Merry Christmas from HRL!
December is always a lively month, made more so by events held to celebrate the holiday season and often to benefit various charitable organizations. One of these events was a live performance of Spirit of The Horse, a story of two orphan children whose wish for Christmas is a family of their own.
The performance was enchanting with a snow queen, villain, toy soldiers, and a prince and princess as well as the two orphan children – and of course horses, all well trained and ridden by beautifully costumed riders. In addition to Yvonne Barteau and Kayla and Kassie Barteau, the cast includes guest stars Ben Albright and Kiersten Main, Pas de Cheval Dance Troupe with Paula Frasz and Michael Gascon as “the villain”.
Written by Yvonne Barteau – a filmmaker and author in addition to her accomplishments as an equine theater performer, Tevis Cup Buckle recipient, champion dressage rider, equestrian trainer, and partner of KYB Dressage (with her husband Kim) – the show is in its tenth season. Held at the Alachua County Agricultural and Equestrian Center in Newberry, this is the first time the event has made an appearance in Florida; it was held December 6th through 8th with all proceeds to benefit Horses Without Humans, an organization started by Barteau to rescue, train and rehome horses before they make it to the kill pens.
The content below this paragraph goes into detail about the heartbreaking background of what makes a rescue like Horses Without Humans so necessary. While it’s incredibly important information that needs to have a spotlight on it so that we can start to change it, consider this your Content Warning and please don’t go further without knowing it’s extremely difficult to read; we’re here to effect change, not ruin anyone’s day with a sneak attack.
Even though it is against the law to slaughter horses for meat in the United States, a loophole law allows the transport of horses across the border into Mexico and Canada, where it is legal. More than 100,000 horses a year are sent for slaughter from the United States.
We have all heard tales of horror, like the packed trailer destined for a Canadian slaughterhouse that caught fire in upstate New York with 30 horses burned alive, and a more recent Florida story where a horse backed out of a trailer destined for the kill pens on I-75…where the driver just kept going even though he knew the horse fell out. (Obviously no remorse, but if he had any humanity, he would not have been transporting horses destined for slaughter, right?)
That I-75 horse – now named Highway and who is the subject of a future HRL article – managed to survive the fall, and thanks to a rescue effort by Alachua County Sheriffs Dept and treatment received by dedicated veterinarians at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic, now resides at Dream Catcher Ranch in Clermont, Fla.
There are no guidelines or rules or laws as to what type of horse can or cannot be sent for slaughter; like most things that are ruthless and ugly, money is the driving factor. Have a horse you can’t sell right away, or you just no longer want? Sell it to the kill pens. Champion horses, pregnant mares, the aged, even kid’s pets that should have had a forever home – it doesn’t matter that they gave their all to their human at the track, in the show ring, or just on a favorite riding trail…they have found themselves discarded as you would garbage on the side of the road.
One of the most infuriating ads I see on sites like Craigslist and Facebook read something like “26-year-old horse seeks forever home”…well, read a little further and it is revealed they have bought a younger horse and can’t afford two. (No matter it taught all of their kids to rope, or barrel race – the kids have moved up in competition!) These ads are a waving red flag to those seeking free or low money horses that become re-homed to the kill pens.
If you can stand to watch it, PETA has a video documenting the travel of horses that were the unfortunate actors filmed right up to the slaughter. It is graphic, but it documents the tragic end these horses face and was necessary to make the public aware.
If you’ve gotten this far, you can see why organizations like Horses Without Humans are so important to support. Again, keep up with them at HorsesWithoutHumans.org or on their Facebook page, and HRL encourages you to donate, volunteer, or both. We appreciate Yvonne Barteau’s tireless work in support of these most vulnerable creatures we love so very much.