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  • Writer's pictureStaci-lee Sherwood

Industries of equine abuse

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

By Staci-lee Sherwood

Equines are the most abused of any species. Wild or domesticated their abuse comes in a wide array of torture. Whether it’s the sporting industry, hunting or Big Pharma there seems no escape for equines. For some the abuse and death come quickly while others can suffer for years with unattended injuries and health problems. The horse gets the most attention but their cousins; burros, donkeys and zebras also suffer at the hands of humans. Equines all over the world have a target on their back.

*Pictured above - Exceller, the only horse ever to beat two Triple Crown winners, which he did in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup, died in a Swedish slaughterhouse in 1997.

Thoroughbred racing

To many young people coming of age in the south attending the Kentucky Derby is a rite of passage for the elite class. For those not born to wealth thoroughbred racing symbolizes one of the rungs on the ladder of social climbing success. Images of women in colorful hats alongside men discussing world politics swirl in the minds of those hoping to gain admittance to this selective group.

For many just watching famous jockeys bring in that year’s winner to the finish line is a lifetime thrill. For the casual observer this can seem more like a passive sport rather than one of cruelty, pain and death. Hobnobbing among the race horse owners, trainers and investors many dark secrets are kept from the public while they chat about the winner’s cup. Thoroughbred racing is thought to be the elite sport. Many people assume the winners go on to live a life of horse luxury that combines rolling meadows and boundless piles of hay with endless breeding. In truth many of these horses go from glorified winner to the slaughter pipeline once they are no longer able to race and be bred for millions.

A painful frightening end has come to many a winner including some famous horses like Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner. After winning several races he was sold to a stud farm in Japan. When his owners decided he was of no use to them anymore he was sent to a slaughterhouse. His story from racing glory to death is sadly not the only one. American Quarter Horse Association and, shamefully, the American Association of Equine Practitioners are pro-slaughter.

H.R. 1754, "The Horseracing Integrity Act" January 28, 2020Marty Irby “I first want to underscore that Animal Wellness Action does not oppose horseracing.”How does one inject integrity into a sport notorious for doping their horses, which they see a commodity, who then sends them to slaughter when they can no longer race? For true horse advocates the goal would be to end all abuse including the sport itself which wouldn’t exist without exploitation. In 2019 more than 30 horses died in the same park from doping, this is what was confirmed imagine what can’t be?

Odd that a non-profit claiming to help horses supports horse racing. in any form. Animal Wellness Action - Marty Irby

Painting by Jo Fredericks captures the truth

Barrel racing

Many horses that end up here were once wild free roaming and protected mustangs. The Quarter horse is considered the top choice but many mustangs find their way here after being rounded up and sold at auction. Doping these horses is not as widely known but among those who have competed they have admitted it’s just as rampant as thoroughbred racing and with little to no concern for the horse’s health. The goal is to win. This is often part of rodeos, themselves a bastion of cruelty.

Harness racing

This sport started back in the mid-1800s. It soon became the fastest-growing sport in America a century later. While not as obviously cruel as rodeos or as notorious for doping as other sports it’s not without its problems. The most obvious is having horses run as fast as they can while dragging a cart and rider behind them. This never occurs in nature so imagine what it takes to get horses to do this. Doping scandals have also followed this sport.

Accidents might not be as common here but when they happen can be horrific for both horse and rider. This is in the UK

Tennessee walking horses and the Big Lick

This breed is known for their natural high stepping exaggerated gate. Unfortunately for this breed that unique walk has put a target on them by breeders, trainers, owners and those that show them. The unbelievably sick practice called ‘soring’ has been a staple among those involved in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

Imagine doing something excruciating to an animal you claim to care about that torments them for life all for a ribbon and photo op. This is the true nature behind the scenes. Soring involves several methods from heavy metal ‘shoes’ attached to their feet to having nails driven in to keep their legs high. It’s considered one of the most the cruel and insidious of all abuses horse endure at the hands of humans.

From the photos you can see the heavy pads and chains used. Often they are left on for hours, sometimes horses are forced to perform while wearing these pads.

Horse shows

It’s often said that horse shows, much like dog shows, are more like beauty pageants for humans and less about the animal. It’s true that horses enjoy running around but on their own terms and never with a huge load on their backs. Crops are used to control horses. Like other sports performance enhancing drugs are not just for the human sports. Animal athletes are subjected to them too most notably steroids and pain relievers.

From the photos below you can imagine what goes through the mind of horses as they approach these jumps. Skittish by nature it usually takes more than a loving bond to get a horse to jump this high. To miss by just inches could mean the difference between a ribbon and broken leg.

Great Heart clearing an obstacle set at 8 feet 3 inches at Fort Sheridan, circa 1923. BBDM 92.24.1307

Aaron Vale and Finou 4 claimed their fourth consecutive win in the $25,000 Land Rover International Jumper Puissance High-Jump competition at the 2019 Washington International Horse Show. Photo by Shawn McMillen


Horses here are among the most abused by wannabe cowboys trying to prove their manhood. It’s a sad commentary that in 2022 we still think of animal abuse as a way to prove dominance over another species. One of the more insidious events is called ‘horse tripping’ and is what it sounds like. This involves roping a horse’s legs and tripping them. Horses end up falling and often breaking their legs, necks and backs from this. Death at the rodeo means the slaughterhouse is next.

Other species fare no better as calves are roped, dragged and kicked during these events as well. Riding a wild buck to break them literally means to break their spirit. It’s also dangerous to the rider who could easily end up with damage to the backs and necks from the fast jerky movements of the horse trying to buck them off. If the rider stays on, the horse’s spirit is ‘broken’ and they calm down accepting their fate. It’s shameful this is what millions of people cheer to and call entertainment.

Rodeos truly encapsulate the definition of brutality in a sport while tapping into the dark recesses of human nature that should never be exposed. Other methods used to agitate horses, and other animals, are electric prods, drugs and whips. The cowboys wear spiked metal spurs used to inflict pain which further agitates the horse into action. Those who participate in this sordid display of depraved indifference, from the owners of rodeos to the attendees, are clearly in need of permanent removal from society to a far off place with locked doors and bars on the windows. They are a danger to all whether the laws say so or not.

No words needed the photo says it all. Rodeo attendees call this sport and entertainment. Their choice of entertainment tells you all you need to know about them.

A horse goes end-over-end in May at the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo after thrown lariats catch it by the neck and forelegs. Photo Oregonlive

Premarin foals

Flying under the radar is another industry exploiting horses. This comes from Big Pharma and the drug is used as hormone replacement for menopausal women. The drug is made from the urine of pregnant mares. The name literally comes from ‘pregnant mare’ which also means a foal is the end result. Each year about 750,000 mares are impregnated and if successful their urine is collected for the estrogen. The mares spend their lives in small stalls limiting movement and constantly pregnant so it’s a dreadful life in captivity.

The pharmaceutical industry tortures and kills millions of animals in what is best described as fraudulent science done solely to escape liability. The death of an animal seen as a by-product means nothing. Ironically Hormone replacement Therapy is linked to cancer. In use for several decades word finally got out of the atrocities and by 2002 sales had greatly decreased. Big Pharma found new markets overseas and sales have been climbing back up ever since. There are a few rescues that try to save the foals via adoption but the majority never get that far. Ironically hormone replacement therapy can cause Cancer in women who take it for more than a few weeks. If you would like to help with a rescued mare or foal click here or look for a local premarin foal rescue

Carriage Horses

Before there were cars, trains and planes horse drawn carriages were used. We have had modern transportation for over a century it’s time to end this horror for horses. Holding onto tradition is not a good enough reason to continue. Former Mayor Bill DeBlasio ran a campaign to end this but failed to do so. Hollywood actor Liam Neeson chimed in on behalf of the union workers with the usual theme of keeping their jobs. Neeson should stick to acting and stay out of issues that don’t concern him. Animal abuse is not a legitimate job….period.

The life of carriage horses is not easy. They often suffer from: heat exhaustion, malnutrition, physical abuse in a variety of ways, starvation, lack of medical care and injury. Often they are sent to slaughter when they can no longer haul around people. They live in cramped deplorable conditions that if children lived this way they would be removed by the state for unfit living conditions. It’s long past time to end this tradition.

The latest accident in New York City came on August 11, 2022 when 14 year old Ryder collapsed. His owner, Ian McKeever was heard screaming at the horse who was unable to get up after being assaulted by McKeever. This has been a long term systemic problem with a traditional that should have been retired long ago. This is 2022 not 1822 and horses do not belong on noisy crowded roads maneuvering between cars racing by.

This latest tragedy has renewed calls for an end to this. Several animal rescues and sanctuaries have reached out to McKeever to take Ryder but he has refused. Contrary to what the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and other Like Top Hat NY Horse Carriage claim most owners see the horses as a commodity and nothing else.

Ian McKeever after kicking and whipping his downed horse Ryder on August 2022 NYC


Most people associate elephants and tigers with the circus but many still use horses. Though horses were more prominent back in the day they can still be found working and living in squalor alongside the other animals. Circuses have long been a haven for abusers. Living on the road, no background checks and never in one place for very long allows for a breeding ground of unchecked abuse. These horses are domestic and have little to no legal protection so they suffer in silence. As usual when one gets too old to perform they're sent to slaughter. Retirement in a real sanctuary is never part of the plan.

Circuses teach children to enjoy abuse and desensitize them at a very young age. It's no wonder we have so much violence in schools. It's widely known among law enforcement and anti circus activists that many child molesters find a home here. It fills many of their needs. If the rampant animal abuse doesn't give you caution perhaps knowing how many sex offenders, thieves and other criminals the circuses hire will make you think twice about exposing your child to such deviance.

Whips and chains are always part of the show at the circus

Wild horses

Wild horses in the US were granted full legal protection with millions of acres of land in 1971. Since then they have been rounded up, had their land cut in half and decimated by livestock pollution. Wild mustangs are run for miles while a noisy helicopter hovers right over them. Many are run till exhausted and endure broken legs and ankles while others are chased then roped or hogtied. Barbed wire fences have injured and killed many while some just die on the range from a variety of reasons. Once captured most end up further abused with electric prods, or being kicked/hit/stabbed while the males are sterilized without any pain relief. The females are injected or darted with toxic fertility drugs that over time will sterilize them. The foals can be trampled in the trap.

It’s estimated no more wild horses will exist within the next year or so. Contrary to government claims the majority go to slaughter often straight from the range. Others languish in deplorable holding facilities exposed to dirty water, disease, malnutrition and abuse. It’s one of the greatest and longest scams to defraud the American taxpayer while exterminating a native species in US history.

Wild horses in Australia, called Brumbies, don’t fare any better. They too are being rounded up and killed, mostly for the horsemeat trade in Asia and Europe. For more coverage about wild horses and the roundups click here and search for ‘wild horses’ and ‘livestock’ and several articles come up.


If you thought bullfighting was only a threat to bulls, horses die in the ring as well. Many horses have been gorged by a bull, who then is also killed. To say this is a sport is akin to watching a live snuff film. Most people would be aghast at the thought of watching murder as sport of humans, yet when it’s another species it’s fine. Bull/horse fights are really just snuff films done in real time and live.

There are only a few countries throughout the world where this practice still takes place (Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador). Like many other blood sports the attendees tout it as tradition. A blood sport of any kind has no place in a civilized world least of all in a country that thinks of itself that way. The tortured bull will charge and gorge whatever he can while trying to escape the pain. The horses are blind folded so they can’t see the bull coming, their ears might be stuffed so they can’t hear and vocal cords removed so they can’t scream. If you are thinking of traveling to any of these participating countries you might wish to spend your money elsewhere.


These wild equines are killed by trophy hunters who like to hang their decapitated heads on a wall, also killed for their skin to be used as a rug. Like bearskin rugs these zebra rugs often still have the head attached. There must be something missing psychologically from people who like to step on a dead animal or enjoy seeing their severed head hang on a wall.

An extinguished life on sale for $2500

Horse fighting in South East Asia

One last atrocity are the horse fights that take place in China, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea. The ‘sport’ is as it sounds. Two stallions pitted against each other usually with a mare in heat tied nearby helping to incite them. Animals have no choice about fighting for human entertainment. If the crowds are that hungry for blood they can watch humans fight it out. China takes horse abuse a step further. They often have terrified lions stand on the back of horses as they race around the ring in their zoos.

Two horses fight in a traditional horse-fighting festival in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Nov 18. [Photo/VCG]

Wild Burros & domesticate Donkeys

These animals have long been the transportation for the poor. They are often forced to carry items weighing as much or more than themselves. When they can no longer be used they’re killed for their skin. In the US most burros and donkeys are sent to China to be killed for the ejiao trade. There is a bill in Congress to end the trade The Ejiao Act (H.R. 5203), To prohibit the sale or transport of ejiao made using donkey skin in interstate or foreign commerce. Please call your Congressional Rep and ask they pass this legislation.

Donkey skins in China

For more information about what happens to these animals click here

How you can help

· Never attend a bullfight

· Never attend any horse races, shows or rodeos

· Do not take Premarin

· Do not take a ride on a carriage horse

· Do not hunt or buy body parts from hunts

· Please think how you would feel if you were one of these animals. Mammals are quite aware of their surroundings. They feel pain and fear and suffer tremendously at the hands of humans.

· Contact your county officials when the rodeos and horse shows come around and ask they put a ban on them. You can pass out flyers to attendees about the cruelty and abuse

· Contact your House of Rep and Senate and ask they pass legislation to end the use of horses in racing, transportation and by drug companies. At the very least they can l launch Congressional investigations

· To help end NYC Horse Carriage abuse please contact - NYC Speaker Adrienne Adams 212-788-7210 and 718-206-2068.

Also Call NYC Mayor Eric Adams 212-639-9675

TWU Transport Worker Union local 100 212-873-6000

Also published on The animals voice on November 16, 2022

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3 commentaires

17 oct. 2022

I have just recently become aware of you and your articles and after personally researched wild horses and burros (both on their land and off) I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart for learning and saying out loud what everyone should learn. It is sad but it is true. Thank you very much.


29 sept. 2022

Thanks so much for doing this hard hitting expose on the many despicable abuses, torture, and killing of the world’s equids! This situation is intolerable! These hellish abusive relationships mmust be stopped ASAP! The perversion of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act must be thor exposed and the true intent of this nob and benign law truly and conscientiously implemented!


McKenna Grace Fisher
McKenna Grace Fisher
24 août 2022

~ I know so much of this sis ~ I imagine anyone with no knowledge of the abuses and corruption would be blown away ~ I hope many non aware people read and learn from your piece here ~ Thank you ~ xx

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