Husband and wife team Steve Smith and Alayne Marker with Lena, a blind mare who was the first resident at their sanctuary. Says Smith on the unwanted horse issue: "No matter how long they had owned the horse, no matter how much the horse had done for them - these people had no loyalty to the animal," Smith said. "It never occurred to them that maybe ... just maybe ... their horse deserved a well-earned retirement."
"While many horse owners are devoted to their animals and keep them for life, the sad fact is that too many people only want to keep a horse as long as it is useful for something," said Steve Smith, co-founder of the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary, a Montana nonprofit that specializes in caring for disabled animals, including 25 blind horses.
"More than 100,000 unwanted horses were slaughtered in America in 2006, and that is tragic evidence that we need to tackle the unwanted horse problem in a fundamental way - by rethinking our relationship with these wonderful animals," Smith said.
While banning horse slaughter is essential, he noted, this gruesome practice is only a symptom of the problem.
The new website argues that a horse must be recognized for having intrinsic value as an animal, above and beyond whatever economic value it might also have. What needs to change, according to the site, is "the horse-as-tool mentality, where the animal's value is measured only by its usefulness to the person."
The website acknowledges that this new view will be controversial and will require a sweeping cultural change in the horse industry, and a change in mindset for millions of individual horse owners.
Smith said his nonprofit was motivated to create the site because of all the calls and emails they received from people who wanted to surrender their horses.
"No matter how long they had owned the horse, no matter how much the horse had done for them - these people had no loyalty to the animal," Smith said. "It never occurred to them that maybe ... just maybe ... their horse deserved a well-earned retirement."
The site also offers specific steps on what individuals can do to help reduce the number of unwanted horses in America, and provides concrete recommendations for horse owners who find themselves with an unwanted horse.