The ~Texas~ Mustang Project's Blog

Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

ABC Nightline Video Link, Re: Henneke Scores, Rescues…

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on January 22, 2010

The link below takes you to the ABC Nightline video from August 14, 2009. This story highlights the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in College Station, TX, (President Jennifer Willis) and their rescue efforts. Jennifer is faced with the same dilemma as many of us: what to do with the past year’s surge of abused and neglected horses when there are not enough resources to deal with what we already have. I am posting this story because of a few points…

  1. The recent confusion on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring System.
  2. The adoption crisis currently being faced by the wild horses at the BLM long term holding facilities.
  3. The outcome of wild horse adoptions that do not go as well as everyone would hope.
  4. The continuing struggles of the American economy and its effect on horses, both wild and domesticated.

To my knowledge, the horse in this story did not come from a BLM adoption.

Updates on “Cisco”, now known as “Tex”, in the (cutest!) form of a blog page from Tex himself!

According to the BEHS website, “Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society is not currently accepting donated horses. The rescue is currently full with neglect and abuse case horses.”

For most of us, I don’t think horse rescue is a choice. We do it because we can – and because we have to. We look in their eyes, we hear their stories, and the choice is made. We will help because we couldn’t not help.
BEHS President Jennifer Williams, March 13, 2009

I know this pain personally as I am sure a lot of you do. I’ve had so many times when I desperately searched for options to give a horse or dog in need the care he deserved, only to come up empty handed. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would say “no” to someone wanting to surrender their animal due to the inability to care for or feed them. And I definitely never thought I would be able to get the words to actually come from my mouth stating that. But it happened.

The first time, it broke my heart so badly that I cried for a week straight. I did everything I could to try to get those horses out of the situation they were in right then and there, which was deplorable to say the least. Eventually, I was able to get a neighbor to allow the horses to graze on his alfalfa hay pasture for a week or so to allow further measures to be taken. I wish everyone could’ve seen the reactions in those horses’ bodies when they saw the lush grass that awaited them. Their before pictures are below. Unfortunately, I was not able to take “after” pictures due to their new home being so far away from my own, but I get a phone call every now and then saying that they are happy and well. Sometimes, things do work out.

This is “Sky”. He is a 16 hand high, sorrel and white American Paint Horse Association Registered Stud. His Henneke Score at the time of this picture being taken is 1.5. Before I took this picture, he was pretty much all one color… Dirt. There were dried blood stains from his pole to his tail and from his withers to his fetlocks. The flies and mosquitoes had ravaged his body so badly that I had to administer Bute before I could bathe him (which I did right in the man’s back yard, with his water hose!) Sky had fathered a colt with Spice (both seen below) in 2008. The foal was stunted from birth, and Spice barely recovered from his birth. This is Spice. She did not have any registration papers, so we really don’t know where she came from. All the man would say was that he had “had her for ages”. Her age was approximated at 14 years old and she is 15 hands high. She is a dun. Spice received a Henneke score of 2, but just barely. (I apologize for the poor quality of the picture.)  If you look at the top of her hind quarters, almost drawing a line straight up from her flanks, you can see the obvious lack of fatty tissue or muscle along her spine. At the time of this picture being taken, her foal from Sky was 12 months old and still nursing. This young man is Floyd at 12 months old. Thanks to his dam’s (limited) supply of milk to supplement what little feed and hay he was receiving, his Henneke Score was 3 at the time of this picture being taken. At 12 months old, he was only 10.5 hands high, and weighed only 375 pounds. Given his parents’ height, Floyd should have already been closer to 12 hands high, at least. Due to his dam’s lack of nutrition during her pregnancy and after his birth, Floyd’s growth was stunted irreversibly and his testes never dropped.This is Outlaw. He is 15 hands high gelding, and approximately 15 years old. He was a pasture mate to Spice and Floyd. His Henneke Score was 3.5 at the time of this picture being taken. Outlaw’s feet were unbelievably cracked and split. Luckily, but somehow his teeth were still in great shape despite the lack of calcium. We were able to track down some of his previous owners who informed us that Outlaw was “one of the greats in Texas”, having won several buckles and trophies at roping competitions. His bloodlines are out of the King Ranch lines, attributing to this ability to sustain his body condition and health.

Sky, Spice, Floyd and Outlaw were all placed in a wonderful loving home together. In the world of equine rescue, placing four horses all with the same adopter is almost unheard of, especially in this past year’s economic state. The new owners are an older couple who have 20 acres of lush, green Bahia pasture that wasn’t being utilized. I received their name and phone number from a friend while I was trying to locate a foster home. Imagine my surprise when they accepted all four and after only a week decided to adopt all four!

They all went through their vet checks and rehabilitation, and all are doing well now. Sky and Floyd were both gelded. Sky and Spice enjoy apple treats, while Floyd and Outlaw enjoy carrots!


9 Responses to “ABC Nightline Video Link, Re: Henneke Scores, Rescues…”

  1. reveil39 said

    People just wait until the last minute to take their horses to rescue centers.
    Basically, they let them almost starve. Why not react sooner?

  2. Time and again, I hear the same story…
    “I just love him so much and I don’t want to lose him.”
    “I just can’t believe I let it get this far.”
    “I’m trying.”
    Everytime I hear these lines, I want to say “If you loved him so much, why DID you let it get this far???”
    In today’s society, there is such a lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to the ownership and care of a horse, and the sometimes ‘extreme’ measures involved in that ownership and care. Some individuals like the ‘idea’ of owning a horse, but not the responsibilities that come along with it. In the end, the horses are the ones who suffer. For this reason, individuals like myself and Jennifer, among other rescue organizations, end up with horses who are in such deplorable condition that most of our budgets and time are spent on veterinarian care, and sometimes this is all for naught. We will lose the horse anyway because they were too far gone to begin with.
    Heartbreaking as it is, it is all part of the job. This is why we all are constantly encouraging the general public to #1, EDUCATE yourselves thoroughly BEFORE you buy a horse; and #2 stay on the look out for horses in your communities and surrounding areas who are in need of better care due to neglect or abuse. If you find a horse in this situation, immediately report the situation to the local authorities.
    ONE VERY IMPORTANT WORD OF CAUTION!!! Do not, under any circumstances, take matters into your own hands if you are not a trained professional!!! Too many times over the course of these many years of rescue, I have seen the horrible consequences of a “well-intentioned individuals acts of kindness”. There are very specific instructions and guidelines to follow when dealing with a horse who is starved or neglected. Actions by these well-intentioned individuals have caused both short and long term complications.
    For instance, if you see a horse who appears to be starving, you cannot feed him certain feeds, and you cannot feed him large amounts of certain feeds. Doing so can cause detrimental effects such as colic and founder. The horse must be eased back into eating higher quality feeds over periods of time.
    One of the most common situations I have found is where an individual will toss a 50 pound bag of sweet feed over the fence to an underweight horse, the mindset being “he is hungry, let him eat”. In the following day(s), that individual will return to check on the horse, only to find him either no longer in the pasture or down in the pasture. Frantic, they’ve called me wondering “what happended!!!???”. When I arrive, further investigation will show one of two things: #1. the horse was a rescue already and was being cared for correctly by the rescuer, or #2. the horse was in fact a victim of neglect and needed rescueing. Either way, the horse’s body could not handle that much rich protein at once and was then a victim of colic.
    The second most common situation I find is that those same “well-intentioned” individuals’ actions will interfere so greatly with the ongoing animal cruetly investigation that the judge will have no choice but to dismiss the case on the grounds of “tampering with the evidence”. Consequently, by law the animal will be returned to the original owner, regardless of how it was treated by that owner, and because the owner has already had a case against him for animal cruelty thrown out, he is more likely to NOT be convicted on any subsequent charges.

    • reveil39 said

      What about following up with people after an adoption?
      If someone brought their cat or dog to the vet in this condition, they would be charged with animal abuse.
      On one hand, it is good they brought the horses in, but come on, there has to be a way to prevent this, and just telling the individuals to educate themselves in obviously not enough.
      Starvation is painful as well and does not happen in one day.
      Plus horses live outdoors. So instead of waiting for some stranger to drive by and notice there is something wrong, what about regular check ups from an agency? What about using the established scale system to figure out the horse’s health?
      When a child gets adopted, the adoption agency checks on the parents and the kids on a regular basis, at least for the first two years.
      I don’t think a horse would need as many check ups, but as opposed to none, zero, this is unconceivable.
      If these people are really clueless, they should also be handed a book with photos and advices as well as pointers, or should not be allowed to adopt at all. Let them take their “love” someplace else. A horse is a sentient being, not a toy.

      • Reveil39,
        Oh, how I wish that your words were the reality and truth of the everyday battle against animal abuse. Truly! I really do. Unfortunately, they’re not. I have been involved in animal rescue for most of my life in one form or another. As a child, it was my parents who showed me the rights and wrongs of animal care. As a teenager, I began venturing out on my own for animal rescues. And of course, as an adult, I am an Animal Protection Advocate and an Independent Rescuer. I work with several organizations locally, both private and state. There are two things that this life has taught me. #1) It has taught me to be a very cynical person, and suspicious by nature. #2) Just when I have thought that I’d seen it all, I would be proven horribly wrong.
        As for the law enforcement side of things, well, that’s a whole new ball game. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been turned down by judges when asking for criminal charges for animal abuse and neglect. And these are not cold-hearted judges. Most are actually good and close family friends of mine. Bottom line: their hands are tied due to current legislation. No matter how badly they would like to bury that person under the jailhouse and forget their existence, by law, they can’t.
        You are right. Starvation does not happen in one day. It is a very agonizing and painful condition for any animal, and an even worse death. No, telling them to educate themselves is not enough. Giving them the educational materials, even for free, is not enough. Stopping them from adopting is a catch 22. Shelters across this country, and even my own, are full to the brim. There are literally no spaces available.
        As for following up with people after adoptions, I can personally say that I do perform spot checks and a rigorous application process prior to any adoption. I feel as though it is my responsibility to the animal in question to do so. Why would I allow him to come from one horrible situation only to enter another? (This is probably why I have so many animals.) After potential adopters pass the process and do get to take the animal home, I perform both scheduled and non-scheduled follow-ups. Luckily, I can say that I have only had a handful or so of disappointments. But I am an independent rescuer, and therefore I am not bound by the same regulations and policies as those who are employed by the municipalities. I have the *luxury* of being more picky. Municipalities have no luxuries, only an overabundance of animals whose populations grow by the day.
        If they do get the animals adopted out, how is that same municipality – who can barely afford to feed and house the animals it already has in holding – afford to spend the gas money and employee wages to check on every single adopted animal? In my own county, we have one stockman. My county encompasses 897 square miles with a population of approximately 52,143 people. The per capita average income is $17,954 per year. There is not enough money in the offering plate for a salaried stockman. So he has to work a full time job on top of his duties as county stockman. He’s been our stockman for nearly 20 years. A few years ago, we celebrated his 60th birthday. And he is still our stockman today. Myself and others help him where and when we can. But we can’t always be there. The man has to feed his family same as we do. And no matter how badly we want to be there for every last one of the “broken ones”, we simply cannot be in more than one place at one time. (Several of us have tried. It didn’t work out too well.)
        So, all I can say to you is this: Push, push, and push some more. Push every single elected official you have. Tell them that you are not going to stand idly by and watch animals being abused and neglected and it’s high time that they do something about it. When they give you the concerned look and the inevitable pat on the shoulder with the nice smile, don’t back down. Keep pushing. But whatever you do, do it diplomatically. The surest way to get someone to quit listening to you is to attack them personally or professionally. Once that has happened, you are no longer doing any justice to the ones who need your voice because they don’t have one of their own.

        • reveil39 said

          Thanks for your answer. There is a lot of work to be done.
          And thanks for the work you are doing.

          • You are welcome for the answer, and thank you for the thanks for what I do… yea… LOL… Anyway!
            You are definately right, there is a lot of work to be done. Kinda makes me think of the stories back when we were kids… The Little Engine That Could LOL and The Littlest Toaster! :0)

  3. Sad but true. The laws concerning cruelty to all animals need more teeth to begin with and better enforcement. Of course, experienced officers may not respond as we think they should because they KNOW nothing is going to happen to the perp even if the abuse is proven.

    I’m not advocating for so called “personhood” for animals. They ARE property – but, they are a VERY SPECIAL type of property, and it’s high time the laws were changed to reflect the difference between a living entity and a sofa.

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