Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Bill Would Keep State-Raised Animal Rights Donations in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House of Representatives will soon consider House Bill 2250, a measure crafted to forbid animal rights groups from spending monies raised in Oklahoma on any out-of-state expenses or for political purposes.

The bill is being championed by State Representative Brian Renegar (D), a veterinarian. He was prompted to his crusade when, in the aftermath of a 2013 tornado in Moore, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) took advantage of Oklahomans’ concerns for lost or injured pets. HSUS raised more than one million dollars in the state but used only ten percent of the funds within the state. Renegar points out that, according to HumaneWatch.org, HSUS allocates only one percent of its $120 million budget to grants for local animal shelters across the nation.

Cynthia Armstrong, Oklahoma Director for the HSUS, denied that her group raised funds or advertised based on the Moore tornado. She claims the bill is unconstitutional and that HSUS spending on animal shelters is irrelevant because the organization’s purpose is “to take on the larger, institutional issues that are beyond the scope and reach of a local animal shelter.”

Click for Christy Lewis’s complete article in News9.com.

Posted February 16, 2016

Horses Can Read Human Facial Expressions

A study has shown that horses can distinguish between happy and angry human facial expressions. The study was performed by psychologists at the University of Sussex (UK) on twenty-eight horses.

When viewing angry human faces, horses look more through their left eye. This phenomenon has also been seen in dogs and other animal species, the rationale being that the right side of the brain, where left-eye information is processed, is the hemisphere activated by threatening stimuli. Angry faces also produced increased heart rates and other stress-related behavior in the horses.

The horses were recruited from livery stables in the area and had received no previous training for the experiments. They were shown photographs of unknown human male faces in both angry and happy attitudes. The experimenters recorded the horses’ responses without knowing which photographs were being shown to the horses.

Amy Smith, a doctoral student in the Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research Group at the University of Sussex who co-led the research, said, “We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions.

“The reaction to the angry facial expressions was particularly clear....there was a quicker increase in their heart rate, and the horses moved their heads to look at the angry faces with their left eye.”

The study was published today (February 10, 2016) in Biology Letters. Journal Reference: Amy Victoria Smith, Leanne Proops, Kate Grounds, Jennifer Wathan and Karen McComb. Functionally relevant responses to human facial expressions of emotion in the domestic horse (Equus caballus). Biology Letters, 2016 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0907

Posted February 10, 2016

NYC Horse Carriage Deal Goes Bust

In New York City, as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” In the case of Mayor de Blasio’s animal rights-funded war against the horse-drawn carriages, that homegrown proverb was never truer.

With a deal in hand between the mayor’s office and the Teamsters union representing the carriage drivers—requiring only the City Council’s approval, which, in the opinion of even the wavering council members, was a given—the horse the mayor was riding balked at the wire. And the deal collapsed.

Council members who had never warmed to Blasio’s quest, nevertheless wanted the entire affair to be over and off their plates. Most were reluctantly prepared to sign on when the Teamsters union suddenly pulled their support. And that was the ballgame.

De Blasio’s humiliation is a defeat entirely of his own making. During his election campaign he seized on a narrow issue with little widespread traction, but one that brought him campaign funds from animal rights organizations along with their pledge to smear his chief opponent in the race, Christine Quinn. The plan worked: de Blasio promised to remove the horse carriages from the streets on his first day in office; he deposited the campaign contributions; Quinn was smeared; he was elected, but now more than two years later, he hasn’t delivered.

The deal he expected to finally deliver the fruits of his quest turned out to be a Pandora’s box. Once opened, it released a slew of newly-affected stakeholders who had never even been party to the original issue...like taxpayers who would have to ante up twenty-five million dollars for new stables in Central Park and pedicab drivers who would be barred from carrying passengers in the park.

“New York City politics is in danger of becoming just as much as a laughingstock as the presidential race,” Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, said.

“It’s a great day for the horse and carriages,” Ian McKeever, a carriage driver and spokesman for the industry, said. “I’m from Dublin, so I’m having a pint.”

For more details on the undoing of de Blasio’s plan for the carriage horses, see the February 4, 2016 New York Times article by J. David Goodman and Michael M. Grynbaum.

Posted February 5, 2016

NYC Horse Carriage Deal Is Struck

Representatives of the horse carriage industry in New York City have reached an agreement-in-concept with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office on the future of horse drawn carriages there. To become effective, the deal must be approved by the City Council.

Under the compromise agreement, new stables will be built in Central Park for the horses, but the numbers will shrink from 220 horses active today to 95 horses by 2018. Operation of the carriages will be restricted to the park, according to some reports, and not the city streets.

On the plus side for the horsemen, pedicabs—competition for the carriages—would be prohibited from operating below 85th Street.

On the plus side for the Mayor and real estate developers, the building now housing the horse stables will become available for conversion to higher-revenue use.

Animal rights activists spent about one million dollars supporting de Blasio’s election bid and smearing his chief opponent, Christine Quinn. De Blasio had promised during his election campaign to remove all horse drawn carriages from the streets. The majority of New Yorkers, however, opposed the mayor in his attack on the industry.

The current deal may ease de Blasio’s conundrum, especially with the real estate developers riding quietly in the wake of the shrill cries and large campaign donations of the animal rights activists, but will it satisfy the latter’s ideological agenda? A question for the future.

Click for our earlier report on events leading up to discussions of the current deal.

Posted January 18, 2016

Author Martha Wolfe to Speak at VFC Annual Meeting

The Virginia Foxhound Club Annual Meeting, luncheon, and silent auction are scheduled for Sunday, February 14, 2016.

This year’s guest speaker will be Martha Wolfe, foxhunter and author of The Great Hound Match of 1905: Alexander Henry Higginson, Harry Worcester Smith, and the Rise of Virginia Hunt Country.

“There was to be a contest, a Great Hound Match, between two packs of foxhounds—one English and one American.”

In her book, Ms. Wolfe sets a fictionalized version, accurately based on events, of this historic competition against the history of foxhunting in Virginia. Viewed as a metaphor for America’s brash emergence as an international power, she has written a wonderful account of the battle between two wealthy men—Higginson and Smith—with egos to match their fortunes, one representing the New World and one representing the Old World, each adamant that his hounds were the best.

Meeting and luncheon will be held at the Fauquier Springs Country Club, 9236 Tournament Drive (off Springs Road), Warrenton, Virginia 20186. A cash bar and silent auction will start at noon, with luncheon at 1:00 pm, followed by a short meeting and Ms. Wolfe’s talk. Foxhunting Life Editor Norman Fine will introduce Ms. Wolfe.

Price is $35.00 per person. For reservations, mail check payable to Virginia Foxhound Club to Judy Allen, PO Box 11, Casanova, Virginia 20139. Reservations must be received no later than February 3, 2016.

Posted January 7, 2016