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The late-November news that the five-year ban on horse slaughter had been lifted sparked a flurry of interest and news reports, and United Horsemen President Dave Duquette was in the midst of the whirlwind.
    “I did my first interview on a Tuesday, and the article came out Wednesday. My phone started ringing at five that morning and I did 25 interviews the first day, 10 the next and radio shows and tv spots followed,” he says.
    The news that broke in the midst of the Thanksgiving holiday was that Congress had not included a rider in the new ag spending bill that had previously prohibited USDA from funding inspectors for horsemeat.
    “This means that regulations go back to pre-2006,” says Duquette. “USDA can inspect horsemeat.”
    “I believe we’re on go. I’m optimistic this will happen,” says Bill Parker of the Billings Livestock Commission when asked about the future of horse slaughter in the United States.
    Slaughter plants for horses can be opened in all but four states, which have banned horse slaughter at that level. Those states include Texas, California, Illinois and Florida.
    Duquette says one rumor that’s being spread about horsemeat inspection is that it will cost taxpayers $5 million per year.
    “That’s false, because none of the people who inspected horsemeat were fired,” he explains. “They all still work for the USDA, and the agency won’t hire new people. The people who are already inspecting will just add one more plant. It won’t cost taxpayers any more than what USDA inspectors already cost.”
    Duquette points out another claim from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its president Wayne Pacelle, who say their wrath will be upon any slaughterhouse that is opened.
    “Everyone we have as investors knows there’s nothing he can do,” says Duquette of Pacelle. “He’s out of options.”
    Duquette says there’s nothing to litigate.
    “It was a rider stripped off on the bill. There’s nothing to litigate, and Wayne knows that. There’s no way for them to do what they’re claiming they’ll do. I’m just a horse trainer from Oregon, but many people in D.C. say there’s no way to do it,” he notes.
    Duquette says slaughter proponents have done their due diligence over the last four years with the Government Accountability Office study that was released last summer, along with the right education for Congress to make the decision.
    He adds that one thing that helped with the politicians in D.C. is that the Indian tribes also joined in the call for horse slaughter.
    “The leader of the National Tribal Horse Coalition went to D.C. and said they weren’t looking for money, but that they have a huge problem and they were looking for the government to get out of the way so they could solve the problem,” says Duquette, adding that they have as big of a problem with horse populations as the BLM does. “The Navajo nation has over 70,000 feral horses, and the Yakima Indians have over 18,000 horses, and their reservation looks like a dirt lot. They’ve got a problem they can’t solve.”
    Although the tribes could open a slaughterhouse on their land, Duquette says it would have still been impossible for them to ship the meat, because it would have had to have a USDA stamp to go overseas.
    Of the claims by some that opening horse slaughter will lead to horses raised solely for meat purposes, Duquette says he tells them to do the math.
    “At a dollar a pound, which was the going rate at the height of horse slaughter, you show me someone who can raise a horse – as slow as they grow – to slaughter age and make money at $1,000. It just doesn’t work,” he explains.
    Another myth Duquette addresses is that American horses are only feeding wealthy Europeans.
    “In most countries horsemeat is half the price of beef,” he notes. “That’s one of the mind games the activists use with the public – they say don’t do it, because they’re feeding wealthy Frenchmen and Belgians. Iceland is almost strictly horsemeat and fish, because it’s half the cost of other meat, and 70 percent of the world’s countries eat horsemeat.”
    Some anti-slaughter activists claim that the use of phenylbutazone, or bute, disqualifies the meat for human consumption.
    “Bute is fully out the system in 30 days, and we have some ongoing studies to prove that,” says Duquette. “The reason bute is labeled not for human consumption is because they never did the testing. It costs millions of dollars to test drugs, but there’s never been one test of a piece of horsemeat that had any trace of bute.”
    Duquette notes that the U.S. pet food industry “adamantly” wants horsemeat to be available to them, and he says the U.S. imports millions of pounds of horsemeat back from Canada for zoo diets.
    “We send our horses across the border and pay a premium to bring horsemeat back to feed zoo animals,” he says.
    Duquette estimates the first slaughterhouse to be open in as little as three weeks to a month.
    “It’s a done deal, and the people who are doing it will make it happen. There are many in the horse industry who were diehard slaughter advocates, but who said they would never open again, but we did make it happen,” says Duquette.
    Where those plants will be located is under wraps until plans are more finalized.
    “I wouldn’t mind saying where they’ll be, if I knew,” says Duquette. “We have people calling us from North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Idaho. All those states actively seek to bring horse slaughter within their borders.”
    “We have no road blocks to put a plant in Montana,” says Parker. “We’d like a plant, but someone would have to build it before we could process horses. I don’t know that Montana is where it will happen, but it will happen somewhere in the U.S.”
    Of the intensity of interest, Duquette says he thinks there will be three horse plants open within six months.
    “Right now you’d be lucky to get 10 cents per pound for a horse at the sale barn. I would bet if we get a couple plants going in the U.S. that will jump to 50 cents right away, and get closer to 75 cents to a dollar within the first couple years,” says Duqette. “The market will be back in full bloom right away.”
    “We lack competition right now,” says Parker. “As soon as competition is created the market will get pretty snappy again, and the bottom end of the other horses will also come up.”
    Of the media storm he experienced at the outset, Duquette says, “To me, any press is good press, just because it brings awareness and starts making it a household issue. Anytime we have national press we’ve had a strong increase in support.”
    Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jackson – Cutter racing began in Jackson in the 1940s when local businessman John Wort began racing horses down the center of town on Broadway Street, right past the Wort Hotel. After a good run as a winter activity and revenue draw for the town, the Jackson Hole Shrine Club took over the races in 1971 to raise money for the Shriner Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City, Utah.
For the Shrine Club, their past 40 years running cutters near Jackson has earned them the honor of joining the “Half Million Club” at the National Imperial Shrine in Tampa, Fla.
Club President Rod Everett says the races allow the club to raise more money than most temples, of which there are two in Wyoming.  
After moving through several locations for the racetrack, the Shriners now have a permanent location on the Melody Ranch south of town. Ranch owner Paul Von Gontard has reserved a portion of his land as open space, and past club president Bob Lundy says Von Gontard has set it aside for the cutter races.
“He explicitly told us that all we could ever use that ground for was cutter racing and other horse-related events,” notes Lundy. “Paul has been gracious and more than loyal to let us use that ground.”
Because of the declining economy and, therefore, a declining number of cutters, two Shriner races, one in January and today’s President’s Day weekend race, were combined into one along the way.
“This is the weekend that made us the most money to send to the hospital,” says Lundy, who has made it to all but one of the 40 races hosted by the Shrine Club.
Although the Jackson Hole Shrine Club sponsors the races, other regional Shrine clubs travel to Jackson to support the event. The clubs band together to help with taking admission at the entrances, and the Calcutta, a major fundraising component.
“Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the cutter races were really going good, it was nothing to see the Calcutta go up as high as $10,000 on an individual race,” recalls Lundy. Of those bets, the Shriners get 15 percent off the top to send to the hospital. “In the boom years we’d send close to $25,000 to the hospital just from Calcutta betting alone.”
Of his dedication to the event, Lundy says, “It’s just that I can see what the Shriners do for the hospitals, and how much they help the little kids. I was in Salt Lake often at one time, and we went down to the hospital, which had just been renovated, and we got to see all these little kids and how much they get out of it. It means a lot to help these children.”
Lundy says the races are run in the spirit of people helping people.
“The organizers of the cutter races have put in a lot of time, and the racers have put a lot of time into helping us make this thing a success,” he says. “When we have people helping us, and we’re helping people – there’s a lot of gratification.”
“The teams love helping us, and we love to help them. We hold a lot of pride in this track, because it’s the last real snow track the teams get to run on, and they enjoy it,” he adds.
Of the racers who travel to Jackson, Lundy says the club is looking for new teams all the time.
“We like to invite teams that are just willing to come. The race used to be strictly invitation-only, but not since cutter racing has gotten substantially smaller and we’ve lost a lot of clubs,” he says.
Although the race does count toward International Cutter Races Association standings, there is no purse. Racers are paid a nominal amount to help cover fuel costs, but Lundy says many of them say they have had so much fun racing that they donate it back.
“Of all the races in the region, this is the only one without a cash prize – all the races donate their time and energy to come here,” says Evertt.
Although the 2011 racers experienced cool, calm and snowy weather, Lundy says there have been years when the snow came horizontal up the track, and the racers still ran.
“Many racers come back year after year,” he notes. “We have a couple who are now in their 25th year racing here. Many people who were in it at one time or another still come back to help us in whatever way they can.”
“You could say it’s a combination of the real Western hospitality that Wyoming has, and that the racers and Shriners and everybody just likes to help out with this, and they get a lot of good out of it,” says Lundy of the success of the fundraising event for so many years.
“I enjoy the uniqueness of the races,” says Everett. “This year I spoke with a bunch of people from Australia, and they hadn’t seen anything like it. We have people come from all over the state and the region to attend this, and they have a lot of fun.”
“We will run as long as we can,” says Lundy of the event’s future. “Many of our racers now are here for the fun, and they do get qualifying points to go to the world, and that makes everybody a happy camper.”
“For many years the races have helped add to the Jackson economy,” says Everett. “Our economy is solely based on tourism – not minerals or timbering – and the idea the Wort brothers had 60 years ago was in effort to bring some people to Jackson in the wintertime for something different to do, and that’s the fun part, because we’ve still got people coming from all over.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Chariot racing a long-time winter tradition in Wyoming
Riverton — Mention chariot racing and it conjures up images of the Roman Coliseum and scenes from the 1959 classic movie Ben-Hur. Few realize that chariot races take place every winter right here in Wyoming.
    However, the approximately 100 people who gathered on a recent warm, sunny Saturday west of Riverton knew. They came to watch and participate in the Wild West Carnival Chariot Races presented by the Wind River Chariot Racing Association.
    Chariot racing has evolved a bit since its time as the most popular sport of the ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine societies. At the time it was often dangerous to both driver and horses but still generated strong spectator enthusiasm.
    “Ranchers originally started the sport for something to do on the weekends,” explains Leo Seely of Lander. “The meets are normally two days, with each team racing once each day.”
    Seely has raced since 1962 and has traveled all over the Rocky Mountain West to chariot racing meets. While the sport started as cutter races during the winter months, most racers switched to wheeled chariots but the meets are still held during the cold season.
    “Used to be we’d rope on the horses one day and race them the next. My first team was off the Red Desert and they didn’t really know how to run,” Seely continues. “Now a lot of recreational riders are involved and are racing two- to three-year-olds and then selling them to the flat track once they are seasoned to the starting gate.”
    Seely’s team was recorded with a radar gun at about 45 miles per hour once at the Dubois Buffalo Days in August. Leo Seely’s son, Tom Seely, now does most of the driving for his team.
    “I didn’t pull my whip,” Tom Seely says of his most recent Riverton match. “If I had wanted to go faster, I only needed to hit that horse twice and this one once and hang on.”
    Normally the two-horse teams are matched two at a time on a straight track measuring 220 to 440 yards.
    “The chariot and the driver have to be at least 278 pounds,” says Marvin Heyd of Glenrock. “It doesn’t matter if you are heavier. You can tie a full rain barrel on the back if you want.”
    Heyd’s aluminum and fiberglass chariot tops out at 65 pounds. Leo Seely and Heyd are the oldest, and the longest racing, chariot drivers in Wyoming, both having started in the sport in the early 1960s.
    “I race registered Quarter Horses that have a lot of Thoroughbred influence,” Heyd explains. “I look mainly for a horse that wants to run. I’ve been racing this particular team for three years.”
    “I used to run Division One teams, but decided to slow down a bit with my current team as I’m getting old, you know. Lately, though, my team has been winning regularly. I’m not sure what is up with that,” he says.
    Heyd exercises his team with a hot walker and his 1978 Chevrolet Blazer, leading the horses one at a time and doing the quarter mile circuit of his corrals at about 22 miles per hour.
    “They dance a lot, they love to run,” Heyd says. “I rarely drive them at home as they mind pretty well. Also if you race twice a month you don’t have to do a lot to keep them in shape.”
    Races have been held throughout this season in Gillette, Glendo, Torrington and Saratoga, plus Dubois and Riverton. Recently the chariot racing meets have been hampered by bad track surfaces and losing permission to use certain tracks.
    “Currently there are about 30 teams here in Wyoming,” says Randy Kintzler of Riverton, who has chariot raced since 1979. “Ten years ago there used to be 90 teams, it seems to be a dying sport.”
    But not if Randy’s daughter, Ashlee Kintzler, has anything to say about it. Ashlee Kintzler began racing as soon as she turned 16, the minimum age allowed in the sport, and became the youngest female racer in the world. Not only is she competing among men twice (and three times) her age, she managed to defeat several of them all the way into the World Championship of the Cutter & Chariot Racing Association held in Ogden, Utah.
    “I’ve been around chariot racing since I was in diapers,” says Ashlee, now in her third season of driving. “Last season I ran Division One in Wyoming, which runs about 22 to 23 seconds. I then ran Division One at the World, which is a flat 21 seconds. I should have run in Division Two according to my times.”
    To qualify each team has to have six outs, or gates, to make the World. The third, or alternate, horse on the team must have three outs. With two outs at a weekend race, a team needs to attend at least three races per year. This is to ensure that teams are not taken to the World without running that season.
    When the drivers are asked “Why chariot racing?” their replies vary, but include the speed, the horses, the friends and the family involvement. However, chariot racing in Wyoming can be summed up with the shouted “Good luck, John!” and “You too, Randy!” as the last teams of the day are loaded into the starting gates.
    Wyoming’s state meet will be held the first weekend in March in Torrington, where it will be decided which teams will head to the World.
    Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The shiny brown mare grazes happily in the green grass swishing her tail as she bats away a stray fly. Looking at the healthy mare, no one would guess she was nearing 25 years old. Thanks to good management, the mare could have a long life ahead of her. 

As horses age, they may need a little extra care. All horses age differently, but by keeping a close eye on their health, problems can be addressed as they arise. 

“Monitoring horses as they age is very important,” said Kathy Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension horse specialist. “Horse owners should monitor the horse’s weight and how it is getting along. I also encourage them to watch for any issues that come up and address them before they become major.”

Aging process

As a horse ages, their nutritional needs change, said University of Wyoming Equine Specialist Amy McLean. 

“If any older horse is starting to lose muscle tone and is beginning to drop in weight, additional sources of fat and fiber may need to be added to the diet,” McLean said. “Owners may also need to consider switching to a senior or complete feed and feeding the horse two or three times a day.” 

She added, “The horse may also need a more simplified form of forage that has been processed and is easier to digest.”

Diet, dental care and a parasite control program are all important in maintaining the body condition of older horses. 

“As a horse ages, it can develop metabolic issues or diseases like Cushings Syndrome,” Anderson said. “If the horse has been an easy keeper, the producer might want to limit its feed, so it doesn’t get real heavy and start developing a crusty neck and patchy fat or some sort of metabolic issue.”

“I would try to keep the horse at a body condition score of five to six, and adjust the feed up or down depending upon what the horse needs,” she recommended.

Winter months

The body condition score is particularly important going into winter, McLean added. 

“If the horse is at a body condition score of five, that is a good judgment of its previous nutritional history,” she explained. “If the horse is at a five in August, the owner can expect that to change during the winter. They may need to feed multiple small meals or add fat to the diet. It is also important to supply grass hay or forage and maybe consider feeding them smaller meals three to four times a day.”

“It is important to start before the weather gets cold and keep adjusting the diet so they don’t become obese. Plan ahead,” she said.

Sam Hales of J Lazy YL Performance Horses said, on his operation, being prepared is key. 

“I think it is important to have an older horse in the right condition before winter comes. It is tough trying to improve their body condition when they are fighting the winter cold. It is a lot easier to maintain body condition, rather than trying to improve it,” he explained. 

In his operation, they sometimes separate the older horses with similar nutritional requirements from the other horses. 

“This way, we find we are not overfeeding one, while the other is getting the bare minimum,” he commented.

Housing considerations

During the winter months, McLean said older horses need more body heat to stay warm and maintain themselves. 

“Older horses tend to have more arthritis, so it may be harder for them to get up because the cold weather affects their joints,” she explained. “They can also slip easier on the ice. I am a fan of blanketing a horse if the right blanket is used, and it is done properly.”

McLean continued, “I also use a neck warmer. It is a good idea to even layer blankets on the horse on those days when the temperature is -40 degrees. Providing good shelter for the horse is also important.”

Sam Shoultz of KeSa Quarter Horses said he provides shelter for his older horses but doesn’t keep them stalled or locked in a barn. 

“I think it is hard for them to be locked up and then let out. Going from cold to warm and warm to cold makes them more vulnerable to illness,” Shoultz said. “My horses are used to living on the open plains, so unless there is a serious issue, I think they get along fine that way.”


Even as a horse becomes older, exercise is still important, Anderson said. 

“As they get older, owners may not be able to ride them as much, and they may not be able to do the same things they did when they were younger,” she explained. “It comes down to being very observant and paying attention to what a horse is trying to tell the producer. If something is making them sore, they will let their owner know.”

McLean said the coffin bone in some horses may change as they age. 

“Owners may have to pay more attention to maintenance to keep them sound. A farrier may have to trim them differently or fit them with new shoes,” she said.

Anderson said owners may also need to provide more support by wrapping their horse’s legs. 

“Owners have to realize some horses won’t be exactly as they were when they were 10 years younger,” she commented. “They just have to be observant to stay on top of any potential problems.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dental exams key in maintenance

Having a horse’s teeth checked at least once a year by a veterinarian is also important. 

“At 15 years of age, the teeth can start to flatten,” University of Wyoming Equine Specialist Amy McLean said. 

Teeth can become longer and develop angles, which make it more difficult for the horse to eat properly. 

“If the owner can’t put weight on an older horse, the first thing I would have checked is their teeth,” University of Nebraska Extension Horse Specialist Kathy Anderson added. “It is important to keep their teeth in good working order.”

Both horse specialists recommend having a good working relationship with a veterinarian to address dental issues. 

Signs of dental problems can include horses that drop in weight, slop their feed by dropping a lot of it and chewing with their head cocked off to one side which can indicate they are developing sores in their mouth. 

“When owners put a bit in their mouth, the horse may also chomp at it, throw their head or act abnormal. If they show any signs that something is wrong, they need to be checked,” Anderson said. 

A veterinarian can determine if the horse needs its teeth floated, if it has decay or a bad tooth that needs pulled. 

“We can’t see clear in the back of the mouth where the molars are,” Anderson explained. “The veterinarian can use a light and move the tongue to one side to examine a horse’s teeth.”

Sam Shoultz of KeSa Quarter Horses said when he has an older horse that starts losing condition, the first thing he does is have a veterinarian come and examine its teeth. 

“That usually solves about 80 to 90 percent of the problem,” he said. “As they get older, they develop more hooks, points and waves and can’t process their feed as well. Can you imagine how it must feel to have something like a pin poke you every time you chew?”

Depending upon what the veterinarian finds during the exam, Shoultz may also move the horse to what he calls the “granny pen.”

“We give those horses more specialized care,” he explained. “They are fed a pelleted feed they can’t sort, that is high in fat and specially formulated depending upon the hay we have on hand.”


Douglas – The Seventh Annual Big Wyoming Horse Expo has something to offer for the entire family. This year’s event will be held in the indoor Wyoming Pepsi Equine Center in Douglas on April 22-24.

During this long weekend, horse lovers can compete in a horse judging contest, stallion row, a parade of horses, a private treaty horse sale, a variety of clinics and a large trade show.

Horse gathering

According to co-coordinator Tanna Rodeman, the Big Wyoming Horse Expo is an opportunity for horse lovers to get some one-on-one help with training techniques by some very experienced clinicians.

Admission to this three-day event is free for those auditing the clinics.

If they bring a horse, each session costs $50 or $150 for four sessions.

Stalls are also available at the Expo for $25 a day. Participants in Wyoming bringing horses to the event need a 30-day health certificate. Out-of-state participants need to provide a current Coggins test from within the last six months for their horses.

“If a participant wants to bring a horse, we usually find a way for them to participate,” Rodeman says.

However, if participants are interested in attending a particular session, they should contact Rodeman at 307-351-4275, so she can reserve their spot.


Clinics taking horses and riders include fitting horse tack, horsemanship, ranch horse pleasure, ranch horse trail, reining, roping, two bomb-proofing the horse courses, hitching a single horse, obstacles, and three horse agility courses.

Several clinicians will be teaching at this year’s event.

Sue Apel will teach horse agility classes. Agility is a non-mounted, competitive sport where the horse and handler work together to complete an obstacle course.

Leanne Hoagland, who has professional certificates from the American Riding Instructor’s Association in reining, western pleasure, English and driving, is another clinician slated to present. She is also certified in equine reproduction with Colorado State University (CSU) and with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association in equine-assisted therapy and learning. She has shown and judged horses most of her life.

During this year’s expo, Hoagland will be teaching classes in bomb-proofing a horse, in hitching a single horse and obstacles.

Jim and Sandy Jirkovsky of J/S Training will be teaching clinics in reining, roping, fitting horse tack, horsemanship and ranch horse pleasure and trail. This couple has judged horses for over 20 years in six different countries and 46 states.

Other clinicians are Krystal Paley giving a demonstration on equine-assisted therapy and confident rider foundation, Mike Anderson on colt starting and ground work, John Blair on saddle fitting, Harry Anderson on equine nutrition, Doug Powers on horseshoeing, Bill Fitzhugh on brand inspection laws regarding horse ownership, Jenna Anderson giving a demonstration on the equine raindrop technique and Sue Schomberg on endurance riding.

Other events

On April 22, a youth horse judging contest will be held beginning at 8:30 am. This contest is free and open to all 4-H, FFA and college students.

Students can compete as a team or individually.

For more information on the contest, contact Stacey Etchemendy at Converse County Extension 307-358-2417.

During all three days, horse lovers can watch the Parade of Horses, which includes breed demonstrations, stallions, private treaty sale horses and more.

Miss Rodeo Wyoming Nicki Seckman will take part in the April 22 festivities. She will present the colors during opening ceremonies during the national anthem.

The Wyoming National Guard will present the colors during the opening ceremonies on April 23.

Beyond the horses

According to Rodeman, a 50/50 raffle and drawings for prizes provided by vendors in the show will be held daily.

Currently, more than 40 vendors have signed up to take part in this year’s event. Rodeman says there are a few more openings in the trade show. If someone is interested in setting up a display, they should contact her right away for more information.

The host hotels for this year’s event are the Hampton Inn and the Douglas Inn and Conference Center. Both hotels offer special rates if a participant mentions they are with the Big Wyoming Horse Expo.

Camping spots with electricity are also available at the fairgrounds for $25 a night.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..