My husband, Danny, and I had the perfect little horse family. Danny had Bo – a powerful, intelligent paint; and I had Aubrey – a plump, sassy quarter horse and typical mare. Our hands and hearts were full.
The last thing on earth I needed or wanted was another horse, but when a horse that looked just like my Aubrey popped up in my newsfeed with sirens 🚨🚨🚨🚨 and pleas 🙏🙏🙏 and all kinds of evil little emojis 💥💥💥❌❌❌ threatening to end his life by day’s end, I had to act.
I mean, come on, Jake was gonna die if I didn’t fork over hundreds of dollars for his “bail.”
I didn’t want him. I didn’t need him. But within hours, I suddenly owned Jake. He was such a calm, easy-going, intelligent and hearty horse, I figured rescuing horses from kill pens must be a breeze, so I filed the paperwork to become a 501(c)3, and so began Swingin’ D Horse Rescue.
Dozens of horses have Jake to thank for their very lives.
As Jake was my first rescue, his adopter was also my first adopter – a precocious teenager who assured me (often) she was a veritable equine prodigy who would happily teach me anything and everything I ever needed to know about horses.
Thankfully, even though it was my first adoption, I had the foresight to require a contract; because I wound up needing it.
As bare bones as the contract was, it gave me the right to revoke the adoption if the adopter failed to provide adequate care. She did (fail); so we did (revoke).
The adopter’s failure to maintain Jake’s feet caused him debilitating pain in the dead of summer.
We found him down in the pasture, dehydrated and in too much pain to get to water.
Maybe I should’ve been more compassionate and understanding of the adopter and her feelings and allowed Jake to lay around in pain a few more weeks. Instead, I reminded her of her contract, and her duty to keep Jake healthy and comfortable.
All she had to do was agree to do better, which deeply offended her and forced us into a court battle (which – even with a chintzy contract – we won).
We didn’t want Jake. We certainly didn’t need him. We wanted him to live Happily Ever After.
After Jake’s first disappointing adoption experience, we were thrilled when a family with five young girls applied to adopt Jake and two of our other horses (The Ghosts). They offered a beautiful home in a neighborhood boarding facility where they assured us they’d spend every day with the lucky boys. We handed over a feeding plan, veterinary and farrier contact information and offered support whenever and however we could provide it.
When you run a horse rescue, and you check in on your horses and they look like this (below), it’s your duty to ask questions. When the adopters didn’t answer my text inquiring about the horses, I’m sure I assumed the worst. I’m sure I wasn’t as compassionate and understanding of the humans as I could have been. But when you’ve seen as many starved and neglected horses as I’ve seen, and you’ve heard all manner of excuses for humans failing horses, I’d made up my mind that there was no excuse for all three of our former residents looking so poor. (Even Everest, our little Fatty McFatterson easy keeper was in poor body condition.)
When I didn’t hear back, I reminded the adopters of their commitment to Swingin’ D’s standards of care vis-à-vis the contract. I reminded them the rescue had a right and a duty to revoke the adoption if we were dissatisfied with the horses’ condition.
All the adopters had to do was agree to do better. We offered to help. We would have paid for whatever the horses needed to get back into good condition.
We didn’t want or need these horses. In fact, we had to make room for them once the owners announced they no longer wanted them. We wanted them to live their Happily Ever After with a house full of squealing little girls.
Within 60 days, Jake went from looking like a bag of bones covered in a dull coat, to the amazing creature in the photo above. All it took was commitment to proper care, which our contracts require.
Jake deserves a final adoption. He deserves a human who understands and accepts the commitment required to provide for another living being: Someone who gets that horses can’t trim their own feet; feed themselves or find water on a dry lot; medicate themselves to fend off parasites; or call the vet when they’re sick.
You know how, when you marry someone and they get on your nerves, but you can’t just walk away because you made a vow to love, honor and cherish them in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, for long as you both shall live and yada yada? Sometimes you don’t want or need that spouse. In fact, sometimes you may feel like your life would be so much easier without him. During those times, the vow may be the only thing that keeps you hanging on.
Our adoption contracts are like that vow. Having a horse is not always easy; and when it’s not, it’s the commitment that keeps you going. Responsible owners buck up and figure it out. They don’t abandon their horse when the going gets tough; or if they do decide it’s too much, they do the responsible thing and surrender the horse to a reputable rescue – before it loses hundreds of pounds.
How do you think these horses feel when, suddenly, the human they’re accustomed to hanging out with no longer shows up with carrots and kisses? You think the Ghosts and Jake didn’t miss those squealing little girls running picks through their hair, braiding their tails and showering them with love? I can assure you, they did miss them; and every time a human abandons them, they lose a little bit of hope and their ability to trust. I swear you can see their skepticism in their eyes.
No, we didn’t want Jake – or any of these horses for that matter. No rescuer sits around pining for her next unwanted horse. But we welcome them with open arms when the humans they’ve grown to know, love and trust decide it’s not working out. Even if we have to do it again and again and again.