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CCFB News» April 2020

Manifolds, Manolos and Manure

04/02/2020 @ 8:00 am | By Bona Heinsohn, CAE

There’s a Facebook meme roaming around social media that says, “Some women want a man who can hold their purse, I want a man who can hold my 1,200-pound fire breathing dragon and lead it down the alley”. If you’re not around horses, specifically around barrel racers, this meme might not make sense.


I have a big, red, furry 1,200-pound fire breathing dragon also known as an American Quarter Horse. He’s a defunct hunter/jumper who gets hot and bothered on ground poles. After 15 months he’s just starting to hit his stride as a performance horse and barrel racer.


Our first year as a team was less than glorious. We’d turn barrel one then blow barrel two.  The humans of the group would spend the next couple of hours trying to figure out why. Was he stubborn? In pain? Spooked? Lazy?


Speaking of spooky. He spooks at the sight of water. He goes out of his way to avoid walking near standing water. This fall he tried to jump a creek and landed smack dab in the middle of it.  Chest high in flowing water in the middle of November. It was lovely. And cold.  


My big, red beast has very tender skin. He marks up if you look at him too long. Then his fur takes six months to grow back. Don’t even get me started on his lack of a mane or his thin tail.  The research says to add omega three and omega six to increase skin and hoof health and we have with some luck. 


I’ve studied feed tags, supplements, and articles. I’ve listened to my veterinarian and farrier; with their help we’ve built him a ration that provides extra for his hooves and coat while ensuring that he remains healthy and well fed.  We’ve added an injectable joint supplement and chia seeds for his coat. 


I know that animals need proper care, food, and water to be productive. This translates to horses.  In Chicago, activist groups are labeling horse carriage operators and the entire industry as abusive, inhumane, and outdated. While individuals are entitled to different opinions, there is no evidence that carriage horses are mistreated. Chicago’s carriage horses have access to food, water, and shelter. They work a six-hour workday in comfortable conditions. I can pull the carriages that the horses pull in Chicago. My closest friend and I can pull the carriages loaded. They’re not heavy, they’re made to be easily pulled.


Activist groups also argue that cities aren’t the place for horses because of the traffic and noise.  Through scrupulous training and handling, carriage horses are comfortable in loud, urban areas.  The horses’ owners wouldn’t bring an untrained and a poorly acclimated horse into the city. 


Horses built Chicago. Horses have an inherent drive to work. Even my big red gelding has a drive to work. It’s shameful that horse carriages may become a thing of Chicago’s past.  

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