For millennia, horses have served as important helpers to humankind, their endurance as workers and loyalty as companions having been crucial in the development of cultures and civilizations throughout the world. Today, horses continue to play an irreplaceable role in the daily lives of millions -- though sadly, many of them still suffer from cruelty and neglect as a result.
To highlight the often unseen plight of these peaceful animals, the American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has declared April 26 as Help A Horse Day -- urging everyone to get involved in improving the well-being of creatures who have done so much for us.
Here are 10 ways the ASPCA suggests folks can help:
1. Cast your vote for equine-friendly legislation
The treatment of horses might not be on the mind of most voters heading into the ballot box, but it should be. Registering to vote and supporting legislation and that protects horses, both domestic and in wild, is the easiest and most effective way to guarantee equine-related issues don't fall by the wayside.
Sign up for the ASPCA's newsletter to keep up to date on how you can help.
2. Volunteer with a horse rescue group
There are countless rescue organizations across the country dedicated to improving the lives of abandoned and neglected horses. Supporting these groups through volunteer work, directly or with donations, will go a long way to ensure that the neediest animals receive the care and attention they deserve.
3. Adopt a horse
The ASPCA estimates that 100,000 American horses are sold abroad each year and slaughtered for human consumption, simply because they've outlived their usefulness as work animals. Those who have the opportunity to offer a comfortable home to even just one horse awaiting this sad fate are encouraged to do so by visiting www.homesforhorses.com or contacting their local horse rescue group.
4. Be an informed consumer
As the ASPCA points out, some products contain ingredients that are derived from horses -- such as the hormone replacement drug Premarin, which contains the urine of pregnant mares. Staying informed of what you buy and where it comes from can help bring about an end to horse mistreatment.
5. Report animal cruelty
Even folks who don't live or work amongst horses themselves often see these animals on a daily basis, whether it be behind a fence on a farm or pulling a carriage in a busy metropolis. Keeping an eye out and reporting abuses or neglect to authorities is often the only way put a stop to it.
6. Support horses in the wild
There are tens of thousands of wild horses and burros roaming rangelands across America. The ASPCA encourages voters to support local and federal legislation to protect these animals.
7. Make sure your horse has a friend
Those lucky enough to own a horse as a companion know just how social these animals are, which is why every horse should have a friend like themselves. Equine behaviorists recommend that horses be kept with at least one other animal around for company, and there are no shortage of abandoned horses that would be happy to fill that role.
8. Be prepared when disaster strikes
When disaster strikes, like fires and floods, animals rely on humans to step in to keep them safe. The ASPCA provides a guideline on how horse owner and those who live nearby to them can help in times of crisis.
9. Speak out for horses
As ASPCA president Matthew Bershadker points out, there are many urgent issues endangering the well-being of horses every day in the United States, though they often go undiscussed. Read more about the sad truth behind things like the horse slaughter industry, horse soring, and the abuses behind horse racing.
10. Pitch In
Through the ASPCA Equine Fund, horse rescue organizations and sanctuaries across the country are able to provide food, shelter, and veterinary care for abused and neglected horses. Support this cause by pitching in with donations to keep these facilities funded, or visit the ASPCA's website for other ways you can get involved.