AR-News: (US-OR) For rescued horses, no place like a home

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Tue Nov 4 17:27:29 EST 2003

For rescued horses, no place like a home

By Matt Cooper
The Register-Guard

CEDAR FLAT - Horse heaven for Shilo and Sierra is the inviting pasture next 
to Robin Henson's house, where they can run and graze and race the goats to 
the juiciest apples fallen from the tree.

It's a long way from the Canadian farm where they were born and even 
further, some would argue, from the destination that awaits thousands like 
them: the slaughterhouse.

Shilo and Sierra are PMU horses. They were born on a Manitoba farm 18 months 
ago, unnecessary by-products of a decades-old industry that uses pregnant 
mare urine - PMU - for medicine that helps prevent menopause-related 
discomfort and osteoporosis.

These two were lucky; Henson, a 52-year-old nurse and animal lover, adopted 
them a year ago.

"I always knew where (PMU medicine) came from," Henson said, as she walked 
the two quarter horses in a round pen last week. "I knew when I got horses I 
wanted them to be rescues. I wanted to get horses that were in danger of 
going to slaughter."

There are plenty of them out there, said Martha Armstrong, a senior vice 
president in equine protection with the U.S. Humane Society: 40,000 or more 
PMU foals are dumped annually onto the market, and the vast majority of them 
will eventually be slaughtered for meat, often ending up on dinner tables in 
France, Belgium or Japan.

At the center of the controversy is the pharmaceutical giant Wyeth, the New 
Jersey-based company behind Advil and Preparation H.

Wyeth also makes Premarin - the name is derived from "pregnant mare urine" - 
estrogen tablets that women have used for 60 years to help keep bones strong 
and to quell menopause-related hot flashes and vaginal discomfort (there is 
no urine in the final product, the company said).

The Humane Society criticizes the conditions on hundreds of PMU farms, 
alleging that for six to eight months, the pregnant mares are kept tethered 
in narrow stalls, unable to turn around or sometimes to lie down 
comfortably, while getting little exercise and often inadequate bedding.

But Wyeth spokeswoman Natalie de Vane rejected those characterizations, 
citing numerous national and international veterinarian and equine 
associations that, she said, have found PMU horses to be "well cared for."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, reports that "PMU ranching 
has become a model of self-regulation ... using a system of extensive checks 
and balances that ensure ranchers strive for the highest standards of 
practice rather than simply abiding by baseline laws and regulations."

The Humane Society's other concern is the glut of PMU foals that go to 
slaughter - a problem that is suddenly critical, Armstrong said, with 
Wyeth's recent decision to cut back drastically on PMU production due to 
decreased demand.

As many as 20,000 foals are being dumped onto the market, Armstrong said.

Wyeth has established a $3.7 million trust fund to help place those animals 
and according to Jim Tedford, president of the Humane Society at Lollypop 
Farm in New York, rescue operations are quite successful at finding homes 
for those PMU horses that they can get their hands on.

The problem, Tedford said, is that rescue groups are frequently outbid at 
auction by those who want the horses for the slaughterhouse. Armstrong 
added, too, that the hundreds of PMU horses rescued pale in comparison to 
the tens of thousands put on the market.

But rescue groups such as the Lazy Z Ranch in Sisters are undeterred: Since 
starting two years ago, the ranch has placed almost 300 PMU horses of the 
450 in its care, manager Virginia Loomis said.

"We generally find homes within a few months," she said. "It's kind of a 
good Samaritan thing: Why go out and get a breeder when I can get a nice 
horse that needs a home?"

Lazy Z horses go for between $350 and $700 each, prices at which the ranch 
generally breaks even, but nothing more, Loomis said. For her, the payoff is 
watching a PMU horse go home with a happy family.

"Horses are a passion," Loomis said. "It's just kind of a dying era."

But they're not dying on Henson's 3 1/2 acres of pasture - they're thriving.

She spends her free time teaching Shilo and Sierra to accept a halter over 
their heads or to offer a hoof for inspection, the prelude to trimming them, 
she added.

Henson also hopes to receive her third PMU foal sometime this week.

"It'd be really cool to just get 'em, tame 'em and give them to other 
people," Henson said, as she pulled Shilo's head close for a kiss. "That way 
I'll always have room for more."


For more information, call Virginia Loomis, of Sisters, at (541) 549-6765, 
or visit the Web site,; or visit the Emerald Valley 
Equine Assistance Web site

" my protest against the conduct of the world."
Isaac Bashevis Singer

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