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reply to PMU post

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From: Douglas Freeman DVM 

A colleague recently forwarded to me a posting regarding the PMU Industry,
and since I have some first hand knowledge in this area thought to provide
some info.....

I am part of a group of university veterinarians conducting management and
welfare research on a working PMU research ranch in Manitoba.  We have
looked at health and physiology of mares on various watering systems and on
various turn-out programs:  all mares have remained healthy and normal.
This work included behavioral studies to determine psychological
well-being.  Not only were these mares all normal, but in fact the
incidence of stable vices or stereotypic behaviors in this industry is
lower than the "normal" incidence for stabled horses in other equine
industries.  These results were presented in scientific sessions at the
American Association of Equine Practitioners meeting just this month.

In terms of welfare, no other horse industry has the regulatory oversight
that this one does.  They have inspectors visit the farms each month.  They
are required to have a private veterinarian do a complete herd health check
three times during the six months the mares are in the barns.  Outside
groups have conducted inspections, including the USDA.  I led a welfare
inspection tour of ranches by veterinarians from the American Association
of Equine Practitioners, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and
International League for the Protection of Horses.  They concluded in a
public consensus statement that "Based on our inspections, the allegations
of inhumane treatment of horses involved in PMU ranching are unfounded."
... "The public should be assured that the care and welfare of the horses
involved in the production of an estrogen replacement medication is good,
and is closely monitored."

Regarding the HRT medication itself, you are now beyond my area of
expertise.  However it is my understanding that thye are not all the same,
and I would urge anyone needing such therapy to make that decision based on
sound medical advice only.

The bottom line is that as an equine industry, this is absolutely OK.  In
late fall and winter, the horses are housed appropriately in normal tie
stalls and are well cared for.  For the spring, summer and early fall they
live in bands on pasture.  Stallions are turned out with the bands in June
and breed by pasture management.  The mares range in monetary value (as in
any horse industry), but they and their foals are valued and valuable to
the ranches.  If an individual rancher makes a mistake or slips below
standards, the mechanism is in place to find and fix any problem.

For more information from the PMU equine industry, the PMU ranchers have an
association:  the North American Equine Ranching Information Council.  The
NAERIC website is (

As a professor of equine studies, a veterinarian, and a horse enthusiast I
urge everyone to become educated about curent equine issues.  It is
important to note that the animal welfare questions, and activities by
animal rights extremists, are not over or limited to one equine industry.
We who are concerned about animal welfare and the appropriate care, use and
housing of our horses need to educate the general public together as an
equine industry regarding the use of horses.  As a former active endurance
ride veterinarian, I know how a ride can be run safely and appropriately.
However, the endurance riding groups could be the next target of inaccurate
information, or the dressage and eventing industry, or any equine group.
As the PMU industry is doing, we need to 1) insure we are regulating
ourselves, 2) get outside input as to our practices, 3) conduct controlled
clinical studies in order to demonstrate that current methods are
acceptable or to find better ways, and 4) educate the general public that
has no knowledge of agriculture or horse management.  It seems to me the
endurance riding organisations are doing 1-3 well.

Douglas Freeman DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACT
Director, Equine Studies Program
University of Massachusetts

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