Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Horses Helping Humans Helping Horses

Today brought two positive strides for important causes that link our human and equine worlds.

As the reports, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, currently the world's largest charity organization committed to fundraising for breast cancer research and survivor support, has agreed to renew its partnership with the Kentucky Oaks (gr. 1) at Churchill Downs. Kentucky Oaks Day, held the Friday before the Kentucky Derby, will again have breast cancer fundraising as the focus of its races and events (e.g., its "Pink Out" initiative, which encourages Oaks attendees to wear pink as a way to show their support for the cause). According to the, one particularly notable event scheduled for the day will be a parade in which breast cancer survivors will walk next to the Oaks' fillies as the horses make their way to the gate. Churchill Downs has promised to donate 1$ per attendee to the Susan G. Komen Foundation on Oaks Day, and will also donate 1$ for every "Oaks Lilies" themed mixed drink sold on-site to Horses and Hope, the Kentucky equine industry's breast cancer support and fundraising organization. This is a wonderful example of a way in which a large racing organization is using its notoriety to support a worthwhile cause in the human world. I would love to see similar partnerships leveraged for other causes by aligning noteworthy non-profits with prominent races and venues.

And the recently incepted Equine Health and Welfare Alliance, formed by a group of Kentucky-based AAEP certified equine vets, is pushing to gain House approval for a bill that that would "recommend voluntary standards for horse rescue and retirement shelters, and suggest deal with abandoned horses." According to, "the bill will create the Kentucky House Agriculture and Business Committe to assist, advise, and consult with the cabinet on issues of equine health and welfare and will take action to help maintain the health, welfare, and safety of equines in the Commonwealth." The group hopes that such a bill would also provide for a wide scale assessment of the true state of horse abandonment and rescue in the U.S., and develop measurable goals for addressing the issue of unwanted horses. Since the prohibition of U.S. horse slaughter in 2007, and due in large part to the fierce impact the recession has had on demand in the equine market, determining how to care for homeless horses has become a critical problem. It will be interesting to see whether this legislation gets passed, and whether it can drive further change for abandoned and rescued horses.

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