By Wayne Pacelle
Here’s a remarkable story: A horse once on the sales block for slaughter is the recipient of one of the horse industry’s most coveted prizes.
Recently, a 17-year-old horse named Jamaica won the title of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Horse of the Year. Deemed the nation’s most exceptional horse for 2008, it’s a high honor. But what really makes the designation so noteworthy is that Jamaica, now a top equine athlete, was once bound for a European slaughterhouse.
Jamaica’s rags-to-riches tale began more than a decade ago when a carriage driver purchased him from a killer buyer in Belgium. But as it turned out, Jamaica didn’t have the patience to stand still while carriage passengers loaded and unloaded, so he was resold and retrained to be part of a Four-in-Hand Combined Driving team, a rigorous equestrian sport. Jamaica flourished in this new role, racking up numerous honors and, along the way, was nominated for the coveted USEF title.
We’ve long maintained that the majority of horses who end up in the grisly slaughter pipeline are horses who, for whatever reason, merely need a second chance. They are typically not old, broken, or dangerous animals, as the horse slaughter industry and its allies in agribusiness claim. It’s our claim that the slaughter industry doesn’t provide a needed service—it merely gives unscrupulous breeders and irresponsible horse owners an easy out when they decide they no longer want to care for their horses and instead want to make a few dollars.
In order to help horses and to foster greater personal responsibility among horse owners, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Dan Burton introduced H.R. 503, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009, to prohibit the horse slaughter industry from trying to set up shop in the U.S. and to prevent our horses from being exported across our borders for slaughter.
Jamaica’s turn-of-circumstance gives added momentum to a new venture we’re rolling out this week in Franklin, Tenn. The HSUS has teamed up with world-renowned natural horsemanship trainers Pat and Linda Parelli to highlight the amazing intelligence and trainability of the thousands of horses awaiting new homes at rescues across the country. At a series of seven Parelli “Celebration” events, The HSUS will work with a local rescue to provide a horse—like Beau, who was rescued by Volunteer Equine Advocates of Gallatin, Tenn. and will continue his retraining at the Franklin event—with three days of hands-on training from Pat Parelli. At the end of the event, the horse will be offered for adoption to an approved home.
Our nation’s horse rescues provide a valuable service in helping at-risk horses. Through our work with the Homes for Horses Coalition and Parelli Natural Horsemanship, we hope to help more rescued horses like Jamaica and Beau find new homes where they’ll flourish. Their stories, and the untold stories of thousands of horses who never got a second chance, are what drive us to work tirelessly to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption abroad.
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By Wayne Pacelle