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Horse Rescues. Answering common questions and concerns.
DISCLAIMER-this article (and possible series of articles) was written by me, and includes some opinions that are found to be very controversial on this forum as well as in the rest of the equine world. It is not written to down anyone, call any person a liar, or necessarily even change your mind. It is simply the opinion of a girl who has worked in very close contact with rescues, and her experiences/stories and thoughts. If you like to step on toes, or your toes are stepped on easily, do not read any further. I absolutely do not mind a good discussion with opposing opinions, but do not want to deal with any type of snarkiness, sarcasm, name calling, specific rescue pointing (i.e; saying ____ ____ rescue is a crappy rescue. DONT EVER ADOPT FROM THERE for blahblahblah reasons!) or otherwise rude behavior. Thank you!)
HORSE RESCUES - Control Freaks?
Many, many members of the equine society tend to shy away from horse rescues because of the inherent 'shadow' that they take on by agreeing to foster or adopt an animal. As adult humans they feel that there is no reason whatsoever for them to be constantly flocked upon by the rescue as though by a vulture, because they believe that they can provide the best possible care to the animal and that the 'flocking' is unnecessary. This is true in many cases. I have met large quantities of equestrians who take wonderful care of their rescues that would never dream of neglecting, abusing, or otherwise causing distress to their animal. They may also believe that because they have 'bought' the animal, they should now have complete control to do whatever it is that they please with the animal, because it is theirs. Again, in many cases this is a real factor that must be considered by the potential adopter, and one that puts off many people from following through with their plans to adopt, but I would like to give you just a little bit of insight on why MANY rescues feel the need to set these somewhat ridiculous standards by sharing my experience. Please note that I am not saying that there are not shammy rescues out there, I have encountered multiple immoral rescues myself. I am simply giving one of many reasons that a rescue might feel justified in setting these standards.
One. Rescues are very low funded. This is something that just about everyone realizes, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that there are tens of thousands of horses needing 'rescued' by these facilities and there are few that they can actually make a difference for. Maybe one in every few hundred will actually make it to someone who can really rehabilitate. This being said, you might be able to picture why rescues would worry so much about making a difference for the ones that they can reach out and help, and why they want them to go only to owners who are willing to be in it for the long haul. It isn't that they're just being stingy or haven't been in tough situations where they've had to give things up unexpectedly, they merely want to do the best by the animals that come into their hands- as I'm sure many of you can relate to. It reminds me a bit of a story that I was told as a child.
As a young boy walked along the beach at dawn, he noticed an elderly man picking up starfish and tossing them into the sea. Catching up with the man, the little boy asked, “Why are you tossing the starfish back into the sea?” The kind, gray-haired man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun.
The little boy replied, “But the beach goes on for miles and there are thousands of starfish. How can you alone make a difference?” The man looked at the starfish in his gentle hand, then tossed it safely into the waves. He smiled at the young boy and said,
“I made a difference to that one.”
Also keep in mind the fact that almost all REAL rescues that are concerned about their animals will be able to work out some sort of deal with you if you get into a spot where the horse just isn't getting along well with you, or if you run into a sticky personal situation. Very few will refuse to take the animal back. They won't PAY you to take it back of course, because after all they were the ones who rehabilitated it and adopted it out to you. That means that you took legal responsibility for its care, and they do not owe you anything. It would be like bringing a refurbished 1962 Model T from a dealer, driving it around and putting the miles on it (and yes, you may have updated it even a little more) but then taking it back to the dealer and wanting them to give you the same price or more to take it off of your hands when you get into a position where You feel the need to sell it.
Many others will also work with you to rehome the animal to an approved home, if you still want to profit from the animal that you adopted. Again. It is not that they are trying to put stipulation on you to suffocate you and just get in your way, but rather it is to work as 'insurance' for the animal who has been adopted into your care as well as insurance on the investment that THEY made on the animal to get it into adoptable condition. Or rather not so much as investment since they rarely make money off of the animal, but the premium. Do remember that they're not only putting MONEY into these animals, but their emotions, their care, and often times training as well.
A very real example is a little filly that I am currently rehabilitating for a local OTTB rescue. They only take specific cases, not just any OTTB that comes off of the raceway, but rather the ones who are is deplorable conditions or who have little chance of being adopted. Many may dissagree with them, because a great number of horsemen believe that if a horse will not be a working member of the equine society they have no purpose in living, and that money should be spent on the ones who DO have great potential. However, the money is coming from the rescue and their donors, and these people have the right to do what with the money what they please. If they want to invest in a 'lost cause' it does not change anything for you, but it just might change something for that one horse that would never have been given another glance without them. Horses like little Kenzie, our fostered filly.
Kenzie is a 14 month old unregistered Thoroughbred filly. She stands about 12.1 hh at the butt and is a pitiful sight. She is currently at least 150 lbs. underweight, and has contorted, twisted legs from lack of nutrition and exercise. She came to us with a tight weanling halter on, thrush in all four feet, a swollen shoulder and swollen hocks, urine and feces matted into her fur and hair, and a load full of worms. What is worse? She was diagnosed just before Christmas with EHV, a deadly horse virus for even the healthiest horse in its prime. She spentfive days on the ground, lying, unable to rise to her feet without a sling and three people to hoist her up. Unable to eat more than a mouthful at a time. Unable to raise her head without effort. Unable to stay up for more than a few minutes.
This is the kind of horse that people just give up on without a thought. The kind of horse that would have just died quietly, with no humans around her to comfort her, laying in her own urine and drowning in her own mucus, just another neglected horse in thousands. This is the kind of horse that no one would remember. Unless someone intervened.
Miraculously, someone did intervene. The veterinarians believe that she probably had less than 6 hours to live when she was found on the ground, struggling to stay standing because she knew if she fell, she wouldn’t get up. She was rushed to the holding facility as potential fosters were quickly called and begged to take in the scrawny animal, and when one was finally found, she was quickly sent to one. To us.
The night after she arrived on our farm, she collapsed. She had looked like a bad neglect case from first sight when we brought her in, but when she fell to the stall floor, with a dead look in her eyes, we realized just how bad of a situation she was in. We realized we were fighting for her lives.
Her fever shot up, mucus rattled in her lunges and throat, and pus poured from her eyes. Most people would have put her down once they realized that she could not stand alone. But we felt like she wasn't just any horse. She was a horse that wanted to live, despite her troubles. So we gave her a chance.
After round-the-clock care for a good 6 hours, getting her up to walk with a sling every 2 hours, feeding tiny bits of mushed up pellets at a time, the vet visiting once, sometimes twice a day- little Kenzie miraculously survived. About two and a half weeks later, she is still here after a fight for her life with Equine Herpes Virus and starvation- and she is beginning to thrive. She's still deathly thin, she's still wormy. Her legs still quiver at times and they're bent in strange shapes unnatural to horses. She has a hard time trotting more than a few steps and she requires special care, but she is mending. And as she mends, I am discovering a BEAUTIFUL animal underneath. Perhaps not physically, but mentally. This filly loves to live. From dumping her food bowl just because she can to trying to help me 'clean' her stall, to jigging excitedly when its times to go for a walk, this filly has pushed through it all. She still has thrush. She still limps. She may never be a riding horse even in her best state. But she's alive! And she has not only touched my life and the life of those caring for her, but the lives of those who are hearing her story. Think of what we could have missed out on by putting her down.
That story is shocking enough, but it’s only the beginning. You see, Kenzie wasn't just ANY little yearling pulled out of a bad situation. No, she was an orphaned yearling who was a former resident of this SAME RESCUE. Kenzie had been at this rescue not even a year before, a slightly small, vibrant little filly ready to take on the world. Her conformation was beautiful, her spirits were high, and she was a great prospect for just about anything. She was adopted out to a seemingly wonderful family that understood the troubles that she’d had as a suckling and who were willing to let her take her time growing, then train her as a horse for their young children to trail ride and possibly lightly show. Their farm appeared to be fairly nice, and they told the rescue that they had raised multiple horses and knew what they were doing. They seemed to. They seemed very excited to get her, and came with bright pink halter and lead rope ready, with the kids giggling and squealing over their new horse.
In the rescue’s contract was the right of the rescue to come check on the horse at any time within the first year of owning it, as well as the right to seize it if there was evidence of abuse, neglect, or other mistreatment. The new owners lived fairly far away and the rescue did not come out to see the Kenzie for the first few months, but on a whim decided to trek out to check on her in December of last year. What they found was appalling. A manure and urine covered skeleton of a foal, with dead eyes and absolutely no grass, hay, or water in sight of her. Just a dirt paddock, filled with manure and mud. She was alone, and had apparently been left to die.
That was when Kenzie came to us. And the saddest part is that if the rescue had NOT come to see the little filly that day, she would have, without any doubt, died within the next day or so. Remember that this was a family that sounded ‘so great’ for her, the one that the rescue had tried so hard to match her with. We have now spent over $5,500 combined to get Kenzie back on her feet…literally. We will likely spend much more than that when its all said and done. She will probably require special care for the rest of her life now because she has been severely stunted and her bones seem to have formed incorrectly. She may never be the riding horse that she would have made, and she may never be adopted. Her entire life has been completely destroyed by irresponsible humans who played the roles of horse lovers.
My point in that story is that rescues really DO have a reason for their inherent madness. They aren’t trying to be unreasonable or cruel, they just realize that life deals hard blows and that SOMEONE has to care about what happens to these animals.
Yes, some rescues go overboard with stipulations. Some may not have enough. But please, please don’t let that deter you from considering adopting a horse. Most rescues are very willing to work with approved homes as far as details go, and they really just want what is best for the horse, and they don’t want all of the work that they’ve done to be for naught. Call one up and ask to talk to them. Do your research. Fostering and adopting is not for everyone, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in.
My next ‘article’ will be on adoptability of horses, and just what goes in to rehabilitating an animal. Thank you!
You did very well with that article! The only thing I would add, would be that if anyone sees animals being starved etc, they need to report it to the local animal control or to a local rescue to see if anyone can help.
Also, you may add that many rescues need volunteers if a person has the time to help.
I am at once deeply moved by humans that care so much and disgusted with ones that are so uncaring and cruel. Thank you for helping her, it takes special people to take care of the poor horses who end up in the worst situations and condition through no fault of their own.
Seems the purpose of the article was to justify strings attached rescues. Yet the only point you made was of poor funding. Something that has zero to do with strings attached contracts. If anything the opposite is the case. Most serious horse owners that actually know what they are doing want absolutely nothing to do with any of these rescues. I dont care how good they think they are doing. If anything these contracts are simply attracting the do gooder bleading hearts that are clueless and shouldnt have a horse to begin with.
So Endiku, why was so much donor's money spent on ONE horse when it would have been better served to euth her and save 5 more in less physical trauma?
That's one of the main problems I have with rescues, even legitimate ones; they throw good money after bad trying to save ONE horse.
Rescues need to be fiscally responsible, and so many of them simply aren't. You have to know when to say 'enough', and stop trying to save every hard luck case. To me, spending that kind of money on one animal when you rely on donations for everything is piss poor management, and I don't donate to people who don't know how to spread the wealth properly.
The article was well written, however it didn't nearly have enough information to justify the insane regulations imposed by a lot of rescues. I very much understand that they never want to see a horse in a poor situation again, however, their stipulations are not proportionate. Years ago, when I was searching for my first horse, I looked into rescuing one. It was the most frustrating and disheartening experience I've had while in the horse business.
I won't go into details, however, there were several rescues (think something in the area of 5 or more) that I looked into. I never would have been the owner of the horse at most of them. Not even after a year (or five, in the case of one rescue) of probation.
I wanted an Arabian, but most rescues would not hand over papers (if they bothered to get them with the animal in the first place) because they didn't want you to breed the mares. They withheld the gelding's too, which is silly. I didn't really know what route I wanted to take in horses and there was the possibility that I wanted to get into showing. I would have needed the papers for AHA shows, which I wouldn't be able to get from a rescue.
By withholding the papers, they greatly reduced the market for a lot of their horses. Not just the Arabs, but the QH's and such.
And there is more, however, that list is a mile long. I would have loved to help a horse, but the people need to understand and accept that they aren't the only people that CAN help a horse and let them go. Poor communication, rediculous asking prices for the horses, no freedom to do what you would like with them and more are all issues I've found while dealing with rescues.
They shoot themselves in the foot a lot of the time. So, instead of taking one of their horses, I went and bought one. Someone was going to get my money, you'd think that the rescues would want to be the one....
The poor guy finally passed. He should have been allowed peace a long time ago.
I see the main problem in who runs rescues. Not always very competent people. There are many good rescues out there, im sure, but I've seen as many who have no business doing it.
I tried to adopt when we first got here. I couldn't. I had no referenced....of course not, we lived overseas for more than 20 years. So I rescued, kinda, myself. Did it before, rescued, rehabbed and rehomed. Never saw a dime.
Would I get a rescue? Depends.....im on an Arab forum where folks post CL ads and these horses are being placed within days, sometimes hours. People chip in with bail out and transportation, temporarily foster, go check out the horse for who's interested. Amazing.
What I have a problem with if the horse to be adopted has papers and the rescue doesn't hand them over to the adopter if it's a mare. I think once I pay the fee, which is more often than not higher than the market price for a comparable horse, I have a right to the papers.
Checking out my place before, and coming for visits after I don't have a problem with, I did the same when I placed my rescues. I had a protection contract, right of first refusal, right to come visit. Worked just fine. But seeing some rescues who, for example, don't place a horse because the potential adopter doesn't have a certain level of Parelli education....come on......
As for spending tons of money on one horse...again, depends.....doing 3 colic surgeries on a 27 year old is one thing, but trying all possible on a baby, like the case mentioned here, yes. It was worth it.
In an ideal world, a rescue would be run by an accomplished horseman/woman, with a business degree and exceptional people skills.
sorry to be harsh but I agree with Speed Racer. This little filly, as lovely as she is has not got a future. They spent $5500 on keeping her alive for what? a life where she will likely never be able to do anything, be useful or have a permanant home, A life with probable long term pain, Due to her severe stunting deforming her joints they will likely become artheritic at a young age, she will be lucky to live to 8yrs old. She can barely trot and if she is that deformed she is unlikely to ever stay sound long term. So her long term prognosis is poor.
Why not use that $5500 to rescue 5 other horses that will cost less to rehab and are more lilkely to be adopted.
It annoys me in this country that Rescues are full to bursting with horses that can never be ridden, have major long term health issues etc and yet perfectly ridable horses who's owners have fallen on hard times are having to PTS quality animals because shelters havnt got space to take them in.
It's the same thing here in the U.S. Faye, and it makes me crazy.
Rescues like to post pictures of the sickly ones to pull at everyone's heart strings and purses, but people who don't expect accountability aren't the brightest bulbs in the lamp. If they'd actually save the ones who have a chance at a good life instead of wasting money on the ones whose long term prognoses are poor, maybe I'd actually donate.
Rehabilitation is great as long as the animals have a chance at a NORMAL life. If they don't, it's best to put them out of their misery. Knowing which ones to save and which ones to let go are important, and I hold rescues to those standards. If they can't or won't, then I hope they lose their licenses and go out of business since they refuse to believe that rescue is as much a business as any other, and cutting your losses is part of that. Especially since they're relying on other peoples' money to fund their operation.
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