By NATALIE WHEELER
For the Capital Press
United Horsemen, the group behind a proposed horse slaughter facility outside Hermiston, Ore., wants to build a $3 million horse rehabilitation, training and education center on the same 300-acre property.
According to president Dave Duquette, the facility would host an educational program, with 30 to 40 college students learning from horse trainers, and an indoor equine-assisted therapy arena for individuals with handicaps.
Although the center is planned to be built a quarter-mile away from the horse slaughter facility, Duquette said the two entities will not be connected.
The two possible facilities do, however, comprise United Horsemen's controversial solution to the recent drop in horse prices and the reinstatement of horse slaughter facilities in the United States. The slaughter facility would be joined by space for rehabilitation and training of unwanted horses.
Unwanted horses entering the center would either receive rehabilitation or reining-style training. Unrideable horses, because of age or condition, would have veterinary care and time at pasture. All horses will be spayed or gelded.
A horse will be euthanized if deemed critically ill. Horses unable to be rehabilitated would go to sale and, if unable to be sold, sent to the the proposed horse slaughter facility.
"It's our goal to improve horse welfare," Duquette said. "I want to bring the value up of these horses and send them to homes."
Horse trainer Christian Rammerstorfer would be a consultant, adding other horse trainers to oversee the project. The program would also work with veterinarian Don Peter and Pendleton's equine-assisted therapy organization, Dream Catcher Therapeutics.
United Horsemen, a non-profit horse organization, has not yet raised the $3 million needed for the 100-acre center, which Duquette said will be funded through private donations.
Duquette, who currently trains quarterhorses, said he has talked with colleges such as the University of Florida to bring students to the center.
"They have the attitude that if you build it, we will come," Duquette said of college involvement with the training center. "Which is fine. I know we'll have no problem with the whole thing running and funding itself."