Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Safeguard American Food Exports Act: An Effort to Prevent Domestic Slaughter and Exports for Foreign Slaughter of Horses

Earlier this week, the WHO published a study claiming that red meats - particularly processed red meats - are carcinogenic. While it is unlikely that this study will cause Americans to stop eating red meat in general, there is one red meat that is absolutely off the table: horse meat. There are currently no operational equine slaughterhouses in the United States. However, that does not mean that horses aren't shipped to slaughter in this country. Both Mexico and Canada allow horse meat to be processed and sold. Some of that meat comes from horses that originate in the U.S.

In April of this year, Rep. Frank Guinter (R-NH) introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports Act. The entire text of the bill is available here. Essentially, this bill would ban the export of horses and other equines for slaughter and consumption. It would establish Congressional recognition that the United States does not raise horses for consumption, and that horses in the U.S. are regularly treated with medications that are unsafe for human consumption. The same bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senatory Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

The bill has been referred to committees in both the House and Senate.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fall for trail riding - and be safe!

It’s fall, and equestrians know what that means…trail rides! When the leaves start changing color, there’s no better way to enjoy the outdoors than on horseback. Ok, so that’s true for the rest of the year as well, but fall brings some particularly beautiful rides, as well as increased challenges to trail riding – specifically related to the land we ride on.

Some folks are lucky enough to have miles of trails on their own land. For many people, however, trail riding means venturing away from home, whether it’s to a neighbor’s property or on public lands.

Legal considerations

Before hitting the trail, make sure horses are allowed where you plan to ride. Check with the local park staff if you are planning to ride on public lands, and with your neighbors if the trails you will be exploring are privately owned. If you are unsure whether the trails you will be riding on cross onto neighboring land, it’s a good idea to consult a plat book to find out if you need to get permission from someone. Verbal permission is great, but it is best to have written permission from the landowner. An equine attorney can help you draft a short agreement giving you limited permission to ride on someone else’s property while limiting your liability if anything bad happens.

For those riding on public property, make sure you check with a member of the park staff regarding the current rules for using the land. You should always plan to bring your own water and hay, but make sure that there aren’t specific restrictions or requirements.

Safety considerations

One of the biggest concerns for trail riders in the fall is whether there are hunters nearby. It is not unheard of for horses to be unintentionally shot by hunters, and you will probably hear gunshots in the distance. You can reduce any risk by wearing bright clothing to clearly indicate that you are human. Good colors include safety green or blaze orange. Try to avoid known hunting areas, and if you are riding on neighboring property ask the landowner if anyone will be hunting there. Try to talk with any hunters beforehand and determine when they will be out - most likely early morning or evening. Avoid riding during those times if at all possible. You can find other safety suggestions for trail riding during hunting season here.

Hunters are not the only other trail users you might encounter. In many areas, dogs are also allowed on trails that have equine access. If you run into an unleashed dog on your ride, the best thing is to halt and ask the dog’s owner to restrain the dog while you pass, or to restrain the dog and pass you. Try to avoid direct contact between dogs and horses if at all possible. Also check to see if ATVs are allowed where you will be riding.  These vehicles sometimes travel at quick speeds, and are unable to make rapid stops.

What to do in case of an accident


Accidents can happen even if you take every precaution. If there has been an injury, it is best to call for emergency help. If you are on private land when an accident occurs, call for emergency help and then notify the landowner of what has happened. If you have concerns about whether you will be subject to legal liability for an injury, or if you think you have been injured, consult an equine attorney.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe fall, full of trail riding adventures!