I've been reading on Facebook about a nice little mare who recently ended up at a low-end auction, most likely destined for a slaughterhouse in Canada. A former trainer got wind of the mare's predicament along with the previous owner, who had no idea the current owner had kicked her former horse to the curb.
Fortunately, this story had a happy ending; the much-loved mare ended up back with her original owner. But the story certainly makes you wonder how many of the tens of thousands of "unwanted" horses a year really don't belong in this category. Some of the horses tagged with this label aren't truly unwanted; their people just don't realize when they need help.
It makes me worry about the horses that I've previously owned or bred. There's one mare in particular I wonder about. She and I tore up a lot of cattle pastures in our day before I sold her to make time for college. I hope she's still sound and healthy. I hope she's still got that fun, sparkly personality. And I hope her future is secure.
The American Quarter Horse Association's Full Circle program allows members to track horses from their past and offer air to current owners in case they ever need to find the horses a new home.
I wonder, because I know what happens to a lot of good horses. Their owners' circumstances change and, through no fault of the horses, they end up at an auction. From there, it's a high-stakes game of Russian roulette. The outcome could be another quality home, or it could be a trip to a neglectful or abusive home or worse.
It's a spot I'd never want any of my horses to be in. And that's one reason I'm so appreciative of my employer, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), because they help Quarter Horse owners like me who can't quit worrying about those horses who've gone in and out of our barns but never left our hearts.
The AQHA's Full Circle program, available at no charge for current AQHA members, can help lay those worries to rest. It allows me to track horses from my past. If the horses' current owners ever need to find a new home for them, the AQHA will pass along my contact information. I am volunteering to either provide a home or help place the horse in another suitable one. (I'm not guaranteeing that I'll buy the horse back, because who knows what my financial situation will be when or if that time comes; I'm simply committing to take the opportunity to help if I can.) These horses have given me so much; I feel like this is the least I can do to repay them.
I can't help but think this program could literally be a horse's life-saver. Yes, I know there will still be "unwanted" horses out there, but I want to make sure mine are never among them.
Holly Clanahan is the editor of America’s Horse, the membership publication of the American Quarter Horse Association.
Originally published in the March 2013 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care