Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Tag Archives: horse

Zachary and Dexter: A Video Post

Zachary wearing his little blue coat


I’m usually all about pictures, but this is going to be a post predominantly featuring video!

Though technically one of the videos is actually made with stills.

A friend of Ryan’s, Jason, has come down from NJ to visit the sanctuary a few times in the past few months, and is completely in love with it. As we all are. He took tons of pictures with his camera phone, and when he got home, he put them together with some music. I find this to be extremely powerful. He intersperses a few pictures from animal agriculture – not the graphic stuff, but sad stuff nonetheless. The juxtaposition between the sad-reality for most animals, and the rescued animals at the sanctuary as well as the crowds of people who are clearly filled with joy at spending time with the animals really makes it all hit home for me.

The next video is of the cutest little baby goat! Zachary was rescued on New Year’s Eve. Some people had bought him to use as a NYE sacrifice. Their plans were to slit his throat. It is hard to even think about, let alone comprehend. Their plan was foiled by Zachary himself. He cried, loudly, and since baby goat cries sound remarkably like human baby cries, the neighbors called the authorities to investigate. When they found Zachary, they were able to confiscate him because “livestock is not allowed in the city”. The law would allow the killing of Zachary, but not the keeping of him. This is sad, but true, but it also shows that even pretty low-bar laws can be used to save lives.

That video is of Zachary just a few days after he’d come to the sanctuary. Terry brought him down to be near us by the chicken yard, and he happily munched on grass in the sunshine, wearing his adorable little blue coat.

Even one week later, he was turning into a bit of a rascal! (i.e., being a completely normal baby.)

I took a bunch of video snippets, trying to capture his baby cry at the request of a friend. I put the snippets together using iMovie. I’m not very handy with video, obviously, but I think Zachary’s antics overcome my video skills!

And finally, some very short footage of Dexter feeling full of himself! I missed most of the action, actually, where he was pestering Gloria and Sal, and they were having none of it, kicking him and tossing their heads.

Knowing what all of these residents went through before they came to the sanctuary, to see them acting so normal (hijinks and all) is a beautiful thing.


One-sided partnerships

horses in barn

When I was a new vegan, a co-worker who was interested in vegetarianism asked me what seemed like an interesting question with regards to animal exploitation, and what he saw as partnerships.

The question was along the lines of: If you ask an animal to perform work, such as helping you plow the field, and in return you provide food, water, and protection, is that exploitation, or is it partnership?

At the time, having never thought about the hypotheticals beyond the tired but never retired “If you were on a desert island…”, it seemed like a thoughtful and thought-provoking question.

Now, it seems obvious. The partnership could not be a real partnership. The non-human animal is given no real choice in the contract, and furthermore, everything provided in return for services are things that he could have provided for himself, most likely with much less effort.

Perhaps in lean times, there is more benefit to the non-human animal in the partnership, but the reality is that if the times get too lean, the partnership is dissolved by means of slaughter.

Sometimes we are so used to seeing animals in certain roles that we forget to question them. Horses are to be ridden, right? Well, as animal rights activists, we wouldn’t think that way, but it is possible people have doubts as to what the horses themselves think.

So. Do they want to be ridden? Have they perhaps been so domesticated over the years that they’re dependent on humans even for exercise and need this interaction?

The bits, the stirrups, the reins…are these means of communication between the horse and the rider, or are they means of control? I’d say control, not communication, and I think the horses would agree.

Terry of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary told me that many years ago, when they first rescued the horses that live there, they continued to ride them. They probably had some doubts, but the horses needed exercise, and I can see how easy it would be to view the riding as a bonding experience, if you were intent on making something positive of it. Terry couldn’t help but to think about it more, as I’m sure dedicating her life to rescuing animals made her think about these things in more depth than she had before. Eventually she admitted to herself that the only way you could get the bridles and bits and whatever else onto the horses was to trick them.

If you have to trick them, that’s a pretty clear sign that they’re not interested.

And so they stopped riding the horses. The horses get a lot of exercise on their own, as they wander the many acres at the sanctuary, doing things that horses do naturally. It was clear to Terry really quickly that the horses were a lot happier when they didn’t have to deal with being ridden.

Even when we have the best intentions in the world, we don’t always see things clearly, we don’t always make the full connections. It isn’t easy being honest with ourselves, but it should still be a goal.


Interspecies communication – horses and cows

sleepy horse

We all communicate more than we realize through our body language. Sometimes it is not what we intended; smiling is seen by many other species as a sign of aggression. I imagine it is sometimes a sign of aggression among humans as well, just not one we admit to. Communication can be much more subtle than this. Anyone who has lived with a cat knows well what a sharply flicking tail means, especially when paired with flattened ears. We know what a wagging tail or a tucked tail means in dogs. Most of us are around these two species enough that we’ve learned bits of their communication.

What about other species? There is much to be learned. And much can be learned by watching other species interact with each other.

Horses and cows, for example. Cows tend to outweigh horses by a thousand pounds and more, yet it is horses who are dominant over cows! Terry explained this to us, and the simplified version is that horses can and will bite. Cows are very wary of them, despite that it is the cows who have the horns.

Part of the Poplar Spring routine is that the horses are kept in their barn as we begin to clean and get their fresh water. I should also mention that the routine I follow is only half of the routine. Dave (and sometimes others) have their own complimentary routine, and part of that is feeding the cows as we are in the barn with the horses.

This goes back to the domination issue. The horses will prevent the cows from eating their own food, and horses need different food than cows, so this would not be a good thing. Hence keeping the horses with us inside the barn until the cows have eaten. To add a twist, the cows love the hay that the horses get, so once they’ve eaten their grain, they start lining up outside the horse barn, and mooing quite loudly to let us know, in case we’ve forgotten, that it is time to let the horses out and let them in.

Last weekend there was a twist to the routine. It was bitterly cold, with a biting wind, and the horses – eager as always to have the barn doors open – were content to stand in and near the barn doorway, basking in the sun, half asleep. The cows watched and waited. They weren’t allowed in yet. Not even when the horses had their backs to the cows, seemingly ignoring them. The cows could have gone around the horses, since the doorway wasn’t completely blocked, but they didn’t. Terry pointed out the horses ears, which were back just slightly.

That, apparently, is horse for “don’t even try it.” And the cows didn’t.

horse and cow