Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

September 3, 2009

Reader questions some 'expert' opinions about horse seizure


We helped with the transportation of the seized horses and have nothing but praise for Sheriff Steve Brooks and his deputies in their handling of this matter. They showed extreme courtesy and compassion to the horse owners while carrying out their duties which were under the direction of a state vet and two women.

However, we as ranchers within the area wish to protest, or at least express our outrage at the “seizure” of the horses. We pass by the ranch every day and are more aware of the conditions than anyone within the agencies that ordered the removal. Outside of a dozen or so “old” mares with sucking colts, a sick yearling, and one old sick stud, the balance of the 87 head of horses were not emaciated, but in fair body condition. I am questioning whether ranchers and livestock owners, who depend on livestock for their livelihood, were ever interviewed or just “horsey” people who pass the ranch in question and just “thought” the horses were being mistreated. These are the ones that filed complaints with local authorities, who had to act on the complaint. There is a vast difference in having horses in your backyard and managing a herd. These ranch owners depend on these horses for their livelihood, and theirs is a 400-acre operation and not a 10-acre hobby farm.

Many old mares, along with their colts, were put in pens not to “starve” them, but to try and improve their body condition. I know, for the owners have purchased hay from us twice a week for the past year, and I am amazed that the agency vet with his assistants would call the other horses “at risk” and their decision “final.”

The majority of the lookers who came to the rodeo grounds felt as I did, that most of the horses were in decent shape, and many wanted to take two or three of the horses. Horses from a herd that had been raised and maintained for over 50 years. Their property now offered to others without any consideration for the original owners. I consider my 60 years in raising and handling livestsock gives me more experience, better judgment and a better eye for illnesses and problems in cattle and horses than anyone with the state agency that was in charge.

A lady running around with a clipboard ordered a stud in excellent shape taken because “his stall had lots of manure” in it. Lots of manure? Horse owners watch out! If they can do this to them, someone might report you.

The state group stated that each horse on the ranch was to have its own salt and mineral block put out. 87 blocks would be strewn around the ranch, dissolving and killing grass, what a wasteful and ridiculous directive. Bad hooves? These are range mares. Ever try to trim one? They don't hold the hoof up for you, but require throwing to the ground with the aid of ropes. Want to help?

Dead horses in pasture? I personally examined four remains, and determined that the bones of three horses were at least six months or more old for they were scatterd and bleached out. The only carcass was the fourth horse which was put down by the owners Friday, Aug. 14. As a rancher I do not know anyone that does not drag a dead animal to the canyon or ditch, unless it is a small operation. We might bury them if they are close to the road and have no place to dispose of them.

We are mainly concerned that authorities can come on our ranches, send people that do not qualify to make decisions regarding our animals, seize and sell our property without thorough investigation. We do sometimes make poor management decisions concerning our operations, but besides our God and family, our livestock comes first, and if we have thin livestock it is because of short pastures, low prices, and high feed cost.

I wonder why no one complains about thin or poor cows, for there are a lot of them, but there is no cow rescue and adoption center. How about the same people who run horse rescue centers add cows, goats, sheep, and maybe even the racoons that ravage our feed rooms. It seems they are just “hung up” on saving horses whether they need it or not. Maybe it’s a power trip for them to come on someone’s property, dictate and “take” what others own. If the state vet determines that the horses need more feed, how about some hay donations sent it to the owners saving a lot of hard labor for our local authorities.

I am sure the people’s hearts that complained were in the right place, but their lack of knowledge, good judgment, and good ol’ common sense sure caused these horse owners a lot of heartache, misery, and cost, along with many, many hours of hot dirty work for Sheriff Brooks and his deputies who carried on without complaining.

These horse ranchers are our neighbors and we as local ranchers in the eastern part of Garvin County are speaking out for them. And the second is as the first, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” Mark 12: 31. We are a rural county and agriculture is our main income producer. Few know that there are more cows in Garvin County, about 40,000 compared to 27,000 people.

I do not mean to step on toes or offend anyone, and I apologize if I have, but I see our personal rights being slowly taken away, and us doing nothing.

Clayton Edwards

4 E Cattle Co.