Saturday, May 10, 2014

Obligations to Horses

To those that have read my blog before, I don't usually venture into my opinions.  I am a scientist.  I enjoy facts and reasons.

However, I am opinionated and would love to hear input from others as well.

What obligation do programs, camps, groups, therapy programs, and lesson barns have to their horses?

I can be a bit of a softie.  I do occasionally look at the lists on Facebook for the horses in the sales barns.  I try and network horses in need of homes and am occasionally successful.
But I have heard a variety of opinions on the matter.  

1. Programs exist to make money.  If an asset (horse) no longer makes money, it needs to be discarded and a new asset acquired.

2.  Programs need to do all they can to keep horses in the life of equine luxury.  If not, then they should not have an equine program.

3.  These are working equines.  Efforts should be to keep in them in good condition, but above and beyond treatment shouldn't be expected like chiropractic work, specialized diagnostics, and so forth.

I like programs.  I grew up not owning a horse and there was no way I would have.  I obviously did get attached to the equines I was involved with and doted upon them.  

Here is my opinion:

Horses are working horses.  They should be made comfortable enough to do their jobs with proper shoes if necessary, and good tack.  Proper veterinary care including dental work.  When they can no longer do their jobs, sincere effort should be to place them in an appropriate home.  With the advent of digital media, it is often easier and cheaper than ever to place and rehome older lesson horses.  Keep a directory of individuals wanting to adopt horses and utilize this.

Use avenues to reduce expenses in the program (especially non profits) with half leases, virtual adoptions, and so forth.   This would be an avenue to cultivate relationships with potential adopters for when the horses need to leave a program.

Stop trying to wring every last cent out of horses in a program.  Don't jump a horse until he is so stiff, he can hardly move and then expect to sell him for a thousand dollars.  It would be better to find the right home for the horse than to hold out waiting for that supposed price tag.

Investment in basic fitting tack and veterinary care can reduce turnover of horses in a program and the subsequent problems.  People like having the same horses.  They like seeing Fluffy and Dobbin happy.  

Don't be naive and think that an old washed up horse is going to magically find a home through a broker or auction.  Use available resources to find he or she a home.

If a horse is unsuitable in the first place, then don't prolong the issue.  If it isn't healthy, then perhaps do the brave thing and do what presumably the previous owners couldn't: euthanize it or find it a secure retirement home.  If temperment doesn't pass, then find a situation where it may work.  Networking is pretty easy in this time and doesn't cost much besides time.

So now that I've been on your soap box, what do you think?  Where is your position on lesson horses, camp horses, trail ride horses, therapy horses, and any other working equine that earns his keep?


  1. Couldn't agree more. We run a rescue here in Virginia ( and have felt that questioning the long term care of these horses was difficult as they often fulfill an important social function. But just as we question the equine ethics of the "bad" guys we do need to have a re4asonable expectation that the "good" guys behave well towards their working horses. Have just found your blog and have a question (big one!) which you might find easier to reply to off line - We are in the middle of a major surrender from a former breeder become hoarder (Sparky Project on FB) some 40+ Appaloosas. We have taken three (possibly one more to come) two just gelded stallions and a mare. They are semi-feral unhandled except for some human contact and have very nice behaviors on the whole. Do you have any advice on the early handling of these horses and the training regime you would recommend. Thank you. Tom and Jorg Mayfield


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