Grass Valley teen champions equine cause
On any given day, Cheyenne Little will be making rounds in the neighborhood on her four-wheeler, stethoscope around her neck, veterinary bag at her side. Sometimes, she’ll get a call about helping deliver a calf, others she’ll be treating a sick horse.
“We live in a kind of neighborhood where everyone has horses and cows. She’s the neighborhood vet at 15 years old,” said her father, Brand Little.
Determined as she is to nurse animals back to health at their farm and others in Grass Valley about four miles from Lake of the Pines, Little has bigger things on her mind.
She has created an online petition to end equine slaughter that has received more than 2,000 signatures as well as a related petition for an Equine Breeding Certification, or EBC, program she devised to mitigate horse overpopulation.
Her petitions have gained support from around the country and she has even been contacted by people outside the United States about her drive to end equine slaughter.
“I kind of started to realize they’re saying that I needed to target it at the source,” Little said. “Of course we wanted to end slaughter, but I’d also really like to see the EBC program go into place. Aside from ending slaughter and abuse and everything, it’s going to employ a lot of people and raise the economy. So that’s really the main goal – to get that going.”
She likens her program to the one for drivers at the DMV.
It would require people to pass a written exam on breeding; broodmares and stallions must get signed off by a veterinarian then approved by an EBC board; a biyearly certificate fee; and a cap placed on yearly production.
“Right now each week thousands of perfectly good horses are being shipped around the country and over the border for slaughter,” the petition says. “These horses are the product of uneducated breeders, irresponsible owners, and cheap sales.”
Little said the New Mexico Livestock Board has reviewed the EBC during one of its meetings, but some people are “hesitant” about it because they think “it’s going to give the government a lot more power.”
As of Monday, her equine slaughter petition had 2,263 signatures and her EBC petition had 1,790. Her goal is 100,000 signatures for both, something she thinks she can achieve if her supporters’ lobbying efforts successfully land her an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, she said.
“She’s big into animal rights and everything,” Little said. “So that would be big.”
Little has always loved horses and was able to get her first when the family moved to its current Grass Valley property about three years ago, she said. She is the only child of Brand, 39, and wife Laura, 37.
She has had a few horses since then, her father said, including a foal likely headed for slaughter that she saved up her money to buy, but none have meant as much to her as the former national champion show horse she received from Grass Valley-based Parkside Arabians.
It had broken its leg and after surgery developed an autoimmune disease, taking away its value for breeding purposes, and Parkside gave the horse once worth $50,000 to Little for free when it otherwise would have likely been put down, she said.
The horse, China, is what drives her ambition to effect change in the breeding world.
“That’s the type of horse that is going to go to slaughter. They’re just not worth anything to some people anymore,” Little said. “She had done a lot for me and a lot for other people.”
Homeschooled until her freshman year of high school, Little is now in her junior year of an independent study program that meets two days a week through Horizon Charter Schools.
She wants to study veterinary medicine for large animals at UC Davis.
Jennifer Mather, doctor of veterinary medicine and UC Davis graduate, thinks Little has a bright future, wherever it leads. Mather runs the Bear Valley Mobile Veterinary Service that frequents Little’s neighborhood, and she has worked on several of their animals with Cheyenne’s assistance.
“She definitely has the knowledge of a motivated teenager,” Mather said. “She seeks out extra knowledge and goes for it. In that sense, she has educated herself on a lot of things you would never learn at high school.
“I think she’s a great kid and she’s definitely smart and motivated, and she’s got a great heart.”
Her father said she’s “not your typical 15-year-old girl,” but as a parent he appreciates that.
“It’s pretty neat having a kid like that who is just so above her age in years,” he said. “Still have to make her clean her room and fight with her over that kind of stuff, but everything she does all day is about animals.”
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews