ROOT BEER, PMU Foal
Click for more about PMU Foals & Mares
PMU Foals are not Mustangs, but they are usually wild, or at least unhandled. Many people who adopt them don't realize that they are getting a horse who has been handled very little, if at all, and who will be scared of them when they get him/her home. PMU foals are similar to the BLM foals who are born in the holding facilities. They are not AS afraid of people as fresh-off-the-range wild horses, and often the issue in training them is more about teaching them ground manners and respect than it is about getting them over their fears.
What's a PMU foal? PMU stands for Pregnant Mare Urine, which is used by the pharmaceutical industry to extract estrogen, a female hormone often prescribed to women in mid-life. The PMU industry has changed radically in recent years. Just a few years ago, there was such a demand for pregnant mare urine that thousands of farms, mostly in Canada and the Dakotas, kept pregnant mares for the purpose of collecting and selling their urine to the drug companies. Pregnancy, of course, results in a birth. The foals in this case were often regarded simply as a by-product, and about 60,000 per year were sold to feedlots, where they were raised and slaughtered for the European meat market. The quality of these foals varied - some being very poor specimens by any standards. But others were very well bred animals from quality stock. Professional breeders often held PMU contracts, using the PMU money to supplement ranch income. Over time, alliances developed between some of the more conscientious PMU farmers and some rescue agencies in the United States and Canada, whereby if the farmers bred high-quality horses, the agencies would work to find them good homes at better prices than they would get at the auction. Other rescue groups simply went to the auctions and bought whatever they could and brought them back to the US for adoption.
However, the PMU industry experienced a major shake-up in the early years of the 2000's. A large study concluded that estrogen supplements were not actually beneficial to many women, and in fact carried increased risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. Increased visibility of the harsh realities behind the PMU industry (the 60,000 cute foals going to slaughter each year) also began to reach the mainstream, and many women either started refusing the drugs or asked their doctor for plant-based or synthetic substitutes. Demand for drugs such as Premarin and Prem-Pro plummeted.
Between 2003 - 2005, most PMU farmers lost their contracts due to reduced demand and went out of business. The horse world was temporarily glutted with pregnant mares, breeding stallions and foals from these closures, and despite frantic efforts by rescue groups, many, many thousands went to slaughter.
The PMU industry itself, suffering from bad press, began threatening PMU farmers that they would lose their contract if they advertised their foals as "rescues" or "bound for slaughter" or even if they worked with rescue groups to place their foals. Others began to take advantage of the Rescue market and began using it as a profitable outlet for their excess stock.
Today, there are no more PMU Rescues. If they are still in business, it is as "placement agencies" and you should except to pay full market value.
We adopted Root Beer in 2001. Our daughter had been looking at the PMU rescue websites and she began working with a reputable group, PMU Foal Quest, and was approved as an adopter. Then in early August we went to Palomino Valley and she fell in love with a buckskin colt there (who became Benny) so she no longer needed a PMU foal.
She continued to look at the website, however, and toward the end of August she came into the office with the announcement that there were still over 80 foals on the site that needed to be adopted and would go to slaughter if not adopted by the end of the week. Some of the other folks in the office perked up upon hearing this, and we decided to go together to choose a foal to adopt for Vine Village (the non-profit organization for people with special needs where we work). We chose a bay Shire-Arabian cross colt who seemed, from his tiny photograph anyway, to be nicely built. He arrived the same day as Benny arrived from Palomino Valley.
Here is his story:
|Root Beer was chosen from a galley of photos on the PMU FoalQuest website. |
This was Root Beer's photo.
|FIRST TOUCH: Root Beer was so lonely and exhausted when we got him home, but he wanted no part of us! |
We felt badly for him that he was so forlorn. We knew that if we could just get a rope attached to his halter, we could gentle him easily.
So Michael fashioned a "fishing pole" with a rope loop draped off the end of a long stick, and gently worked the rope over Root Beer's head. From then on it was a simple "Approach and Retreat" kind of gentling process. Within a day, he was our new best friend!
|Root Beer's original "purpose" (or "justification for getting him") was to be a mascot for the Vine Village programs for people with developmental disabilities. |
Danny Orme, Cheryl Kavicky and James Parker with Root Beer
Cheryl and Root Beer with Vine Village clients
Root Beer gets into the holiday spirit!
As a yearling
Over time, however, enthusiasm waned, and Mike and I realized that we were the only ones committed to him. So we bought him from Vine Village and took him home to live with our horses. We didn't need another horse, but clearly Root Beer was better off living with our horses and being cared for at our house.
Our farrier, Annie M, liked Root Beer so much
that in 2002 she adopted his half-sister!
Here's Annie and "H-24" getting to know one another on the filly's second day home
|Root Beer matured into a really nice young horse. We taught him his ground work and took him to a Tindell clinic for his "first ride." |
|In 2005 we sent him up to Oregon to Rick and Kitty Lauman. They kept him for 8 months and really did in incredible job - he came back as our first "finished" riding horse. He neck-reined and walked, trotted and loped like he was on tracks - just perfect! |
While at the Lauman's, Root Beer had many adventures, including pack trips and riding on the beach.
|However, Root Beer was always everybody's horse but nobody's in particular. Mike has Ruby, I have Sparky, and Saanen has Benny. After being at the Lauman's, he learned that he really liked having a job, and it became apparent that the good food and horsie companionship we provided him with really weren't enough. He wanted a job. He wanted to have his own person to brush him, ride him, love him, and make over him each day. |
I felt guilty constantly. I found myself avoiding taking Sparky out as much as I wanted, because I felt too guilty about leaving Root Beer. And I just didn't have the time or energy to ride both of them regularly.
|We realized, too, that since Root Beer had been gone for so long while he was up in Oregon, we had gotten used to him not being here, so we knew we could live without him.|
We were also finding ourselves in over our heads financially, with so many horses and donkeys to support. In 2005 we had 11 equines, and they were taking up most of our disposable income, which is fine, but once in awhile it's nice to buy or do something else!
|We took a hard look at the overall situation, and came to the heart-wrenching decision that the best thing for everyone would be to find Root Beer a new home. |
We took pictures and advertised him on www.Horsetopia.com
Trudi Nickell and her mother were vacationing in Calistoga, near us, and they saw the ad. They called and came to visit. They fell in love with Root Beer and bought him, and late in April of 2006 had him shipped up to their home in Anchorage Alaska.
We felt sad seeing Root Beer go, but also happy for him, because Trudi is great and she loves Root Beer. She sends us periodic updates. Root Beer is being trained now as an English riding horse, and doing great.
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