An internet flash mob of Peppy’s protectors

& Up in Colorado this week, there’s been a lively discussion having to do with some starving horses. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. I’ve personally started to think of it as the Saga of Dual Peppy. I’d never heard of Dual Peppy until a friend emailed to suggest I take a look at a Facebook page, entitled “Justice for Dual Peppy.”

What’s a Dual Peppy, I wondered, and why does he, she or it need justice?

It didn’t take long to find out. The social media and Twitter and the internet in general, I assume, was electrified – at least among people of the horsey set – when some really grim news came out of a barn not far from Colorado Springs. A lady had followed her dog into the barn last Friday, and wished she hadn’t.

Inside, she came across piles of manure – three feet deep, she said – in which were standing eight emaciated horses, with ruts between their ribs. On the ground, she saw some tarps, with big lumps under them. She peeled one tarp back and found a rotting equine carcass, covered with lye, then more carcasses, and some bones. She called the sheriff. At first, the deputies didn’t seem too interested – they went out to take a look and said there was nothing they could do. The ribby horses that were alive, they decided, were not in “imminent danger.”

As happens these days, the story found its way onto the internet, where there was interest. A lot of it. Pictures were posted and somebody recognized one of the still-standing-but-obviously-starving steeds. It was Dual Peppy, a 22-year-old former champion cutting horse – known to many in the rodeo world as one of the best of all time. It was if Muhammad Ali was found waiting in line in a soup kitchen. But for dual Peppy, there wasn’t even soup.

Emails started flying, the Twitterverse came alive, somebody created the Facebook page, pleading for justice for Dual Peppy.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette’s story, “more than 16,000 people in the region and horse enthusiasts across the country and the world (Yr’s Truly even saw some comments from the Netherlands) took to Facebook through a page titled “Justice for Dual Peppy”. Thousands signed a petition demanding that the Sheriff’s Office remove the horses. Internet bulletin boards and forums filled up with pages of comments. The owners of a horse rescue ranch nearby berated the sheriff for exhibiting “another example of less than excellent help from those that have been hired to serve and protect.”

Nobody’s recorded how many calls started pouring into Colorado authorities as the outrage exploded, but one New Mexican reported that she’d called a Colorado state vet to complain. His response, she said, “sounded lame and uninterested.” The authorities – those aforementioned servers and protectors – weren’t especially sensitized, you might say. But, the Internet Flash Mob finally managed to provoke somebody – probably someone much higher up in the chain of command – to have a chat with the sheriff. On Monday, some sufficiently sensitized deputies went back to the barn, removed the horses and took them to a large animal facility, where, we can assume, they’ll be able to eat, to drink clean water and not have to stand around in three feet of manure.

The horse’s owner got a citation charging her with animal abuse. The dead horses, she said, had succumbed to colic. Last winter.

& This story, I would hope, also makes it way to the powers-that-be in the New Mexico Livestock Board. That’s the organization with the strange policy affecting the state’s horse shelters, which do exist to serve and protect horses that are unwanted, mistreated, and otherwise down-on-their-luck. It’s a policy that seems to say that the state of New Mexico doesn’t differentiate between the people who want to save horses and those who want to sell them for slaughter. It’s not what you could call a sensitive policy.

Maybe the lesson from Colorado Springs – and the loud reaction from around the world to the plight of Peppy and 20 other horses – will help to sufficiently sensitize the New Mexico Livestock Board, and help them understand that a large number of dedicated, vocal, determined people regard horses as something more than four-legged hay burners. And when those people get angry at you, you know it. Just ask that sheriff up in Colorado.

Maybe the NMLB can come up with a policy that helps, rather than hinders, the efforts of horse rescuers in New Mexico.  Lots of people would be grateful. And we might avoid another Flash Mob from cyberspace.

& Off to de-sensitize my horse, I’m outta here.

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