Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where Free Horses Go

Remember that free paint mare I blogged about a few days ago? I'm still pretty angry about her owner dumping her on Craigslist-- and today I felt just a little more despair when I saw the ad below.

You see, horses given away for free don't always wind up in the hands of a kill-buyer (and then at a slaughter house).

Sometimes, they end up going home with a person like this:

(Click to enlarge)

I don't want to come across as a snob here-- but do you think that maybe, just maybe, a person who types in ALL CAPS, can't spell and doesn't have "allot of money" might not provide the best home for a horse?

Can you imagine a person like this ever paying for a vet call?

Would this person even know when it would be appropriate to call a vet, considering their knowledge of horse health problems seems to consist of "bad legs and feet?"

Maybe I'm being a little over-critical of this person. I'm sure that they have the best intentions. They even said "please." However, anyone who owns a horse knows that they cost a ton of money to keep-- and if you don't even have the cash to purchase one of the "ride able" $500 horses on the market right now, how can you even afford to pay for winter hay?

Giving your horse away for free is a bad idea.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and some free horses do find good homes:

(He always looks this worried.)

This is Mr. Strut.

Mr. Strut was dumped for free on Craigslist a couple of years ago. My father brought him home. He's a registered, purebred Tennessee Walker, broke to ride and a true gentleman-- he even came with his papers.

The lady who gave him away, whom we shall call Bunny, just didn't want to take care of him anymore. Mr. Strut has arthritis, is prone to founder, and while he has excellent ground manners, he's not very cuddly or personable. Bunny was getting older and didn't want to deal with his issues.

I don't want to give you the wrong impression-- Bunny was a nice lady. Mr. Strut was in good health when he came to us, and she even sent along the last of his feed, his supplements and his vet records. She was worried enough about Mr. Strut to grill my dad a little on his future home. However, Bunny didn't bother to ask my father for vet references, or visit our farm. Bunny just led Mr. Strut into dad's trailer and watched them drive away. She did eventually visit-- months later.

Had we been unscrupulous people, we could have sold Mr. Strut to a horse dealer or kill-buyer that same day for at least $100-- a nice profit for the easy work of one local trailer trip. Bunny would never have wanted that, but as well-intentioned as she was, she didn't make sure we weren't "bad guys" either.

The fact that we are, in fact, "good guys" doesn't excuse her.

Good guys like us are hard to find, at least when it comes to finding a home for a free horse. We really do understand the true cost of keeping a horse, and so we're not usually eager to take on another one-- especially one with special needs. We're also pretty scrupulous about making sure our horses get handled, so we don't take on more than we have time for-- and for most of us working folks, two is about the maximum. We good guys are careful-- and so good guys are rarely the ones who want a free horse.

Even those of us that don't mind taking on special needs horses are pretty much at capacity-- because of years of the bad economy and terrible horse market, we've already got most of the unwanted horses we are capable of supporting.

Mr. Strut won the horse lottery. He's now pretty much retired, acting as a buddy for Annie and (when he's sound) an occasional trail mount for up to a whole mile of riding. He's getting downright spoiled. But so many other horses don't win the lottery. They end up with nasty people, or well-intentioned idiots with no experience and no money for feed, or in the hands of a horse dealer or kill-buyer.

Giving your horse away for free is a bad idea.

- Selling your horse would ensure a better home-- at least your know that the new owner has some money to spend on a horse's care. 
- Euthanasia might be better, especially for older horses or horses with medical conditions.  
- Surrendering to a horse rescue is a better idea-- if you can find one that has room. 

If you have no other option than to give your horse away for free, ask for references, visit the new home, Google the new owner's name, check their criminal history, make SURE the horse is going home with "good guys." 

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