Who's Fugly today? Fugly Horse of the Day is a blog that delivers a swift kick to the sensitive parts of the horse world. Anyone who thinks he or she is insulated from charges of cruel or questionable practices should think again; this web site has its camera lens focused on all of us. This video is a montage of photos from the blog. If you don't believe there are horses in need in the USA, just click on the "play" icon. "FHOTD" features a few stunners every day, and the blogger never seems to run out of horses. While her anger is apparent, it is a deadeye aim at humans. Humans make a horse Fugly, just because humans make horses, often for all the wrong reasons. (Images in video are direct from YouTube and attributed without explanation by FHOTD; you would have to go through the blog to read each photo's story.)
Many people in the horse world think that all this "unwanted horse" business does not apply to them. It's someone else's problem.
Make that everyone else's problem.
The way I think of it is: If you know that every horse you have owned in your life ended his or her life in the care of a concerned human (preferably yours), maybe you have a clear conscience. But for many of us who have sold a horse on and don't know how its life ended, there is always that little wisp of a cloud of doubt.
Could one of those horses in one of those videos have been your Misty, your Dusty, your Snowball, your Frosty, your Moose, or even my Skeeter?
We hate to think about it, but we have to. And we have to do a lot more than think about it. We have to do something about it.
This week in Washington DC, the American Horse Council and the US Department of Agriculture presented a full day's forum on the status of unwanted horses in our country. The report is slim, and grim. Full of things we already know, questions we have already asked, but the fact that people at the top of the decision-making and influence-peddling heap are paying attention is a ray of hope in a cloud-filled sky.
What can you or I do? Dr. Tom Lenz, representing the American Association of Equine Practitioners, summed it up for me: "Buy rather then breed. Adopt rather than buy. Find alternative careers. Euthanize rather than discard."
It's time for the AAEP and the AVMA to put that mantra to work. Every time a vet leaves a barn, a card should be left behind with that advice. Posters need to go up in feed stores and at showgrounds.
I know that veterinarians, feed stores, tack shops and yes, horse magazines and web sites, make a lot of money from horse breeding, whether it's selling foal halters or stallion ads or performing AI and ultrasounds on mares.
I saw a bumper sticker from the dog side of the world. It read something like: "DO NOT BREED....when so many are in need!" We need a lot of those printed up with horses on them instead of dogs.
Most days, I force myself to visit an unpleasant blog called "Fugly Horse of the Day" and recommend it to you too. I think "FHOTD" must be the most popular horse blog on the entire Internet. It is irreverent. It is cruel. It is downright nasty. It makes me cringe. But I keep going back, because it keeps going on.
Each day, the blogger finds and ridicules a horse-for-sale ad found on the Internet. Most feature poorly-conformed products of what has come to be called "backyard breeding". Other days she takes aim at trainers or show practices. Some posts show tiny children playing under the hooves of "unbelievably gentle" stallions that are for sale. Some horses are shown in barbed-wire prisons. Others are deparately thin or deformed. Shrill-sounding owners plea for someone to "rescue" their lame, exhausted bred-to-death older mares who can no longer produce. Grade "stud colts" who should have been gelded years ago strut their pathetic stuff and fall prey to the blogger's ridicule.
She (I assume the blogger is female, but I could be mistaken) coins new words for bad colored horses, such as "hideozygous". She can and will make each and every one of us flinch, sooner or later. For many, the graphic language and in-your-face style are too much. For others, it's refreshing that someone has finally taken off the rose-colored glasses and shown us the reality of the American horse-owning public.
What keeps me coming back to FHOTD is the perpetuity of it. She never runs out of bad horse ads. She never quavers from her mission. Each blog post has hundreds of responses from her readers. This tells me that there is an endless supply out there of these horses.
Around here, land may be too valuable for people to have horses they don't use (or can't use). The cost of keeping a horse may too high for there to be too many field-bred accidents born each year, but I know there are some. And there are people everywhere who ride horses with ill-fitting tack, or do just plain dumb things (sometimes by accident). Horses get hurt because of owner ignorance regardless of zip code or boarding costs per month. And hurt horses in the unwanted pipeline go down quickly, until they end up on a trailer bound for Mexico or Canada, a long, long way from the green pastures that older horses romp through in fairy tales.
We invite you to download this article (see link below) on the unwanted horses meeting and read it. Get informed with these basic facts and then figure out where you're going to start to lend a hand. You can begin today, with a donation of time or cash to responsible horse rescue groups and sanctuaries who are hard at work trying to turn unwanted horses into wanted ones.
I hope your first pony lived out its days under the apple tree with Black Beauty and Ginger. That's the way it's supposed to be, but Fugly reality is haunting me. How about you?