"My daughter barrell races, my son ropes, said Felisha Cotton, who lives with her family on a ranch in rural Henderson County, Texas, about an hour southeast of Dallas.
"My husband has roped. He's roped his entire adult life."
For Cotton and her family, horses are almost part of the family.
"I just enjoy them," she said. "I'd have 100 of them if I could."
While revered by many, others value horses for different reasons. Some horses will end up on the dinner table.
"They're trucked down to Mexico and they'll be slaughtered for human consumption."
Marsha (not her real name), is an undercover cruelty investigator for the Equine Welfare Alliance.
"Horse slaughter is one of the biggest cruelty to animals that there is," she said. "From the transportation to the auctions all the way to the slaughter plant."
Reports say as many as 170,000 are transported to Mexico and Canada each year for slaughter. The meat is then shipped to Japan and Europe for consumption.
"They don't really care for these animals that much. It's just a dollar sign to them, it's a carcass weight, it's a pound."
We followed Marsha on an investigation of a horse buyer's farm. After shooting some video and leaving, we saw that we were being followed closely.
The horse buyer wasn't happy we had shot video of his operation and was suspicious of our motives.
I stopped to talk with him and explain my purpose of producing a story on the horse slaughter industry. Showing his mistrust, he called the sheriff's office to check my credentials.
The horse buyer identified himself as one of the largest horse buyers in Texas. He told KQ2 off camera that he is afraid of the animal rights activists and was just trying to protect his business.
He says he knows of other horse buyers who have been threatened in the past. He also discounted the notion that he is cruel to his horses. He said he has top-of-the-line equipment and provides only the best food and shelter to his animals.
Meanwhile, Cotton says slaughtering horses for meat is unthinkable.
"Most people say that dogs are man's best friend," she said. "Here, horses are our best friend."
Some in Congress are supporting a bill that would outlaw the shipment of horses outside of the country for the purpose of slaughter.
In another special report from Texas, KQ2 will look at a former horse slaughter plant that operated in Kaufman, Texas for 25 years and how the community responded.
We do this as a Gallatin, Missouri man continues his fight to open a horse slaughter plant in Missouri.
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