Each of us has encountered a horse that has had the proverbial hard-knock life. You or a fellow owner might have spotted the horse with overgrown hooves curled up to his cannon bones attempting to walk on his pasterns across a pasture. Or perhaps one was standing, emaciated, in a backyard alongside 40 other horses with no hay or water in sight. The horse you know might just be one in danger of falling into a neglectful situation, where an owner could no longer care for him financially or had died and the family gaining custody didn't understand basic horse husbandry. Whatever a neglected horse's circumstance, some have had a lucky break: A caring individual has intervened, going out of his or her way to make these horses' lives better.
It's no secret that the economy has hit the horse industry hard these past few years. With these lean times, owners have had to make decisions about recreation vs. need, and about keeping the number of horses at sizes manageable for their incomes. Some have decided to sell or give their horses away, and sound (both in body and mind) riding prospects are easy to find right now; I hear about at least several per month via word of mouth.
Buzzwords such as "unwanted horses," "overbreeding," and "seizure" are rife in our vocabulary. More cases of alleged neglect are in the news than ever before; one of our writers had to put a 35-horse minimum on her case reports; otherwise, she'd have a full-time job (and a depressing one in that) following every single case.
But there are other buzzwords that arise in our late-night browsing of the message boards for updates on welfare cases: words that bring me hope. Castration clinics. Horse care classes. Euthanasia clinics. Yes, the final is a potentially gloomy topic, but it's also encouraging because many rescues admit horses deemed well enough, for example, to make it through another winter. (The alternative? Not always so great: withering away, uncared for, during their final days.)
Another glimpse of hope? The success of the lists of horses free to good homes (400 horses have been adopted via this service). Horse people still want to find that right match, and horses are still essentially looking for their person. Hearing about new bonds is a highlight for our staff.
Every owner would like to help horses needing homes in some way. In the June issue our writers examined what it takes, realistically, to start a horse rescue, refeed a starved horse, or retrain an ex-racehorse. None of these should be taken lightly.
We all know a horse that could've fallen into a bad spot and is now a superstar. My mom has a precious (huge!) Belgian/Quarter Horse mare that she adopted as a filly from a pregnant mare urine farm in Canada. Honey was very well-cared-for but needed a place to land for life. She's been a fantastic, bombproof mount.
Tell me about your adoption successes--I'd love to hear about them.
(This post is from the June issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.)