Neta and Darrel Rhyne own the little town called Toyahvale, located in West Texas, situated in the foothills of the Davis Mountains. Balmorhea State Park, which is operated by Texas Park and Wildlife, is also located in Toyahvale where the San Solomon Springs emerge bringing forth an amazing one million gallons of fresh, clear, and warm spring-fed water every hour. Darrel is a scuba diving instructor and this past summer he taught SCUBA to 150 Boy Scouts from Buffalo Trails Scout Ranch just south of Toyahvale. The community of Toyahvale also consists of the Funky L’il Dive Shop and the Toyahvale Desert Oasis both owned and operated by the Rhyne family for over twenty-five years. Sadly, it’s also a popular travel route for kill buyers hauling their cache of horses across the border for slaughter in Mexico.
This tiny and mostly idyllic part of the world is theirs, complete with a story Neta wrote titled, “The Magical Desert Kingdom”. They have lived and worked here for a number of decades, raised their three children and now spend time with their three grandkids.
The major thing casting a shadow on their lives is the haunting sounds of the tractor-trailers, being downshifted and Jake-brakes applied when the drivers slow down their heavy vehicles, as they begin their turn onto the highway leading south, across the US border and deep into Mexico. Neta Rhyne felt the lost souls of these beautiful horses needed a voice to tell their story because they were so much more than just “cargo” going down the road to their fate. Thus “Thundering Hooves — A Native People’s Event” grew from the spark of an idea into a dream come true. I was lucky enough to sit down with Neta recently to learn more about her work on this one of a kind event.
Anne: This year October 5th, 6th and 7th hold a special meaning for all of us. “Thundering Hooves ~ A Native Peoples Event” is to be held at the Alpine Granada Theater, in Alpine TX. This must be a dream come true for you. Tell our readers about it.
Neta: Hi Anne, first I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sonja and her team of Animals’ Angels for their dedication and tireless efforts in bringing to light the horrors of the slaughter industry. The heartbreaking images they capture from behind the lens of their cameras, bring shocking reality and they substantiate the unspeakable truth. We can no longer turn our heads in the face of these revelations.
With that being said, the “Thundering Hooves ~ A Native Peoples Event” is truly a dream come true in many ways. I am seventh-generation ~ Trail of Tears ~ Cherokee and proud of my heritage. Sponsoring a Native Peoples Presence to West Texas has been a dream of mine for thirty years and now, thanks to all of the wonderful people involved, this is no longer just a dream. Over twenty Native American Nations are being represented at this historical occasion. A monumental mission accomplished thanks to the generosity, compassion, and hard work of these talented Native Americans in joining together to spotlight this momentous effort.
Anne: “Thundering Hooves” is an engaging name and brings to mind the sounds of horses running free. The way you came up with this name for the event really impressed your love for horses upon my heart. Share your story so we may pass it along to our supporters and friends.
Neta: My love for horses began early on. As far back as memory takes me, riding horses was my passion. The open fields of Oklahoma near my childhood home provided ample opportunities to ride and gallop freely on horseback. Though many times my exuberance and gusto were not appreciated! We moved from Oklahoma to Houston, TX, when I was in the sixth grade. As fate would have it, a neighbor girl the same age as I, and her family, owned twenty-four horses that were running free on their ranch, just thirty minutes from where we lived.
My new best friend and I spent every weekend exploring on horseback. Those were the days when a young girl could ride a horse thru downtown Houston and people on the sidewalks would give a big wave. For many years I rode the Salt Grass Trail, riding from Brenham to Houston. One year the gelding I was riding did not realize he was a gelding. When we rode through the streets in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade, he surely did put on a show. A local reporter caught the action on tape and I was featured on the local news as the Salt Grass “Bronc Rider”!
Many years later my husband and I moved to Toyahvale, TX, along with our three children, Josie, Tammie and Zane. Soon thereafter, we added six horses to our family circle. Festus was my horse. I had purchased him, saddle and all for $500.00. The cowboy who sold him told me he was “old and slow”. As it turned out, Festus was the best horse around. I would give him free rein and hold on! Festus was the horse everyone wanted to ride in the trail rides. He was a much-loved and respected member of our family.
“Sad to admit that as much as horses have always been a part of my life, I was unaware of their being packed into trailers and hauled to their death.”
My first introduction to this was when I began noticing the big rigs pulling trailers full of horses as they passed within one hundred yards of my home. I could feel the deep rumble as the earth shook beneath my feet. One day as I stood next to the roadway, I could feel the approach of the rig before I saw it come into view. As it passed I could see horses in the trailer. There was a buckskin horse pressed up against the rail so tight that I was able to look directly into her eyes. They were full of fear! My heart broke knowing I could not help these equine that were bound for slaughter.
Standing there feeling the earth vibrate underneath me and seeing the fear in that beautiful horse’s eyes, I thought how amazing it would be if the situation were reversed. What if I could stand in the same spot and hear the sound of the horses’ thundering hooves as they neared, feeling the trembling of the earth as they passed by me running wild and free? At that moment I realized that something had to be done to stop this madness. I had to do something in order to assure myself that my children’s grandchildren would hear the sound of thundering hooves as horses neared and feel the rumble of the earth as they passed by, running wild and free.
Anne: How did you assemble the panel of talented people listed on your program? How will they bring awareness to your audience of the desperate times our horses face?
Neta: Once the concept of “Thundering Hooves” came to life I began to put together my thoughts as to what would best represent the rumble of the earth, the thunder of the hooves. The sound of the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Darrel and I have known good friend, Native Artist and Master Drum Maker, Mark Barfoot, for a good many years. I phoned him and told him my thoughts about helping to bring awareness to the cause behind “Thundering Hooves”. Mark graciously offered to travel a great distance to hold a drum workshop in Alpine, TX. He is donating a portion of his workshop in support of this great event.
Song and dance and drumming always draw people into the circle. So I decided to provide entertainment as part of the event. Grammy Award Winning and Five-Time Native Music Award Winner Micki Free, is a multifaceted entertainer. He is also a close friend. As soon as I phoned Micki and shared my ideas, he assured me of his full support and to count him on board for “Thundering Hooves”!
From that point on, “Thundering Hooves” took on a life of her own. The circle of Native brothers and sisters joining in and supporting this cause grew larger by the day. Sonja Meadows, Director of Animals’ Angels, Inc., is in full support, as are two of her Angels: Brandi Turner and Amber Taylor, both of whom will participate on behalf of their group throughout the weekend. They will be speaking about the slaughter horse industry and the horses that travel along these Texas roads every day to their death.
This historical gathering of Native American artists have come together to restore honor and respect for our four-legged equine relatives, will go a long way toward educating the public. Presentations given by all of the guest speakers will provide vitally important facts. These details will be instrumental in bringing about change.
Anne: “The West Texas 25 and One Mule”, is a heartwarming story about a recent rescue and escape from a horrific and inhumane death. Can you share this event? Many of our readers will not be able to attend the event and do not realize how much this means to you and the performers.
Neta: I first became involved with the “West Texas 25 and One Mule”, after they were rescued by Amber Taylor, an Animals’ Angels investigator, from the holding pens in Presidio and moved to the County Pens in Marfa, TX. My daughter Tammie and I drove the sixty miles to the town of Marfa in order to check on the situation.
The minute Tammie and I pulled up to those pens I knew at once something was very wrong. I wondered how and why these horses and one mule had been stripped of their dignity and had been reduced to a value of zero. Aside from the fact they were obviously suffering physically, I could feel their intense sorrow. They were lost and so very sad.
Unknown to me at that time, my life would change after seeing those horses and mule being held in that pen. The journey I was destined to take had just begun.
Anne: The Native Americans feel such a kindred spirit and respectful attachment to their horses, burros and mules. As you are Cherokee, what does this senseless slaughtering of our horses do to you?
Neta: Today the slaughter industry has successfully removed all compassion from their process and reduced the value of life to “cents per pound”. Once entered into the slaughter bound pipeline, the inhumane and vicious attacks begin and are imposed on those who cannot speak not defend themselves. This is inexcusable! And those committing these atrocities against nature are being richly compensated and thereby rewarded to continue breaking laws and harming animals. This is horrendous and unnatural! I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I don’t understand and therefore can offer no advice as to how to go about changing the mindset of these criminals!
Public awareness will bring about change in our laws. Aside from the fact these haulers are breaking the laws of nature, they are also endangering the lives of motorists on the highways. Once the public is made aware of this fact they will realize they should report these transport companies when there is an obvious violation. And once citizens begin complaining the law enforcement officials will be forced to enforce the laws on the books. When they who do eat horsemeat understand they are being lied to, and as a result their health is being placed at risk, hopefully they will no longer want to consume it.
Anne: Do you believe we will be able to change the wrong thinking and horrid behavior of men and sometimes women, who send innocent horses to be slaughtered for demanding foreigners who want to eat a delicacy?
Neta: The only way to bring about change is to educate and stop the demand. Once there is no longer a demand for horsemeat there will be no need for a supply of horsemeat. While the consumption of horsemeat goes against the grain for the majority of people in this country (80%), other countries do not feel as we do. They eat many oddities and trust that what they are consuming is safe to eat.
While in Santa Fe this past August, I had several conversations on this subject. What surprised me the most and literally set me back was the attitude that horsemeat was good. And since the meat was supplied from the USA it had to be safe to consume. Once they understood that what the facts had been misrepresented, that horsemeat is not a delicacy, that what they were consuming was indeed toxic and not meant for human consumption, this quickly changed their outlook.
I will never know if sharing the facts will truly make a difference in those few individuals, but rest assured, they would now give a second thought before deciding to eat horsemeat!
Anne: What do you think will be the outcome of “Thundering Hooves”?
Neta: This is a question I have been asking myself for many months. My goal for “Thundering Hooves” is to bring a greater awareness to the people on the plight of the Wild Burros and the Slaughter Bound Horse. We hope that providing this venue of entertainment and speakers that a previously unreachable audience will be informed and thereby create urgent and an impassioned action for the defense of our equine.
My greatest expectation would be for my audience to demand our state legislators to pass into law a bill like the one the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, just signed Friday, September 21, 2012. This Bill No. 2023 bans the instate slaughter of horses, the transport of horses to slaughter and the sale of horsemeat for human consumption in the State of New Jersey. Which per the Governor is “ … a nod to our decency and respect for horses in our state ensuring that no horse is slaughtered in New Jersey for human consumption. It also ensures that our highways will not be used to transport horses to slaughter in other states that have not enacted a similar ban on this practice. Please be assured that our administration will continue working to protect the well-being of our State’s valued animals”.
Anne: On a scale of one to ten how thrilled are you that you have been able to put an event like this together?
Neta: 1,000 percent thrilled and honored! This has been a six-month journey of joy, anguish, anxiety, delight, disappointment, heartbreak and so much more. It would have been impossible though without the support of my family and the help of so many people who are dedicated to bring back honor and respect for our beloved equine and awareness of the unspeakable horrors they endure every day at the hands of man!
This journey began for the Horses and Burros and will remain for them. I could not sit back and do nothing knowing what I know. The “Thundering Hooves ~ A Native Peoples Event” is what I can do and I will continue as long as the spirit stays strong in my heart!
Anne: What words of wisdom will you give us, so we may think about them in the days to come?
Neta: It is really pretty simple, respect! What we respect we treat with dignity and honor. There is no honor in the needless pain and suffering being inflicted on the Slaughter Bound Equine or the heartless killing of our Wild Burros. We need to teach our children to respect all life so that their children will have the opportunity to hear the thundering of hooves as they near and to feel the rumble of the earth as they run by, wild and free!
Neta, because you truly care, you acted on your vision. Animals’ Angels Inc. is proud to participate and support the “Thundering Hooves Event”. I wish to thank you most sincerely for loving the horses the way you do and following your heart by bringing together those of us who admire these beautiful and intelligent animals.
You may also purchase a Thundering Hooves Ticket in lieu of attending and lend your support to this cause and event.