2017 has proved to be a very ‘news full’ year. Certainly not a lot of the news centered around horses, but the machinations of the government have affected the laws and resources that affect the equestrian community. And there was the weather. And people, interesting and well, perhaps deserving of what they got. Here are some of the horse news stories of 2017.
Horse Slaughter and Mustangs
While horse slaughter in the U.S may have been banned several years ago, government budget cuts may mean that thousands of free-roaming mustangs could take place. Estimates of up to 90,000 horses could be affected if the culls to mustang herds take place. Some sources claim this could completely wipe out herds in some states.
Meanwhile, Canada continues to be one of the largest exporters of horse meat in the world. Thousands of the horses processed there are shipped from the US.
A US federal legislation that would end the abuse of soring was put on hold in January under the then-new administration. The current law is said to be ‘full of holes’ allowing those who practice the abuse to continue. The HUS and others are keeping the pressure on to see the new legislation take effect.
Hurricanes and Horses
Weather-related news this year revolved around hurricanes. Hurricanes Harvey devastated areas of Texas and Louisiana and Hurricanes Irma and Maria had catastrophic effects on many Caribbean Islands like the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Clean up efforts continue and it will be a long time before stables, race tracks, and other equestrian venues are able to run as normal.
Horses Take a Punch
Several headlines appeared this year about horses getting punched. In August, news reports out of the Valencia region of Spain told of a cart horse competition, in which single horses pull carts with up to 3.5 tons of bagged sand. To encourage their horses to pull, handlers routinely punch their horses in the head or body. Although the governing body of the competitions claim they penalize anyone who uses excessive force on their animals, video, and photos of the proceedings prove otherwise.
Several jockeys have been reprimanded for punching the horse they were riding, the latest being suspended for punching the filly he was riding when it acted up before a race.
And police horses have had it rough. Several newspapers carried stories about horses getting punched while on duty. One punched back though. Earlier this year, a college student in Ontario slapped a police horse. The horse meted out justice with a retaliatory kick.
Judging Rider Weight
A lot of people question whether they are too heavy for their horse. Current research suggests that a horse can comfortably carry about 10% of its own weight. This could mean though, that many of us are too heavy for our horses. Because it is a welfare concern, and to dissuade adults from riding child-sized mounts, riders in Britain may be asked to dismount. The new guidelines and the recommended actions are controversial as some see the move as body shaming.
Last spring, the latest craze in Finland hit the headlines. Hobbyhorsing is racing with a stick horses. The activity is particularly popular with young girls, although anyone can join in. Enthusiasts say it promotes fitness, camaraderie, and fun. Competitions have been held in Finland for over ten years, and the first hobby horse competition was held in North America this summer.
Fads come and go in the horse world. But veterinarians are warning of the dangers of breeding for a specific quality that could ultimately be a detriment to the horse. The example being pointed out was a foal with a very dished face that experts say might have breathing problems due to what many consider a disfigurement.
Carriage horses, those who pull horse-drawn vehicles around tourist areas in cities have come under close scrutiny over the past year. In cities like New York, Montreal, and Chicago, opponents of carriage rides continue to work towards a ban. The Montreal SPCA hopes that its new mayor to move forward to abolishing the carriage trade in that city.
Queen Still Riding
At age 91, the Queen is still occasionally sighted on horseback. Her husband Prince Philip, at 96, has officially retired from public life, but not from driving a four-in-hand around the grounds of Windsor castle. Here’s hoping we are all able to do the same.
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