Anyone who follows Swingin’ D Horse Rescue knows I have a hard time letting our horses go. If you saw the transformative care and love our horses receive, you’d understand why. You’d also understand why if you felt the pain and confusion that comes from learning beloved horses you believed with all your heart had gone to the Happiest Possible Ever After, were now hundreds of pounds thinner and in need of intensive attention and care.
We’re reeling from shock and disappointment, and scrambling to find space and resources to provide the long-term care these horses are going to need. And it only took a few months.
Horses so often come to us in abhorrent shape – so starved, they don’t trust they’ll ever be fed; so abused, they believe all humans are there to harm them; so betrayed, they can’t even think about trusting anyone. At first, when we took in sick, terrified horses, I feared for their future prospects. I wondered if we could do it. Now I’ve seen so many – each worse than the last – I just have faith they’ll be okay.
By the time our horses leave us to live their Happily Ever After with their adopters, they’re different horses. They’re social, respectful, playful, and most of all, useful. You can’t imagine the work and expense it takes to get them there.
How do we now convince these three horses that have been betrayed yet again that they can count on us? Again. This time. No, really.
When you’ve been betrayed by just about every human that’s ever handled you, why would you believe your life could ever be any different? Especially if you’ve heard that story before.
Take Harry, for instance. An old, used-up ranch horse, Harry came to us with a body score of 1 to 2 after bouncing around auctions, kill pens and hubs for months. He was defeated, without spirit, and ready to die.
By the time Harry left us, after months of rehabilitation and love, he’d gained hundreds of pounds and a pep in his step that many would have thought was gone for good. Now, he’s a first horse for a responsible young rider who picked up loving Harry where we left off.
Not every adopter is honest about their skills and abilities. I don’t mean honest from a lying standpoint, but from a fearless self inventory standpoint. They’re so focused on having a horse, they totally disregard the warnings we spout about horse ownership.
That’s why I have such a hard time letting go.
“If every horse owner was required to foster a horse for six months before being allowed to buy a horse, there would be far fewer horse owners, and far fewer unwanted horses in America.” Tami Marler, MBA
America doesn’t have a problem with kill buyers and slaughter houses. That’s not why tens of thousands of our horses go to foreign slaughter each year. America has an unwanted horse problem that begins with inexperienced people having too much money on their hands, and lifelong dreams of having a horse.
Don’t get me wrong. I once had too much money and a lifelong dream of having a horse, and I knew almost nothing about horses. The difference between me and those who get their dream horse, then starve, destroy or dump it, is that I understand horses are intelligent, loyal, family-oriented, sentient beings capable of learning, achieving goals and being faithful companions. I understand that a horse’s shortcomings are my responsibility – not his – and that I can’t just give up on a horse like I would an old shoe or totaled car. You learn and do whatever it takes to care for it.
That’s one of the reasons Swingin’ D Horse Rescue offers our Foster a Horse program. Not only does it give fosters a chance to support our mission of saving doomed horses and giving them better lives, it also gives those who are thinking about buying a horse the chance to experience the responsibility of owning a horse before making a commitment that will change their and the horse’s lives.
Fosters get to handle everything from daily care, to routine hoof, dental and veterinary care, to vaccines, to the whole gamut of responsibilities. They get to experience the joy of sheath cleaning, hoof picking, mucking and nursing boo-boos. They also get to see what it’s like when the horse they love gets sick or runs into a fence and requires emergency veterinary care.
When you own a horse, you’re stuck with it for the long run – through expensive recovery and rehabilitation. When you foster a horse, you get to give it back if the expense or responsibility gets to be too much.
If you think you have what it takes to foster a horse, and you’d like to help us make a dent in the unwanted horse crisis in America, please check out our foster agreement. If you’d like to give fostering a try, fill it out and send it to us here.