The Dark Side of Florida’s Thriving Horse Industry

Several horses did not look healthy. Investigators noted visible ribs, recent scratches, congested noses, and depressed behaviors.

You might think Florida is all about beaches and Disney. However, Florida has a long history as an agricultural state with numerous farming and ranching enterprises. The Sunshine State boasts a large horse population including a wild horse herd in Payne’s Prairie state park and Ocala is known as “the horse capital of the world” and future home to the World Equestrian Center now under construction.

In 2010, then Governor Charlie Crist signed a law which made killing a horse a second-degree felony with a minimum one-year prison sentence.

In addition, some of Florida’s U.S. representatives work at the national level on behalf of horses. Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) co-sponsored the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 961/S. 2006) which would prohibit the slaughter of horses in the U.S. for human consumption, as well as the export of live horses for the same purpose.

Florida laws against killing a horse along with proposed legislation like the SAFE Act share a common goal – to make horses safer from threats of abuse, neglect, and slaughter. Unfortunately, recent research and investigation show that Florida horses still end up in the slaughter pipeline.

With Front Range Equine Rescue’s support, Animals’ Angels went undercover in Florida to learn more about auctions and horse dealers potentially involved in this predatory industry. Additional evidence was obtained through FOIA requests.

At a monthly FL horse auction, investigators documented:
Two ex-racehorses (1) a 9-year-old stallion with “bad” knees and (2) a 14-year-old gelding. The owner of the stallion appeared very nervous and immediately approached investigators when they took a closer look at this horse. The owner stated the stallion was retired from the track and was supposed to be used for breeding, but he turned out to be sterile.

When the auction began, there were a few known horse traders in the audience. At the end of the sale, only six horses had sold. Both ex-racehorses were bought by private individuals. Two of the other horses, who were both visibly sick and emaciated, were not brought through the ring for sale. However, both were loaded into a truck that was parked in the back of the pen area, along with other horses the same buyer had purchased during the sale.

You can read Animals’ Angels full report here.

This is a preliminary investigation into Florida’s horse trade. Although Florida can boast of beautiful horse farms, equestrian neighborhoods, and a thriving horse show industry, questionable horse traders operate throughout the state. It is critical that research and investigations continue so that no horse ends up in the wrong hands.

Winter Horse Care Tips

Winter is Here, Make Sure You and Your Horses Are Ready

Ideally, you should start preparing before the winter weather arrives with regard to your horse care routine. But it’s never too late to make sure your horse is receiving proper care as colder temperatures and frozen precipitation set in. The following are just a few tips to keep horses healthy and happy during the winter season.

While Mother Nature prepared your horse for colder days and nights with the growth of a winter hair coat, horse owners might need to adjust feed, shelter and water requirements. You will want to have a well-fitting, waterproof blanket available for sharp temperature drops or if your horse did not grow a good winter hair coat. Horses who are not in good health or at a healthy weight will need blanketing so that they are not shivering by morning, even if kept in a barn.

Feeding horses in winter is similar to feeding them during the rest of the year except horses require more energy (e.g., calories) to help maintain their body temperature. Increasing the amount of hay you feed is often the best way to do this, especially in areas where grazing becomes more limited to non-existent.

Studies have indicated that energy (or calories) obtained from hay is more readily converted to body heat than that found in concentrates like grain. It has also been shown that the more concentrates a horse is fed, the greater the chance of developing colic. Feed changes also increase the chance of colic so always make changes over a period of time, gradually increasing (or decreasing) the amount of feed. It’s also a good idea to pre-purchase a good winter hay supply so you don’t end up having to pay higher prices or worry about winter shortages which can occur.

Shelter is necessary year round, but especially during the winter months to protect horses from the effects of wind and wet weather. Wind chill affects horses just as it does people; even a healthy horse can die of hypothermia in a blizzard if it does not have adequate protection from the elements. Young foals, older horses, underweight or ill horses are more susceptible to hypothermia. A clean and dry shed or stall in a barn with good bedding is ideal. A simple wind break with no roof is not adequate.

Water is very critical to maintain your horse’s health. Providing water during winter can be challenging due to frozen hoses, spigots, water buckets, and even your frozen fingers. Research has shown horses drink more water during inclement weather if the water is warm (this can help reduce colic risk too). Chopping ice out of water containers is not a good solution. Fresh unfrozen water must always be available. Take the time to purchase bucket or water tank heaters appropriate for use in your horses’ water containers. Make sure your electrical outlets carry enough current for tank heaters and always check the heaters (or automatic waterers) for malfunctions. Also, protect electrical wiring from horses’ teeth.

Always make sure your horse is up-to-date on appropriate veterinary and farrier care. Continue your regular worming schedule which is recommended for the region where you live. If you missed a dental check-up for your horse in the Fall, be sure to include it in the Spring unless an issue is suspected currently.

Remember too that regular exercise is important for your horse year-round; make sure that your horse can get turned out for a time even when it’s too cold to ride.

Horse Rescue Crisis in Florida

At the end of 2017 we received a desperate email plea for help from an animal sanctuary in severe financial trouble.

They have over 500 domestic and wild animals including close to 85 equines (horses, ponies, donkeys).

Sunny arrived at our Florida rescue farm malnourished, overdue for proper farrier care, with significant dental issues, arthritis and a yeast infection.

The disturbing message indicated there was no money available for purchasing quality hay; the grass was dead and veterinary care could not be provided if needed.

We’ve been rescuing the most urgent needs horses first but there are dozens more which require help now before this situation becomes a tragedy.

It’s a very challenging situation for many reasons. The majority of these horses must place with equine sanctuaries. A few will be released to private homes as companion only horses. A handful of the horses might be suitable for responsible owners looking to adopt a horse.

Conditions found in horses removed to date include lameness, lack of professional farrier care, thrush, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, heaves, malnutrition, cancer, arthritis, Cushings disease, neuropathy and training issues.

Donations are needed to ensure proper feed and medical care can be provided for horses removed.

Donate Now

Help Stop the Summertime Blues!

Your help is needed to keep horses cool and ward off flies, skin conditions like fungus and rain-rot or other summertime woes…

Summer has arrived in almost full force here in Florida. The Virginia foster farm is starting to feel the heat (and humidity) and even our horses in Colorado are seeing some hotter days.

The summer season brings special needs for horses including protection from temperature extremes, heat or precipitation issues, and flies or other pests like ticks. Front Range Equine Rescue works hard to provide optimal care for each and every horse in our rescue program. Unfortunately summer conditions are tough to completely fight.

I hope you can contribute to help fulfill our hot weather wish list. Supplies run low quickly!

FLY SPRAY/TRAPS/MASKS

These are used to keep as many flies away as possible. We have other methods to work on the fly population as well, but the sprays and traps as well as using masks to protect horses’ eyes are a mainstay.

NATURAL REMEDIES

We go through a lot of a garlic-based supplement (Bug-Lyte) and organic Apple Cider Vinegar. These products are given to the horses’ with their food and have various health benefits including immune boosting and fly protection.

With over forty horses under our care between CO, FL, and VA we go through many bottles of fly spray and other products. And because horses will be horses, sometimes fly masks get torn during play so we like to keep extras on hand. I’m sure you can imagine that fly traps are a constant purchase as well!

Can you help us ward off flies and treat skin issues caused by summer conditions?
Donate to Help.

FANS

We are in need of fans to keep horses in FL and VA cool. While our barns are well ventilated, it’s critical to keep air circulating. We keep fans hung for each stall as well as using larger agricultural fans in barn aisle ways.

Right now, we need to replace 5 fans at the VA foster farm and add another large agric-ultural fan here in FL for the retirees. Stall fans cost $70 each; the large ag fan is $385.

Can you help keep our FL and VA horses cool? Donate to Help. 

I greatly appreciate any assistance you can give so we can stay on top of these weather related challenges. Several of the rescues at the VA farm developed rain rot after very wet conditions during May. They are being treated with a special shampoo and other products. Here in Florida, I’ve dealt with “summer sores” and signs of skin fungus on a couple of the horses. All are doing well with treatment, but we need to stay on top of it. Thanks so much for anything you can do!

 

Florida Transition Has Been Busy

It’s been a very busy transition from Colorado to Florida!

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We thank everyone who contributed to the fencing project which faced numerous weather delays; it’s almost done!

With loads of administrative work going on to send change of address forms, year-end receipts, preparing for the 2015 audit, and a big overhaul technology-wise to bring our website and social media into the 21st century.

We’ve met new vets, farrier, and feed/tack suppliers to help with our horse care needs.

Ocala is a very horse -oriented town also known as “the horse capital of the world”

A big thank you to everyone who helped with the move, especially those who contributed to the barn and fencing projects!

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The retired horses have settled in well and don’t seem to mind no snow at all.