AQHA Full Circle Program and the slaughter debate


On the slaughter discussion pages the breeders have been taking a beating.

The AQHA has a program where breeders CAN request that their horses come back to them, or at least let them be notified, if a horse that they bred is in need of a home. Check it out.


  1. Cheryl on February 4, 2014 at 7:58 am

    First off, my congratulations to “Z” for such an articulate, well thought out and intelligent post- with an actual solution presented. And for doing the right thing and stopping breeding. I know that can’t be easy when you have a magnificent stallion.

    As to the program “Full Circle”… It is a nice “thought” but in reality, how many breeders or horse owners do you know that will take a horse back once it has aged our outlived it’s “value” to them. Horses are expensive to care for- and people use this as the justification of having them need to “earn their keep”. I have a prime example of that. Annie is 20 years old, she’s been shown as a Reined Cow Horse and she won, she has worked on a cattle ranch, she’s given birth to many beautiful foals and made money for breeders. I bought her at 17 years of age from a breeder and I knew very little about horses at all. I rode her happily for a year until noticing she was sore. Of course I did all that veterinarians would do for her- I love her and so do my children. I free leased her and she was bred and I wound up breaking the lease because they were not caring properly for her. I took the foal and my mare back. It was a battle I tell you… but I took them anyway. The Annie I got back wasn’t the Annie I had leased… the improper care during her pregnancy was devastating. She was 1200 lbs at a healthy weight and now was just over 500 lbs. The lease holders tried to tell me this was just because she was “old and a hard keeper”. Yes i called the SPCA… nothing was done. I now have her up to just under 1000 lbs… and my vet says that’s probably all she will reach and all that is safe for her now severely arthritic legs to carry. She’s been an amazing dam to that precious foal- a splitting image of her. I regret ever free leasing her and regret approving the breeding. I thought I was ensuring she still had a good home when I lost my job and I had gotten approval from a vet first. But I will do right by her. And we are keeping that foal. Annie is retired, from riding from breeding… she is now a therapist for my pre-teen daughter to talk to when she doesn’t want to talk to me. I will keep her for the rest of her life- and I’m well aware of the costs. She’s on daily medication for her arthritis, blanketed, stalled at night and she’s content. When she lets me know she has had enough (when she stops enjoying the sun or stops eating) I will do the right thing and humanely end her life with the aid of my veterinarian. She will not go to any auction, she will not go to meat. This “animal” has earned money for humans, she’s carried them on her back- for work and for play, given them her babies… and given my family countless happy memories. I will do right by her. Annie’s isn’t a unique story… not from what this green owner has learned over the past few years. It seems to me that many will buy a middle aged mare that has “proven” herself in a show ring, especially if she has some earnings on her. She then becomes a broodmare… and bred year after year. She has value as long as she produces foals that sell. Once she doesn’t she is either sold off to someone that doesn’t want to pay much for a horse or doesn’t know any better what they are buying. They just know they are buying a safe horse to ride… because that mare learned that long ago. Soon enough, the wear and tear of the years catches up with the mare… and then will a breeder take that horse back? Any of the people she previously paid bills for? Hell No. They won’t. I find there are two kinds of people in the horse world… those in it for the money and the high points in shows, a strive for excellence in breeding. And those who are in it for the love of horses. I am not perfect. I made the mistakes of free leasing my mare and allowing her to be bred when she likely shouldn’t have been. But I know that the Full Circle program is little more than a way for people to relieve their conscience because they aren’t forced to take the horse back. They are simply contacted and given that option.

    Now if there was an incentive for taking back a horse and once you had signed up for this program you were responsible for honoring that commitment and had to ensure you took the horse back for the rest of it’s natural life… then it would be a fantastic program! It might even make breeders think twice about how many horses they are breeding, who they are selling them to and ensuring it’s a right fit… and it might even lead to a “geld or no breeding” clause in selling contracts that might even ensure/ strengthen the quality of the breed. But as long as breeders are allowed to just breed indiscriminately… this problem of unwanted horses will never go away. I personally believe in regards to any animal- a business or person should have to be a licensed breeder… not just a registered breeder. Their whole operation should be under pressure and scrutiny of routine inspections- and even caps on the number of mares allowed bred per year… even go as far as having to provide paperwork proving the mare has had consistent veterinary care and farrier care, and a report on a the quality of the foal when born, at a year age and at selling age of two. Their facilities should be able to keep a stallion in a way which benefits his quality of life as well. He should have some turnout. How many studs have you seen just stand in stalls day in and day out other than when showing, or getting some time in the arena. And yes, I realize many breeders would love to see me drawn and quartered for thinking such a thing. But how else do you stop a problem like this? And only the best breeders would survive, back yard breeders would disappear. It may lead to an elitism in the horse world- that is the one caveat. It’s a huge caveat. But when faced with the rising costs of caring for these amazing animals… maybe it should be reserved for those who can actually afford it.

  2. Gwen Confalone on November 22, 2011 at 8:05 am

    My opinion is its a nice gesture, but doesnt go nearly far enough. The folks who are likely to avail themselves of this option are those who already have a conscience and own/breed responsibly. The better solution would be to remove cash incentives currently offered to breeders. As long as things like futurities and other monetary incentives remain prevalent, the motivation to flood the market with progeny and cull the throwaways will overrule any inclinication to breed responsibly and act with compassion.

  3. Emmie on November 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    I did this with Gumby! 🙂 I am hoping that if he ever goes up for sale I will some how get him back some day! 🙂

  4. cathy on November 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I love the post from ~z~! He did some research and offered facts rather than pointing fingers. I tend to shy away from blogs because they tend to be unproductive. Stacy, I commend you for going out on a limb, and tackling some truly controvercial (and legitamate) concerns. Most of us are truly animal lovers and responsible owners, breeders, caretakers. We care about the lives of our animals as well as their eventual deaths. Others are in it, literally, for a few bucks. We can not generalize, and blame Breeders, breeds,slaughter houses,or auction houses. The fact is WE all have a part in the play so to speak. To attack auction or slaughter houses is unreasonable. After all, someone took the animals there. Because of the horrible images we have in our heads,pictures of starved, injured, unkempt animals it is easy to blame them. These images create passion and anger, and rightly so. However, those animals arrived in that condition (and din’t get that way over night). We have to blame the source. Having said that, the animals now in the “hands” of these establishments deserve the most humane care and treatment possible. If their practices do not meet humane and ethical treatment standards, they should be held accountable. I always hope that there will never be just one answer to any question or problem. When that happens, we usually have lost our right to choose. The Govrnment or local law has usually taken it out of our hands.We need to think about this logically. Some people board horses in very developed areas. Burying, composting, or cremation may not be an option. Some of us are lucky enough to have the land to do that, but some municipalities do not allow it due to contamination of ground or water source concerns. This is a legitimate concern, depending upon your area. I am a Vet tech. I know for a fact that the drugs used for euthanasia remain in the animals system, are (obviously) toxic, and are then in the ground….forever. Having said that, I have euthanized, and buried, my own horses because I had the choice. I do not believe that it is in the best interest of our environment. At this point in time I’m not sure what method of disposing of animals is “correct”, but I sure believe that owning or being involved with animals in any capacity, makes me as liable as any one else( meaning I can not stick my head in the sand and not worry about the industry as a whole).
    I was a farmer for more than 30 years. I like good pasture raised meat animals. I use slaughter houses, or butchered myself. The care of my animals, as with most farmers, is very important. I chose the slaughter house based on the housing and handling of my animals. There were several that knew how to kill and cut meat, but my CHOICE was not to use them because their standards were below what I found acceptable.
    I have rescued horses and dogs for almost 40 years. Reputable dog breeders not only love their dogs, they care about the health, temperament and over all well being of these dogs. They also quarantee their dogs! If a problem occurs at any time they will take the dog back, work through problems, or help to re home them. If they do not they should not be repoducing anything, and you should not be buying from them.
    So I think that brings me to “Why is every rescue or shelter, I work with, or know, swamped?” In the same vein as slaughter houses are high kill shelters for dogs. Is the answer not to kill (or euthanize to put it more kindly) all of these thousands of dogs? That would be nice.But, how can you blame the shelters? They did not raise these dogs. Is it their fault that there are not enough rescues or adoptive homes for all of these dogs? Of course not. Are they responsible for the most humane treatment and comfort of these animals while in their control? Yes.
    Bottom line, in my humble opinion, is go straight to the source of the problem and not blame the end results. I used to be a quiet person. After years of witnessing indisrminate breeding, abuse, or purely lack of appreciation for animals and their welfare in general I’m not anymore. I report neglect and abuse. I express my “opinion” when I meet people breeding what I have come to call “throw away animals”. I ask friends why their dog or cat is not spayed or nuetered?
    There are just some people that should not have animals. I don’t believe you have to have alot of money to have animals. I certainly don’t. And some of the best homes I have ever seen in practice were people who did not have alot of money, however, their animals got wonderful care through out their lives and deaths.
    And then there are some others….How do we stop them without stepping on the toes of everyones rights to own or raise animals?
    “Don’t shoot the messenger, because you don’t like the message” is appropriate. So, you may not like slaughter houses (or the image they evoke) but is banning slaughter the answer? I don’t see how. Pitbulls and Rottweilers have been banned from some communities because a few caused serious damage. Is it right to condemn the breeds? No. Just an example of the possibility of losing our choice to own them because we are not getting to the root of the problem.
    No single answer, and definately no easy answer, but we should all thing reasonably and work on it.

  5. Jo-Claire Corcoran on November 21, 2011 at 8:32 am


    here is an interesting post written by a former breeder…
    One of the consistencies you will see throughout the horse world is the approximate number of unwanted horses. Whether you are a pro slaughter person or against, people all estimate that there are approximately 100,000 exce…ss horses in America each year.

    Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or advanced mathematics to figure this out but simply a little Google time and a few phone calls.

    Here are some of the numbers turned in by associations.

    AQHA: Approx. 130,000 to 160,000 per year

    APHA: Approx. 35,000 per year

    Jockey Club: Approx. 30,000 per year

    Those are some of the more popular horses in the US. Many of the other breeds such as Appaloosa, Arabian, Morgan, Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter, Spotted Saddle Horse, American Saddle Bred, Standard Bred, ponies, Belgiums, Clydes, Friesians, Vanners, Rocky Mountain, POA, etc. range from 5000 to 15000 each year. (These numbers reflect horses registered) Although not specifically all “foals” that number works out to be correct when you average out each year.

    This of course does not take into account the “unregistered horses” each year. Take for example the “Jockey Club” Many TB’s are used for racing but many are also bred and used for jumping, dressage, etc. so the numbers are just a starting point.

    Consider this….

    The major players account for approx. 200,000 horses each year. Considering that there are more breeds than one person can count, taking into consideration even 10% of all horses in America never get registered, it would be safe to assume a MINUMUM of 500,000 horses are born in America each year. Realistically the number could be as high as one million but for argument’s sake let’s stick with 500,000.

    If there are 100,000 unwanted horses in the US that would call for a 20% reduction in breeding to alleviate this, only 10% if the number is really one million.

    With all the back yard breeders in the US it is truly impossible to get an accurate count. However pro slaughter factions claim that 100,000 horses need to be slaughtered every year to keep the market going.

    The bit of research I have done I have found out some interesting facts. Prior to the close of slaughter plants the same number of horses were being processed as there are today. I have also found that slaughter has not been stopped at all. Although slaughter plants have closed in the US, the dirty deed has been turned over to foreign markets. Wait…..American horses being shipped off to foreign countries?????

    Ok….having been a breeder (currently own 3 stallions that have not been bred in over 3 years one of which is one of the most magnificent examples of his breed) having gone to these auctions, having been in the business of breeding and selling horses prior to the close of slaughter plants…..I have noticed and heard a few things.

    The most curious of these things is all the complainers. People that use to dabble in the $500 horse have seen those prices dwindle to nothing. People say openly that slaughter is good for the market. It gives us an outlet to dispose of cheap, undesirable horse. Just fatten them up and they are worth $300 to $600. This low end market has been seriously affected and the people who have lost this outlet claim that slaughter will resolve it.

    Some basic economics here.

    I build horse trailers. I am a home owner, I buy and sell used trucks and do some farrier work. I use to train horses, breed, board, buy and sell. When the economy went haywire the first thing I noticed was the price of steel skyrocketing. Next was fuel costs. These two factors caused the horse trailer market to increase costs of all it’s products. When the cost of living goes up, when jobs are cut, when the housing market fell apart, when much of America became unemployed, I changed my game plan. No longer were people spending on trailers, horses, training, etc. Everyone was cutting back. I realized I had to change the way I did things simply in order to survive. Now with all this talk about surplus horses I must scratch my head in amazement. Why then are breeders not cutting back? The home builders stopped building, when cars stopped selling they slowed manufacturing…this is basic survival. You don’t create product in a market that can not support it. So…although I use to be on the other side, my basic common sense has brought me here. It is not a matter of who is right or wrong. It is the first thing they teach in basic economics….”The Law of Supply and Demand!” So with that being said, I will not breed until the market can support additional horses and in the interim I will share my opinion to whoever will listen in hopes of improving the quality of life for the wondrous animals we call our friends and family!

    ~ Z ~


  6. Diana VerHoef Bodensteiner on November 21, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Got a link to information? If it is limited to the breeder it doesn’t go near far enough. Jockey Club has a program where anyone interested in the fate of a TB can register to be notified if that horse needs a home in the future.

  7. Joanne Pfeiffer on November 21, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I know many people who are QH owners and they have NEVER mentioned knowledge of this program! When is the AQHA going to advertise and promote this?
    I agree with Jo-Claire re: stricter regulations to insure that horses are being bred for quality and purpose. The warmbloods need to pass rigorous testing to become “approved” breeding stock. As previously stated, these breeds are high priced and remain that way! Excellent program, but needs to be promoted!!

  8. Jo-Claire Corcoran on November 21, 2011 at 7:31 am

    This is great, I’d like to see the statistics of how many actually know about this program and use it. Since 70% of the horses that go to slaughter are AQHs and TBs. As what happened recently with my new rescue, the TB trainer and owner is loosing his license for having dumped two horses in the middle of southern WV.

    AQHA and APHA, horses are seen at the auctions in droves…but then that makes sense…look at who the most prolific breed registries have been. AI where they don’t care how many foals are dropped in a year from one stud. Any foal can be registered as long as the sire and dam were registered and they aren’t HYPP positive. Other breed registries have requirements which must be met prior to registering a foal. IE. confirmation, color, etc. Other’s must approve of the Stud and Mare prior to breeding and others have to approve a stud as worthy of being bred. All of these rules ensure the quality of the horse/breed and cuts down on over producing. Those smaller breed values have maintained their value much more than AQHs and other prolific breeds.

    Then of course we have the backyard breeder, breeding for color…….

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