Europe's horses haven't been faring very well of late, and their predicament is particularly dire in Spain, where horses that were once a prized sign of the boom are now being abandoned en masse in the bust—to the tune of 60,000 that passed through slaughterhouse doors in 2012 alone. "A few years ago, before the crisis, a lot of people thought: I'll buy a big car, a big house, and why not a horse?" the proprietor of a shelter in Spain's horse country tells the AFP. "They try to hang onto the car and the house, but the horse they just get rid of."
And those that escape the slaughterhouse don't necessarily luck out, with reports of desperate owners leaving their horses to starve or tethering them on a flood plain so they'll drown. The math is simple: While horses can cost upward of $520 a month to maintain, cutting one's losses by abandoning the animal is free, or the slaughterhouse might yield $200 per animal. The malaise touches all things equine: "There used to be lots of horses here, 50, 60, even 100. That's how I made my living," says one dealer. But, "now no one is buying them, the feed is expensive, and no one wants a horse." (Read more Spain stories.)