I realize threads digress and with the topic it is easy to do, but this is about the Kill Pen horses, and how the kill pens operate. How the horses are treated there, the diseases they encounter. Why it is so difficult, and expensive, to rescue any of them. Why so many horse go to kill pens, and if there is a way to intervene before they arrive.
Most of the kill pens or I should say Kill Buyer's Pens, are pretty much no frills. Depending on size of pen and how many horses are in there, they may have 1 or more big round bale in for everyone to eat off of. There's no separating out low horses who get run off, they just get thin. Most of them don't feed grain to your average KP horse.
Some, like one of Joe Simon's operation down the street from me, are pretty clean and have lots of room for the horses to move around and graze. For Joe, it's a business. He can't sell sick, skinny or lame horses for any kind of money, so it's in his best interest to fatten them up and get them healthy. He flips more horses than he ships these days.
That doesn't mean any horse I pick up from there doesn't go immediately into a 60 day (minimum) quarantine. They do. Of the 2 quarantine horses I picked up, the one from Joe's looked the best and sounded good and in 3 days was the sickest.
The 2nd came from the 7th level of hell, a SE OK KP that was a pig pen. Actually, the pigs might have revolted. The place was a pit. They used a pic from heck I don't know, 1942, to market that mare. She was stunning and looked like she just stepped out of the pages of Arabian Horse World. In.the.ad. When I got down there, I wasn't sure she was going to make it home with me. She was a barely a 1 on the scale, there wasn't a bone I couldn't see easily and she was SICK. Slinging snot, coughing, running a fever. I called her new owner and asked if she even wanted me to pick the mare up. She did, so I loaded her up and called my vet from 4 hrs away and told her, "I don't know if she's going to still be alive once we hit home but if she is, I'm gonna need you ASAP.". God bless that woman, she was in my front yard when we pulled up. We got a good heavy blanket on the mare, vitals done and antibiotics administered along with some Banamine for fever.
She responded well to treatment, ended up having ulcers, so we treated for those too. Dewormed her a couple of times to get her worm load under control and threw hay and concentrated feed and vitamins at her 24/7 for 120 days before she was deemed well enough to ship on to her final destination. The first guy got better enough to go home, though he was being treated for some kind of crud for 3 or 4 months AFTER he spend 60 days with me. Her vet bills on these 2...........ay yi yi! #1 was halter broke and easy to handle, plus just a super calm natured fellow. #2 was feral. I got her halter broke and lead line broke and got her doing some ground work. Got the farrier out just before she left for home and got her fronts done. I could pick up her hinds very briefly but she wasn't having any part of the farrier picking those up. Got her loading and unloading from the trailer, sanely and got her over all to relax from a 10 on the "OMIGOD OMIGOD" scale to about 6-7 most of the time. She's the one the gal had to give away. At the end of her stay she had gone from 2 hours of walking her down (as skinny and sick as she was) to about 5 mins or less FOR ME. Anyone else.......well.
I think I've answered your "Why is it so difficult and expensive to rescue them?" in the above paragraphs. The get shuffled around, no protection from other horses if they are low on the pole, barely enough food to keep body and soul together and in many cases not even that. A lot of the guys who run those KPs are SCUM and that's being generous. The horses are exposed to other horses from all over the country, so they have no immune defenses built up to things that are common in another area and never seen here. Strangles is pretty much endemic and they care nothing for quarantine. Most of the time they don't have the basic paperwork, no Coggins, no Vaccine history, no idea if they've ever been dewormed and most are super in need of remedial farrier work. So, not only do you have to basically start over on the basic care things, then you have to treat whatever illness(es) they're carrying, you need a place that will do a STRICT quarantine (NOT the bro in law of the KP guy who will "QT" them for 30 days for $350. That kind of QT keeps them on the lot with other KP horses, still swappin' snot and spit. You need an USDA certified QT facility or one that isn't certified but knows how to do it by the book and does it. That kind of facility is not cheap, there's a HUGE amount of physical work and paper work involved in a REAL QT.), count on having to deworm them in small doses several times before the vet gives you the ok to do a full dose, then there's the teeth. They almost always need their teeth done on top of all the other vet work they're needing. They're pretty much treated like Widgets, nothing personal, strictly business. And frequently no good business either.
How can we intervene? Try to reach out to people who are liquidating their herds. Try to get them to let someone help market those horses before they get dropped off at auction. Go out and take some pics of their herd so they can show what they're trying to sell. Help them get the horses' paperwork in order and up to date. Foster from a clean herd, if you can. Offer to halter break and teach to lead, if you're capable to do it without getting hurt. Help round them up and loaded when the day comes that they're going to their new home(s). Sometimes these kind of horses have not been on a trailer since before they were weaned and they need special loading. Above all don't be judgmental. Frequently these owners are just in over their heads. Keep an eye open for herds near you where the owner is getting elderly and might be ready to let go of some horses, if they think they can get good homes.
Stay away from those emotional hostage taker's sites. Those horses are frequently there for a very good reason. And it won't be disclosed, I promise.