Dressed as Woody from ’Toy Story,’ Garrett Prentiss, 5, pets Ginger, a mustang, on Thursday before the start of a walk along the Animas River
Dressed as Woody from 'Toy Story,' Garrett Prentiss, 5, pets Ginger, a mustang, on Thursday before the start of a walk along the Animas River from Animas Park to Berg Park in Farmington to raise awareness of horse slaughtering. (Megan Farmer /The Daily Times)

Farmington — Sylvia Ortiz was among a dozen individuals who showed their opposition to slaughtering horses during an awareness walk Thursday in Farmington.

"They sense, they feel," the Farmington resident said. "They know when you take them up there, they're going to die."

The bottom line is that horse slaughtering is not right, she said.

"If they can come up with hospice for cats and dogs so they can live out their lives at home and have a peaceful death, why can't they do it for horses?" Ortiz said. "Why do they have to be taken out there and slaughtered?"

As part of the event, those against horse slaughterhouses rode their horses or walked from Animas Park to Berg Park.

To voice the other side of the issue, Sonny Mills and Rusty Meadors arrived at Thursday's event with their horses to show support for horse slaughterhouses.

Mills, of Farmington, rode Ginger, a bay mustang, which he adopted more than 10 years ago. He said he loves the four horses he owns and takes care of 20 horses at a local ranch.

"What are we going to do with the old ones? It hurts my heart that the old ones have no place to go," Mills said. "It is a lot more humane to take them and kill them in slaughterhouses than it is to turn them out on (the U.S. Bureau of Land Management) and let them starve to death."

Meadors, of Bloomfield, echoed Mills' sentiment.

"We need it," she said of the slaughterhouses. "If all these people who are against it take worthless horses that can't be rode or crippled or old and we can't afford to feed them, they can come get them and take care of them. If there is something drastically wrong with this horse, health wise or physical, I'll can him. That way someone else will not get hurt."

Meadors was riding Teddy Bear, which she received in a trade around Thanksgiving.

Teddy Bear, right, and Ginger, stand on Thursday near Animas Park in Farmington before the start of a walk along Animas River to Berg Park in Farmington.
Teddy Bear, right, and Ginger, stand on Thursday near Animas Park in Farmington before the start of a walk along Animas River to Berg Park in Farmington. Their owners support horse slaughter. (Megan Farmer/ The Daily Times)

Teddy Bear was severely underweight but has gained 100 pounds since Meadors took over his care.

"I've seen dead horses that looked better," she said.

Lacie Bizzell, who organized Thursday's event, asked Mills and Meadors to leave after explaining that the ride was for people who are against horse slaughter.

Mills and Meadors complied but continued to ride their horses around Animas Park.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group started walking along the Animas River toward Berg Park.

After arriving at Berg Park, Bizzell took time for an interview. Despite the small turnout, she said she was glad for the response.

Garrett Prentiss, 5, holds a sign that reads, "Horses are Friends Not Food," on Thursday during a walk from Animas Park to Berg Park in
Garrett Prentiss, 5, holds a sign that reads, "Horses are Friends Not Food," on Thursday during a walk from Animas Park to Berg Park in Farmington to raise awareness of horse slaughtering. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

As for those who support horse slaughter, she was fine with them attending but having them participate in the awareness walk would have contradicted the purpose, she said.

"I'm kind of glad they came because then I could voice my opinion and have them voice theirs," she said. "It was almost like a debate."

Bizzell reiterated that slaughtering horses is cruel.

Although proponents say slaughterhouses are a reasonable solution, she recommends people examine the alternatives.

"There is always a solution," she said.

Teresa Foster traveled from Sheep Springs and joined the group at Berg Park.

Foster is a member of the Nohooká Diné, a group that opposes horse round ups on the Navajo Nation.

She said the round ups were inhumanely conducted. While intended to target feral horses, horses that were branded or domesticated were taken, too, she said.

Foster grew up with horses and participates in trail rides in the Northern Agency.

"It's a way of life for me," Foster said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.