By Anastasia Kaliabakos

Approximately 100,000 horses are transported annually across the United States border to be slaughtered for the sake of human consumption. People seeking to profit off of these magnificent animals cram them into crowded trucks without food or water—oftentimes for over 24 hours—to meet their demise in slaughterhouses, where many are gruesomely dismembered while they are still alive. In early 2019, a bill known as the Safeguard American Exports Act was presented to Congress. This bill can ensure that the slaughter of horses for human consumption would be banned and that the inhumane export of horses for this purpose would be prohibited as well. It is up to the citizens of the U.S. to take action and demand that their representatives pass this bill. 

Horses have played a pivotal role throughout the history of humankind. From the time of antiquity when Alexander the Great rode Bucephalus into battle, to the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere, to modern day American Pharoah, horses have been man’s unsung heroes. After men domesticated horses, they were able to harness their immeasurable power and speed, becoming not only their teachers, but their companions as well. Horses gave men new and incredibly significant advantages in transportation, trade, herding, agriculture, and warfare. Additionally, they have become man’s partner in various sports and recreational activities ranging from the ancient Olympics to the modern-day Kentucky Derby, oftentimes functioning as the ultimate symbol of social status and wealth. These majestic creatures have given their heart and soul to man—life would not be as we know it today without their impact. 

ANASTASIA KALIABAKOS, above, with her partner Shenandoah Sweet Dreams. Photo by Jeannie Wood.

As an equestrian, it has been a tremendous privilege to spend time with—and atop—these magnificent animals. I have witnessed their gentleness, patience, grace, intuition, and care towards people for many years and I am constantly inspired and amazed by their endless empathy. It is impossible to put into words the magnitude of the impact that a relationship with a horse has on a human. In competitions and lessons, horses whose trust I have painstakingly earned have protected me from countless obstacles—both emotional and physical. Horses can sense fear in their riders and quell their nerves—a talent that often and unfortunately goes unacknowledged. In volunteering at a horse rescue, I have seen horses abandoned by their previous owners repurposed into the best lesson horses who continue to spark a love for riding in new equestrians year after year. What has impressed me the most, however, is the effect that horses have on people with special needs. I have served as a volunteer for the past four years at Great Strides Long Island, a therapeutic riding program. At this facility, each and every day, horses who have been rescued help children with conditions such as autism or cerebral palsy and even veterans with PTSD slowly overcome both physical and psychological limitations that most people could not even comprehend. These horses have taught me the true meaning of patience and compassion. 

How could anyone stand idly by while these animals are brutally sent for slaughter? The entire practice and industry as a whole are barbaric. After all that horses have done and that they continue to do for man, they should be treated with the utmost respect and be valued as precious assets and partners by people across the world. These are God’s creatures—it is an immense gift to be able to interact with them. Ultimately, it is our duty as stewards of the earth to act in a responsible manner and to end the abuse of these animals immediately. 

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