If Not You, Then Who?
"If not you, then who?" Recently I was contacted in regards to two older horses. There was a death in the family and the remaining family members were not horse people. They had tried to continue to care for the horses, but it's winter in Ohio, and older horses require extra maintenance. Knowing that they were not in a position to keep these horses, they reached out to someone else they knew that had horses previously. Would anyone be interested? Could they be sold? The message was forwarded on to me. I stopped reading at 21 year old unbroke stud horse... A few days later I got a call. "What can I do with these horses?"
What can anyone do with horses that they are unable to care for or don't want? Try to find them a home? Maybe. There are sales sites and selling walls. Craigslist. In order to create an ad the person would have to know a significant amount about the horses and be savvy enough to write an ad that was inclusive of all of the information a potential buyer would want to know. Beyond that, most buyers are looking for a younger, sound, broke, horse capable of doing "a job." A horse that isn't suited to performing a job becomes even more at risk when being sold. Unsavory individuals pick up on the "cheap" part of the ad when someone tries to sell a horse. There are promises of training, care and a "good home." Often the horse goes straight to auction where that "cheap" horse is worth a little more for meat.
Well, how about humanely euthanizing an older horse or one that has issues? Possibly. But often cost is prohibitive IF there is land available to bury the horse. The 'ignorance is bliss' factor comes into play here. It's easier for the owner to believe that the man that promised a "good home" for their older, unbroke, lame horse is actually going to follow through on that. The horses are picked up, the owner believes the best, and there is none of the emotional distress that's involved in putting a horse down.
Can these unwanted or at risk horses be surrendered? WHERE?? There is no animal shelter for horses. The humane society? The dog warden? (A quick text to our vet revealed that there is NOTHING in place for horses in our county.) Situations of horses being starved and / or neglected splash across my news feed from time to time. People notice that horses aren't being cared for, someone calls the dog warden, maybe the sheriff. Nothing is really done. Finally one of the horses dies and the situation gets some news coverage. Occasionally at that point a rescue will step in if they are able.
THERE NEED TO BE BETTER OPTIONS! Life happens - people lose their jobs, get divorced, have health problems or there is a death in the family. They may have had every intention of providing a "life long" home for their horse and they just couldn't. There need to be better options for people and horses in these situations. Want to know what would really reduce the number of horses going to slaughter? Affordable end of life options for people needing to put their old / lame horses down. GELDING CLINICS. Organizations offering training and placement assistance for horses in transition. There is a tremendous need for an organized, industry wide approach to helping these at risk horses. The Right Horse Initiative came about because of that need and CHC is pleased to partner with them.
Back to the two old horses needing a place to go. Both are in their twenties. One is a red dun stud and has allegedly never been broke. The other is a dun gelding that used to be ridden but it has been years. They are both badly in need of farrier and dental care. The stud is in decent weight but the gelding is thin. Taking in owner surrenders is not CHC's mission. However, it is incredibly difficult to face it less than a mile from home and know that there ARE NO OPTIONS for these horses. CHC has the knowledge to properly care for these horses. (Or give them a humane ending if it comes to that.) But it taps resources that could go to horses possibly more viable and certainly more capable of finding homes. This is my biggest reservation when bringing horses in, because resource management is critical. Copper Horse Crusade has the best group of people to help horses in need though and these two are in a precarious position. It is our responsibility to bring about the change we wish to see in the world (Gandhi.)
As CHC steps in for these horses, I hope everyone in the horse world will consider how to help unwanted or at risk horses. This is a problem that is literally in our backyards. We need to do better by them.