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The majestic horse has long been considered a close companion of humans and a vital contributor to our species’ progress. National Horse Protection Day is all about returning the love of our four-legged friends by raising awareness of the various plights that horses face and by protecting them from abuse, exploitation and neglect.

History of National Horse Protection Day

Throughout the centuries, equines have carried us on their backs, pulled our carriages, fought in our wars, tilled our fields and traveled miles and miles across our countries. They have been a key part of human civilization for over 5,000 years and have cultural significance all over the world. In the US, for example, the horse has a legendary status as an icon of the American spirit, a symbol of freedom in the West.

Although the advent of the automobile and various other technological advances has meant that these creatures are no longer required as frequently on the roads or as laborers, today horses still remain a steadfast companion to animal lovers and equestrian fans alike. As well as being great pets, they are a beloved therapy animal, often providing support to people with disabilities, assist with important work such as policing and cattle ranching and have become a key part of some popular sports.

Yet despite the wonderful loyalty and dedication of horses, they are frequently mistreated, exploited and abandoned.

National Horse Protection Day was first observed in 2005 when it was founded by pet lifestyle expert and animal behaviorist Colleen Paige. Having grown up around horses, Paige created the day to make others mindful of the plight of unwanted and neglected horses, those that end up being slaughtered or served as food and those that are abused and exploited. The day aims to encourage the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of horses.

Although National Horse Protection Day began in the US, it has since spread and is celebrated elsewhere too – a testament to how universally valued these animals are.

Why horses need our protection

There are a whole host of reasons why horses around the world need our protection.

Because of the resources and expense needed to care for them, horses are especially at risk of a poor quality of life, neglect and abandonment, even by well-intentioned owners who lack sufficient knowledge or simply fall upon hard times. However, there are also many horse breeders and dealers who care not about animal welfare but rather about generating a profit. This can lead to large numbers of horses living in poor conditions and even suffering from abuse.

Although horse meat is consumed in various parts of the world and often considered a delicacy, there are also many who are against horses being treated as a food source. Horses that are slaughtered for meat often come from auctions, but sometimes they are abandoned pets, retired working animals, bought from private sellers or captured from wild herds.

With the horse considered an American icon, the US is particularly averse to horse meat – it’s illegal to sell or eat horse meat in some states such as California and there’s a movement to make this the case across the country.

While sports can be a great way for people and horses to bond, the equine’s wellbeing isn’t always given the priority it deserves. Horses may be overworked, maltreated and injured, sometimes fatally, in the pursuit of glory in the sports stadium.

And even wild horses (known as mustangs in the US) require our protection. Finding a humane solution to the problem of overpopulation in America is a real challenge – while many consider the rounding up of wild horses to be cruel, with a small number adopted but most living out the rest of their lives in holding pens, if numbers aren’t properly handled this could lead to drought and starvation for thousands. Humane management is therefore key to their flourishing.

How to celebrate National Horse Protection Day

National Horse Protection Day is a day to be mindful of the trials and tribulations of horses without a home, without companionship and without love. Horse lovers will often say that these creatures are just as much our four-legged friends as cats and dogs are – and if you have ever been lucky enough to know these shy and gentle animals, you’ll know this to be true.

There are plenty of ways you could observe National Horse Protection Day. Of course, not everyone has the space to adopt a horse and keep one to look after, but if you live close to a stable, offering a helping hand with the horses or dropping off food and bedding would certainly be appreciated.

Perhaps you could think about supporting a horse through a charity or donating to your local horse sanctuary. By supporting organizations such as these, you’ll be contributing to a whole range of activities aimed at improving the lives of horses everywhere, from rehoming and rehabilitation to educating and supporting owners and breeders. And if you spot a horse that seems neglected or abandoned, don’t be afraid to call an animal welfare charity or equine sanctuary for help.

If you’re especially passionate, you could even get involved in lobbying efforts to improve legislation on animal welfare, livestock protection and responsible breeding.

National Horse Protection Day is also a great opportunity to connect with these amazing animals. Why not go on a trail ride or take up a sporting activity involving horses such as polo or showjumping? You can also venture into the great outdoors to places where wild horses can be found roaming freely! However, you decide to celebrate, remember to spread the word on social media, and be sure to find out more about this important observance by visiting the National Horse Protection Day website.

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