Heal Our Planet Earth
CARE Tour - 1

Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions #1

A little first hand experience with PMU horses


Posted by Susan K on October 27, 2003 at 20:38:05:

To the Australian who inquired about the PMU thing, just wanted to add a bit to that. I didn't have time when you first asked about it to write much, and thus just posted a reference to an article that could explain what PMU meant. I'd like to take the time now to mention what I have seen of the PMU situation first hand.

I have not been to the PMU farms personally, so I can't comment on that from my own experience. What I can say is that we have two PMU rescue horses in my barn, one is a belgian/QH cross who is five, and one who is a registered QH with supposedly good bloodlines -- an example of the efforts that are said to be being made to produce saleable horses that will not end up as meat. This filly is now two. She belongs to a girl who is a student of mine, and this girl bought her at an auction in Alberta, where most of the bidders were meat buyers. I was not there, so again, I cannot speak from having seen it firsthand, but what she told me was truly heartbreaking: dozens upon dozens of little babies, way too young to be weaned -- sick, scared and many showing obvious injuries -- some severe. The tiny filly she brought home was all of three months old. She was sick, terrified, and had a chronically spasming back, likely due to injury during transport, that gave her a rather strange muscular development over time, and a severe ewe-neck. That has now finally started to reverse, though she is still unnaturally stiff through the back for a horse of her age. Most of the other horses at the auction were purchased by the meat guys for peanuts. My student is still haunted by the ones she couldn't save. Her horse is now turning into a pretty little filly, though I think she is small for her age, and probably will always be rather stunted. She also has a severe issue with being in a confined space, and will immediately attempt to climb/jump out of any stall or paddock without very high walls. We can only speculate on the cause of this, but our feeling is that this may have something to do with how she was weaned/transported. She has improved a great deal with that issue with the work we have done, to the point where she can be turned loose in the roundpen and will not try to get out, but will work with her owner calmly and cooperatively, but if left alone somewhere like that, she would go over in a minute. I don't know if she'll ever be completely over that, though we are continuing to work on it. She had been pulled from her mother, packed into a truck full of other babies the same day, and shipped to the auction. So much for the well-bred ones not ending up at the slaughter auctions. It is common for babies to get injured in such transports, and not at all uncommon for them to die. This last was told to me by a guy we had working at our barn who had worked on a PMU farm back east a couple of years ago. I don't know if they have made changes in their weaning/transportation/auction policies since then, but I certainly hope that if they haven't, they will soon.

The belgian cross at our barn is a really sweet guy, but he has some nerve damage that causes his hind end to buckle sometimes, also, from what I've been told, likely due to injury as a youngster. A trainer was working with him recently and doesn't think he will ever be normal or capable of much work.

Of course, these are only two horses, but I also did some work with Anthony Marr, a Canadian animal welfare activist who has received international acclaim for his work in Asia, and for his efforts to save the wild tigers (a documentary about him was made for the "Champions of the Wild" series). Anyway, Anthony has spent several years researching the PMU industry, travelling to the farms, talking to the manufacturers of Premarin, and launching a large-scale, international campaign that has now started to see some results. What he had to say about what he had seen did not paint a pretty picture. I participated in a parade to raise awareness about the issue last year with Anthony, and there were quite a few PMU rescue horses in the group. They all seemed to have similar stories to my student's, and a lot of their horses have had health problems that they attribute to their treatment as youngsters.

I haven't kept up with the very latest changes going on in the PMU industry, and from the sound of the posts here, my hope is that the whole practice will be grinding to a halt sooner, rather than later. As for Australia, I would be curious to know what kind of hormone-replacement therapies are most commonly prescribed there. From what Anthony told me, there are completely viable, plant-based alternatives to Premarin, and very few women actually do better on Premarin than on the plant-derived ones.

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