management levels” of the wild horses, and when that gets overlaid with cattlemen’s competition for the same grazing land, the wild horses come up short. So they’re rounded up, put in pens, and, many fear, sold to the slaughterhouses in Mexico or simply euthanized.
But not if Castleton Ranch Horse Rescue gets there first. Working with auction houses, private owners, killer buyers (who buy horses at auction for as little as $10 and sell them to Mexican slaughterhouses for hundreds of dollars), and PMU farms (where horses are bred for their urine to be used in now highly discredited hormone replacement drugs)—Castleton takes in horses that no one else wants and brings them back to health on two beautiful ranches in southern California. The ultimate goal is to rehab the abused or neglected horses, train them in dressage or trail riding if possible, and find them new homes. Or provide a nice, quiet place for the unplaceable horses to be put out to pasture for their retirement (sounds lovely to me!)
It’s an expensive proposition, without a doubt. Horses require hoof care, teeth care, vaccinations and tons of expensive hay– and thoroughbreds cost even more to keep healthy. But that doesn’t daunt the Castleton Ranch Horse Rescue folks one bit.
“When the horses come to us, some are so afraid they won’t let us touch them,” says founder Lisa Thomas. “They tremble with fear and their eyes are filled with terror. But when you finally win them over and earn their trust, you can see their faces change, their eyes get soft, and you can tell they’re happy.”
It’s like the happy ending of Black Beauty! I’m sending $100 to Castleton Ranch today to feed one horse for two weeks. To join me, click here. And to petition for an end to the Wild Horse roundups, visit American Horse Defense Fund or American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. Giddyap, Giddyap, let’s go!