This story was recently penned by long time horse owner, riding instructor and current HOP volunteer and rates more than a casual listen. We asked to share portions of this very personal story shared on her timeline, and she was happy to grant permission:
‘”Don’t rehome your senior horse.”
The words, and variations on them, routinely pop up in social media posts and memes, and they make me cringe.
A year ago, I dropped my gelding off with a well-recommended, seemingly-sane-and-lovely, “forever” retirement home. I sent with him his tack box and two bags of grain.
I never thought I would be someone who could rehome an animal, especially a horse, especially THAT horse. But a perfect storm of mental illness and financial woes left me unable to care for and cope with my own needs, let alone those of my horses.
My second gelding was a Heart of Phoenix rescue horse. Adopted three years prior, he came with the promise of a guaranteed soft landing, should anything happen. And land soft he did, fostered and subsequently adopted by a lovely trainer on a beautiful farm.
Magnum, my personal horse of ten years, had no such safety net.
So I put out the call on social media: retirement home needed asap for sweet old gelding, sound only for light riding. People shared. They tagged horsey friends. They made suggestions. And a few commented how they would never, ever, ever expect someone else to take on their senior horse, to whom they owed a happily ever after.
“Neither would I!” I wanted to scream. “Never, ever!” But I would also never, ever fall homeless and sleep at the office for two weeks, or break down crying and unable to function at work, or consider choosing to leave the world, and in the past few months, I had done all of those things. It’s funny how quickly “never, ever” rolls around when you are ill.
On my autumn site visit to my now rehomed gelding, a winter not yet weathered, everything looked OK. Not perfect. Not exactly what I myself would provide him if I could. But safe. He’d be safe, I told myself.
Six months later, I did something not everyone does when they send their senior horse to happily-ever-after: I followed up. What I found was a skinny, rough-coated, dull-eyed rack of bones who had never been given the first day’s ration of the grain I sent with him.
I’m so very lucky I had friends at Heart of Phoenix. I sent them the photos, and within 24 hours, my gelding was safe.
My boy, ten years my partner and the horse of my heart, should never have needed a spot in rescue in the first place.
Six months after his rescue, my senior horse is fat and happy and forever mine. I will never, ever part with this sweet face – but because I know now that sometimes “never, ever” comes, I will also have a plan in place for him. Whether that plan is a home already promised him or a kind and pain-free end, I will not allow him to again end up neglected. That is an “ever” that MUST never come.
Do what you must. But make a plan now for never, ever.”
We are so thankful for this poignant story of real events that hopefully impact those reading enough to make them pause and think of the odds a disadvantaged horses has if YOU, his owner, cannot provide for him, anymore. Does this apply to an 18 year old perfectly healthy, trained horse that has many years to offer as a sound. fit riding buddy? Not usually. But it goes apply to the old horse who is not especially sound, has heaves, is blind, has cancer or any number of aliments. It also applies to a horse of any age with soundness, vision or health or behavioral issues. Horses without ANY problems and without advanced age STRUGGLE to find homes these days, so think long and hard before you place a disadvantaged horse. I cannot tell you how many times we've gotten a call from someone who went on and gave away their horse we recommended they consider giving a humane end to only to find the horse suffered unspeakably in their finals days, weeks or months. Not every bad placement has a happy ending like the one above. Most never will.
Pictured is Snow, another old horse discarded at Auction saved by HOP many years ago.