For those of you who are new here, let me say "Howdy! Thanks for coming!" I'd also like to warn you, though, that this blog is not all rainbows and sunshine. I swear frequently. I talk about neglectful owners, abusive trainers, and backyard breeders who are making the horse world a worse place to live in. I do praise the good guys, and I do promote rescues and good horse care practices. I also provide a lot of education and entertainment... but I do so with a wicked tongue and no tolerance for excuses. I have great respect for the regular, honest, hard-working men and women of Wisconsin who do so much to give their animals and families decent lives, so I have very little empathy for those who don't even care to try. This is not a gentle blog.
Now then, before we get started with the main event, let me catch you up on lots of news:
Additional information about the EHV-1 outbreak has been published, and I encourage you to read it.
EDIT: I just found out that there may be cases in Iowa now. Read more here.
After my blog post about a two year plan to stop neglect in Wisconsin, a bunch of us horse welfare folks got together at a meeting to talk about what we could realistically accomplish. Naturally, we spent a bit too much time swapping horror and success stories, but we have some definite goals. A hay bank, a low-cost gelding clinic, low-cost euthanasia services and much more were discussed. The newly-named Wisconsin Equine Coalition will be meeting again in April, with representatives from at least three Wisconsin horse rescues. I am priveleged to be working with some truly amazing people with many years of experience in the rescue world.
Barb Thiry's most recent hearing didn't happen, due to a mix-up. Previously, she fired her public defender and played sick at the most recent court appearance, and so no motion was put forward regarding the horrific pictures of dead animals taken at her previous farm. She has somehow managed to keep paying the court-ordered fees for the two neglected stallions, and so there is still a possibility they could be given back to her. The rehabilitated mares are still up for adoption via Dane County Humane Society.
The final pre-trial hearing for Michael Feist took place today at 10am. He'll have a preliminary hearing on May 5th. He has still not been charged with threatening the deputy with a sledgehammer.
Micheal's wife Brenda Weierke-Feist has still not been charged with anything, despite the fact that she lives at, helps run, and co-owns the ranch where the dead and starving horses were found.
The Feists are still trying to sell off some horses, but they are opening Otter Creek Ranch back up for business on April 1st, clearly the WORST EVER April Fool's joke. Yes, they will be offering trail rides to the public. I have offered to donate a large vinyl banner warning people not to do business with them, if any landowner in on Feist's road will agree to put it in their front yard. Speaking of doing business, despite having massive problems feeding all of their starving, wormy animals this winter, the Feists are breeding MORE. They are now offering kittens, guinea pigs, and rabbits for sale via their Facebook page.
I shouldn't keep banging my head against walls,
I'm starting to do real structural damage to my house.
Several other Wisconsin neglect cases have popped up recently, no surprise to any of us. I think I already mentioned the Sean Legault case on my Facebook page, there's the Green County case that has been going on for at least a decade, and I've just heard about two more places where horses are starving and nothing is being done (the WEC is looking into these).
I'd like to address a quote in this article about the Iowa County case involving cows and hogs (the horses were reportedly fine, which I find unlikely):
"Reports of dead horses found in Green and Lafayette counties as well as the dead cows and hog found on the Nelson farm show how some animal owners don’t understand the costs involved, especially during a rough winter, [officer] Michek said. 'The tough part is, people hate to give up on their animal ownership,' he added."
This is bullshit. Neglect is not about some sort of misunderstanding about finances, and it's not a casual mistake made by people who aren't really to blame, as this officer suggests. Neglect is about a lack of empathy. You see your animal starving, and you don't do anything about it. You don't ask neighbors or rescues or authorities for help, you don't euthanize it, you don't give it away, you don't sell your personal stuff to pay for feed or vet bills, and all because you're too selfish to end its suffering. You ARE to blame. You want to keep it but not take care of it. That is the real truth.
And now it's time for another strong dose of no-excuses medicine.
A few days ago, a reader sent this screenshot to me:
"I'm glad the owners here seem to care about the mare, and are trying to feed her correctly. However, like Jeff Foxworthy says, you may be a redneck backyard breeder IF:
1) Your FARRIER is the one to tell you that your mare is pregnant
2) You didn't know your mare even got bred before he said so
3) You don't bother to get a vet out to do an ultrasound and check for due-date, twins, complications, etc"
"I doubt that the foal will be any great shakes, considering his mom's poor conformation (God only knows what his fence-hopper sire looks like). However, I hope the foal will be loved and kept safe by the people who accidentally created it. All horses deserve to be safe and loved."
Here's the message she sent me after I posted that:
I'm going to share my response to Mandi with all of you here. Not because she's a criminal (she isn't). Not because she annoyed me (so many others have said so much worse). Nope, I'm sharing this because what's going on here really epitomizes the mentality that has resulted in so many unwanted and neglected horses. It's also one of the things that has led to such a poor horse market.
This is a textbook example. We have all the elements here:
- ignorance about a fairly common genetic defect in horses
- ignorance about other basic information a horse owner should know
- horse dealing
- calling something a "rescue" when it's absolutely not
- unwillingness to get proper vet care for a horse
- a desire to create a foal, any foal, not for a specific purpose, not because the parents have great skills or conformation, not to improve a breed, but just because "I want to" and having a baby horse will be cute
Open Letter to a Backyard Breeder:
Don't flatter yourself Mandi. I didn't target you personally by showing people your post-- I target ALL horse owners who need to be hit with a clue stick. You just happened to provide a recent example. And now that you've shown just how ignorant you are, I'm happy to use you as a further example.
"We are not sure how far along she is" and "I say it's only a matter of weeks" and "I posted on here before asking about her condition" doesn't at all sound like you got a vet to check out your pregnant mare. It sounds exactly like you're guessing at what's happening with her pregnancy and asking random people on the internet for advice. But hey, feel free to post pics of your vet's ultrasound. I say with 100% sincerity that it would be a huge relief to me to be proven wrong, because then I would know your mare is getting what she needs to avoid the potentially deadly consequences of twins, mispresentation, etc.
As for the stud... wait, let me get this straight... you "rescued" a horse, held on to him a while, and then sold him again (to a person who didn't pay you in full) without gelding him? That's not a rescue, darling. That's rather unethical horse dealing.
"...but he only had one nut. I guess he was still able to make babies..."
I'm begging you to Google "cryptorchid" before you breed or buy more horses. Please please PLEASE study horse care some more. Yes, horses with one un-descended testicle, or a testicle trapped inside their bodies CAN breed. Cryptorchidism is a hereditary defect, and requires expensive surgery to fix. Your new foal may carry the genes for this, and if it is a colt, may suffer from the same condition.
"...we have WANTED A FOAL for awhile, now we're getting one. Its not an accident foal, it was planned."
So if you know you someday want kids, and then tomorrow you have a one night stand with a dude and wind up pregnant, you'd consider that a "planned pregnancy?" Look, stallions hop fences, it happens sometimes. But now that it has happened, please do what's right for the mare and her foal.
Now then, here's the part where I provide some education along with my "harassment:"
-Mares can bag up four to six weeks before foaling, so if she just started getting bigger teats, she probably won't be foaling soon. Getting an ultrasound done will give you a more accurate due date. Knowing the due date is important, so you can be at the birth to watch out for complications.
-If you're unsure about the max time a healthy foal should take to stand and nurse, the latest time the mare should pass the placenta, symptoms of torsion or rupture of the uterus in the last month of pregnancy, what type of bedding to use or NOT use for the birth area, and about 1,000 other things, please do some reading. I'll provide some resources at the bottom. Even if you become an overnight expert, I highly recommend at least TALKING with a vet before this baby comes.
-One very important thing to talk to a vet about is vaccinations. Mares need some vaccinations during the later part of the pregnancy, even if they have had them previously, in order to protect the foal. In addition, the current outbreak of EHV-1 can cause spontaneous abortions unless a mare is vaccinated.
-Don't make the mistake of thinking, "Nature will just take its course and the birth will go fine." That doesn't always work with humans OR animals. If YOU would want prenatal care and a checkup before YOU give birth, if YOU would like a doctor or at least a nurse standing by when you give birth, please do the same for your animals.
-Doing what's right for your horses extends far beyond what we've talked about here. I'm glad you're excited to have this foal-- please make sure that your love for it doesn't end after it grows up. Great training, good vet care, good nutrition and an adoption or buy-back contract will help ensure that your new baby doesn't end up in a bad place, no matter how long you're able to keep it.
Yours very sincerely,
The Late-Term Pregnant Mare, Foaling and Newborn Foal Care by Thal Equine LLC Hospital, NM
What is a Cryptorchid? By The Horse
Pregnant Mare Care (a very brief guide but a good start, and very clearly written) by Magic Hollow Horse Farms
All of the excellent Cherry Hill books , which are available at your public library for free