Oregon's horse population is outpacing the ability to care for them
Individuals and government officials aren't sure what their next steps should be
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The Oregonian Staff
BURNS -- Joan Steelhammer planned to care for 35 unwanted and neglected horses this summer at her nonprofit central Oregon sanctuary.
It didn't work out that way. Steelhammer's Equine Outreach on 20 acres near Bend Municipal Airport, is feeding 1 ton of high-priced hay daily to about 100 abandoned horses. She's worried about the approach of colder weather, when more financially strapped owners might decide they can't afford to feed their horses hay costing more than $200 per ton.
"I'm scared to death about this winter," says the 54-year-old real estate broker. "I wake up at 3 a.m. scared."
Oregon and the nation are in the throes of a population explosion of horses, both wild and domestic. The surge in horse numbers -- estimated at 9.2 million animals by the American Horse Council in Washington, D.C. -- is aggravated by a sluggish national economy, soaring hay and fuel prices, and the 2007 closure of the nation's last domestic horse slaughter facilities.
We continue to see more examples of why the loss of our horse processing facilities has been detrimental to our nation’s horses. We should be learning lessons from the history of our forests. Environmentalists were able to stop logging in many areas several decades ago, eliminating our ability to manage them correctly, which led to some incredibly devastating forest fires. Now, the animal rights crowd wants to take away our ability to manage our horse herd and it seems that history is doomed to repeat itself.