I sit down to go through emails from Petfinder tonight, and think of how this website has been a Godsend when it comes to sensible placements for horses over the years. But then, I open this email:
"really interested in this baby..shes gorgeous and would be perfect for my little girl to grow up with! we have other animals cattle and miniature horse. How much is her fee? and when would she be ready?"
Honestly, even after all this time working in animal advocacy, I cannot help but be worried at such an inquiry.
I know the rescue isn’t going to offer a new foal to this home. Yet, I know this home is one that, in an age of so much information, has not yet realized foals and young horses are not a good choice for little children as equine partners. “How can this be,” I wonder? Next, I fear this home, despite what response I formulate, is likely to stay on the quest to find a “little baby horse” for their child, and they are likely going to end up with a girl injured or an equine eventually turned into an unsuitable partner for anyone. I mean, it happens so often, I cannot track all of the emails and calls I get about just these issues. Nevermind, one just has to look over social media and sales ads to see, it is the biggest crisis facing horses: Mishandling.
This might be where 1 – 3% of readers pause and recall a time they or someone they knew had a foal without any real experience, and they tell me they feel all turned out great. The fact is, whether it turned out awesome is something hard to determine as sometimes horses have natures that are so kind, the harsh reality of mishandling isn’t made known enough to a novice; other times, you need a true horseman to watch and note whether the horse really is “okay” or just not killing anyone quite yet. I would mention that just because we grew up as infants never in carseats, playing with lead based paints and riding standing up in the back of pick ups on main roads at 60 miles an hour says nothing as to whether these things are actually sane or safe, either.
I lived through all of the dangerous things above, and I am sure someone will chime in having raised a foal when they were only 4 years old without any previous horse knowledge with claims of success, but I will simply say that while I lived through many a dangerous thing:
When you Know better, you SHOULD do better
Horses are smart, sensitive animals. They will take advantage if they are allowed. They will be the boss when allowed. They can crush your skull in 1 million bits and pieces if mishandled. Our human kids deserve better. Horses should have better, too.
Let us be clear, even if handled well, there is an element of danger.
If you are looking for an equine partner for your child and you’re not an experienced horsemen, make sure you and your family are engaged in lessons first and foremost. Take a lot of time and only add an equine when your trainer or instructor feels you’re ready. Do not risk damage to the human and horse by doing otherwise.
Listen to the sense and sensibility of equine experts when you purchase or adopt a horse. Horses live for decades, costs many thousands of dollars each year and only stay as “well trained” as your knowledge base will let them, usually.
Select a horse based on the training level and rider compatibility. Please do not get a beginner rider harmed in an effort to “raise a baby” yourself, to get the right color or to avoid an old horse because a senior makes you concerned.