Here's a sad story, as reported by Reuters:
The yearlong Texas drought is taking a heartbreaking toll on horses and donkeys, thousands of which have been abandoned by owners who can no longer afford the skyrocketing price of the hay needed to feed them.What makes this particularly galling is that Texas is a (ahem) hotbed of climate change denial. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that anyone should just blindly accept the global warming message of pop culture sources like Al Gore's, An Inconvenient Truth. What I'm saying is that if you live in an area that is particularly vulnerable to a potential change in climate, or in an area where your economic livelihood could potentially be destroyed by increasingly volatile weather events, you at least owe it to yourself to be open-minded on the subject.
“We get 20 to 40 calls a week that horses are alongside the road and left; nobody’s claimed them,” Richard Fincher of Safe Haven Equine Rescue in Gilmer, in east Texas, told Reuters. “Sheriffs are calling us all the time.”
Before this year, he would get more like three or four calls a week, he said.
The problem, according to Dennis Sigler, a horse specialist at Texas A&M University, is that the drought has dried up the hay fields, leaving horse owners having to pay double or triple the prices they are used to paying for hay, if they can find hay at all.
“The price of hay and feed today is at levels we have never experienced before because of the drought,” Sigler said. “In addition to that, pastures are short, and folks who have horses on pasture have no grass for their horses. There is just no market for horses this year.”
In addition, Sigler said, the drought has forced Texas ranchers to sell some of their cattle herds, leaving them with horses that are no longer needed to ride the range.
The Texas "heat dome" this past summer was a phenomenal weather event in terms of the number of temperature records set and the utter lack of rainfall. If summers like this one become the "new normal" in the near future then the state of Texas will not be able to support its large population for very long. As it stands, it's having a hard time just maintaining its population of horses and donkeys.
Bonus: An outstanding James McMurtry music video tribute to his home state of Texas