Pet column: Celebrating and helping the horse

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Reflecting the value of a commercial horse more than 100 years ago, the horse ambulance was invented before the human ambulance. The horse helped humans explore continents, win wars, deliver food and laundry, plow fields and on and on. Horses lost their jobs and forecast to become doomed dinosaurs when the automobile took over city streets and rural roads. Perhaps the horse had the last laugh, however. After evolving into a companion animal, equine passengers in stock trailers became status symbols towed to trails and shows by big trucks.

This month, Americans celebrate the ninth annual National Day of the Horse. The 2004 resolution authored by Sens. Bill Campbell, R-Colo., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Mary Landrieu, D-La., recognizes the contributions of the horse to “the economy, history and character of the United States.” Considerations cited include: “because of increasing pressure from modern society, wild and domestic horses rely on humans for adequate food, water, and shelter; the horse industry contributes well over $100,000,000,000 each year to the economy of the United States; horses continue to permeate the society of the United States, as witnessed on movie screens, on open land, and in our own backyards; and horses are a vital part of the collective experience of the United States and deserve protection and compassion.” The National Day of the Horse passed Congress “in recognition of the importance of horses to the Nation’s security, economy, recreation, and heritage.”

In recent years, the horse has become a successful physical, social and emotional therapy animal for both adults and children. They populate dude ranches and real ranches. Horses can be seen packing trail gear in National Parks and partnering with police for benign crowd control. At the same time, range horses are literally losing ground in the age-old battle of rancher versus wildlife. Slaughter of horses for horse meat ingredients in pet and human food continues. When slaughterhouses shut down because they are not inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture, American horses are shipped across land and ocean under cruel, unsafe conditions only to suffer and die by crude means in another country. The economic meltdown created a crisis in hard hit communities where pet horses were simply tied to trees and abandoned or left on foreclosed property to starve to death. Horses are expensive to keep. Far from romantic is the plight of New York carriage horses who often are involved in horse-vehicle accidents in congested traffic — who, when-off duty, stand in high rise cement stalls and who literally die in harness standing at Central Park curbs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was founded in the late 1800s specifically to protect the horses of New York, but still has not succeeded in stopping that cruelty. The drugging of race horses continues despite decades of protest. Many equine events do not require that veterinarians be on hand to care for the injured animal athletes.

The Day of the Horse is a celebration and also an opportunity for renewed commitment to make right the centuries old bond between horse and human. As man was dependent upon the horse, now the reverse is true. From mustang range land to the streets of New Orleans and New York, to show rings, corrals and race tracks, there is opportunity to help the horse remain healthy and be treated respectfully as a noble, courageous, willing and generous animal partner.

— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.