In 1929, Bessie Smith sang this song:
In the year Ms. Smith recorded that song, one out of four American families bought a car. When the Great Depression hit, some of those cars ended up being towed by horses. They called them “Hoover wagons.”
People who couldn’t afford a car could afford a horse if they were lucky.
And then, when things kept getting worse, most of them couldn’t. There wasn’t a penny in their pockets. Options had run out and hope wasn’t far behind.
What happened to all those horses when there wasn’t a penny to feed them?
In southern Missouri (and everywhere else), many simply set their horses free, to fend for themselves or to die. Better, perhaps, than to watch them die at home or on the road. Or kill them. Or eat them.
Today, the descendants of those horses abandoned by their impoverished owners during the Great Depression form a wild herd. And today’s impoverished owners are once again abandoning their horses in southern Missouri (and all over the country).
These horses are in for just as tough a time. It’s hard to scrounge for food. There are predators. And the domesticated horses don’t mix so well with the wild ones. Pity the old horses, or the horses who were already sick and starving when their owners finally said, “Goodbye, good luck.”
The Wild Horse League can still find homes for the wild horses. People still want them. The dumped horses are free for the taking. But there are no takers. Only broken hearts.
Elaine Lang said:
If during my lifetime, that time should ever come (and I am sure it’s already started) a well placed bullet will send my animals back to their creator. No one is eating my boys, neither will I allow them to suffer. My vet and I were discussing this last year. She asked, ” who will be here to save all the unwanted animals?”. Unfortunately, I can only speak for my own.
A well-placed bullet is the most humane form of euthanasia, provided you have the skill and stomach for it.
Elaine Lang said:
I know, it’s the lesser of 2 evils. I have pictured putting the boys down that way and I know my hand will falter; I probably won’t be able to sight accurately because of the tears, and my heart will be crying no the whole time, but it became my responsibility to see to their welfare the moment they were purchased. I wasn’t there to be with Sarge when he died in the middle of the night at 36; his great heart just slowed and stopped. But at 34 Brigand’s system shut down and he coliced around suppertime. I was there when the vet released him out of this world and I was there when he was buried. My neighbor asked me why I wanted to see him pushed into a hole and offered to manage on his own. Both his daughters refused to be at the buriel of their beloved horses. I told him no matter what heartbreak I should suffer, I felt it was my responsibility to be there to the very end; I wanted my voice and touch to be the last he knew of this earth. He and I were together for 28 yrs. Who of us hasn’t heard and seen the horror stories of abused animals. Who of us hasn’t been left cursing the air while watching an expose of horriblely starved animals because their moneyless owners couldn’t bear to part with them: they “LOVE THEM” so much (but you can watch them slowly STARVE TO DEATH!) Incomprehensible and totally unacceptable to any true animal lover. Especially in the case of horses who are the most sensitive, giving, and selfless animals on earth. No, when I stand before The Lord, he will know that I loved and sacrificed all that I could for the animals in my care and cherised the gift of the grand passion for horses he bestowed on me at birth.
L. Melone said:
Ditto to what Elaine Lang said–can’t imagine turning them loose to fend for themselves. But before I eat, my animals will be fed.
Elaine – Thank you for expressing your thoughts and sharing a piece of your heart with the story of some of your horses. If only everyone could have as much gratitude for the gift of horses in their life and as great a sense of personal responsibility.
If you think you might not be able to sight accurately if the time ever comes when you have to use a bullet, you might want to have some people “on call,” who can pull the trigger for you. There’s a relatively small margin of error when it comes to shooting a horse, and if it goes bad, it can be horrible. On the other hand, I know you, and I suspect that the strength to do what you need to do and to do it well will be yours when you need it.
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Don Matt said:
In November of 2011 we had two horses show up on our property in Northwest Arkansas. Placing ads on the radio and the local feed store brought no response.
The Shetland mare and yearling colt were unapproachable. They had a good pasture and water. They were both in bad shape. We had no experience with horses but slowly my wife convinced them she was a good food source. After a couple months of twice daily feedings and treats and with the help of the local vet and his son we got them into a horse trailer and they are being transported for care and new homes. They were lucky.
Hi Don — Thanks so much for sharing your story. When someone doesn’t have enough money to feed a Shetland pony, you know that times are tough.
Bless you and your wife! It sounds like your wife has a way with animals, because if horses (or ponies) have enough to eat, they don’t have to come to anyone for extra food. If they do, it’s because it’s someone they trust. That’s especially true of ungentled animals.
As I’m sure your vet took into account, ponies on pasture are at risk for laminitis — and it’s something that not everyone knows, so I feel it’s important to mention it. Laminitis is such a dreadful disease, as the hoof wall separates, which can cause the hoof to “melt” and the bones within the hoof to sink. It’s hard to imagine anything more painful.
I’m so happy that you and your wife were able to care for these abandoned horses and help them find new homes. If only every story of abandoned animals had such a happy ending.
I have had this on my mind for months now, and I keep ordering feed ahead, and my daughter, who owns the horses, looks for sources of hay. Thanks for discussing alternatives, and suggesting the best one. We will continue to do our best for now.
Mejane — Thank you for sharing this. You’re doing the best you can do for now and that’s all you can do.
Wow, I thought I was the only one out there thinking about these issues. Thank you all for sharing and for letting me know I am not the only one. Bless you all!
Radio RMN Podcast (@radiormnpodcast) said:
John Edmonds and his wife operate a 501(c)(3) organization in Rainbow, AZ called Hopeful Hooves, Inc. that takes in and cares for abandoned horses and other animals. Edmonds has been a frequent guest on Radio RMN to communicate the plight of abandoned horses and the recent law signed by President Obama that authorizes the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
Click here to listen to the podcast version of the Dec. 2, 2011 radio interview with John Edmonds.