Why we're here

We are taking a stand against horse slaughter returning to the US and are striving to stop the transportation of horses to other countries for slaughter. Some of us are working in those other countries as well.

We are taking this stance as Pagans and Heathens, at a time when it seems some have decided that eating slaughtered horse meat in ritual is somehow cool, edgy and "ancestral." Therefore we want to show that that minority does not represent all of the Pagan and Heathen communities. Many of us worship Horse Deities, many of us are horse people who may see our horses as sacred charges who we care for to honor these Deities. Not by killing but by striving to give them good lives.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Horses, Pagans and Compassion Fatigue

This blog goes quite an awful lot, no matter how many of us there are. It certainly is not because there isn't a wealth of horror being done to horses to talk about. Instead, for me, I can't speak for the others, it's perhaps just the opposite.

I have been advocating for horses for decades. We've gained, but we lose. We end horse slaughter houses (for human consumption) in the US, others try to get them going somewhere else...meanwhile horse slaughter continues even in states, such as NJ, which have bills against allowing it for human consumption, because it's for animal feed.. Again, wild horses and burros are being rounded up, wrenched from their freedom, many dying as a result....many facing years of torture or slaughter. We find ourselves in a constant battle. And the move that might change everything, to end transportation of horses for slaughter completely...and require a change in the "throw away" and over-breeding mentality of the horse industry, keeps dying in committee Time is running out, for the current bill S. 541/H.R. 1094—The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act.  Over and over and over....

So over and over and over...I am hit with Compassion/Activism Fatigue.  When it's coupled with personal loss, as it often has been for me, it can become crippling. I can't advocate for the horses effectively. At this Pagans I was trying to be friendly with go out and kill horses for selfish reasons pretending it somehow honors a Mare Goddess and realizing that some of my "friends" were supporters of another Pagan who makes her living off of unethically sourced animal parts, including "pony skins" and horse ears I had to pull away from those people, although I did fool myself that one person's excuses actually was saying she was going to honor my pain and separate from the horse and wolf killer she was connected to ....I realized my foolishness since.
point I haven't had a decent night of sleep in over a year. As the issue hit closer to home with 

Part of the reason activists for horses become so fatigued isn't just the vile assholes who participate in the killing. It's all the people who claim to be against it, but see no reason to bother with it. When one of the horse killers went begging money from the Pagan community, I witnessed many who claimed they hated what she had done but had to support her because somehow this project she hasn't done yet was so important to them. So, you know, who the fuck cares about the horses? 

It gets to the point where I don't care either. Why should I?  I can't safe them all. We'll never save them all. This bill will never go through, people will continue to happily torture and kill horses, others will accept it and even celebrate how cool they are....  No one cares....why should I?

Of course, I do. I care too much. I have no choice, I have oaths.

I have made more moves to distance myself from people who support this in anyway...including those who say they don't but continue to associate with the horse killers. I have also had to break ties with someone who probably could have helped me a lot on my own project, due to their help to the horse eater...it would break my oaths to have this work, especially, touched by that (I hope I am not tainting it by using their writings for research, it is something I am currently struggling over). I have had to remove people I thought were friends (one of whom might also have been helpful to my project...but again...I can't have it touched and again must reconsider any use of what they helped me with...which is a huge problem for me) because they did not respect the pain that such associations cause me...including people who make a lot of noise about the importance of such things (but apparently, feeling it for horses, wolves and other animals isn't valid). 

But I find I can do and write little to advocate for the horses at this time. I try to pass thins along, I sign petitions, I have made phone calls to my Congresscritters who are, thankfully, pretty good on these issues (yes, even her, on this). And I take care of my little herd...all who could have ended up in a bad way (but, honestly, not having had real sleep for so long...how much I actually do with them is limited). 

Certainly other activists manage while witnessing even more than I have. We each have different breaking points. And sometimes we can step back and find our ways to cope and sometimes that's from the horses themselves.  I am hoping that again removing people who bring this toxin closer to me and by writing about it will help. I do know, from experience, that I will again end up with people in my life who bring the issue too close for comfort, there are simply too many who just do not care enough and, well, that is why this fatigue happens, why cynicism and extreme distrust are part of this. I will keep fighting, but sometimes will just be quieter about it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lost a year of my life!

The title has multiple meanings for me.  Obviously, I didn't sleep for the past year, I got a lot done in a lot of areas.  One was not with my horses. Oh, they're cared for, but I spent less time with them since last May than I would have liked.  I spent the summer taking care of a sick and crippled Greyhound who we hoped would be able to recover at least some mobility ..until it was clear he couldn't.  Lots of riding time that didn't happen then. Got out to play with the horses from time to time, but nothing extensive. Fortunately, the horses have each other from company...and the goat, of course.  Then a few months after losing him, our female Greyhound developed bone cancer and I spent the winter spoiling and fussing over her until we had to say goodbye to her as well. So I lost most of a year of serious horse time spoiling dogs.

And writing, but not so much here. I  have even been published in a few places and helped start a magazine (which includes a lovely article on Epona by my co-blogger here, Ceffyl).

But there's also that sudden "loss of a year of my life" feeling.  You get it a lot with horses.

Yesterday my husband Aaron came into the house from the barn and said that Misty was lying on her side and refusing to get up. He had been worried when he saw her and went to check and she refused to budge. I head for the door, see her lying out there and, worse, Saorsa dancing around her as if she's trying to get her up. Usually when one horse is just napping, the other horse watches over them and doesn't jump around and poke them with their nose.  I pulled boots and jacket on, headed out, I can see them as I approach the run-in shed and go in through the back and I know we're in for a long day, which might end up real bad. I walk through the shed going over the scenario of getting her up, giving her 'bute or Banamine, walking her, listening to the belly....calling the vet who is too damn far away....

I walk out into the paddock ....and Misty's up.

She shakes off some of the excess snow and heads for the hay. Saorsa immediately drops and rolls in the exact spot Misty had been in, then gets up bucking .....Misty prances around a bit and heads back to the hay.   She's absolutely fine. 

We stare at her, check her belly (she's eating but....I can't help myself).  I go in, as it's colder than I'm dressed for. I'm shaking.  It took a long time to dissipate the adrenaline.  To even really convince myself that there was no danger.  Indeed, through the day we keep checking on her. Even though, you know, eating is a damn good sign everything is fine. Thank you, Macha! 

I don't have to tell you horse owners how not fine it \could have been. This is something we've been through a lot.  Given the hard winter we've had and that three of our horses are in their 20s, we've been watching for this and kind of surprised not to have one colic.  Yesterday, the temperatures were dropping from having a warm, wet snowstorm. The situation was perfect for colic.

While he has just over a decade of experience with horses, Aaron can usually tell a horse lying down to nap and one that might be in trouble. And certainly when a horse is refusing to get up and the other horse is acting weird, it probably means trouble.  At the very least she might have been stuck due to the deep snow, but he's been through enough colic episodes, Saoradh had real issues with these winter ups and downs, to know the possibilities. That Saorsa seemed to be trying to get her up was very disturbing. 

Of course, horses have their reasons. She may have just wanted to sleep and be left alone. But frankly, I think she was just "hogging the spot" that Saorsa obviously wanted to roll in.  There was a whole paddock of fresh snow to roll in, but it seemed Saorsa wanted THAT spot.  She wasn't trying to get Misty up because she was worried about her, as horses sometimes will a sick herdmate, but because, dammit! she wanted to roll THERE! NOW! 

I am sharing this as a reminder of how unpredictable things can be for horse owners, how a quiet day can go bad suddenly ....and in this case go back to being quiet again.  That horses are a great responsibility, that crisis hits fast and hard...or not.   Thank you, Macha! 

We do this because they are special. We fight for them because they are special.  We honor Macha (others honor other Horse Deities) in these ways.  We are blessed by Her. 

This morning I had a bad bit of being reminded that some get confused and think that eating horses is the way to honor a Horse Goddess.  And so I need to remember.....thank you, Macha, for letting me serve You by caring for Your sacred creatures. I will keep fighting for them, this I vow! 

This morning, Saorsa lying down, Misty guarding

Thursday, December 12, 2013

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Saturday, August 24, 2013


Mustang! Say the word and for most people it conjures the image of a muscle car. Mustang! The word has this feeling for freedom and power. Everyone wants a mustang right? Me too!

I confess of all the horses I have ever ridden I love mustangs the most. If I was offered a beautiful perfectly trained (discipline of your choice) horse or a freshly rounded up mustang, I’d go with the latter. They are built to survive, they are smart, sure footed, thick boned and free from human breeding stupidity.

I have had the privilege of owing two Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mustangs. I didn’t actually get these guys from the BLM, they were always from a second or third owner. So I haven’t had to deal with the regulations one has to meet to be able to adopt a BLM horse.

There are quite a few regulations:

An outside corral with a minimum of 400 square feet (20x20) per animal. Corral should not be too large (more than 50x50), as animals are easier to gentle in smaller corrals.

        All fences and gates must be at least 6 feet high for wild horses over the age of 18 months. Five foot high fences are allowed for gentled horses, yearlings, and burros.

·         Fencing material should be 2x6 inch wooden planks spaced no more than one foot apart, rounded pipes, poles, or similar materials that do not pose a hazard to the animal. Small mesh, heavy gauge, woven wire fencing with a 2x6 inch board along the top, center and bottom is acceptable. No barb wire, no electric wire, no T-posts, no high-tensile tubing. Once gentled, the animals may be maintained in pastures or in box stalls with daily turnout.

·         Shelters can be a three-sided shed attached to the corral, or box stall in barn attached to corral, allowing animal to move freely between the corral and shelter. Shelter or stall space should be at least 12 X 12 feet per animal.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Sounds like the BLM is really on the ball and really cares about these living legends right? On the front page of their website they even have this cute little quote:

An Act Of Congress
 "Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; (and) that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people ..."

(Public Law 92-195, December 15, 1971)

As with anything if you think the government gives a shit, you would be dead wrong!

Lets take a look at one of their notorious holding facilities shall we? Palomino Valley Center 20 miles north of Reno/Sparks, Nevada (probably where my current horse came from).

“The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) public workshop on August 6, 2013 in Reno was a pitch session for the agency’s point of view that shade is not necessary at the Palomino Valley Center (PVC). The facility is the largest wild horse and burro short-term holding, adoption and processing center in America.

PVC resembles a feedlot–fattening up wild horses before probable slaughter for human consumption. Even so there is no shelter for the close to 2,000 captive wild horses, including pregnant mares and foals, at the huge facility.” Link to full text.

Didja catch that? In the requirements to adopt a Mustang or Burro you have to provide a shelter, yet the BLM has stated that at their Palomino Valley holding facility they don’t really need shelter.

At a recent auction held in Fallon Nevada; at the Fallon Livestock Exchange, or as most of us call it, the Fallon Slaughter auction. At first the U.S. Forest Service postponed the round of up the horses that would end up at Fallon. THEN the Paiute Shoshone tribe(s) didn’t seem to get the message and continued with the round up.  Now the problem here is that tribal lands, Forest Service and BLM lands are all adjacent here. If you know anything about horses they move around quite a bit and don’t really care about lines on a map. What I am sure has happened is that some of the BLM Mustangs, which are protected moved on to tribal and Forest Service lands. Thus the Forest Service and BLM allowed the round up of the very horses, which are protected, by the tribe.
The dark area is tribal land, the green is Forest Service and the salmon area is BLM land, map found here

Then there was a big hullabaloo where people could come claim their branded horses but the unbranded ones would go to the auction. Which ones do you think the BLM Mustangs were? So these horses that ARE protected were most likely sent to slaughter. Rescue organizations have rescued what they could but couldn’t save them all.

Oh wait, there is more…

During these round ups (authorized or not) they use helicopters and motorcycles to round up the horses. Some horses I believe are quite literally run do death, regardless of the cause of death some of the horses that are rounded up die.

 How many you ask? Well that is the $4,000,000 question. See BLM employs some individuals with questionable math skills to report the number of deceased horses. Their mortality reports vary wildly from the rendering company receipts. There is also no control over disposal of the bodies. Sometimes they use landfills, and one landfill reported the tonnage of horse carcasses, which estimating the average weight of a horse was shockingly different from what the BLM reported.  For more info go here

Bottom line, the BLM doesn’t care, to them the horses are a nuisance. They won’t provide shade, they just cart the carcasses off and won’t report any real statistics. They just want to get the horses off the BLM land and gone somewhere else.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why should horses have a special status?

In sparing match I had with a fellow Heathen, I had stated that horses were “companion” animals to which that person stated that was a point frustrated them because it assumes all other animals are road kill. This is a comment I have seen over and over, also the “what is the difference between a horse, an elk, a cow, a dog..... etc. None. They are all animals and can all be a food source...”

I don’t believe that the love of horses means all other animals are road kill, however I do believe that horses have a special status in human culture; it’s just that most humans have forgotten what they owe horses.
I’d like to list out a few things that through the grace of the gods or just the make-up of horses have caused them to be our partners in building civilization.

I should probably save warfare to last, but this is what inspired this article for me. As a child I my dad had a couple movies that I was amazed by and scared by. One was Gallipoli and the other was the Light Horseman. Of the two my father liked the Light Horseman better, or I remember seeing that one the most.
This particular movie was centered on the Australian 4th and 12th Light Horse Brigades and the “last successful” cavalry charge that occurred on October 31, 1917 WWI at the battle of Beersheba. Of course they put in the exciting conclusion of the mounted soldiers riding down on the Turkish artillery. I always found this terrifying, because I sure would not have wanted to be the Turks in this instance.

One would think that this was the last time that horses were used in modern warfare, and one would be wrong. Horses were used in WWII when the Germans were unable to create any motorized transport because its factories were needed to produce tanks and aircraft they used around 2.75 million horses, a few more than were used in World War I. Though these horses were not used in combat there were merely used to transport equipment.
The only remaining operationally-ready, fully horse-mounted regular regiment in the world, today, is the Indian Army's 61st Cavalry. Of course horses are used today by the Police Department and search and rescue.

 “The horse, with beauty unsurpassed, strength immeasurable and grace unlike any other, still remains humble enough to carry a man upon his back.”  ~Amber Senti
Something I would think few would know about is a “Pit Pony,” this is an equine (I’ve seen photos of ponies, horses and mules) that were used in mining. I’m sure the size of the mine had a lot to do with the size of equine used. This seems not to have been very common in the U.S., but more prevalent in Britain. The last mine in the U.S. that equines were used in was closed in 1971.


Picture used from Museum Wales site.

 Sometimes these equines were housed underground, and even lowered down shafts to be moved to where they were needed. They, of course, would be used to haul the mine product from where it was collected to where it needed to be delivered, and then loaded on a wagon or in later years, trucks.  
(Pit Pony story here)
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” ~Winston Churchill

 My mother had Encephalomyelitis when she was eight, this was during WWII. As a result the doctors told her parents that she would always be a runt and a weakling, so her parents sent her to horse camp. Ideally this was to toughen her up, it did the trick! This was also during the Polio era when parents would send their children to horse camp for Therapeutic Riding (thought I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t called that then!) .
Mom would tell me how kids would show up with braces and crutches and go home walking after spending a month riding horses. I don’t know how true that story is, but it’s one that I have grown up hearing.

I recently posted an article in the “Sacred HorseFacebook group about how Therapists were using horses to help people overcome anxiety, depression, grief and low self-esteem. Full article here.
There are even Guide horses for the blind! These are miniature horses, however, according to the Guide Horse.org website, “The Guide Horse Foundation was founded in 1999 as an experimental program to access the abilities of miniature horses as assistance animals. There is a critical shortage of guide animals for the blind and guide horses are an appropriate assistance animal for thousands of visually impaired people in the USA. ”

One little fella, Cuddles, even found his way on Oprah

 Picture found here.
These are a few of the things that horses have done for/with humans. We owe them quite a bit, least of which to be treated humanely and not be cruelly slaughtered! 80% of Americans seem to agree, but just go about their business as cogs in the corporate wheel and don’t see what some greedy assholes are doing to our ancient allies!


Friday, August 9, 2013

I like this Paula Bacon lady...

Every small-town mayor is bedeviled by something. For Paula Bacon of Kaufman, Texas, it was Dallas Crown, which slaughtered horses next door to her friend Mary Nash’s 40-acre farm off Highway 175.

Dallas Crown was shuttered during Bacon’s last term in office after a 20-year legal battle over environmental violations that constantly overwhelmed the city’s wastewater plant with horse blood and discharge. But news that horse slaughter plants may be returning to the U.S in 2012 has Bacon speaking out about what one horse slaughter plant with 46 non-unionized employees can do to a small town of 6,700 hard-working people...

Link to full Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2012/01/10/texas-mayor-paula-bacon-kicks-some-tail/

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lost in translation

I sit in an air conditioned box, in front of a computer while its probably 104F out side. I just got in from the car, another air conditioned box, after returning from the store yet another air conditioned box with food and drink in, yeah you guessed it, boxes.

The reason I make this strange statement on a horse blog is because I think, "we" as modern Pagans/Heathens really can't understand what our ancestors were thinking or doing, I think it may be "lost in translation". Their life was much different. I have the luxury of sitting a climate controlled room eating food I didn't have to kill, process and cook. I just grabbed it off the shelf and threw it in a microwave. (Not good food for me, mind you, but that's a different post.)

Your mileage may vary, but in my experience there is this weird phenomenon, Pagans/Heathens come from the city while some of the most devout Christians I have ever encountered come from the country. It almost feels as if we Pagans are trying so hard to connect with something that our fellow Christian country dwellers (ironic, no?) are already in contact with but just don't see the same way we do.

I feel like those of us who have been around horses, have had a glimpse of what our ancestors would have understood about horses. However unless we want to go live with the Amish, I don't think most citified Pagans/Heathens are really going to truly understand what was going on with our ancestors and the horses, and why they would be so important. Even now, I have a horse, but I don't rider her to work. I drive my car out to her, rider her and then I get in my car and drive to work. I'm not dependent on her to get me places or to plow a field or to pack a hunted kill or to carry me into battle.

This whole "Horses were traditionally very important and holy animals and part of that was eating them," smacks of eclecticism to me. Just yanking that one piece of lore out and forgetting the rest. With no understanding of the relationship between horse and human being gained but just eating them. THAT relationship is the one you want to get to know if you want to get closer to your horsey ancestors.

There is a great deal of specifically Norse lore around eating horses, sometimes because there was nothing else, but most often times horses seem to have been included as the main course. The Icelanders kept herds of horses to eat. It seems strange to me while they are doing all this horse eating they also ate cattle, pigs, chickens etc why is eating horses so damn important to Pagans, when eating beef or lamb was probably just as prevalent to our ancestors? Specifically, the Icelanders ate fermented rotting shark meat, but it seems to me no one is running to try and re-create that tradition in the United States and Canada. (They still eat this in Iceland at certain festivals)

Just why is it that eating HORSE is so important while maybe the shark thing isn't? Well, it seems that there was a King Hákon who was a Christian king over Pagan/Heathen subjects. Presumably in an attempt at being diplomatic he attended a "Pagan" festival/feast where the main course was, you guessed it, horse. The King refused to eat the meat as it was believed that only Pagans consumed horse meat (Christian propaganda at the time, I'm sure). The Pagans asked him to eat the meat and he wouldn't then the asked him to eat the gravy served with the meat and he wouldn't do that, and they asked him to eat the fat and he wouldn't do that. Finally as the compromise they got him to hold his mouth over the cooking pot and let some of the steam rising off the horse meat go into his mouth. This was regarded as a pretty crumby compromise by both parties.

I believe the following year they all gathered again and King Hákon was goaded into eating some horse liver, but he had it wrapped in cloth so he wasn't actually biting the flesh. I wonder, probably like the Norse Pagans at the time, if he ate any of the horse meat at all.

Eating the horse flesh seems to be so taboo to the Christians of the time, one has to wonder if it wasn't because they weren't really putting a spin on it, using it to vilify the heathens at the time. It seems that Odin and Freyr may have been at the head of a horse cult and the consumption of horse meat is heavily associated with their worship. Thus being a symbol of Heathen Faith.

At the same time that Pagans/Heathens are eating horses they also had horses they use for divination. These horses were never knew work and were kept for the specific purpose of divination. They weren't slaughtered for divinatory purposes either. The future was divined by the way the moved or what they looked at, similar to flights of birds. I don't see anyone trying to resurrect THAT practice.

However there is a similar taboo concept with beef as well. Apparently King Óláfr was having a feast and there was a hooded stranger that was telling the king that a pagan King Ogvaldr had enjoyed drinking the milk of a certain cow. King Óláfr at some point lifted the strangers hood and found this man to be Odin who had apparently brought some beef to the feast. Part of the beef had been cooked! Whether the meat was spoiled because it was from the long dead cow OR if it was spoiled because a Pagan god brought it to a Christian feast one cannot say. As the tale goes the king then throws all the meat out so that they would not consume any of the questionable meat.

When I was a teen there was a young kid, who was part of the family who basically ran the town, who bragged to a friend of mine about being so tough he rode a horse to death during a round up. To me this kid was a moron, he killed a useful animal either through bravado or an inability to determine there was something wrong with the horse. My opinion on this desire of eating horse meat to reconnect with the ancestors comes down to is Pagan/Heathen bravado or pissing contest to see who is more hard core! Who is the REAL Heathen? The guy who eats horse meat?

Now the addendum... I'm against inhumane slaughter of any animal, not just horses. I do NOT think you are more of a badass Heathen if you eat horses. You are a badass Heathen if you are your deeds.


Contributing sources
Riding To The Afterlife:
{M.A. In Medieval and Renaissance Studies}

The Prose Edda (Penguin Classics: 1970)

Agricola and Germania by Tacitus, James Rives and Harold Mattingly (Penguin Classics: 2010)

Viking Age Iceland by Jesse Byock (Penguin Classics:2001)