Anyone in our state who hasn’t been hiding under a rock for the past 4 days is well aware that 10 horses died last week in Magna, Utah. They dehydrated. How did this tragedy occur? The humans in charge of their care failed to fill their troughs with water.
A local news report stated that the owners had driven by a few days before the deaths occurred and observed, from their passing vehicle, that the animals “looked fine.”
It’s relevant at this time of the year to remind anyone who’s in the position of caring for animals of all species that it’s hot outside. This fact is evident when you go outside, or look at a weather report. Particularly if you have animals who live outdoors (horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, etc.) they’re going to need an ample amount of water in order to remain healthy.
We’d hope that anyone literate enough to be reading this would already possess this rather basic knowledge, as it borders on the so-called (yet relatively uncommon) “common sense.”
If you pay someone to take care of animals for you, it’s a reasonable assumption that they will provide for the animals’ basic needs. Unfortunately, we cannot always take that for granted and there remains a certain degree of obligation to check in (physically making a visit and helping, if necessary, to make sure the livestock is provided with the feed, water, shelter and general necessities that will allow it to go on living). Drive-by concern is entirely insufficient.
Horse owners who keep their equines at a boarding facility regularly visit their stables at least 5 times per week. If the barn management only cleans stalls every 7 – 10 days, the animal’s owner will take it upon themselves to pick out the feces and urine in the interim to reduce the odor, lessen the damaging ammonia fumes that can irritate the horse’s lungs and sinuses, and help prevent thrush from infecting their hoofs. If water containers look dirty or should they need to be filled, owners take it upon themselves to do so. If horses appear to be distressed or in need of food, owners will take them out to exercise them and /or supply them with additional feed.
Ownership in of itself is a responsibility.
Depending upon the written agreements that are contracted between you, as an owner, and the facility or individual that you have hired to provide for your horse’s needs, you have every right to expect that they’re being watched over and provided with sufficient safety and nutrition.
However; rights don’t provide hydration or calories. Rights don’t offer comfort, affection and exercise. Rights are not something that your horse will comprehend and rights cannot sustain him.
Far beyond (and certainly far more important than) the legal concept of contractual rights, there is a foundation of responsibility that rests solely in the hands of each and every horse owner.
Sometimes human beings get into situations that make it difficult, if not impossible, to properly care for the animals that they’ve acquired. Should you find yourself in such a circumstance, please sell or give away (to a reliable and kind person) the horse before its life is in danger. If you simply have too many to manage, reduce your herd.
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re in over your head if you have too many horses to financially provide for, or find that you have acquired so many that time does not allow you watch over them and give them the attention, water and feed needed to carry on with a reasonably healthy and at least somewhat comfortable existence. Humans make mistakes. Circumstances change. Be aware, be honest, and be concerned for the animals.
Shame on anyone who would allow any animal (let alone close to a dozen) suffer the slow, painful, agonizing death that results from dehydration or starvation.
Shame on anyone who would suppose themselves so superior to these majestic and innocent animals that they should be treated like worthless, undeserving trash, their abused bodies left to be hauled off to some dump after a sad and unceremonious death.
If you cannot or will not provide for an animal’s base needs, if the energy you could have or should have devoted to their well-being is spent on inane excuses after their passing, you truly have no right to assume ownership of any equine, and you by no means have any right to call yourself a horseman.