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Story ID:2619
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various various USA
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CONGRESS HORSE AMENDMENT -- Today Vicki sent me an HSUS bulletin which read "U.S. House Votes to Take Horses Off the Menu." What joy for those of us who don't believe that we should be enabling the foreign markets of Europe to have our
horses for dinner. Incredibly, this is the second time that the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to stop the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, but the USDA has stubbornly refused to implement the law enacted two years ago. They opted instead to charge horse slaughterhouses a per horse fee
for inspection services. If you ask me, this is shameful, and although the federal
district court in Washington, D.C. ruled last spring that the USDA's scheme to circumvent Congress is unlawful, the ruling is on hold pending an appeal. And so the slaughter continues - hopefully, not for long.

In 2006 we had thought our horses were safe from slaughter which is particularly
inhumane to them because of their size, but last year 108,000 of them met this horrible fate. The numbers for 2007 are not in because the slaughtering continues. This new amendment is suppose to take effect in 2008 and we are particularly grateful to these representatives who sponsored it -- John M.Pratt, Jr. (D-S.C.) Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) Nick Rahall (D.-W.Va.), and Ben Chandler (D.-Ky). This amendament also received the strong support of Agri. Approp. Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D.Conn.). I hope that you who live in these states are grateful to your representatives and Chairwoman DeLauro. I know that I would be.

Sadly, Subcommittee Ranking Member Jack Kingston (R-Ga) and anti-animal ideologue Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) favored horse slaughter, but thankfully the Rules Committee rejected their amendment to this bill.

Wayne Pacelle of HSUS made a statement in his news message which I think deserves quoting: "Horses have served this nation honorably in battle, transport, agriculture, and as loyal companions. Today the House of Representatives said it is ungrateful and inhumane for this nation to treat them like a cheap commodity, kill them, and turn them into a high-priced meal in Belgium or Japan."

VELMA BRONN JOHNSTON. I cannot think about horses and their welfare without remembering "Wild Horse Annie." This Nevadan born in 1912 as Velma Bronn grew up to be
an indefatigable friend of the wild horses and burros. She herself owed a mustang mare a
debt of gratitude. As a baby, the mare provided her with milk when needed as her parents crossed
the desert in a covered wagon.

In 1923 at the age of 11- Velma became disfigured after having to spend months in a cast
while being threated for polio. From this experience she learned great empathy for confined and suffering animals.

Grown up, she married a neighbor - Charlie Johnston, part Delaware Indian. They were unable to have children of their own, but operated a sort of dude ranch for children
which included many troubled city youth. In addition to the ranch work, she was employed
for over 40 years as a secretary for Reno insurance executive Gordon Harris.

In 1950 while driving to work, Velma witnessed a grueome scene -- wild horses crammed into a truck destined for a pet food slaughterhouse. She saw blood oozing from the back of the truck.
It was the blood of a yearling being trampled to death. She decided that this should be exposed
to the public eye.

As an astute executive secretary, Annie amassed many facts and evidence which she effectively organized to present to all economic and social branches of society. She cultivated many contacts from school children to ranchers to businessmen, biologists, and politicians.
She was both a charming and a commanding public speaker, and her messages were delivered
with passion and conviction.

At a 1952 meeting in her home Storey County, she and other prominent citizens held a fiery
meeting where she earned her nickname, "Wild Horse Annie." In 1955 her campaign in the
Nevada State Legislature led to a bill banning aircraft and land vehicles from capturing wild
horses on state lands.

This was only the beginning of her efforts and she faced many obstacles in her efforts to stop
the slaughter of horses for pet food. She felt strongly that they had a right to remain free on
public lands. And after many audio-visual presentations to schools and civic gatherings,
wide-spread letter writing and illustrated fact sheets distribution, Velma convinced thousands
of people of all ages to advocate for the wild horses. Only letters to Congress re the Vietnam
War surpassed the outpouring of letters supporting the horse issue.

Velma (Annie) was called to testify before Congress and the result was the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act which was unanimously passed and signed into law in 1971. To my knowledge, the horses and burros were protected until the unfortunate stealth amendment
of former Senator Burns of Montana which opened the door for horse slaughter in 2003.

If "Annie" were alive today she would be out there in the forefront battling for her beloved
wild equids. Even though her standing up for the wild ones made her the subject of many
vicious attacks including threats to her life, it would be cancer on June 27, 1977 which
would take her life. She was only 65 years old. I am proud that a woman had so much
guts, courage, fortitude, and stamina to fight for our wonderful free-roaming horses and

"They" had derisively called her "Wild Horse Annie" and by doing so, I believe this appellation may have immortalized her work for the ages. May "your" equids always run free, Annie. They are a part of our national heritage.

HIDALGO--I bet that most of you have seen the Disney movie "Hidalgo" about the legendary
Frank T. Hopkins and his painted mustang Hidalgo. The internet site I found in this regard calls this account a true American "legend." Whatever that means, I still enjoyed the movie portrayal of the 1890's -- 3,000 mile endurance ride across the Arabian Desert that Frank and Hidalgo supposedly undertook. I did though I had mixed feelings of sorrow and jubilation as I watched this feat unfold because it was really foisted on the horses. As always, they had no say in the
matter, and I believe some of them perished. Some of the riders may have stopped at the midway point while others may have turned around along the way. At least this is my recollection of the movie. Of course, Frank and Hidalgo amazingly finish the grueling race of over 60 days which covered the rocky roads of Arabia and the fiery sands of Syria. It was a movie one doesn't soon forget.

Re this interesting man--Frank T. Hopkins was the son of an Army scout and a Sioux Mother. He was born in Wyoming learning to love horses-- especially the Mustang. As a young man he had served as a courier for General George Crook --riding many Indian ponies long and hard. He quickly learned how powerful and strong mustangs really were.

Disappointingly, it mentions that Frank in 1877 comes upon of group of Indians who are about
to desroy some Sioux ponies as a way to break the spirit of the Sioux warriors. (I didn't think Indians would ill use horses in this way.) Frank prevails on the Sioux chief to sell him one of the ponies for three dollars. He learns that the small white-eyed mare he bought could run all day without tiring. He later finds and buys a pinto stallion from an Apache Indian. He then bred the two and this pair would form the basis of Hopkins White-y line of mustang endurance horses. The impressive Hidalgo was one of them.

The internet site has many more interesting facets of the race and Frank's strategy. One which is amazing is that despite Hidalgo losing a lot of weight over the course of the race, he and Frank reach the finish line in 68 days-- more than a full day ahead of the next rider.

I enjoyed this story very much because I enjoy the central character which for me is Hidalgo. As for the veracity of this account -- the editor's note helped me some what sort it out --whether to believe or wonder: "Accounts of Frank Hopkins and Hidalgo are filled with disputed and often conflicting information. By labeling this account as a "True American Legend" we are acknowledging that this account whether true or not, has become a legend, and that Hopkins and Hidalgo made a major
contribution in this capacity. We understand that the details in this account may differ from the Disney movie Hidalgo, but unfortunately, we cannot verify the details of either."

This interesting internet site also left room for reader comments. I couldn't resist. I wrote -- I loved the movie and I love horses. What wonderful examples --these vegetarian animals who like Hidalgo can run all day with just grain and water. Your site contains good info and even the comments are very interesting. I love one which said that she just loved the kinship between Hopkins and Hidalgo. I concur.

*The picture depicts Velma (Wild Horse Annie).