Look at that face. Those eyes. Have you ever seen a more beautiful creature? You’ve waited for what seems like forever for this very horse – you just know it. And she’s FREE!
You can’t wait to get her home to your one-acre pasture with no shelter, no fresh water source, no tack, unsafe fencing, no veterinarian and no farrier. You’ll figure all that out later because this is the perfect horse. Just look at her! And she’s FREE!
I’m going to tell you she’s 8 years old (the perfect horse age). We bought her for my daughter when she was 6, so you know she’s gentle and broke enough for a kid. We’d keep her ourselves, but our daughter is going off to college, and we want her to go where she’ll be used. (Stay with me here.)
I’m going to tell you she has no health issues, even though she has fat pockets bulging from her neck, shoulders and at the base of her tail. Little stinker just loves to eat! Awwww!
If you ask about those rings around her front feet, I’m going to tell you not to worry about it; she just had a little reaction to medication. They’ll go away.
Nope, no special instructions. No special diet. Nothing out of the ordinary. She’s a Plug-n-Play mare you can just jump on and go!
What I won’t tell you
I’m not going to tell you the horse is closer to 20 than she is to 8. You should’ve brought a calculator. When I said my daughter was 6 and now 12 years later she’s going off to college… You should’ve recognized 6+12 does not equal 8; but… LOOK AT THOSE EYES!
I’m not going to tell you that I really have no idea how old she is because I “rescued” her from a kill pen, where she landed when someone dumped her after a lifetime of companionship and service. You’ll figure out why when you get her home and the drugs wear off.
I’m not going to tell you all those fat pockets are indicative of incurable equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), which leads to debilitating laminitis and founder. I’m not going to tell you that all those rings around her front feet are telltale signs of past lameness, not a reaction to medication.
I’m not going to tell you that a horse with EMS requires a special, strict diet and often requires expensive supplements. Grazing on lush pasture – even when it’s only one acre – can be deadly for this horse; but you’ll figure that out on your own. (The good news is, that one-acre plot of lush pasture will soon be a dry lot, which you’ll need to protect the horse from high-sugar grasses.)
I’m certainly not going to tell you that when the horse goes lame with laminitis, she sometimes requires 12 hours a day of back-breaking, hands-on care; which means you’ll have to take off work; which means you’ll have an even harder time paying the veterinarian and farrier you’re going to need.
I figure you can’t even afford to purchase a horse or you wouldn’t be looking for a free one; and if you can’t afford to purchase a horse, you sure can’t afford this horse’s care. So I’m not going to worry your pretty little head with the truth. After all, if I were honest about this horse’s condition, there’s no way on earth you’d take her off my hands – no matter how free she is. And that’s really my goal here.
Congratulations! You have a “good home”!
You convince me you’re the “good home” for this amazing creature you’ve waited for what seems like a lifetime to own – though I never ask about your property, your ability to pay veterinary bills, your experience level, or what it is that makes you so good.
Oh, it’s love? Well, she’s easy to love. But love is just one (albeit important) aspect of a good home. If love was enough, there would be no such thing as kill buyers or horse slaughter.
A good home would have a minimum three-sided shelter to protect the horse from the elements. A good home would have safe fencing the horse will respect and not get tangled up and injured. A good home has the tools and ability to catch and tie the horse so it can be groomed, hoof picked and examined daily. But most of all – and this is the cruelest reality – a good home has the financial ability to pay for whatever medical care and treatment the horse will need throughout its life.
She’s all yours!
Once you get your dream horse home and you spend all day taking selfies and video of her gobbling up your one acre of grass (“Awwww, she’s so hungry!”), you’re baffled when she’s suddenly unable to move. She’s so tender on her front feet, she does everything she can to avoid lifting them off the ground. What the heck?!?
You frantically call me for guidance, but I’m no longer the helpful, compassionate seller, full of promises and kindness. You’re the good home. She’s your problem now.
You give her a bucket of sweet feed because food seems to make her feel better; but she just keeps getting worse. You have no idea you’re poisoning your new horse with sugars and starches that wreak havoc on an EMS horse’s feet. That’s right – feet. How could you know?
Now she’s down, so you finally break down and call a vet. You almost choke when you learn it’s going to cost $75 for a “farm fee” – before the vet ever lays hands on your horse; and because you’re not an established patient, it’s gonna be a few days before she can make it out.
They’ll probably have to run blood tests – cha-ching! They’ll have to give injections - cha-ching; and take x-rays – cha-ching; and prescribe an anti-inflammatory – cha-ching! No, they won’t take an IOU. No, they won’t take a post-dated check. No, they won’t take payments. You’re looking at a minimum of $300, and you pay at the time of service or they don’t come.
And guess what? If they’re able to relieve your mare’s pain, they’ll have to come back for at least one follow-up – cha-ching!
It doesn’t take long for you to realize you’ve been duped. Yeah, yeah – I’m a big, fat liar. Yes, I should’ve told you about the horse’s condition. Yes, it’s not fair and you deserve better. After all, you were kind enough to offer your good home.
What are you gonna do? Call the Better Business Bureau? Go ahead, but you’re still stuck. You’re at the same crossroads that greets tens of thousands of American horse owners every year. You’re already out 300 bucks you didn’t have, and the future looks even more expensive with this dream horse of yours.
What are you prepared to do? Here’s where you get to choose what kind of horse owner (and human being) you are.
Some owners owners buck up and figure it out. They forego eating out every day, cancel costly subscriptions, get another job, explore do-it-yourself remedies – anything to keep the horse they committed to provide a good home healthy and sound.
Other owners may humanely euthanize their lame horse, though this horse can live a healthy, pain-free, productive life with the right owner, and it’s not her fault you’re not it.
Other owners will surrender their horse to a sanctuary that’s prepared to provide the care the horse needs and deserves. If anyone has room.
Still others will polish her up, drug her, and pass her on to the next schmuck eagerly searching for a beautiful dream horse.
But – like the owners who dumped your dream horse on a kill pen for slaughter – the owners of nearly 85,000 American horses every year elect to squeeze the final few hundred bucks out of their faithful companions and sell them for meat. Maybe the kill buyer can get someone to rescue her again. maybe not. Either way, he’s gonna make his money, and she’s going to suffer in agony.
Horses exactly like this one, the one you couldn’t live without last week, go from Soul Horse to financial burden to horse meat – because of humans, not because of the horse. All your mare did was eat the grass you gave her, as horses will often do.
Do you still want her?
The horse pictured in this blog is Anastasia, a registered Missouri Fox Trotter with ravaged feet that generous donors saved from slaughter and sent to us in March 2019.
We could have cleaned her up, filed and polished her feet, drugged her and turned a tidy profit within a couple of weeks. Her beauty, breed and size have attracted a dozen serious adoption inquiries. Instead, we’ve spent countless thousands of dollars diagnosing, rehabilitating, treating and developing a life plan for her so that one day we’ll be able to tell an adopter – honestly – exactly what she needs to live a healthy life. We refuse to lie about or sugar coat her condition, because the last thing Ani needs or deserves is to be some other human’s disappointment. We won’t allow her to be failed again.
Not to sound judge-y
Too-eager buyers and dishonest sellers are a lethal combination for horses like Ani. I know how critical that sounds; but I can only share this story with such authority because I’ve made some of these mistakes, and I’ve been victimized by lying liars in search of eager dupes to take horses off their hands. It’s because I’m so imperfect that I sound like Little Miss Perfect. I’m not perfect; I’m a work in progress.
The things I didn’t do? And will never do? I will never euthanize a horse that can be rehabilitated out of convenience for myself. I will never exploit a horse for profit by discarding it in the slaughter pipeline. I will never lie about a horse to get rid of it. And I will do my dead-level best to never send a horse to a home that isn’t ready for it.
Now that you’ve read this article, you and your conscience understand what the choices mean (if you didn’t already). If more people knew the truth about the rigors of horse ownership, we’d have fewer unwanted and discarded horses. We would end horse slaughter.
You can help
Providing the kind of care and education we provide is costly, but it’s what these horses deserve. Swingin’ D has plenty of ways horse lovers can help us save and provide sanctuary to even more horses like Anastasia. One great way to help is to foster a horse that’s awaiting adoption. Every foster that helps us care for a horse makes it possible for us to take in another discarded soul.
If you’re unable to foster a horse, consider some of the other ways you can support our mission of saving unwanted horses.
Anastasia will be available for adoption to the right home once we land on a plan of care that keeps her comfortable and sound for a reliable period of time.
Our vet believes that once she’s settled and in remission, she’ll be able to pleasure ride with the best of them! Once we get her there, we’ll find the adopter who has the financial wherewithal and experience to provide the monitoring and care she’ll need for the rest of her life. If you believe that home is you, let us know.