Friday, December 19, 2008

More on Slaughter...

Some want to bring it back - make it legal again. Really?

“I saw horses that were dead in trailers, with their legs ripped off, with their faces smashed in, eyeballs dangling, and these horses, some of them were still alive. They were just standing there,” said Caramante. Read the full story - my good friend Steve Long was interviewed with a horse he adopted from Second Chance Ranch.

And that is just the transportation. It is not an isolated incident - it is the sick truth about 50,000 - 100,000 horses per year. Does the magnitude of that number even register with you? The few people I have come across who are in favor of horse slaughter have been grossly misguided and have absolutely no clue what is involved in the transport or actual violent murder of these animals.

What about laws to protect horses from inhumane treatment? Exactly. WHAT happened to that? I will tell you - the laws that "could" protect a horse from violence and abuse are vaguely written and NOT enforced. You could call a sheriff from any county in the country and tell them a double-decker truck with injured horses is going down the freeway (both of which are illegal) and I can guarantee they wouldn't do anything about it.

For decades horse slaughter has been violent and cruel to the point that if you did something like that on your own property, you would not only be arrested, but probably admitted to a mental institution.

Bringing slaughter back is not the answer to anything. It won't help any situation that is going on. The point of extinguishing the practice of horse slaughter was to "evolve". Humanely euthanize domestic horses because they ARE pets and/or active in the work force of sports and other valuable positions (agriculture, police force, therapy are just a few examples).

It is absurd that we, as a society, have to discuss this and that there has to be a law forcing people to do the right thing. Tens of millions of dollars and tens of millions of people have worked for many years to accomplish the closure of horse slaughter. It's OVER. Get used to the idea that you will have to "humanely" euthanize domestic animals. Dogs, cats, and yes, horses, because soon it will be illegal to ship them out of the country for slaughter as well.

I dare ANY one who thinks we make slaughter illegal to watch the video on this news station. If after watching the truth about how the horses are transported, delivered, housed and then killed - if then, you still think it's an acceptable practice ... get some help!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Slaughter - the progress, the plan.

In March of 2007 a federal district court ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering facility in the United States. Those opposed to ending slaughter speculated that horses would run rampant in the streets and people would leave horses to starve in the fields, or set them loose to fend for themselves IF the option of taking their horse to slaughter was taken away. The truth is, no one in drove their horse to a slaughter house in Texas or Illinois to be killed in the first place. They took the horse to their local feed lot and that option has not changed or been taken from them. The only difference now is that the feed lots and auction houses are hauling the horses to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered, rather than taking them to Illinois or Texas. This means traveling further to be killed, and suffering an even more unconscionable and violent death than ever before.

Race tracks across the country have taken a zero tolerance policy against horse slaughter! Suffolk Downs investor Richard Fields was largely responsible for taking the lead on this issue in 2007 by adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward those who slaughter horses. If a horse that ended its career at Suffolk Downs winds up being slaughtered, the trainer and owner would have its stalls at the track stripped away forever. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito brought 7-year-old Commentator to Suffolk Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap in part because of the track's out-in-front stance against slaughtering horses. "It's a big issue in our industry," Zito told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "That's one of the reasons we like the people up there."

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MEC), North America's largest owner and operator of horse racetracks, announced on October 10, 2008 that it has formally adopted a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses. Ron Charles, MEC chief operating officer and president of California’s Santa Anita Park, tells Horse, "MEC is extremely pleased to formally adopt a policy to further encourage the humane treatment of racehorses. We intend this to be one in a series of steps that will be taken in an effort to protect our equine athletes.”Frank Stronach, MEC chairman and chief executive officer, adds, “The goal of the policy is to forewarn industry participants who participate in the slaughter of racehorses that they are not welcome at any of our facilities across the country. I hope other racetrack owners formally adopt similar policies".

The effect of closing slaughter houses in the U.S. has raised awareness of an age old problem. The media has been quick to point out recent cases of people abandoning, neglecting and abusing horses – a more accurate report would reflect the fact that this has been an increasing problem for the past 25 years. It is only recently that the media has chosen to expose and exploit the problem. There are two kinds of people. Those who would starve or neglect their horses out of ignorance, regardless of what option are available, and those who would give them away or dispose of them humanely before letting that happen. There is a significant overpopulation of horses who need homes. There are not necessarily more horses per capita – but there are fewer homes for them. I can tell you with all certainty that the root of the population of “homeless horses” is due to our failing economy and diminishing agricultural communities. It has nothing to do with ending slaughter, because it hasn’t ended yet. People simply can’t afford the outrageously high feed and boarding prices.

Where will all of these horses go? Unfortunately, those who are forced to give their horse(s) away because they can’t afford to feed them are finding it difficult to find them homes. This is why our auction houses and feed lots have historically high numbers of horses being dumped there. Most people do not realize, or they are in denial, about the fact that horses who are not bid on at the local livestock auctions go to a slaughter house. Even fewer people are aware of the actual process of transportation and killing of the horse. The closure of U.S. slaughter houses, the number of horses killed has not decreased, but actually increased. Enumclaw Auction owner Ron Mariotti reported to KOMO 4 news that he is taking so many horses to slaughter that there is a waiting list now. They can’t even kill them fast enough. Thoroughbreds rank high on the list of breeds found at auction. Proponents of ending slaughter feared this would happen, as the ultimate goal of stopping horse slaughter all together will take layers of bills being passed. In the meantime, people like Mariotti are getting fat and rich off of killing people’s pets – without any conscience or regret.

The process of transport and slaughter for horses is barbaric and horrific. Our local auction/feedlot is filthy and has despicable conditions. It is not fit for goats or cattle, let alone a race horse. The care and treatment of animals that I have personally visited, went far beyond criminal abuse by legal standards. The slaughterhouses are worse. The journey to other countries for slaughter… torturous. You have to wonder how anyone could get up every morning and go off to work, making a living doing this. If any person on the street were caught even thinking about torturing and butchering an animal they way they do – they would be committed to an mental hospital. The treatment before and during their butchering far exceeds all legal standards – you would go to jail if you did this at home. Apparently, if you have a business license and are paid to do it, the law will turn their head.

In addition to the reputation slaughter houses have earned for horrendously cruel and inhumane methods of slaughter, the other opposition is the health factor for anyone who consumes the meat. Whether made into pet food, or a steak for humans, horse meat is contaminated with numerous medications and supplements that have clearly printed on the label “not to be used in animals for human consumption”. Just to mention a few…wormers, vaccines, bute, ulcer medications, lasix. Horses taken to feed lots are packed full of chemicals, and some have diseases such as cancer or metabolic conditions. Slaughter is not a rational, reasonable, or moral option for horses. It should not even be a consideration.

So what is the solution? What will happen to horses if we can’t ship them out of the country to be slaughtered? The point of removing the option of slaughter, is to force people to humanely euthanize horses who are truly homeless. The obvious and reasonable solution would be for “Humane Euthanasia Stations” to be set up in every state or at the auction houses where horses can be humanely euthanized by injection. I’m not against euthanasia because there truly are not enough homes for horses. They have to go somewhere. I am against unnecessarily violent, cruel, gruesome slaughter of innocent animals.

From the day horses are born, we tell them they must trust us. Follow us as leaders. Most are treated as domestic pets. They do their job as best they can. There is something very wrong and unjust about taking these beautiful, intelligent and loyal animals from their herd, their family and their home or job and dropping them off at a feed lot. I can only surmise that people who make this choice, have absolutely concept of the horrific suffering the horse endures in those last days or weeks before it is finally killed, for the gluttony of a steak.

There is a video on the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) website. It is hard to stomach, but I encourage anyone who is going to have an opinion on this subject to watch it and know exactly what it is that you’re talking about. And remember, if you think it’s unbearable to “watch” – 100,000 American horses LIVE it each year.

HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) undercover investigators followed "killer buyers" transporting horses thousands of miles from auctions to feedlots to interstate highways, and documented the horrific cruelty and abuse of this transport. They also documented a barbaric method of slaughter on a kill floor in Juarez, Mexico. Thousands of horses are stabbed with short knives, a method that leaves them paralyzed and unable to breathe. The animals are still conscious as they are hoisted up by a chain on a rear leg and their throats are slit.

The HSUS praises the House Judiciary Committee for favorably passing legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas, as well as the export of American horses to other countries for slaughter. "H.R. 6598 will take American horses off the menu for good," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Horses are an American icon who deserve better than to be shipped hundreds of miles in unbearable conditions to slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada where they will be cruelly slaughtered for human consumption.

Please continue to gather information. Get involved for the horse’s sake. The HSUS is a good resource for updated information. ;

Review Timeline:

July 2008 ­- Crime Subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee holds thorough hearing on H.R. 6598.

Sept. 2007 - A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously upholds the Illinois state law banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in that state.

May 2007 ­- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs H.B. 1711, banning horse slaughter in Illinois.

May 2007 ­- The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it denies an appeal of the lower court decision upholding Texas' ban on the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.April 2007 ­ U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 249 to restore a decades-old ban on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses first enacted under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. House vote: 277-137

April 2007 -­ U.S. Senate Commerce Committee votes 15-7 to approve S. 311 to ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for slaughter.

March 2007 - A federal district court orders the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop inspecting horsemeat at the Cavel International slaughter plant, effectively closing the last operating horse slaughtering facility in the United States.

March 2007 ­- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirms decision upholding a Texas state law banning the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.Sept. 2006 ­ U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The 109th Congress adjourns before the Senate can consider the bill. House vote: 263-146Sept. 2005 ­ U.S. Senate approves the Ensign-Byrd Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. Senate vote: 69-28. Ban that is incorporated into final appropriations bill is subsequently circumvented by USDA, which arranges for horse slaughter industry to pay for inspections.

June 2005 - ­ U.S. House of Representatives approves the Sweeney-Spratt-Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to prohibit the use of tax dollars to pay for inspections of horsemeat. House vote: 269-158

May 2005 - ­ U.S. House of Representatives approves the Rahall-Whitfield Amendment to the FY 2006 Interior Appropriations Bill to restore federal protections to wild horses and burros from commercial sale and slaughter. House vote: 249-159. The provision is stripped in conference from the final bill.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Do racehorses love their job?

This one does! Topaz Legacy (#7) dumped his rider at the gate and continued to run the entire race using strategy and tactic. He holds back, watches for a hole, accelerates to the next hole, slows down, weaves in and out – blasts to the finish line to WIN. He timed the entire race perfectly. Watch #7 come out of the gate - then keep your eye on the right side of the screen. Any wagers that he will claimed on next race?


Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Vet Fund to Assist the Community...

SCR has created a new fund to provide assistance for veterinary and emergency needs of animals owned by private citizens or other rescue organizations in Washington. It is not limited to horses - we will consider requests for any animal. The fund is not sustained by SCR, but is solely dependant on donations that are sent in and earmarked for this fund.

So far we have been able to pay for two surgeries of dogs; one who had a private owner and another that belonged to a shelter. Priority will be given to low income and senior citizens who can provide a wonderful home for their animal, but who are not able to afford a large veterinary bill, or just need temporary help with food, medication or other urgent needs.

Read more about who qualifies and how the fund works...


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

10 Horses at the Enumclaw Auction escape death...

They had just a matter of hours before loading up on the truck to make the hidious journey to Mexico for an even more hidious and violent death. Click here for photos.

Several of us in the equestrian community, some affiliated with rescues and others are horse owners, got on the phone and email to make pleas for funding to purchase 10 horses who were not bid on. The owner of the Enumclaw Auction eagerly sells these horses to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada.

Shannon Hendrickson of Signature West got involved and went to the auction house in person. With the help of a generous donor, Shannon was able to purchase all 10 horses. They are safe at her farm today - some have foster homes. Special thanks to Cathy Atkinson of who took a beautiful TB mare. She has a tattoo - we are looking forward to finding out who she is.

You can reach Shannon by email (click on her name) to inquire about adoptions or help with funding for vet, farrier and feed.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Approach to Racehorse Rescue in France!

Gina Rarick, 45, was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She now trains and races horses in France. Read her fascinating story at her website.

Read about Gina's innovative program to transition racehorses in France - she recently wrote and article featured in The Rail.

June 1, 2008, 12:37 pm

A New Approach to Horse Adoption
By Gina Rarick

A few posts back, I mentioned a relatively new program in France that takes charge of racehorses when their careers are over. That mention drew lots of interest and questions, so here are the details of how it works.
Owners or trainers who have horses that can no longer race, whether because of injury or lack of ability, can donate the horse to the L.F.P.C., or Ligue Francaise Pour la Protection du Cheval. The Ligue will pick up the horse and take it to a center where it is assessed to determine what, if any, veterinary care is needed and whether it is suitable for placement as a sport or leisure horse. The owner pays a fee of 75 euros, or about $120, and the Ligue becomes the new, permanent owner of the horse. Riders wishing to adopt a former racehorse fill out an application and are asked for a 100 euro donation if their application is approved. While the adoptive rider takes responsibility for the horse, the Ligue retains ownership and visits the new stable at least once a year to assure the quality of care.
No horse registered to race in France with France Galop, the governing body of French racing, will be refused by the Ligue. The program is financed partially by France Galop, partially by check-off donations from owners who agree to donate a portion of their prize money and partially by private donations.
Anne Riboulet, who heads the Ligue, said France Galop contributed 40,000 euros this year, and that major owners including the Aga Khan have agreed to contribute a percentage of purse money. Still, funds are tight, because most horses need at least two or three months of care and retraining before they can be placed with new riders. Colts are particularly difficult, because they must be gelded before moving on to a new job.
Since the Ligue signed its agreement with France Galop in April of 2007, it has taken possession of 70 horses, Riboulet said. Of those, 19 have been placed with new caretakers, and another dozen are in the final stages of being placed.
The Ligue is staunchly opposed to horse slaughter, and all racehorses taken over by the group have their papers marked “not for human consumption.” Riboulet said slaughter houses were not allowed to take any horse that did not have papers and a microchip. While she is not na├»ve enough to think that some horses don’t fall through the cracks in the law, she said the “not for consumption” designation on the papers was effective.
There are just over 8,000 horses registered to race in France, and many are placed privately by their owners after their career is finished (and yes, some go to slaughter, but the numbers are falling). The official program with the Ligue is relatively new, so many trainers don’t know much about it yet. Riboulet is a regular visitor to the major racecourses, making sure that changes.
Gina Rarick trains racehorses near Paris. She can be contacted at


Friday, May 30, 2008

Eight Belles on Kentucky Derby Day

By Katie Merwick and Melodee Shelly-Bolmgren

Chez Chevaux and Second Chance Ranch were invited to share in the festivities of Derby day at Emerald Downs. The Washington horse racing community and Emerald Downs truly care about the health and welfare of thoroughbreds during and after their racing careers. Proof of this is evidenced by the newly established Prodigious Fund which will help us support our missions of thoroughbred transitioning and retirement. They donated table space, two pages of free advertising in the Derby Day Program, and an autographed photo of Street Sense, the 2007 Derby winner, for us to raffle off. We were asked to bring retired and retrained racehorses out on the track between races in a further effort to publicize our efforts and fundraise. With repeated announcements throughout the day, they called for the fans to get involved, come meet us, and make donations. Melodee and Chez Chevaux volunteers set up and manned the table upstairs while Katie and her volunteers hauled in four retired, retrained and rehomed ex-racehorses to show off in a parade, both in hand and under saddle, before a packed grandstand. It was their first visit back to track since they retired. Regardless of what PETA and other categorical detractors of all racing might imagine, the alumni were happy to be back on the track.

Neither of us actually had time to watch the Derby live. The Chez Chevaux volunteers at the fundraising table watched the race while Katie and Melodee hustled trackside to prep the horses to head out onto the track. The Kentucky Derby is the event of the year in American racing. Much of the general public only knows anything about racing on Derby Day. It is usually a joyous day. People dress up, drink a lot, and wear hats. But this year, the Mint Juleps went by the wayside when Eight Belles went down.

Everyone has a speculative opinion. We have our own too. Both of us do know what we're talking about throughout multiple arenas of the equine performance world, and we have some things to say: Eight Belles' injury was a tragic accident and her resultant trackside euthanasia, albeit necessary, was traumatic to see. But, don't throw a blanket of comprehensive blame on the racing industry. Shortly prior to this years' Derby, two Rolex (Three-Day) eventing mounts, Frodo Baggins and The Quiet Man, were euthanized due to falls at fences in the cross-country phase of the competition. Teddy O’Connor also Competed that day without injury, however, just recently he had to be euthanized due to injuries suffered in a freak barn accident. Horses have also broken legs and required euthanization thereby, from the proverbial "bad steps" taken while running barrels, cutting cows, and while bucking, running and playing at liberty in turnout pastures. Oh, and don't forget trailering accidents! No one who loves horses wants to see them die.

In response to the numerous calls and emails we've received both enquiring and complaining about racing:

(1) Racetracks in America may be dirt or polytrack. Tracks do strive to provide the best surfaces possible regardless. Surfaces are better installed and maintained than any others you are likely to find in amateur performance and pleasure arenas, and/or trails and endurance races. Racetrack footing is groomed and prepped before each race. Comparatively, if you are an eventer and astride the twentieth horse with studded shoes to go over fences in a three-day event, you may be hard pressed to find a take-off spot that isn't slop! Steeplechase racers and open jumping stadium competitors contend with footing issues just as debilitating as a race track surface can be. Be assured that the condition of the racing surface and the health of the equine competitors is of paramount concern to all connected and with aspirations to the Kentucky Derby.

(2) Jockeys really can, and must, ride well. Quickly, consistently, and in company with their horse. If they are hurt, at best, they lose their paychecks. Jockeys will not mount a horse if they feel it is not sound. They are consummate professionals who know their lives are at risk every time they are legged up onto a horse.

(3) Safety of all racing participants is paramount to the industry which continually works to maximize policies that promote safe outcomes. See: The Washington Horse Council.

(4) Successful racing and performance horses do love their jobs and the people connected with them. I have seen this proven over and over again. A recent example is the Canadian racehorse, Topaz Legacy from Assiniboia Downs. He dumped his rider at the gate and ran the entire race using strategy, tactic and skill to win the race!

(5) Thousands of starving and abused horses are rescued every year from private citizens. Neither Chez Chevaux nor SCR have ever had to so do at a racetrack.

(6) Racing owners and trainers may easily invest a myriad of hours and more than 5 or 6 figures into sound racing prospects before it becomes evident that the horse is not physically or mentally suited for the demands and skill sets of racing. Those same people have donated their horses to our organizations or given them away to the general equestrian community to be retrained for a second career. We must note that racing is the only sector of equine sports that has routinely donated such expensive horses for retraining while they were sound and marketable. Owners and trainers have gone as far as to pay board and vet bills for the horses pending rehoming.

(7) Many unwanted horses of all breeds do not get a happy retirement. See: The Unwanted Horse Coalition. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reports that in excess of 100,000 horses are annually transported from the United States to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered. These horses suffer miserable conditions enroute. Their death is unnecessarily violent beyond comprehension. The voices of those who target their criticisms of equine endeavors at racing could better direct their concerns for equine welfare to this ongoing situation.

(8) Some two year old thoroughbreds are physically and mentally ready to race. Others are not. Nor will they be at three or four. The same applies to any equines' potential entry into pleasure and performance careers. Race tracks have ultrasounds and state-of-the-art veterinary technologies readily available, coupled with a capable trainers' lengthy experience. The daily preventative and post care of races horses that we have witnessed is unmatched by any other equine discipline.

(9) Race and performance horses can, and do, retire sound. Glo's Moe, a Second Chance Ranch retiree, began racing at two and retired sound at ten years old without injury. This is not entirely uncommon.

(10) For those who believe all horses should run free in "nature": Begin by thoroughly educating yourselves with an investigation of the mustang herd management policies and practices of the Bureau of Land Management.

(11) for those who questioned the response of Eight Belle’s attending veterinarian. Teaching University Hospitals and Racetracks are committed to their practices and lifelong learning. We have stood by and held beloved equines when immediate humane euthanasia was the only answer. Vets do not want to euthanize a horse for whom any hope of recovery exists. Doing what had to be done expediently for Eight Belles, while compassionately providing her with every measure of dignity possible as the whole world watched, had to be a profound personal misery. The ultimate test of triage and professionalism under fire.

Racing is neither cruel nor evil. No equine and human interaction is without inherent risk. Domesticated horses rely on their human connections to care for them. While there are a small number of less than caring humans in all equine arenas, one cannot fault an entire industry for the perceived actions of a negative minority. All evidence indicates that the people caring for and involved with Eight Belles’ strove to do the best job they could for her at all times.

Most importantly please recognize that all of us, from every side of the table, are working toward the same goal; to protect and provide the best for horses. Second Chance Ranch and Chez Chevaux are dedicated and responsible nonprofit equine welfare organizations. You can help a race horse today by donating!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

EPSM: How Diet Can Effect Performance

EPSM (Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy) has been shown to be the major cause of a common muscle disorder of horses, known as exertional rhabdomyolysis or “tying up.” Beth Valentine, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVP, the foremost researcher and expert on EPSM, proposed the first successful therapy to halt and reverse the progression of EPSM. A graduate of the NY State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, Dr. Valentine is currently a professor at OSU College of Veterinary medicine.

Dr. Valentine reports, “I am a veterinary anatomic pathologist, in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, involved with many different species and pathologic disorders. I have a special interest in equine disease and in neuromuscular disease. I head the Neuromuscular Disease Laboratory, which is currently involved in the study of the incidence, pathologic features, and pathogenesis of equine polysaccharide storage myopathy. The laboratory has also been involved in collaborative studies within and outside of the College of Veterinary Medicine.”
SymptomsHorses with EPSM lack the ability to obtain or properly utilize energy from soluble carbohydrates, which are the main source of energy in grains, sweet feeds, and pelleted horse feeds. The exact pathogenesis of EPSM is still not known, although pathologic findings of abnormal polysaccharide storage and response to diet change suggest abnormal metabolism of starch and sugar.
Glycogen is on of the energy sources for muscle contraction. An EPSM horse has an excessive buildup of glycogen in the muscle resulting in muscle cramps and weakness. Obvious symptoms include tying up, reluctance or inability to move, stiff gaits especially in the hindquarters, and sweating. Less obvious signs of EPSM are reluctance to transition into gaits (from walk to trot / trot to canter) difficulty backing up, muscle atrophy and weakness, or lack of energy. This condition can be misdiagnosed as back or hock soreness or colic.

Two other conditions that may be related to EPSM, are “Stringhalt” and “Shivers.” Some cases of both have been successfully treated with Dr. Valentine’s EPSM diet. The first is “Stringhalt" identified by abnormal hind leg action, particularly when the horse backs or turns. It is often? described as a "hitch" or "cramp" in which the horse pauses with its hind leg in the air before stomping it down. It can also happen while standing, or on the first step as they get going, or on the last step before stopping. It can effect one or both hind limbs. It is thought to be caused by a problem with the nerve supply to the hind leg muscle, but those horses that respond to an EPSM diet likely have muscle cramps rather than nerve problems. The second condition is"Shivers". This is a condition that appears similar to stringhalt. It usually happens only at a standstill. One classic symptom is that the horse abnormally elevates its tail and has a lack of energy to the hind limb muscles. Horses with Shivers typically have difficulty with lifting hind legs while being shod - it’s often only one back leg that shows symptoms. They may develop more severe signs such as muscle wasting and weakness over a period of time.
DiagnosisWhile EPSM is a relatively newly recognized disease it is believed to have been around for hundreds of years. It has been confirmed or suspected in virtually every draft horse breed, although it is not breed specific as it has been identified in numerous other breeds, Thoroughbreds being one of them. PSSM (Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy) also referred to as Exertional Rhabdomyolysis is a separate glycogen storage disorder found in Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and paints. Although, I have yet to find data indicating any difference between the symptoms or treatment. These are thought to be the same thing now – the only controversy left is whether TBs that tie up have RER or EPSM. PSSM is the acronym Minnesota uses, I use EPSM, and more recently I have take to using EPSSM to try to bridge the gap and avoid confusion.

A positive response to diet change is usually accepted as evidence that your horse has EPSM. The best diagnostic test is a muscle biopsy, which generally runs $200 and is fairly non-invasive. It is a faster way to rule out or identify the problem.
Treatment - diet vs. drugsRace horses who do not have a clinical case of EPSM may experience “tying up” for other reasons due to the nature of their work. Of interest it the fact that furosemide (Lasix) has been shown to decrease serum levels of potassium, which can predispose muscle to injury during exercise.
Banamine is used routinely to treat an episode of tying up. Some trainers take preventative measures by adding Vit E and Selinium to their diet. A routine of putting the horse on a walker after a work or race to keep them moving is also beneficial. There are no clinical studies on whether an EPSM diet may reduce the number of tying up incidents in race horses, but Dr. Valentine has worked with many racing TBs that have tying up problems, and all that she knows of have responded well to a change to an EPSM diet. This observation certainly warrants further research. Coincidentally, many race horses are already following Dr. Valentine’s diet unknowingly.
If your horse does have EPSM, the treatment is dietary manipulation to provide a high fat, high fiber, low starch and sugar diet. Cereal grains (oats, corn, and barley) are typically the major source of starch and sugar in a horse’s diet. In EPSM horses, energy must be provided by other sources, including extra fiber (such as Beet Pulp), fatty acids from fats or oils (liquid corn oil), and amino acids from protein (such as alfalfa). Dr. Valentine recommends gradual increase in dietary fat aiming for at least 1 pound of fat (2 cups oil or equivalent in other fat source or sources) per 1000 pounds of horse per day, along with as much reduction in starch and sugar as possible. As much turnout time and regular exercise as possible are also important. This therapy has proven to successfully control signs of muscle dysfunction in most affected horses. Owners should realize that it will take about 4 months for their horses to fully fat adapt, and tie ups or other muscle problems can still occur during this time. Additional supplements such as more significant amounts of chromium and magnesium may also be useful in some cases.
On a personal note, I have experienced success with Dr. Valentine’s EPSM diet on several occasions. I currently have a warmblood/Thoroughbred mare who came to Second Chance Ranch with a mysterious lameness that could not be positively diagnosed for years. The previous owner had exhausted all diagnostic efforts, including MRI, Ultrasound, X-rays and repeated flexion tests. I was told she had a problem with her right hind suspensory. I first noticed that the mare improved with work, and the stiffness to the right appeared, in my opinion, to actually come from the stifle or possibly higher up in the Gluteal region. The mare did not have any of the clearly obvious signs of EPSM, however, she did have an unexplained muscle weakness and stiffness. I put her on Dr. Valentine’s EPSM diet and saw progressive improvement - she is currently sound and working 3nd level dressage.
Dr. Valentine generously shares her time and knowledge on a discussion board hosted by Rural Heritage;
She can also be reached at;Beth A. ValentineOregon State UniversityCorvallis, OR Phone: 541 737 3261Fax: 541 737

Reference materials;

(Dr. Valentine’s bio, definition of disease and symptoms)

Other research articles


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Transitioning Your Race Horse

This article was previously published in the Washington Thoroughbred Breeder's Association magazine (WTBA) - written for the consideration of race horse owners and trainers.

Off the track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) are a popular choice for a number of equestrian sports because of their athleticism and performance pedigrees. They are known for being highly intelligent and willing workers. However, many are just as content with having the job of being a “pet” or trail horse. Some have injuries that define the choice for them.

Most race horse trainers are vastly knowledgeable regarding a race horse’s limitation and abilities. Any member of the general equestrian community who wishes to purchase an OTTB will likely need to be educated as to which job an ex-racer is best suited for. At Second Chance Ranch we evaluate temperament, confirmation and physical condition. Some of the more common injuries from the track are bone chips in the hoof or knee, fractures to the cannon bone, bowed tendons, bucked shins, or less often a hock injuries. Often, bone chips in the knee can often be removed and not impede the horse’s ability to work. Chip in the hoof often doesn’t even need to be removed unless it’s in the coffin bone joint. Fractures eventually heal, but prevent the horse from jumping. Ligament and tendon injuries are far more limiting. A hock injury will probably preclude dressage training. Trail or pleasure riding is still an option for almost any horse.

Hunter/Jumper and Eventers look critically at confirmation – the angle of the shoulder to neck, pasterns, stifle, and length of back. While dressage riders may not be as particular about confirmation, they require a horse that enjoys repetitive training.
A horse that has a strong hind end and healthy active hocks will be the most appealing to a dressage rider. Western riders (cutting, team penning, barrel racing) need a horse that can move fast, bend and turn on a dime, while working in close range with other horses and stock. All riders will require a horse that can stay sound. Otherwise, the options are pasture pet or brood mare. Keeping a horse sound completely depends on the environment, training and care they receive after they leave the track.

The most “at risk” OTTBs are those who go into a demanding and competitive second career such as the jumper and eventer circuit. Serious jumpers invest a substantial amount of money to compete, much like with racing. If the horse can’t do the job they are often not considered “pets” nor do they have a retirement plan. Anyone taking a horse off the track should consider what they will do if the horse is not capable or willing to withstand competitive sports. Second Chance Ranch appreciates the time, work and funding that goes into these careers. Our horses are adopted on a contract that states we will purchase the horse back if you can no longer keep it, or no longer want it. This lets the adoptor off the hook for having to re-home a horse who cannot work. It allows SCR to approve of the next home and continue following the horse through contract. Our repurchase price will not exceed the adoption fee – the purpose of our contract is not to have people put training on a horse only to sell it back to us at a high price. Although, we do work cooperatively with local trainers who want an OTTB as a project. They keep the proceeds of the adoption and SCR approves of the home and enters into a contract with the adoptor.

We must not forget lead ponies! Regardless of breeding, a horse who has fulfilled the job of escorting race horses to the paddock and gate, or through morning workouts are worth their weight in gold. Any horse who has that job on their resume will have a waiting line of people to take them home!

Beyond choosing a job for the horse, there are a few things you can do to set your race horse up for success (1) don’t give them away to the general public for free. This prevents people from taking on a cheap project and turning it around for quick profit (2) use a “right of first refusal” contract so that if the horse doesn’t work out for them, you have the option of taking it back. This keeps you in the loop and you will know if the horse is being passed on to someone other than the person you chose as an owner (3) Verify where the horse will be put into training. The initial transitional training and environment is critical to the horse succeeding in any sport, or even as a pet (4) consider or offer “consignment” to a qualified trainer. They will require a reasonable boarding fee while the horse is put into training. The trainer will find an approved home that has been adequately screened. The sales price would reflect compensation for training. as well as delivering heftier price for the race horse owner. Worst case scenario, the owner has cut out the cost of boarding and receives the horse back with training on it.

Retirement. Okay, let’s say your horse has such limiting injuries, or they are a senior citizen and need the job of “pasture pet.” There are rescue and retirement organizations who can help, however, you need to screen them as well (1) they should have 501c3 status with the IRS as public Charity (2) They will have written guidelines and policies (3) They will utilize an adoption contract vs. sales contract (4) they will be operated by experienced equestrians with knowledge specific to race horses (5) they will have vet, farrier, and client and sponsor references available. (5) they will agree to provide you with updates and adoption status if asked.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Life of a Racehorse....

This heartwarming video was made by Braiden, a 13 yr old girl who recently adopted a horse named Snack Basket from Second Chance Ranch. His new name is "Chance". I will update the blog soon with photos of Chance and his new best friend.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Martini is in The House

A must read story by one of my all-time favorite writers! I asked Monica Bretherton to join me for a special event at Emerald Downs, and to cover the story about a reunion of a race horse and his trainer and jockey. This is a true story showing the bittersweet nature of racing - with a happy ending for all! Click here for the story


Sarah...if that is your real name

Last Sunday we rescued another mare from the Skagit County Auction - a 18 yr old OTTB. We were told she had been an eventer. Her owner wanted to go up a level and needed a younger horse. Sarah, the name we were given, had given this person two foals, and who knows how many years of service. This is the sad fate of so many off the track Thoroughbreds. Competitive riders often use them until they can't perform, or perform at the level they want them to. Rather than provide retirement for them, the horses are dumped at an auction or feed lot regardless of the potential risk of the horse being shipped to a slaughterhouse in Mexico or Canada.

No one bid on this absolutely beautiful, sound, kind horse. She did not come with papers, but she does have a tattoo. Her registered name is Vaguely Tequila, foaled in Texas in 1990. She has gracious and bombproof manners both on the ground and under saddle. Perfectly sound, and seemingly talented. I would love to know how a horse of this calibur nearly ended up on the meat wagon.

Sarah is at our Snohomish facility, up for adoption!


Monday, February 25, 2008


14 hours old! Congratulations to Gary Brady and Just Tickled! Tickled was boarded at SCR throughout her pregnancy. She was in foal to "You and I", and just delivered a beautiful colt at 10pm on Sunday, 24th which was her actual due date! He's got LONG legs and looks like a runner to me!! Thanks to Woodstead Farm for foaling Tickled out, and taking great care of her and the colt. Can't wait for them to come home this summer.

Click here for the colt's diary and photos


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Good Luck Hitman!

Congratulations to Hightec Hitman - he left the Grand Mound Chapter yesterday, headed to his new home in California. Photos will follow soon.


Monday, February 18, 2008

An Emerald Downs Special Achievement Award

I was profoundly honored (and surprised) when Susie Sourwine, VP of Marketing for Emerald Downs, presented me with a Special Achievement Award at the Awards Banquet. It reads; “For her compassion and dedication to animal welfare and especially in the rehabilitation, adoption, and rescuing of Thoroughbreds at her Second Chance Ranch.” Working with these horses is reward enough! Anyone who knows me, knows my love for Thoroughbreds and the sport of racing. I am so grateful for the support and generosity of the trainers and owners at Emerald Downs. They bring integrity to the sport, and they have been incredibly helpful and wonderful to work with. As well, Emerald Downs, the Washington Thoroughbred Breeder’s Association (WTBA), and the Horseman’s Benevolent Protection Association HPBA), have been hugely supportive of my work and constantly encourage and nourish the efforts of SCR. I should be giving them an award!


Emerald Downs Announces the Prodigious Fund

I attended the Emerald Downs Annual Awards Banquet on Saturday, February 16. Susie Sourwine, VP of Marketing for Emerald Downs announced a new (and first ever) fund for off the track Thoroughbreds. It is called the PRODIGIOUS FUND, named after a horse who raced for seven years and retired, healthy, in 2007. The proceeds for 2008 will be divided between Second Chance Ranch and Chez Chevaux. Owners and trainers at Emerald Downs have been very supportive of our work. They are committed to finding good homes for the horses who leave the track and we are a valuable resource for them, however, we need funding to keep the program going! The Prodigious Fund will be a popular option for owners to support and honor the horses they love, all the way through retirement. I am extremely honored and grateful to Emerald Downs for introducing the fund, and for their continued generosity! In past years, Emerald Downs and the WTBA have been dedicated to promoting our work and donating to the cause. Ron Crockett, President of Emerald Downs, kicked off the fund by personally donating $5,000!


Coming to Comcast!

Emerald Downs has a seasonal show which are segments filmed about the racing industry. The segments can be found on YouTube and also “Comcast On Demand” (under local sports). Recently, they filmed a segment featuring Second Chance Ranch for “Life After Racing”. It was a fun day here at the ranch in Elma, as we talked about my work and introduced many of the retired race horses and those in the rehabilitation program. This will be available sometime after April…stay tuned, I will let you know when it’s live!


Friday, February 8, 2008

Our New Rescue - Thank God For 13-year Old Girls

Alicia, a 20 year old Thoroughbred by Prospect North and out of Khal Star, was rescued from the Skagit County Auction this week. She has a great story, told very well by Monica Bretherton.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Second Chance Ranch is Expanding...

In an effort to cater to a larger audience and combine the efforts of three dedicated equestrian groups, SCR now has two new locations. Annie Chastain of Rainbow Meadow Farm is the Director of the Grand Mound Chapter. Monica Stephens of Natural Horse Savvy is the Director of the Snohomish Chapter.

Annie Chastain, owner of Rainbow Meadow Farm has a genuine talent of communicating with horses and is one of the most intuitive and graceful riders I've observed. Horses that no one else could get through to respond to her in such a positive way - she can encourage any horse to love their job! Annie is an accomplished competitor and trains riders through upper level dressage, eventing, and jumpers. Read more about the Grand Mound Chapter of Second Chance Ranch.

Monica Stephens, of Natural Horse Savvy, is the Director of the Snohomish Chapter of SCR. She is actively involved in rescue and works with a variety of breeds using her natural horsemanship talents to reach abused and neglected horses. Monica is currently housing 14 rescue horses.

Each Chapter of SCR will be funded by their own fundraising efforts. Please visit and support the chapter in your area!


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Julie and Magik

I recently heard about a woman (a friend of a friend) and her horse who needed help. While Julie is bravely battling stage 4 cancer and struggling to support herself, her horse Magik severely injured his leg and required surgery. Julie is using her artistic talents to fundraise.

Check out the U-Tube video of Julie and Magik - these amazing water color T-shirts are hand painted and absolutely stunning! SCR was so moved by this video, we paid off her veterinary bill. However, Magik has a long recovery and so does Julie. PLEASE support her by purchasing a T-Shirt, and pass the video on!