If you’ve seen the movie Wild Horse, Wild Ride then you have seen my horse Zero. He’s a beauty. 15.2h liver chestnut gelding. When I started my “adult job” out of grad school, I was making about 60% of my expected income and had all kinds of debt from being a student so long. I had to make a very difficult choice, but I simply could not afford to give 2 horses the care they needed. I decided to sell Zero.
I auditioned people, and ended up choosing a lady who was the County Extension Agent for her local community. She also ran the 4H and some kind of girl scout program. When I googled her, it was clear that she had done all kinds of great things. I thought she was perfect. So with many many tears, I gave up Zero in the hopes that he would have a better life with all the attention he deserved. It was July.
That fall, she took him to a show and let her 10 year old show him in halter. The photos she sent me were awesome. I felt like a proud parent.
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Then something unusual happened, she called me and told me that he had started bucking. I talked her through some potential issues (saddle fit, feet issues etc) and told her to look there first. I emailed her to see how it was going a few weeks later. No response. I was sick.
While all this was going on, I was dating a man who would later become my husband. He encouraged me to call her in the spring and find out how he was doing. I also had held onto the title so I was going to reluctantly sign him over if all was well. So I called her and the conversation was something like ”…well I don’t know if he would pass an inspection. He’s a little thin, and the farrier really needs to come out.” There’s a good thing that we were on the phone, for had she told me that in person I probably would have punched her. My response was if he can’t pass inspection, then he needs to be returned… NOW!
So two days later (it was June), we were in the car driving 8 hours to Kentucky to pick him up. I was worried about affording him, but Casey paid for the gas and took him on as “his horse”, meaning that he would pay his bills. I was ELATED. Casey and I were engaged at this point but not married. I comment here that I had to pause in writing this narrative to cry, because it was the most wonderful thing that he could have done.
When she handed him over, it was all I could to keep from screaming at her. He was 200 lbs under-weight, it looked like she hadn’t done his feet a single time since he left my care. I was worried that his feet would not recover. The thrush was so aggressive and grown down an inch into his hoof.
It was also clear that she was ashamed of his breeding because she had trained his mane to cover his brand. The mane is always supposed to fall on the right side (the brand was on the left), so this was done to cover the fact that he was a BLM horse.
When we got home, we unloaded him and put him in the arena to check him for soundness. He immediately started trotting around me in a collected trot… just beautiful… “see mom, please don’t make me leave again.. I’ll be good I promise!” It had to hurt like hell, but it was his way of telling me that he wanted to stay here and do his job. I cried my eyes out.
Well after a few months, Zero is completely recovered. I give him foot supplements to make sure his feet grow in strong and he gets only the best quality hay and feed. I took him to a fun show and we took second in a large Western Versatility class. It was our first show outside of the mustang makeover we had done 2 years prior. The judge told me we would have won, but I didn’t follow directions at one point. I was bursting with pride. Zero was amazing.
I recently started a horse training and lesson business. Zero is the lesson horse. He loves the attention and is doing an amazing job. Zero will have a place in our home until the day he dies, which hopefully is after a long full and wonderful life. I will continue to work with other horses. A horse that is trained is much more likely to have a good life than one that is not. The Mustang Heritage Foundation calls this “adding value.” So I will continue to work with mustangs and other horses in need.
There are many thousands of horses that are in trouble and need training and care. As long as horses are being bred faster than the demand, this problem will continue to grow. Many of these horses end up being bought at auction and are slaughtered for their meat which is a delicacy in many parts of the world. I wrote this story to make you aware. This practice needs to stop. We need to convince our leadership that this is a priority so that these animals can get the resources and love they need and deserve.
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