The horse meat scandal – unanswered questions

So there’s horse meat in ordinary “Fresh Beef” now, not “just” hidden away in processed foods. The scandal continues and we are again told that health risks from eating it are “Very low.” Spokesmen are acknowledging that the horse medicine Bute (side effects in humans from consuming this can include “aplastic anaemia”  – with loss of red and white blood cells). But not to panic, we are told, it must be in minute quantities. If this is the case, did it really warrant the whole business of compulsory horse passports, introduced in order to prevent horse medicines entering the food chain?

The real scandal, though, is the number of horses being sent to abattoirs because of the cost of keeping them is too high in times of financial recession. A mare with foal will fetch £250, I’m told, for meat. It’s one thing for pets (or even humans) to consume a horse which has had to be put down for humane reasons, such as an accident or old age. But are we really a nation that wants see foals go that way?  We need to ask some questions which go beyond the jokes. 


The horse meat thing – NOT just a joke

Well, in the UK, the whole Tesco horse meat in burgers scandal has caused a virtual avalanche of jokes of course (check out #horsemeat on Twitter if you missed any of these or if you just love puns). For those who have been hiding under the duvet or just don’t live in the UK, horse meat was found in a number of shops’ burgers – and one Tecso burger was reported to contain 29% horse meat. There have been practical jokes too – the lady in jodphurs and riding hat asking to see the Tesco manager and complaining that she’d left her horse tied up outside, the two lads in a pantomime horse outfit trotting round Tesco’s howling “Murderers! Where’s my mummy?” – while being pursued by security.

Notoriously, the French are blasé abtrigger2smallout eating horse meat and fail to see the problem but in England horses tend to have a higher status and rightly so. There is a scary precedent –  Roy Rogers’ fabulously beautiful Trigger – star of over 80 films (mostly in the 1950s) – ended up being eaten in burgers. The law-breaking butcher in that case, a John L Jones, was sentenced to five years in prison.

Apart from the scandal of reducing an animal as beautiful and clever as Trigger to something you eat, isn’t there a serious health point here too?

Before Tesco and co fob us off with assurances of “there’s no danger” and apologies, let’s remember that the point of those horse passports and all their rules (tedious as they sometimes are) is to ensure that all those medicines some horses have (the lucky and the unlucky, depending which way you look at it) do NOT enter the human food chain. And that was due to concerns about such horses entering the human food chain indirectly, that is, humans eating the meat of some animal that had eaten horsemeat. Yes some excellent jokes about – but mad cows were funny once, before hundreds of people actually died of BSE. So the big question is, what EXACTLY did those burgers contain???

Sheep and horse – unusual buddies

Sheep and horses usually mostly ignore each other in the field. My hairy cob and elderly sheep, though, are inseparable friends. I think the fact that they’re both herd animals helps – they do the “one keeping guard while the other sleeps” bit.

 Here’s a picture of them relaxing this summer.


What amazes me, though, is that they will happily share a food bucket – I’ve not known a horse willingly share food before.


The relationship did come a little unstuck recently though. As they’re both native breeds and pretty rugged, they stay out most of the time but I leave the stable open for them to shelter in if they want. Recently I’d bought some really excellent quality straw (at least this year’s miserable excuse for a summer somehow produced a good crop of straw if nothing else). I put some down in the stable. Immediately, the sheep ran in there, circled a couple of times and lay down blissfully. The horse though nosed her off and started chomping away on her bedding. (Greedy animals, cobs – and more than just a little bit sneaky).

Anyone else know of any unusual buddies?

Nice horse – shame about the rider

BBC news reports that the online Chinese official newspaper has fallen for a spoof by the US satirical website, The Onion. The Onion’s declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be “The Sexiest Man Alive” for 2012 and the People’s Daily ran a 55-page photo spread of  him. Here’s a pic of him and his horse (well, probably just one of his probably many horses). Yes it’s a fabulous grey horse. Looks properly fed and healthy too (which is reportedly somewhat more that most North Koreans).

But the rider? OK, well-fed. But a wildly attractive man?

Also, fellow horsey people, does he look like he has a good seat? Image

War Horse – and War Paint

The fabulous film War Horse has been showing on Sky TV in the UK this week.  But did you know that the horses playing the main equine characters had a specialist make-up team of their own?

Their were coats dyed and markings added to ensure continuity between them. And for the scene where Joey, the war horse of the title, is born, a ‘non-toxic slime’ make-up was devised and smeared on to the foal playing the part. And for the really dramatic scene where Joey has fled through World War One’s muddy trenches (see picture) and then lies bleeding, tangled in barbed wire, special non-toxic make-up was used for the blood, mud and cuts on his skin.

For more on horse make-up in film, see Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film

Blazing Saddles villain actor dies

There’s a great scene in Mel Brooks’ unforgettable 1974 film Blazing Saddles where the baddies’ huge hired thug – who rejoices under the name of “Mongo” – rides into town on a bull, no less, to threaten our hero, the handsome black sheriff  (played by Cleavon Little). With one blow, he knocks out a horse and advances menacingly. (Don’t worry, fellow horse-lovers, if you look closely, it’s clear a toy horse was actually used in that scene).

Sadly, Alex Karras, a great actor for that part and other villains, died last week aged 77.

Hairy horses are beautiful (2)

Got some positive comments on the previous post so here is another hairy horse from the same show. This one looks quite like my own hairy cob, though she is a bit smaller – and has a moustache (so some people in our village call her “Poirot”……


Hairy horses are BEAUTIFUL

Yes, clipped and tidy can be great – but if you ever doubted that hairy horses can be beautiful, check out this one from the Heavy Horse Show in Kent.

Yes, hairy horses can be BEAUTIFUL

horsey dancing – yes it’s gangnam style

Seen the horsey/riding dance style in the gangnam craze?

It’s trending on YouTube – looks fun


Lady Godiva’s horse

Here is Lady Godiva’s horse coming serenely through Streatley Village. Not looking as flexible as the ones on stage in War Horse but impressively tall.