We, at Hope for Horses, are working towards getting away from that name. Although most of us are, “dumping grounds,” for unwanted, displaced, at risk horses, most of us want these horses to have another chance of having value and becoming another person’s partner and companion.
I like to think of our place as a facility where horses and other equids, (we have mules too), can find safety, comfort, a chance to recover, and find a new life with a new human. Most horses that come to us are really nice horses just from unfortunate circumstances. We have a really nice thoroughbred mare we took in from someone who saved her from neglect. Her previous owner didn’t know anything about horses- didn’t feed her well, didn’t take care of her feet, or provide vet care. The person we got her from had her teeth done, had her vaccinated and wormed, and fed her more food, as that was all she needed. She contacted us because she could not afford to keep her and asked us to take her. The mare has some very good training, and now she is in our riding program to find her a home. Dressage seems to be her “thing.” She is now fat and ready to find her new home.
Let’s think about before there were so many rescues, before it got so expensive to board and keep horses. Most barns and trainers had one or two inexpensive horses for sale for the everyday equestrian just looking for a nice horse to ride around, trail ride, and enjoy. These folks were not interested in competing- just riding. There are not a lot of places for these people to look for a horse anymore. It’s hard to find facilities were camaraderie, sharing a love of horses, learning good riding skills, and simply enjoying riding are the end goal.
You used to be able to go to your local sale barn and try a bunch of different horses, or you went to a local auction, watched some horses being ridden and found a horse. I know this still happens, I do know of several “horse traders,” and I do know of several smaller auction yards that try to do their best to get horses to people. There are many reputable people helping others get some nice horses. I do completely understand that these are the places were the “kill buyers” go, and it is awful to know that many horses end up going that route- but many do get homes. We have several here from these auction yards, and their owners love them, ride them, and these horses are safe.
When I wanted a horse, I would go to the racetrack, ask around about horses available, and would come out with a really nice thoroughbred that I could go on with in the discipline I wanted. These are horses exposed to all kinds of stimulus, loud crowds cheering, loud noises, they are ridden all around the barn areas, they do lots of walking, lots of trotting, and cantering. Okay, so they don’t know how to steer well, and they have no idea about what legs mean, but basically they are ridden daily and are handled a lot. I didn’t rehabilitate them, or rescue them or re-train them. Now many horses off of the track end up at rescues, they just need a chance; they need to be trained like any other horse in the discipline they were acquired for.
What we rescues have to change is how people perceive horses from rescues. Many big name trainers warn their clients to stay away from rescued horses because you don’t know their history. Well, I can tell you quite a few stories of horses I know that came from some big name trainers, and because they didn’t have the talent to become competitive, were treated badly and the owners dumped them. These are really nice average horses for your average rider. If we can get these trainers to help the owner find a good match with someone just wanting a nice horse, we could home a lot more horses. Good horses can be found everywhere.
The other end of this is people wanting to continue with that, “This poor horse,” mentality. That is what gets in the way. Once you take a horse from a bad situation, or adopt one out of a rescue, STOP TREATING THEM LIKE AN UNDERDOG! Help that horse grow in value. Treat the horse well, teach it manners, and train it with fairness. Take responsibility for the horse’s behavior. Age has no bearing when working with horses; they can continually learn new things; they are very adaptable. Otherwise they would never survive as a species.
When horses come here, we assess them in ground work, saddling, and when they are ready, being ridden. We try to help them become “Good Equine Citizens,” stand for the farrier, pick up all four feet, stand for the vet, behave while groomed, saddled, and mounted. Yes, it takes time and we have to know how to teach and train these horses, but as humans, we are continual learners too. So let’s learn how to teach and train.
We hold clinics quite often on simple ground work to help the person become the leader that their horse needs. We teach how to be safe around their horse and other horses. We offer clinics for basic under saddle work, again teaching the rider how to be a good leader for their horse. We host clinics with many other clinicians in Horsemanship, Centered Riding, Dressage, and Basic Riding. I know that there are trainers and instructors out there very willing to help people with their horses- we just need to look and ask.
The bigger picture, there are several competitions being promoted by big organizations: The Unwanted Horse Coalition offers a Comeback Challenge in Colorado; we are trying to get them to promote one out here. The Retired Racehorse Project has an America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred competition in Kentucky every year. Wouldn’t it be great to have one here?
So when you are out looking for a horse, contact your local rescue. This is probably what you will get: a horse that has been checked out by the veterinarian, vaccinated, wormed, had its feet done. You will be told everything that is known about the horse. You can go and visit many times, and maybe even ride them. Rescues don’t want these horses to end up back at the rescue, so they want you and your new equine to be an appropriate match. The adoption fee is probably a lot less than buying from a sale barn or auction, and most rescues have a return clause that if for any reason, it does not work out, the horse goes back to the rescue, and then help is given to find a more appropriate horse. You will get checked out, you will probably have a contract allowing the rescue to visit you, and they may stay in touch, but that should be okay. You will be doing a great thing.
Happy Horse Hunting! We hope to see you at Hope for Horses, or hear that your new horse came from one of our fellow Rescues.