OPINION: The good, the bad and the reality

6-30 horse 2

I have heard many times, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so as a photographer and animal lover, I took some pictures to our local newspaper editor in advocation of a horse meat processing plant near our community.

To my horror, Neill Woelk asked me to write something to go with the photographs.

On June 14, I captured this bone-thin, lame gelding with my camera. Upon returning three days later, I found the horse deceased in a pile of trash with a tree that fell on him. Although he is no longer starving and in pain, how much did he have to suffer before that fateful tree falling? Horse rescues are full and overflowing with horses like the one pictured here, or so crippled they can hardly move. There are also a great many more horses in rescues that were just born the wrong color, wrong gender, or just not up to showing at a national level. So with the very hot topic of a horse meat processing plant near our community, I thought this would be a good time to share a story about a 10-year-old little girl and her first horse.

Whiskey was a little sorrel quarter horse with the sweetest disposition and a heart of gold, always willing to do anything for his little rider. A little girl brushing, talking and riding her little red horse —  they were a perfect pair.

After a short time in his new home, Whiskey began showing lameness in both front feet. No riding and a rest were required, so the little girl spent her time brushing and talking to her lame little horse. Special shoes were needed and her parents said yes, but this was not a fix or cure for the lameness, only some relief of pain. In May 1978, a letter arrived from the local horse veterinary and the heart of that little girl was broken. Whiskey had been diagnosed with advanced navicular disease in both front feet, a crippling and painful disease within the hoof and not visible unless X-rayed. Although she had grown up in an agricultural community, raising livestock for market, the little girl was still getting a strong dose of reality along with other lessons in her life still to come. Her parents had already spent quite a bit of money on the veterinary diagnosis and care with special shoeing, which cost more than normal, then medication on top of that.

She knew keeping her horse for a pasture pet was out of the question because she would need another horse to ride and they could not afford to feed an extra horse. Whiskey was no longer safe to ride, and the riding increased his pain. Although a horse aspirin-type medication can be given, the most common side effect is ulcers. The other downside to this medication is the lessening and deadening of the pain in the front feet. If he were to fall with a rider, accidental injury to the rider was a very real possibility. The little red horse would have to be sold for the little girl to have another horse to ride and continue learning about this great animal.

The regular horse auction was not an option, either, because he was not safe to ride and someone could be injured or killed if the horse fell while being ridden.The safe and affordable option was for him to be sold for meat purposes. This guaranteed no starving, no more pain, and no chance of injuring someone. A decision was made and accepted by a 10-year-old little girl —  although not completely understood and definitely not liked.

Now, 34 years later, I understand the decision took more humanity than letting him starve to death and be in constant pain, more compassion then doping him with “Bute.”

A mother’s words to her daughter: “We cannot send Whiskey to the regular horse sale because someone might buy him for a good riding horse and if he falls injuring the rider I would feel responsible, knowing he was unsafe to ride.”

Compassion, humanity, safety, morals, ethics, responsibility of being a good horse owner, and reality of a young agricultural family needing some money to aid in purchasing another horse.

Thank you Mom for that little red horse, Whiskey, starting a lifelong love of horses.

In memory of Whiskey, the little sorrel quarter horse.

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