We see the posts all of the time:
“Can’t keep, but find good home for my blind horse”
“Can’t ride anymore, want to find a good home for my navicular horse”
“Broodmare her whole life, not broke, 28, good home only, can’t care for now”
The headlines vary, as do the reasons, but the story is really the same. You are not able to keep your horse that isn’t especially rehomeable, anymore. The horse has a condition which makes him disadvantaged, usually effects his quality of life and makes his placement into a long term safe place essentially impossible.
Sometimes owners die, sometimes owners lose their jobs, become very ill or simply just get tired of dealing with the upkeep of this “special needs” horse. This doesn’t mean the sound older horse, the horse with a minor issue or the like. I am speaking of horses that have special medical needs, special diets and are generally unrideable.
There are exceptions to everything in the world, but what I know after years in equine rescue is that disadvantaged horses have no consistent chance at safe, long term placement. Occasionally, you may luck into something. That is a rare exception. I know that sanctuaries are bursting at the seams. I know that rescues should focus on horses that have a viable chance at adoption (else they become defunct). There are no free retirement pastures and hands waiting to spoil your horse.
Please be aware that anyone jumping at the chance to bring in a blind, lame or retired horse will rarely have the finances or knowledge to care for the horse. Sometimes they mean well, sometimes not. Makes no difference.
Almost all of these horses who are disadvantaged, when given away or placed for a small fee, end up going into homes that neglect them or cause them to meet an unkind death through slaughter or starvation.
While we hate to be this candid, as it puts people who mean well on the defensive every single time, our reason for existing is to improve equine welfare, not give owners who aren’t doing the best thing for their horses an uplifting speech.
If you have a horse who is disadvantaged through lameness, chronic illness, advanced age and/or blindness, you should not pass him off to someone else down the road. He is YOUR responsibility. He should never have to face hunger, fear or abuse because you couldn’t make the responsible choice. He has served you. Do not look the other way and shirk what you signed up for when you became a horse owner.
So when you cannot care for your special needs horse, do not place him on Facebook for free or cheap, simply make the call to your vet, spoil him, give him love and let him cross the rainbow bridge never knowing a bad day, never knowing hunger or a brutal end slaughtered. Let him peacefully pass and know you did the right thing by him.
If you are sure there is a chance of placement,
Then require these 4 things, and do not consider placement without them:
1. Vet reference with name and number (call and verify the vet knows the buyer and feels good about the care they give to their large and small animals
2. Farrier reference with name and number (call and ask about the quality of care, whether they buy and sell / flip / trade horses)
3. Photos of their fence, current horses and facility
4. If possible, deliver him yourself and check the facility to be sure quality of care is high.
You will learn when you ask for these things, months will pass and no one will be interested, but at least then you will know we’ve given you the cold, hard facts of responsible equine placement and ownership.
I wish it were different. But if even you, as the owner who was served by your equine companion, will not offer a retirement home, how could you expect someone else to do it, either?
We would be sorely remiss if we didn’t make an effort to educate the public on this matter, but the truth is many well meaning people simply do not realize what we’ve said here is true. We hope in this case, knowledge can be power, and that is will save some horses from neglect and slaughter.