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Monday, December 20, 2010

A Response from the USTA

I recently received a response from Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President of the USTA, regarding the USTA's inclusion on the naughty list from my recent Naughty and Nice list. 

Specifically, there was an objection with regards to the following: "To the USTA, for not implementing penalities to horsemen who sell horses into slaughter. Santa will kindly explain to the USTA that membership in the USTA is not a right so you can ban owners who will sell their horse for $200 to slaughter instead of doing the right thing by the horses.'"

Being it is from the USTA, I felt it deserved its own separate listing.  Hence, here is the response I received.  I will not be commenting on this particular comment.

...I hope you will look closely at the process by which a horse may end up at a foreign slaughter plant and consider the viability of tracking that horse's path to such an end. Rarely does a USTA member make the decision to drive a horse to a plant and send them to their end there. More often, the horse is bought by a dealer, perhaps at public auction, whose goal is to sell the horse at a profit for any purpose - as a buggy horse, riding horse and some are sold to rescue groups or individuals.

The slaughter plant is the dealer's default position, offering them the smallest possible profit on their investment. The dealer makes the decision about that horse's demise after other, more profitable options are exhausted, and they are not USTA members.

Like you, I would like to see every non-commercial Standardbred have a secure, productive career and a dignified end. And in pursuit of that, I believe we’ve taken direct action.

The USTA has long supported a variety of activities to build awareness of their versatility as a pleasure horse at considerable expense. Just this fall, we sent a demo team of multi talented horses to the world's largest gathering of equestrians - the World Equestrian Games in Lexington.

This year we inaugurated, funded, and implemented the Support Our Standardbreds (SOS) program, which has helped Standardbred horses seized, surrendered or abandoned to legal authorities. We have also recently had a "soft" launch of the Full Circle program, adapted from a similar program initiated by the American Quarter Horse Association. Hundreds of horses have been enrolled and it has been well received by our members. You will be reading more about Full Circle in coming months.

The USTA is a charter member of the Unwanted Horse Coalition, which provided leadership to create "Operation Gelding," which has castrated hundreds of horses, no doubt preventing thousands of unwanted horses. We also provide free transfer of ownership to any 501c(3) group. We'll soon give our members the option to convert their horses' registration to "Pleasure," which we think will encourage them to sell or give away those horses for non commercial use.

Long before any other registry, we provided free tattoo lookup to those trying to identify Standardbreds and at times, have even sent our ID techs to try to identify a particularly difficult tattoo.

I believe the USTA has done vastly more for our "inconvenient" horses than any other equine registry of comparable size and perhaps any other registry of any size. It’s my opinion the USTA is doing pretty much all that our budget and manpower will allow. I hope that you would advise your readers of those initiatives that we have undertaken...

1 comment:

Now That's A Trot! said...

I don't know much about the ins and the outs of the industry, but from what I have seen personally I know the USTA goes far and above what other breed organizations do for their horses. Is it sad that 100% of Standardbreds can't avoid a sad fate? Absolutely. But if I called USTA from the slaughter pen to ask them to ID a tattoo or freezebrand, they absolutely would, whereas Jockey Club or AQHA would more likely make me jump through hoops, sign and fax paperwork, and probably give them my credit card number first. No one would even think to call a European studbook if it was a Warmblood in the pen.

I think all of the organizations are stepping up and trying to improve since the slaughter issue came to the spotlight a few years ago, but the USTA was reaching out even before then. In addition to donating to groups like SRF and New Vocations, they have had different incarnations of the Outreach Program over the years, to encourage more people to take in Standardbreds when their "commercial" careers are over... There is no support on that kind of scale for dressage or jumping or western horses when they need to find a new career.