Big-Hearted Texans Save Canadian Horses Destined for Slaughter

Story and Photos by Marilyn Short
Monte Dalton & Percheron Mare

They say “Everything is bigger in Texas”. It’s especially true for quite a few big-hearted horse lovers in Texas. Many Texans have tried to make a difference by purchasing PMU mares and foals from Canada.

Briefly, Premarin® stands for Pregnant Mares’ Urine and is a drug (including Prempro, Premphase, Prempac, and Premelle) made up of conjugated estrogens obtained from the urine of pregnant mares. The medications are used to reduce the symptoms of menopause in women or women who have had a hysterectomy and can also be prescribed to ease the risk of osteoporosis and reduce the chance of heart disease in woman over 50.

We’ll cover the pro-PMU and anti-PMU conditions of the mares briefly. The pro-PMU people focus on the fact that the

Eric Dalton and his new Percheron Mare

mares live in huge pastures with their foals for up to six months of the year. When the mares are 175-185 days pregnant is when the PMU farmer starts collecting urine. Mares are collected for a period of 160-180 days – normally from October – April. Anti-PMU people focus on the fact that the pregnant mares are kept tied up indoors for at least 6 months out of the year. If the mare doesn’t become pregnant they mostly likely would be sent to the auction or slaughter house. Foals removed from the mare are sometimes fatten on feedlots and then sold for slaughter, and a smaller number sold by foal rescue operations…mostly to U.S. rescue organizations.

It’s also been noted that there is evidence that Prempro and other estrogen progestine combinations can actually harm perfectly healthy women. Women taking Prempro have a 29% higher risk of heart attack, 41% higher risk of stroke and a 26% higher risk of breast cancer.

The leading manufacturer of Premarin® is Wyeth. Wyeth announced on October 23, 2003 that there would be large cuts to the PMU industry. Wyeth notified its producers that it would be cutting the number of PMU ranchers by about a third and production among those remaining would be scaled back. The industry had more than 400 ranches in Alberta, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and approx. 243 ranches in Manitoba alone.

There has been a sharp decline in the number of women being prescribed Premarin and the company is marketing a lower dose version, which means there is less demand for the pregnant mare’s urine.

Wyeth promised producers leaving the PMU business that there would be financial support to feed and care for their horses until marketing arrangements can be made. The company also assisted with transportation costs if producers found markets outside their area, including the United States.

Monte Dalton of Marble Falls, Texas, Anthea Mize of Hempstead, Texas, Dan & Suzie Byerly of Marble, Falls, went up to Canada three days after 911. They were outside a slaughter plant near Ft. McCloud where PMU producers sent their unwanted foals. Dalton stood on top of her truck and took pictures of the pens and yards with all the horses waiting for their end.

“I was amazed at the number of foals in the pens,” Dalton said. I expected maybe a couple hundred foals…what I saw were anywhere between 5,000 to 6,000 foals! I saw double-deckers going into the plant filled with foals. The 19 foals we were going to bring back to Texas wasn’t a drop in the bucket, but it was saving at least 19. It took me 3 months to get over seeing all those foals that were going to be slaughtered, but we saved what we could.”

Dalton, Mize and the Byerlys hauled 19 foals back to Texas that year with Mize taking 8 back to Hempstead to find homes and Dalton went back to Marble Falls to try and secure homes for the other 11. At that time everyone was thinking about the 911 tragedies and not about adopting foals, but Dalton and Mize eventually found homes for 16 of those foals, Dalton kept 3 foals for herself.

This year with the Wyeth cutbacks, Dalton got in on one of the last Wyeth subsidized shipments of PMU mares in January. The mares were due to leave Canada on the 22nd of January, but due to bad weather their departure wasn’t until mid-morning on January 24th. There were 20 mares in the shipment with 11 being dropped in Arkansas and the remaining 9 to Marble Falls. The mares arrived at 2:30 am on January 27.

Dalton currently has 14 horses and 4 of the mares shipped to Marble Falls brought her band of horses up to 18, well actually 17 for the time being. One of Dalton’s PMU mares was left in Arkansas and a horse meant for the Arkansas drop came to Marble Falls. The haulers took the Arkansas horse back on their way back up to Canada and when they return in February with the load of PMU foals for Marble Falls they’ll pick up Dalton’s 4th horse. Manitoba Horse Finder ( worked everything out to where Dalton’s horse will be cared for until the hauler can pick her up.

Since the horses came in during the work week, most of the new owners couldn’t get to Dalton’s, so she cared and fed the horses until their new owners could come and get them, or until arrangements could be made with a local hauler.

Anthea Mize of Hempstead, Texas purchased a 2001 Bay Thoroughbred/Percheron cross mare and came to Marble Falls the day before the horses were to arrive in Marble Falls to assist Dalton in moving the horses from the arena to Dalton’s Comanche Creek Ranch. Mize, along with Dalton, and Dalton’s son, Eric were the only ones transporting the horses from the Rodeo Arena to Dalton’s 23-acre ranch a few miles outside of Marble Falls. They transported 2 horses at a time in 2 large trailers and in a couple trips they had the horses safe in large pens with plenty of fresh water and hay. After a brief rest, Mize loaded up her mare and Dr. Mendes’ mare for the last leg of the trip.

Anthea currently owns 2 Quarter Horses and a Thoroughbred and will breed her new mare to a Shire stallion in Magnolia, owned by Dr. Laura Mendes.

Dr. Mendes of Magnolia, Texas purchased Marie, a Bay 3-year-old Thoroughbred/Clydesdale cross. Dr. Mendes decided to bring a PMU mare to her ranch for a couple reasons. “I do think while these mares did serve an important purpose in the production of Premarin”, said Mendes, “I believe they deserve a home where they can actually be horses. I wanted to do my part to make sure at least one did indeed get a home and did not end up in a sale barn”.

Dr. Mendes currently owns 5 Thoroughbreds mares, 4 Thoroughbred geldings, a Shire stallion, a Shire/TB young stallion, a Clyde gelding, 2 yearlings and a donkey…and now Marie, a Half Clyde/Half Percheron who is in foal. A Clydesdale sired the foal Marie is carrying; and Dr. Mendes is eagerly awaiting the ¾ Clyde foal. “I liked Marie because of her breeding,” said Mendes, “but most of all I liked the look in her eye. She had a quiet soft expression and looked like a good-sized mare. I plan to break her to drive and possibly breed her back to a Thoroughbred some day to get a ¾ TB – ¼ Clyde cross.”

Several things prompted Jackie Bradford of Kaufman, Texas to purchase Janette, a 1995 Percheron mare.   “I looked into purchasing a PMU mare several years ago when I first heard about them”, said Bradford.  “The timing was not right and I did not have enough knowledge on how to get one back to Texas back then.  I have recently started selling halters on the internet and one of my clients needed a draft halter to send to up north for her PMU mare’s ride home.  We talked and I found out about the recent cut backs in Premarin production and I decided to do more research and found
Bradford and her family have always wanted a draft horse, but there were so many to chose from they didn’t know which breed would work for them.   Bradford decided she wanted one she could teach to ride and drive.  She researched for a couple days on the different draft breeds and decided on a Percheron.  “I found several articles describing the calm, patient attitude of the Percheron”, said Bradford. I discovered people found them to be excellent riding horses as well as for driving, and even jumpers.”

Bradford decided on Janette because she liked the way she was built, her coloring and she was the right age…between 3 and 8-years-old.  Bradford currently raises and trains 24 foundation Quarter Horses in cutting at the Rockin JB Quarter Horse Ranch located just outside of Kaufman, Texas. 

Wendy Coffman of Cleveland, Texas wanted to help save a horse’s life. “The PMU industry, although needed,” said Coffman, “produces more foals than can be adopted. I wanted to adopt a mare to help stop the cycle.”

Coffman fell in love with Angel, a 3-year-old Bay Percheron mare on the internet. She liked the mare’s eye and felt this mare was for her, and wanted to give the mare a loving home. “Angel and her foal will spend the rest of their lives as well-loved members of our family,” said Coffman.

Thank you to these big-hearted Texans who came together for a common goal – to give horses good homes rather than the dismal trip to the slaughter plant.

Dalton would like to thank the Marble Falls Rodeo Association for allowing them to use the rodeo arena as a drop point for the horses. Dalton’s next shipment of PMU foals was due to arrive if February. If you would like more information about how to purchase either PMU mares or foals, you can contact Dalton at 830-693-2744, Manitoba Horse Finder (a reputable PMU rescue organization).

(Back to Archived Features Page)
(Back to Home Page)