Saturday, March 6, 2010

When horses need homes

The economy has taken a terrible toll on pets and their families. As people lose their jobs and their homes, the pets often end up in shelters or abandoned.

I have several groups in my email address book. One is set up as “horse friends,” and another is “clients,” for my pet sitting clients. It seems like all I send out any more is notices about an animal that needs a home. My clients and friends have responded generously, adopting dogs, cats, horses, and even a pot-bellied pig, while passing the word on to their friends and coworkers. I worry that I will wear out my welcome because I send out all these sad stories. After volunteering for years for dog rescue groups, I know how hard it is to find homes for homeless pets, even purebreds.

A horse is an even tougher sell. You have to pay for boarding or live where you can keep one at your home. They are more expensive than dogs to care for. I figure I spend $75 per month per horse for hay, plus $50 every 8 weeks for hoof trimming. It costs $135 for Ari, who gets a full set of shoes every eight weeks. Plus, they need vaccinations twice a year. My horses don’t need grain or special supplements. That would add even more to the monthly total. No wonder people give them up. So horses need a home that can handle the work and the expense.

Horses are usually considered livestock rather than pets, and a horse that isn’t rideable is often sold so the owner can get a new, sound animal. Sell a horse too cheap or give it away, and a precious mount might end up in a slaughterhouse.

Thoroughbreds– who are retired young due to injuries or because they aren’t winners–flood the market. The Bureau of Land Management culls wild herds by offering their mustangs for adoption. Besides the sound, healthy, young horses being sold, thousands of untrained, retired or unsound horses are looking for a home every day. It breaks my heart.

So here I sit, receiving email after email offering a nice horse free, or almost free, to a good home.

Last week my heart melted when I read about a woman who had just taken in four thoroughbreds she’d bought at an auction to save them from slaughter. Now she needed to place some of the other 25 rescued horses she was holding at her farm. One of these horses was “an elderly Icelandic mare.” I rushed out to see her.

“Lucy” had been with Gunilla Pratt for three years, serving up pony rides and parades to her daughters and their friends. The girls have grown, and are now showing full size horses, and it was time for little Lucy to move on to a permanent home. It didn’t take much to convince me she needed to come to my house.

Star and Ari (also Icelandic horses) are so bonded that when I take Ari out, Star throws a three-hour tantrum. It’s gotten to a point I don’t even want to go riding, especially if there are visiting dogs at the house. Star’s uproar gets all the dogs barking and I can’t let the commotion bother the neighbors. Maybe Lucy will be good company for Star while I am riding.

Lucy arrived on Sunday of this week, and I christened her “Honey Bee” for her rich golden color–she is a beautiful dark palomino. She also resembles a pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top!

After lots of showing off by the boys, Honey has settled into the herd (see photo at left of her with Star). I know nothing about her background. I am guessing she was imported from Iceland. Gunilla thinks she is about 20-25 years old.

My friend Saskia, who gives lessons, did a test ride in the arena, then we went out for a short ride on the trail with Honey and Ari. (I am on Ari, shown below)I had no idea if she would be too hot to handle, or a perfect lady. She appears to be perfect. I look forward to sharing her with lots of children. 

I love her.

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© 2010 Terry Albert
Photos © Les Walker, Sycamore Canyon Photographic Arts
(858) 231-3699 • (858) 231-4123 
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Marilyn Wolf, BS, CPDT-KA said...

My daughter works trying to find homes for retired racehorses with Mid-Atlantic CANTER. I know how tough it can be.

~Kim~ said...

CONGRATS on your new addition, and opening your heart and home to Honey!! I hope you have many, many happy times together!!