November 4, 2003
Statesman-Journal  Salem, Oregon
Horse lovers try to rescue colts

THOMAS BOYD / Associated Press

Robin Henson nuzzles her horse, Shilo, in a pasture at her Cedar Flat home as her other horse, Sierra, waits her turn. Henson rescued the 18-month-old colts from a drug manufacturer that impregnates mares to produce a menopause drug but has no need for the resulting foals and sells them.

The animals are born to mares, whose urine is used to make a menopause drug.

The Associated Press
November 4, 2003

CEDAR FLAT — Shilo and Sierra, colts born as unwanted byproducts of a pharmaceutical firm, have found horse heaven instead of the slaughterhouse on a farm here thanks to nurse and animal-lover Robin Henson.

Thousands of other foals may not be so lucky. Instead of racing goats for windfall apples on farms like this 3 ½ acres near Springfield, they could end up on dinner tables in Japan and Europe.

Both are PMU horses, born in Canada 18 months ago to mothers raised for their pregnant mare urine, which is used in medicines to help prevent menopause-related discomforts and osteoporosis.

Henson, 52, took the colts in a year ago.

“I always knew where (PMU medicine) came from,” Henson said, as she walked the two quarter horses in a round pen. “I knew when I got horses I wanted them to be rescues. I wanted to get horses that were in danger of going to slaughter.”

Martha Armstrong, a senior vice president for equine protection with the U.S. Humane Society, said 40,000 or more PMU foals are dumped annually onto the market and that most are slaughtered.

Pharmaceutical giant Wyeth makes the drug Premarin. The firm says there is no urine in the final product.

The Humane Society says that on many PMU farms, the mares are kept tethered for six or eight months in narrow stalls, unable to turn around or sometimes to lie down comfortably, and get little exercise and often inadequate bedding.

Wyeth spokeswoman Natalie de Vane cited national and international veterinarian and equine associations that, she said, have found PMU horses to be well cared for.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says “PMU ranching has become a model of self-regulation.”

The Humane Society’s other concern is the glut of PMU foals that go to slaughter.

Wyeth has established a $3.7 million trust fund to help place those animals and according to Jim Tedford, president of the Humane Society at Lollypop Farm in New York, rescue operations are quite successful at finding homes for those they can get their hands on.

The problem, Tedford said, is that rescue groups are frequently outbid by those who want the horses for the slaughterhouse.

Armstrong said the hundreds of PMU horses rescued pale in comparison to the tens of thousands put on the market.

Rescue groups such as the Lazy Z Ranch in Sisters are undeterred: Since starting two years ago, the ranch has placed almost 300 PMU horses of the 450 in its care, manager Virginia Loomis said.

“We generally find homes within a few months,” she said.

Lazy Z horses go for between $350 and $700 each, prices at which the ranch generally breaks even, Loomis said.

Henson hopes to get her third PMU foal in the coming days.

“It’d be really cool to just get ’em, tame ’em and give them to other people,” Henson said, as she pulled Shilo’s head close for a kiss. “That way I’ll always have room for more.”