Horse show raised safety concerns

After reading The Marietta Times’ front page article praising the horse show benefiting the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, I believe your readers should know more about what actually took place at this “show” and more about the livestock “fostering.”

I attended this event as a spectator to support HSOV and also as a horse owner with some concerns. There had been recent heavy rain and other riding clubs in the immediate area had canceled their shows at their own locations for poor arena footing conditions. The riding arena for the HSOV benefit show was nothing but a mud bog. Someone tried to work it up and it became plowed mud. Anyone trying to show or run their horse in this deep mud would be putting their horse at risk for serious leg injuries and lameness. An astute horseman would never intentionally risk such injury to a horse as to run it in these conditions. Show organizers did, however, mistakenly decide the arena condition was suitable for the horses to run in. The participants were a vast majority of teenagers who were ready to ride and who don’t always make the best decisions. Thus, the rodeo began. In 30 minutes time I witnessed three different people bucked off of three different horses. Several others managed to stay on their bucking horses, but barely. I was appalled that the horses were being treated this way, being forced to run in fetlock deep mud and trying to refuse by bucking off their riders. No one cared. With each rider who landed in the mud, laughter and applause broke out. Not one person seemed at all concerned for anyone’s safety or the injury possibilities to the horses. After all, this was a “fun” show and they were having fun. But at what risk and whose expense? Clearly the HSOV should have followed the lead of the local riding clubs in their decisions as responsible horse owners to cancel their own horse shows scheduled for that same day. Just because it stopped raining does NOT mean you should still have your show.

A huge misstatement in your article was, “This gives the kids a chance to bring their horses out to see how they might do in a real horse show.” Not a chance, not even close! There is a venue for that specific purpose and it is called 4-H. The 4-H clubs teach kids the PROPER and SAFE means of showing horses. I grew up learning to ride and show in 4-H in Monroe County under the guidance of Maurice Ritchie, a well-known and respected horseman. I was taught first and foremost to respect the horse. Never put yourself or your horse in a situation where one or both of you can be hurt. These kids learned nothing at this “rodeo” and I hope this week none of the horses are lame. This sort of “promoted unbridled activity” gives good horse people and responsible horse show management a bad name. Fun is just fine and I’m all for a good fun show, but one must NEVER forget safety, proper attire and above all the health and well-being of the horse at all times. I saw very little of these three musts for a great fun show at this HSOV event.

As far as the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley taking in livestock, this should never be done unless an appropriate rescue to receive livestock is already in place to receive them. The HSOV has admitted to not having the facilities to house and care for livestock and in doing so places a financial burden on the shelter. There are a great many livestock rescues in the tri-state area that are set up and ready to receive large animals. Many of these animals need to receive specialized diets, veterinary care and rehabilitation which are best left to the rescues that are trained, qualified and experienced in these situations.

To sum up, HSOV has an outstanding volunteer support group who spend hours and hours working events, walking dogs, cuddling cats and transporting to outside rescues. These are just a few of the tasks these committed volunteers take on, not to mention all the fostering! They willingly take these lonely companion pets into their own homes to feed and care for until they are adopted or transported to a specific rescue. You guys ROCK! On the other hand, the BOD might want to reconsider keeping livestock and instead get set up with livestock rescues in the tri state area for the greater good of the large animals and the HSOV. The leadership at the helm needs to take a step back and realize HSOV should not be taking on the financial burden and liability risks of livestock, especially horses. To ask the community to feed and house livestock might be a reach, especially when there are rescues specifically for them. Stay with what you do best, companion animals.

For the youth in the area with horses, I encourage all of you to attend the Pioneer City Riding Club horse shows held at the Washington County Fairgrounds. The Saturday night shows are free 4-H contesting classes.

Deborah Cronin lives in Marietta.