The Saddest Ride

Ireland’s Economic Woes Kill
Thousands of Neglected Horses

Another short-lived dream has crossed the Irish. After two years of agonizing economical decline, the nation is about to receive a massive loan package that’s likely to be insufficient to save it from bankruptcy.
Banks have already been bailed out by the government, despite being the ones that precipitated the crisis in the first place. And working stiffs like you and me already have their employment days counted, despite footing the bill. Does it all sound familiar?
It may be so, except for one cruel twist: in the peak of their country’s doomed confidence, horses, a symbol of the Irish mythical love of freedom, have been reduced to another symbol, way more mundane: status.
For a little while, it was emblematic to the upward mobile-oriented not just to own a race horse but also to add them to their investment portfolios, hoping a thoroughbred champion or two could materialize out of their backyard.
When such pipe dreams collided with reality, and even the backyard had to be sold at a discount, there was not much thought given about the animals. They were just left behind, to graze somebody else’s pastures and, ultimately, starve to death.
Now, there’re an estimated 20,000 abandoned horses, roaming the back roads of Ireland. Neither they can be bought, for people can’t afford them, nor they can be sold as meat, for lacking of proper information on their provenance. Most will likely wind up being shot, as 49 already have only this year.
It’s the saddest thing that such a magnificent animal, a companion of humankind for millennia, deeply identified with our ideals of independence and nobility of spirit, is being once more crushed by our folly.
Working stiffs like you and me still have a choice. Not so much the horses of Dublin’s Smithfield Market, for example, whose indignity has reached new lows: besides being traded at a bargain prices, they’re now being swapped in exchange for a cell phone.

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