Thursday, September 10, 2015

Falls, Toxic Quest Dewormer, Tractor Porn & More

So I recently had a couple of bad falls. Rearing was involved both times. One involved the horse flipping backwards and body-slamming me WWF style. Remember folks: wear a helmet.

Horse uses body slam! It's super effective!*
*Not actually me in this pic. Close enough to what happened tho.

Fun fact: although your brain normally controls your body's movements, under certain circumstances, an ancient, primitive structure in your spine takes over. This is what happens when we touch something hot and reflexively jerk away. It's what happens when we "jump" with fright. It's also the thing that takes over when, after slamming into the ground, you kick like a rabbit in a death struggle. Your brain can't react, but your body does: "Holy crap, fight! Run! Run and fight!" it says, and you do so automatically. Cool, huh? A few minutes afterwards, your brain floods your body with chemicals that simultaneously lessen agony, kick your muscles into high gear, quicken your reactions, sharpen your vision, and in general make you feel awesome. Except for the terrible pain part, it's neat to experience the lengths your body will go to in order to keep you alive. If you're stubborn and foolish, you might use this rush to get back in the saddle within five minutes. Or even coast on that high for days, working and trailering horses to clinics, or fixing fences, before the sheer volume of fluid buildup from your internal bleeding makes you uncomfortable enough to go to the ER. And that's pretty much the story of my last six days or so.

Mandatory public service announcement from my dear mother:

If you have a bad fall, shut the hell up and
go to the ER, you fucking idiot

Well I seem to be all better now, and I even went for a short ride today, so let's move on to some quick news.

  • There's been a strangles outbreak in southern Wisconsin. Not newsworthy, except for the fact that some owners/barns are continuing to show contagious horses at large events! For the love of all that is holy, people, quarantine your sick horses! Don't pass that crap around! Strangles can be deadly in certain cases, and it's a miserable disease in all circumstances. If you're going to a bigger public event, always bring your own water buckets, don't go around petting all the noses in sight, and of course, vaccinate your horse! A few bucks can save your horse from a lot of pain and pus.

  • There's a neat story here about a street in Madison named after a famous Civil War general's horse.

  • Interested in contributing to the analysis and improvement of laws relating to the equestrian world? Chris Riggi is an Ohio law student considering working on equine issues full-time. Send him your concerns and complaints regarding breeding contracts, boarding agreements, adoption and first-right-of-refusal commitments, stolen papers, etc. His email is No guarantees on anything, but a cool idea.

  • There's a sad story going around about a yearling who died after bring dosed with Quest Plus dewormer, and I wanted to put my two cents in. Moxidectin, the active ingredient in Quest, has been causing problems since the 1990s, and it's not something I'd use on my horse. Some experts claim that "user error" is the real problem, that people are just overdosing their young, old, or underweight horses. I call bullshit on that. There are just too many cases of extreme illness in healthy, adult horses dosed with Quest for that to be the only explanation. Farnham used to have a moxidectin-based dewormer, and took it off the market after too many lawsuits. Quest should do the same. I know there are some people that swear by Quest as the most effective dewormer out there-- well yeah, that's because it's one of the most toxic! If you have a wormy horse, you don't want to get rid of all the parasites at once anyway. Doing so can cause such a huge die-off that the horse colics severely. Talk to your vet about a gradual, targeted deworming program.

    Click the pic below to enlarge and read Lynn's account of what happened to her boy Bogo after he was wormed with Quest Plus gel. You can read more and watch her video here.

OK, let's talk about Farm Tech Days. This year, it took place near Madison. It's like a convention, but for farmers, and it takes place in a giant field of tents and machinery. When I say giant... I mean, they destroyed 100 acres of alfalfa field to create a temporary metropolis, complete with a mini ambulance, gardens, streets (and street signs), "restaurants," tractor taxis, parking lots, and ATMs. Every day that I went, I cringed as I walked on the crispy corpses of alfalfa that takes a full year to grow before it can be harvested the next year.

I want to talk a little about Farm Tech Days because I saw some amazing things there, and there were some awesome horse demonstrations, but also because part of the big show was the opportunity to tour the Statz dairy operation. Owning three to five thousand cows at any given moment, they're one of the largest "factory farms" around. So of course I had to take a look, in the interest of animal welfare.What I found out was pretty surprising. Read more below. Since this is already a pretty long blog, I won't get too wordy though.

What follows is basically a massive picture dump with captions. If you're just here for the tractor porn (you sick, sick bastard) you can skip to the end.

Horse Demonstrations

Trainer Ray Ainsworth was amazing. He was there to work with "problem horses," and boy, did he! If I had not seen him work with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. The mare in this picture was HORRIBLE for trailering, rearing, backing up, trying to run through or around-- just awful. Ainsworth worked with her for an hour in the roundpen and *BAM* she trailered up for him like magic. She was shaking and sweating, but got in and out without incident multiple times throughout the day, for him and for the owner. Incredible. Ainsworth's strategy is basically to earn trust, demand respect, and use his strong presence to ask for (and get) what he wants. He uses an "arm extension" (stick) but not harshly.

This 3 year old filly had never had a saddle on, and hated fly spray. He had her saddled in fifteen minutes, and was on her back in another ten. It took him all of about THREE minutes to deal with the flyspray problem. His strategy? After establishing leadership on the ground so that the horse wouldn't run through him, and trust so that she wouldn't rear or bolt away, he just sprayed her. Over and over. Of course she backed up, backed up, backed up. He very calmly kept going, spraying at the same pace. In the a deep sand roundpen, the horse pretty quickly realized that it was just easier to stand still and get sprayed. After all this, the filly practically cuddled up to him and wanted to sit in his lap. She didn't hate him-- on the contrary, she loved having a strong leader, having a job, learning. Five stars for this trainer. I bought his dvd. His website is here, check it out.

The "Milk Buds" are a group of eight ponies on a wagon team that is so skilled, they can double-back on themselves multiple times. It was very cool to see this old teamster teaching his grandsons and helpers about the old art of harnessing and driving.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

One of the Milk Buds was a mare with this FREAKING ADORABLE mule baby. This guy was the star of the show, and he knew it. The little shit enjoyed himself immensely.
The Kettle Moraine Rough Riders performed in all their glory.
LOVE these guys. They were slightly hampered by the small arena though.

This is one of the drill team's horses, a Rocky Mountain with a gorgeous coat.
Zacharia's Horsemanship put on a good show, with Zeke riding his mustang (trained by himself) up, down, and around, doing a variety of tricks.

Fun Pics

Cute idea-- thrift store purses repurposed as plant hangers.

Cow. Because, Wisconsin.
Giant robotic scratching machine.
Because happy cows are better producers!
There was a tractor driving obstacle course.
I have no idea why this was in it, but it was!

To give you an idea of just how much work went into Farm Tech Days, this rest area and music center was created by planting twelve full-sized pine trees inside a ring of telephone pole arches.
The drone demonstration was pretty neat.
 For $3-5K, you too can have a fancy toy helicopter with a camera!

"Factory Farm" Dairy
The barns were so large, they were able to drive us through the aisles inside on a schoolbus. The 3,000 cows are kept in buildings where they can roam freely. There are fans and water sprinklers for cooling, rubber mats to stand on, water tanks that are heated all year round to the temperature the cows prefer, and bedding for naps. The cows are fed three times per day. The sides of the buildings can be opened or closed depending on the weather. There were no bugs-- mosquitoes and flies are controlled in three different ways.

The manure pond, emptied for the public during this tour, covers an area the size of three football fields. The walls are eighteen feet high and eighteen inches thick. The pond holds 80,000 gallons.

What goes into the manure pond is actually only about a third of what comes out of all the cows' butts. The farm extracts the sulfur from the manure (which greatly reduces the smell) and makes it into fertilizer. The methane is extracted and is used to power heaters and other equipment. The solids are removed, processed, dried, and re-used as bedding.

The methane power plant.

This is one of twelve feed bays, each large enough to take two semi loads of forage for the cows.

Entrance to the two story milking parlor. 100 cows can be milked at one time, in only 15 minutes. They are milked three times per day, producing 80 pounds of milk per cow.

The cows walk in, and turn into their stanchions by themselves. Fifty cows on each side.
When the cows are in, the stanchions are shut, and the washing begins. Dairy workers standing behind and below the cows wash and disinfect every udder. The put on the automatic milking machines, press a button, and the milk gets pumped to a giant bulk tank. Within just a few minutes, the cows are milked. The workers dip teats in a protective antibacterial goo.

The cows stroll out of the parlor, making way for the next group to come in.

All in all, I was impressed with the efficiency and humane care in this "factory farm." Of course I don't like that the cows don't get to go outside and roll around in actual grass. I don't like the practice of cutting tail tips without anesthesia. Too often, workers can get too rough when a cow gets rebellious. However, if we as a society are going to demand meat and dairy products at low prices and on a large scale, this is just about the best we can hope for. The cows only live 5-8 years, but they aren't such bad lives. Every effort is made to make sure their environment is as comfortable as a large factory-like facility allows. It's quiet, it's fairly clean, and the cows did not seem stressed. Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if every dairy cow could live on a small, organic, free-range farm with sunny pastures, but that simply isn't feasible unless we're prepared to pay a whole lot more for our food. If you're willing to do that, great!! Buy your meat, milk, and produce from local farmers at farmers markets and co-ops. For the very best humane dairy products, I highly recommend Sassy Cow Creamery. Milk is usually around $6 per gallon, which gives the farmers and the cows an actual living.

That's it, folks. The End. Unless you're into looking at pictures of tractors, that is.

Tractor Porn

I'm not sure this is the world's largest combine, but I am sure I'd be scared to hear there was one bigger.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kristina Foss's Second Chance Ranch Sounds Like a Scam

Welcome back faithful readers. Thanks for sticking with me despite the long wait. Let's start with some news headlines first:

I got an anonymous tip that horse rapist and murderer Sterling Rachwal is driving a 2000 Red Ford Explorer, Wisconsin plate 377 XXE. I was unable to confirm this, so don't treat it as gospel. However, if you see this truck parked where it shouldn't be, and there are horses around, do call the police. There's nothing wrong with reporting a suspicious vehicle and asking an officer to check it out.

(example photo, not his actual truck)

Michael Feist of Otter Creek Ranch in western Wisconsin was supposed to be sentenced after FINALLY being convicted of 32 counts of animal abuse (starving horses) in March this year. However, he fired his lawyer (again) and the court is giving him an extension. His new sentencing date is August 28th, 2015. Read more on that horrific case here. If you want the judge to throw the book at him, feel free to contact her at:

Hon. Judge Molly E. GaleWyrick
1005 W. Main St. Suite 600

 Balsam Lake, WI 54810

Feist is also involved in a big civil suit, and I would love to know the gory details behind all that. Seems like a bunch of people are owed a BUNCH of money.

Next up, A 21 year old dude visiting from Chicago decided it would be funny to slap a WI police horse as hard as he could and then run away. Guess who won that race? (Yes, the horse.) Doc, one of Madison's Mounted Patrol horses, was basically unhurt but a bit startled by the noisy slap on the rump. The idiot, Nathaniel Robinson, who by rights should have been kicked in the teeth, was instead hauled into jail. Here's his mugshot. You can plainly see him reconsidering his life choices. Can you imagine having to explain that misdemeanor on your criminal record at a job interview? 

Hey, Dane County Humane Society is FINALLY going to do a barn-building fundraiser! For years DCH has relied on an unstable group of fosters and at least one sketchy "rescue" to house the horses they take in from neglect cases and owner surrenders. Now they're going to build a horse barn of their own-- if we can help them! Hope you can make it to this fabulous fundraiser.

Speaking of neglect cases, a group has gotten together to try to improve Wisconsin's abysmal track record of weak animal neglect laws and even weaker enforcement of those laws. Let's hope they keep us in the loop!

Last piece of news: Midwest Horse Welfare, the largest and finest horse rescue in Wisconsin, just took on some horrifically neglected horses in Clark County. The law enforcement officers there got them involved as soon as they could, and are trying to seize as many animals as they can-- kudos to them! We need more officials willing to go after neglectors. Midwest is obviously going to need some help in the coming months with these severe cases, so now would be a good time to donate.

This is one of several in similar condition.

Now on to the main event.

Kristina Foss (previously Kristina Kauffman) is the owner of the "rescue" Second Chance Ranch.
She caught my attention when she posted on a WI Facebook group:

Now, upon seeing this, you may happily exclaim, "Hooray, a wonderful new rescue! Golly, I'll donate to this great facility right away! I am sure this is an honest person and a worthy cause!"

...and if that is the case, then poor, naive, uninformed sucker that you are, I'll have to hit you upside the head with a clue stick. (Don't worry, the only permanent side-effects are chronic cynicism and a taste for neat whiskey.)

It amazes me that so many people automatically jump up to support anyone calling themselves a rescue, regardless of obvious warning signs, and then act absolutely flabbergasted when these places turn out to be scammers, hoarders, or neglect cases. What obvious warnings signs? Well, you could spend ten minutes on Facebook and Google and see for yourself... but I'll tell you below. So you don't think I'm making things up, I've included links and screenshots for proof. You can click on the pictures to see them full size. Again, this is all easily accessed public information. What I'm doing here is what anyone should do before giving a person or organization trust, public support, significant cash donations, or live animals.

Possible Lies: Foss says she has experience with rescue because she "worked at an animal shelter for years." When someone commented on Foss's group post asking which shelter she'd worked at, she claimed both Eau Claire County and Chippewa County. I called them to find out. Chippewa County did not call me back as of press time. Eau Claire said it's possible she could have worked or volunteered there before 2013.
However, they could not find any records of her doing so, and the name was unfamiliar to them.

Suspicious and sketchy: Foss has said she went to school to get a vet tech degree and intends to finish up later. (She attended the for-profit, dubious Globe University/Minnesota School of Business. It's basically a degree mill, a scam.) 
You would think someone with some vet tech training would know what pneumonia is. Instead, Kristina calls is "amonia" and apparently one of her rescue horses died from it. Unless it was a heart attack too? Hmmmm.

Did I mention she gave her puppy away in 2014 because of its annoying behavior, only to buy a new one later?

  And then there's her un-spayed cat and dangerous barbed wire fencing.

If you're starting to have a little bit of doubt that this girl is a suitable horse rescue manager, good! Keep reading. It gets worse. Again, this is all easily accessed public information. What I'm doing here is showing you what you, if you weren't so busy, would be looking at to see if this is someone you can trust.

Outright lie: Kristina Foss says her rescue is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Yet the IRS has no record of that, under any of her personal names, or under her rescue's name. How do I know? The public can look up the tax exempt status of any organization on this part of the IRS website, or call the EO dept of the IRS directly at 1-877-829-5500.*

Sketchy: Kristina seems to be awfully short on money to be able to take in a bunch of rescue horses. This year she's started two pages on GoFundMe, a begging personal fundraising website. One page is for donations to her horse "rescue," another was for medical expenses for one of her three young children. It sounds like she could also use some money to pay off debts, since as of March of this year, she owes a daycare $1,500, she and her ex owe a hospital $3,200, and the debts go further back. In mid-March 2014 she had her car repossessed. These debts, by the way, are also public knowledge. You can look up the recent criminal record of Wisconsin citizens by going to CCAP and simply searching by name.

If you're still not convinced that Kristina Foss is bad news, let me show you three more things.

1) Doing stupid shit to kids. Kristina says this horse has never been backed before, yet here she is putting a little girl in the saddle, a girl not wearing a helmet. In one of the pics, there isn't even anyone holding the horse-- the mare is tied to a fence.

And here's another example-- a helmet-less little girl sitting on a horse that's "almost broke." Nice. Yes, that's more barbed wire in the background.

2. Let's go back and take a further look at one of Kristina's debt records for a moment. Notice anything odd? (Remember, click the pic to make it full size.)

Yeeaaah, as of March 2015, Kristina was telling the court that she has "no current address." Meaning that either she refused to give them one, or she was lying and saying she's homeless.

3. Kristina's Second Chance Ranch Facebook page contains virtually no information on her rescue, other than her name and contact info. The GoFundMe page for her "rescue" is basically just pictures copied directly from Ryon's Rescue Pen, a Facebook group dedicated to buying up slaughter-bound horses in Minnesota. There's a side-by side comparison below.

Kristina has provided no information on where the horses she's "rescuing" are coming from, what donations would be used for, how many "rescue" horses she has, how many have been adopted out, or how the adoption process works. I've found exactly one ad posted by her, for a 19 year old mare being sold for $900. Kristina mentions she's a rescue, and that the mare has recovered from various ailments. She does not mention any kind of adoption application or contract. Later, Kristina re-posted this mare for $600. Kristina also offered to trade "a horse" for a bumper-pull trailer, I assume it's this one since she hasn't listed any other equine for sale/adoption.

In summary, allow me to parody what I believe Kristina is telling us:

Seriously, people. DO support horse rescues. Just don't jump on the bandwagon when some dingbat comes up with a brand-new shady "rescue" chock-full of blatant red flags. Instead, take your enthusiasm, your donations, and your volunteer time, and support one of the great, reputable horse rescues that already exist! There's a list of them here. Many have proven track records of success. They actually DO have 501c3s, and are state inspected. They can actually show you before-and-after pics of rehabbed horses, pictures and descriptions of horses that are available, and pictures of adopted horses in their new homes. They have an adoption contract, or at the very least, an obvious adoption process. 

P.S. I just discovered this last night: There appears to be another Second Chance ranch "horse rescue" that just popped up here in Wisconsin, this time in Eau Claire. Same person? Different? Their facebook page also copies pictures directly from Ryan's Rescue Pen, but they list their website as L and H Quarter Horses. What's up with shady new rescues and Ryan's Rescue Pen?! Is this some kind of twisted franchise deal??

*Note: there used to be a fairly legit non-profit Second Chance Ranch in Blue Mounds, WI, run by Jennifer Pulvermacher, but she closed her rescue in 2013. This is backed up by an IRS document which states that Pulvermacher's non-profit status was revoked in 2013.