Baby Horses. Nothing cuter, right?
I have to admit, I lack the infatuation with foals that many people who love horses seem to carry.
As the founder of an equine rescue, I have simply witnessed too much. Too much bad year after year. Wait, though. I do not want to give you folks a “whoa is me tale,” though. The fact is, I chose to do rescue work, after all. I believe it is valuable beyond measure. That said, I recognize because of this effort that too many horses are being brought into the world with sub-par breeding and unskilled handling from birth. Far too many. I realize the true cost of raising a foal till he is under saddle. I also know everyone feels they are the exception.
We’ve received belligerent horses that were produced casually over and over again.
Heart of Phoenix collectively has spent years giving time, sweat, tears and sometimes blood paired with donors dollars repairing the damage done by the “I just wanted a baby horse” folks. Often well intended folks, but the road to Hell (as it were) is paved with good intentions, isn’t it?
I have sat in the bleachers at auction too many times during auctions and watched the young yearlings, two and three years old barely (if even) halter broke sell for $10 and $20 each. . .or worse. . .no sale meaning instead of having a long ride to Mexico, they get to go home and starve or be tied out to some unsuspecting person’s trailer and abandoned there at the stock yard.
These young, unstarted horses have no real value, and they help feed the slaughter market.
With limited funding, most rescues cannot even afford to concentrate on these types of horses, either. A rescue will have $5,000 in each of these horses before they are rehabbed, trained and ready to be adopted into the average adopter’s home. That is not sustainable in any rescue. The money and time isn’t there, and further, while a rescue holds 25 of those horses for 2-3 years, others that just need food because, while they have the training they needed, they are starving tied up to a post in someone’s backyard.
From a buyer’s standpoint, when a person can purchase a started, lovely horse for under $2,000 all day long, why would anyone buy one for $200 on craiglist? From a breeders standpoint, and More importantly, WHY on earth would we endeavor to breed a mare unproven in any manner to a stallion of no particular merit, creating the problem to begin with?
A person’s actions when they breed have consequences. Free will goes so far, and unless that foal will be trained, started and live his life out with the breeder, they are impacting a nationwide industry with what seems to be a personal choice. It isn’t only a personal decision now. Too many goodhearted donors and rescues are cleaning up the messes being made.
The cost to raise a foal, then properly start and finish a young horse is significantly higher than the cost to purchase a started horse. The skill set needed is also far greater.
There are many horses already out there for sale beyond the scope of what the average person can produce with their mare, and yet, over and over again, it happens. There are exceptional animals able to do anything we would like to do already alive and waiting for a home.
If we (as the equine world) are not sure we can create an animal superior to what is out there, what we are breeding for, anyway?
Breeding has little discrimination, anymore.
Foals with parents who have inferior conformation, aptitude and skill set are being born year after year. Born to people who do not even have a desire to learn what quality means. Folks who haven’t bothered to learn how to handle, train and produce amazing equine partners. Foals with dams and sires that will never change the face of their breed (if either are even registered or of determinable parentage). These are Foals destined to end up in the cycle of poorly educated horse owners or on the back of a semi headed to Mexico.
Forgive me if I’ve seen it too often to be anything less than harsh.
So I will ask we pause before we breed a mare, and do the same before we opt to not geld a stallion.
The United States has over 100,000 horses heading over the borders yearly. Yet, we have far more in the backyards of unqualified owners without the skill set or income to give decent care. These horses suffer for years and pass from person to person learning nothing of value, and eventually, they die from neglect or head over to Mexico / Canada.
The single most important bit of education to pass on as an ethical rescue or horse owner is that WE must start to talk about how many horses the horse community is producing each year.
If each of us decide to have this conversation frequently each year, we may see significant change in a very short period of time. Right now, breeding just to produce a foal for no real reason is received with “Congrats,” “How Lovely” and “Can I come over and pet the baby” replies on facebook. Instead, if you have a mare or a recently gelded colt, let’s change the conversation. Let us talk about how we’ve opted to stay out of the horse breeding business unless we are really making the breed better. Let us explain why. Let us see those posts receive the “congrats” that are in order.