Abused and Neglected Horses - What Can We Do?
Who should take on a horse these days?
From my earliest memories, I've always loved horses. I've had horses (or access to them) most of my life and it's hard for me to imagine life without them. My "joy level" would be greatly affected ("minimized") if it weren't for the horses I've been blessed by and entrusted with. If I'm a bit stressed w/ the demands of life, whether "I hit the trails" or pay a visit to my girlfriends covered arena and focus on the dressage discipline, that's often all it takes for me to feel refreshed. They are beautiful, spirited, noble and honest creatures, each w/ unique personalities and dispositions. Like people, some are friendlier and more interactive (w/their humans) than others. Like people, life circumstances help mold and shape them into who they are.
So when I hear on the news about how someone has neglected these glorious creatures, not meeting their basic needs for food and access to clean water, it just breaks my heart. There are equine rescue operations here that I'm aware of and praise God for these people and their efforts, as well as those who support them. I know there usually is a lot of 'red tape' these animal lovers encounter in their efforts to remove neglected and starving horses from their unhealthy environment. All horses in an emaciated condition are in need of vet consultation and care - much pricier than if they had been cared for properly to begin with.
My question is why does this happen? Is there any legitimate excuse? If with gas prices, hay prices and everything going up, if someone has fallen on hard times, perhaps I would feel some mercy and compassion. The news doesn't always adequately portray a story in it's entirety. How difficult it would be for one to be faced with, "do I spend money on food and electricity so my family can eat, or do I buy hay?" I just hope that if anyone ever finds themselves in this situation, they will not be too proud to contact someone who can help. We need one another and together, we can make a difference.
Horses do require a substantial amount of time and money = they are a lot of work! However, I know some people out there who spend more money per month on a dog than it takes to support a horse! No doubt, owning a horse is a greater commitment than owning a cat.... A lot of little girls out there dream of having a horse - I once was counted among them. (No discrimination against males here, but the ratio of "horse-crazy girls" to "horse-crazy boys" is quite disproportionate!). There are some grown women who are now in a position in life where they can make that childhood dream a reality. My admonishment to anyone who is inexperienced when it comes to horses, make sure horses are truly something you are passionate about and not just something that's going to be a 'been there, done that' type of experience. (*NOTE * To Parents of young girls - in today's society, if you have a daughter who has an interest in horses, I would NOT discourage it. There are so many other unhealthy things they could be focusing their energy on!). Horses can provide exhilarating fun - yet they are not like an ATV or a dirt bike - they are living creatures who are dependent on others to provide for their needs. Once the commitment is made, it must be kept unless one is willing to find it another really good home - regardless if the animal can be sold or it needs to be given away. That's difficult for me personally because like our dog and cat, I consider them to be a part of the family. Anyway, finding a good home may take some time and until that is accomplished, honor that commitment to care for what you have dominion over.
A couple of suggestions for determining whether or not horses are a temporary, fleeting interest:
1). For girls and young women who may not have the finances or property to afford a horse, find a FRIENDLY (sometimes horse people can be snobby - just a heads up if not already aware) reputable barn w/an instructor who provides riding lessons. These can be expensive ($40 - $60), but it's possible to find barns where in exchange for a lesson a week, a portion of one day a week can be spent working in the barn; cleaning stalls, feeding and maybe even grooming. This is a really good way to be introduced to and learn some basic horsemanship skills, as well as lessons in hard work and responsibility. If a girls looks forward to going to the barn, whether it's to ride or work, it's obvious the individual has been bitten by the "horse lover" bug.
2). If you are (or have been) a career person who has reached a financial position in life where you want to see that unfulfilled childhood dream become a reality, I suggest something similar to what's stated above. Take some lessons once a week for a couple months to determine if the interest merit's buying a horse of your own. If after a couple of months of one lesson a week, it's decided you need more time around horses, it would make sense to get one (or more) of your own.
3) Be aware if you are not boarding a horse someplace where other horses are present but you have the land to keep your own on, you will most likely want at least two. It costs us about $100 per month, per horse, having them on our 4 + acre property versus having to pay board at a facility (which includes two daily feedings) for anywhere from $355 - $425/mo, per horse. When you factor in farrier services (shoes/hoof care), vaccinations and worming on top of that, one needs a good income! Horses are herd animals and will likely be unhappy without a buddy so hopefully you'll have family or friends who also share your interest, or you'll have the time for two. If you are the only one and have the property but have a limited amount of time, perhaps you can afford to feed another, and for your beloved equine, would be willing to take on a "pasture ornament" (another horse, mule, donkey, pony). I personally hate to see beautiful, healthy and sound horses as pasture ornaments....I think, 'what a waste!' There are a lot of "unsound" horses around however - which are completely unrideable or have limitations - typically brought about through injuries or negligent care.
Organizations who rescue and start rehabilitation of neglected or abused animals could be supported through finances, volunteering of ones time and connecting w/ those who are willing to provide a foster home. Permanent homes for these animals is the goal. A really nice horse can usually be adopted for between $300 and $800.
We see and hear about the needs often enough when it comes to dogs and cats. Comparatively, how often do we hear about the horses? Aren't they as important?
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Hope For Horses works exclusively with horses that have been neglected, abused, or abandoned by their owners.