Written by: Heather Clemenceau
While new registrations and memberships of all pedigree horse breeds have been in decline overall since the 2008 recession, registrations for the AQHA are possibly the hardest hit, due in part to the dominance of the quarter horse breed. The AQHA’s 2015 membership results have been posted, and following the trend of previous years, they’re down overall once again. Canada’s overall membership numbers continue in a decade of decline, so too do Alberta’s numbers, which are typically in the top 10 of almost any AQHA stat.
Membership Change Overall From 2014 – 2015 (2,997) This decline represents a loss of over $100,000 in revenue
Membership Change for Canada From 2014 – 2015 (655)
Membership Change for Alberta From 2014 – 2015 (171)
It’s no secret that the largest non-profit breed association in the world takes the most destructive and inhumane approach to horse slaughter of any of the breed groups. On the one hand, they have a Mission Statement to “ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times.” However, the AQHA needs a system to make room for the continuing mass production, hence their business model is to breed as many horses as possible (thus maintaining new memberships and registrations thus ensuring that they are a self-perpetuating entity) while discarding older or surplus horses and horses with undesirable conformation to slaughter plants.
AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines – (in reference to the S.A.F.E. Act):
“If we do not like unwanted horses being sent to processing facilities across our northern and southern borders, then perhaps Congress should allow our own USDA-regulated processing plants to reopen. The U.S. plants, with state-of-the-art monitoring technology, will assure humane handling and euthanasia as approved by AAEP and AVMA and a USDA-inspected safe and wholesome end product for export.”
Can I say how disgusted I am that Huffhines refers to quarter horses as an “end-product?” I dislike references to the term “foal crop” on the 2015 Executive Summary (or wherever else I see it). The term “crop” has pleasant connotations of the nostalgic gathering of a produce that is planted and cultivated by collecting rainwater for irrigation. Animals are not “crops” that can be ripened like turnips, although sending horses to slaughter does bring to mind the image of a combine harvester and a crop of living animals that are simply mowed down. Despite what the AQHA claims, the goal of “treating horses humanely and with dignity” is one that’s incompatible with over-breeding and slaughter.
In addition to encouraging horse owners to dispose of their animals in the slaughter pipeline and strategizing against humane groups, the AQHA’s multiple-embryo-transfer rule also facilitates overpopulation by allowing mares to have more than one foal per year. Rules about using frozen semen or eggs from long-sterile or dead animals allowed horses to breed from beyond the grave. Consider that First Prize Dash, a 1988 quarter horse mare – produced 44 offspring! Her sire, Dash for Cash, sired 1,233 foals! Possibly these two horses are not the most obvious examples of this policy either. There were so many lines in the All Breed Pedigree record for Dash for Cash that I had to copy and past them into a spreadsheet in order to count them…
Instead of trying to fight against animal welfare groups, the AQHA should be setting aside funds to care for unwanted horses that resulted from rampant over-breeding that the horse-riding public cannot absorb.
Fewer horses produced by responsible breeding practices would result in higher prices at the sale barn and private treaty sales. It’s not all about the membership numbers.