I hate the negative, I want my blog to be positive and happy, puppies & candy canes, but this story sort of rocked my little world today. I am not even going to link a news story, there are so many now. Just google and pick one, I wouldn’t even know which one to pick for you.
I started riding back in 2007, right around the time that we were fighting in the US to close the last horse slaughter house in Illinois. Well once we shut down the last US slaughterhouse, the auctions didn’t stop, the killbuyers didn’t stop, now our horses just get transported to Canada & Mexico. At least when the slaughterhouses were here in the US, we could go in and regulate them, we could go in and make our PETA propaganda videos! Now why are we slaughtering horses at all you ask? Countries in Europe, Japan, and South America eat horse meat. Its a delicacy in some places, sweeter and leaner than beef. In Cuba especially horse meat is thought to have mystical powers, like sexual potency. Every year we breed thousands of unwanted horses, thoroughbreds that don’t earn their keep at the track, foals from the PMU industry (thats a whole other topic), and just family horses that people can’t afford to keep that are sold to kill buyers unknowingly. Its very sad for horse lovers to think about…..someone selling their horse to someone who they think is giving their horse a new home when they are really just taking that horse to auction for slaughter….sold by the pound.
Many surprising horses have ended up at slaughter houses. One that sticks out in my memory is Ferdinand, a grandson of Northern Dancer, winner of the Kentucky Derby & Preakness back in 1964. Quite a few have been saved once someone realized who they were, like Secretariat’s brother, Straight Flush.
Ok, so thats the history..what happened this past weekend is the horse meat black market in Florida really stepping into the spotlight. Horse meat on the black market is going for up to $40/lb. Thats crazy when you think about a horse being about 1,300 pounds. This past weekend Phedras de Blondel, a beautiful Grand Prix show jumper that I believe had just arrived to Steve & Debbie Stephens’s farm in Palmetto FL was led from its stall, killed, and then butchered for meat.
The person(s) who killed him was experienced, a professional, very precise cuts. I won’t go into too much detail, but I imagine the people who actually saw what was left of him will have trouble forgetting it. I think I read that just this year there has been 17 slaughterings like this in Florida. Florida is home to many horses, and the population of Florida is very diverse. Some have hypothesized that this might be happening in Florida because of the Cuban population in the area.
I just don’t know. Horse barns are usually sort of open. Tack rooms might be locked, but we really rely on people self policing at the barn, asking strangers what they are up to. People live there full time, which is helpful because a person or a dog might hear thieves…motion lights help. Now in Florida people are having surveillance systems set up and hiring security guards.
I feel for the Stephens family….Debbie is an amazingly accomplished rider and her husband Steve is an awesome course designer, and they had big plans for Phedras de Blondel. I can’t even imagine how much money the horse was worth, but I know they have a reward out for any information about the incident.
The attention this is getting will hopefully curb the issue…but part of me can’t help but wonder if this is our fault. Did we do away with horse slaughter that could be monitored and provided lots of jobs just to have the black market make it even more violent and sinister now? Thinking about someone unlatching a stall door, sweetly whispering to a horse, slipping a halter over his perfect velvet ears, and then calmly walking a hundred yards away to do what these people did (because I doubt he/she could have done this alone) is just disturbing.
Anyway, this is certainly not pleasant. I hope that the reward money is enticing enough to catch these people. One of the hallmarks of prep/preppy/trad culture is the sport. Crew, tennis, polo, golf, fox hunting, lacrosse, whatever…..most of us enjoy at least one….and what happened in Florida….I don’t know, it would be like somebody burning down Wimbledon and watching the grass scorch….or taking every 8 in the Harvard boathouse and sinking them in Boston Harbor….
Here he is, in all his glory, just 12 years old.
Ears forward, gentle but focused eye, perfectly tucked front legs, and muscles rippling. This horse was meant for great things with some amazing athletes.
Alright, this was a rough post to write. Horses have given me more than I could ever give back to them, but paying tribute where tribute is due, and not forgetting this crime is a little thing I can do. Hug your ponies and appreciate them everyday!
End rant, on to the weekend! Love to you all! Here is the latest Matt Bellassai video to lighten the mood here! It’s perfect, the worse things about Halloween….