One of our Horse Journal readers, a woman who has become a pen-pal friend of mine over the years, had been horse hunting. She recently lost two horses. One was 26, but the other became irreversibly ill at age 10, making euthanasia the only humane option. It was heart-wrenching.
When she wrote, she was becoming discouraged about horse shopping. Finding a suitable horse was difficult, and she was tiring rapidly of wild-goose-chase trips.
“I have been casually horse hunting,” she said. “Goodness gracious. I had no idea. My minimum requirements are decent ground manners and soundness. Apparently that’s a lot to ask. Even when I ask for it, people don’t understand the standards I have. They say “yes, yes.” So far I’ve been kicked, run over, seen lameness, etc. I haven’t ridden anyone yet . . .
“It wasn’t this hard before! Part of it is my standards have gone up. But I think partly people are less-educated. Horses have become more accessible, and people aren’t starting their riding in a structured stable environment. So they have no comparison. No role models. There’s a lot more information available these days (let’s hear it for RFD, Horse Journal, the Internet, etc). But if you don’t know you don’t know, you don’t seek knowledge. And although you can learn a lot from watching TV/DVDs, and from reading, you really need a lesson environment with immediate feedback to help set good habits.”
She’s absolutely right. One horse-hunting trip for me several years ago ended in the Emergency Room of our local hospital, and indeed, the horse was owned by nice but uneducated owners. They said the horse had been trained by professionals. I later learned they could only afford 30 days of training, but the “professional” said that was fine. The owners truly didn’t know any better.
Like my friend, next time, if I can’t find a suitable horse through my own friends and trainers, I’ll look at the rescue groups. Legitimate non-profit facilities are generally run by educated, knowledgeable people, which is huge when it comes to trying new horses.
Be careful, though. There are a lot of folks out there claiming to be running a rescue who aren’t genuine. If you take the time to seek out the valid farms (the ones with legal non-profit status), you’ll likely find a more reliable assessment of the horse’s suitability. But it may take time. And you will have to meet the rescue group’s qualifications for adopting one of their horses. (We’ll talk about qualifications in an upcoming Horse Journal article, but I want to be sure that everyone realizes most groups charge for the horses they place. The better the horse, the higher the adoption fee. This helps keep the groups afloat financially, as the fees help pay for feed and care.)
I’m a huge fan of A Home For Every Horse, the Internet-based rescue organization at www.equine.com, which is owned and run by our parent company, the AIM Equine Network. I love clicking on that “Rescue Horses” tab. Here at Horse Journal, we periodically pick a horse to highlight on our web pages, hoping to help broadcast the availability of some lovely horses.
As it turned out, although the rescue groups weren’t a fit for my friend, she did finally find a wonderful horse, who is shown in the photos I’ve included.
“I have a new horse. He’s an 18-year-old five-gaited Saddlebred, a former show horse. He’s quite tall, very regal, and rather skinny. I think I may have managed to get a horse who doesn’t have any emotional or physical issues. A novel concept. He’s been very obedient, very calm, and very willing so far. I’m just thrilled,” she wrote.
I’m thrilled for her, too. More than that, I’m delighted for the horse. He doesn’t realize it, but he’s gotten himself a home for life with an educated, caring owner who will see to his every need and love him. It’s what every horse deserves.