Picture this.

Thousands of horses turned out in the countryside - sounds pretty, doesn't it?

Picture it again.

Thousands of unwanted horses turned out on dirt roads because they are unusable, diseased, or just old and feeble.

Not pretty at all.

Horse advocates may think they have won the battle by closing horse slaughterhouses, two in Texas and one in Illinois, but some think they just lost the war.

Many believe horses were better off before U.S. courts closed slaughtering plants in the country, now forcing kill buyers to send the animals to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

An article in the Houston Chronicle describes a Mexican slaughterhouse in Juarez torturing animals to death by stabbing them in the back in an effort to sever the horse's spinal cord.

“At the 10th jab, she (mare) fell to the floor of this Mexican slaughterhouse, bloodied and paralyzed but not yet dead,” the article stated.

Dr. Ken Dorris of Dorris Veterinary Hospital is one who has watched closely as events have unfolded in recent months affecting the slaughter of horses. Dorris said he has owned horses since he was a kid.

He is also a past board member of The Texas Animal Health Commission, the organization that supervised the two Texas slaughterhouses in Kaufman and Ft. Worth. Dorris said the animals were put to death humanely with a “stun gun” or what is also known as a captive bolt gun.

The bolt is driven into the animal's brain, killing it instantly without causing pain. The gun has the same effect as a firearm with a live bullet.

“Tenderhearted emotion without any common sense is what got this law changed,” Dorris said. “It's really too bad. And, we as horse people, let it happen.”

The last slaughterhouse in the U.S. closed in Illinois on Sept. 21.

According to Rusty Addison, producer of the largest monthly horse sale in Texas, the same group leading the way for the closing of the slaughterhouses is now lobbying against the exportation of horsemeat.

If that happens there goes the war, he said.

Addison said approximately 20 percent of horses that run through his ring are sold to kill buyers each month.

“Nobody forces an owner to bring their horse to the sale,” Addison said. “It's their choice to sell the animal. It's their right to sell their property.”

Addison said the only horses that go to slaughter are unusable and unwanted.

He said that any horse that has a prospect for use or any value at all will be purchased by someone other than a kill buyer.

“Somebody is going to knock the slaughter buyer off because somebody is going to pay more,” Addison said. “Eighty percent of the horses I sell go back into society.”

Addison said some sellers tell him, “Get whatever you can get and send me a check.”

Those sellers, he said, are just trying to recoup some of their money and basically just want to get rid of a problem.

Addison said he believes those against horse slaughter are just beginning to realize they've lost.

“It didn't make anybody want those unwanted horses,” Addison said. “At least, I know they were humanely put to death in Texas.”

If the borders are closed to export horses, Addison said. "At least, I know they were humanely put to death in Texas."

If the borders are closed to export horses, Addison believes that the animals will be left to fend for themselves.

"They will be turned out and neglected and left to starve to death," Addison said. "It will crash a multi-million dollar market in Texas. Turn it upside down and turn it on its head."

In Erath County alone, he believes as many as 60 to 70 horses a month could be turned out because the owners are tired of treating them medically and are unable to put them down themselves, much less dig a hole big enough to bury a horse.

Doris said he's had horses he was emotionally attached to that died old age and hired a backhoe driver to dig the burial hole at a cost of $150.

Some people can't afford it or would not have large enough space to bury a horse," Doris said.

Doris said he feels we've just seen the tip of the ice burg on the problems that will be caused in the future.

Across the state Addison said as many as 10,000 horses could end up abandoned in the countryside in a year's time.

Addison said those horses that did bring just above a slaughter value, "will no longer be worth a dollar," and the horse industry will see a backwards domino effect.

Angelia Joiner is a staff writer for the Empire Tribune. She can be reached at angelia.joiner@empiretribune.com or 254-965-3124 ext 238