While browsing through my Facebook feed, from time to time I come across a post that reads something along the lines of…
“I’m devastated to be writing this, but my much loved horse is looking for a new family. Sadly is no longer able to be ridden, but would make an ideal companion. Change in circumstances means I can no longer keep him. Free to good home.”
So this ‘much loved’ horse has done the job you wanted him for, but now, whether through medical reasons or old age, can no longer be ridden. And so rather than taking responsibility for this animal at every stage in its life, including when he leaves this world, you’re going to give him away into the care of a third party and an unknown future.
I ask you a hard question: Is this really in the best interests of your horse, or are you simply passing on your problem to someone else?
Now I know lives can change in a heartbeat, and I accept that while you may have hoped to be in a position to provide your wonderful horse with a long and happy retirement, you may find it’s not possible.
But in reality, the majority of cases like this are where an owner CAN still afford to keep a horse – but only ONE horse. So when the current horse is no longer able to work, they want to replace him with another that they can ride.
I personally don’t have a problem with that. If you are in this situation, to me your options are:
A: you find the money to continue to provide the retired horse with the basic care that is required to ensure their ongoing welfare, and get a new horse you can ride, whether that is a new purchase or on loan;
B: you accept that you can only afford one horse and so continue to care for your retired horse and enjoy occasional rides on other people’s horses when they come up (you may be surprised how many people will be grateful for help keeping their horse(s) exercised, particularly during the winter);
C: (and I know this will be unpalatable to some), you have the horse you can no longer ride humanely euthanised and you get a new one you can ride.
What, in my humble opinion, you should NOT do is pass your retired horse on to a third party, who may or may not have their best interests at heart.
We’ve all heard the stories of horses that are unfit for work being taken on by individuals promising that they will have a long and happy retirement, only for the horse to be filled with bute and sold on to an unwitting buyer, or being stuck in a sale ring to make a quick buck a matter of days after being collected from their former loving homes. Do you want to run the risk of finding out that has happened to your horse?
If you are genuinely in the position where you can no longer afford to keep the horse, then I would still ask whether giving the horse away, into the care of a third party and an unknown future, is really a responsible thing to do?
Whether a horse is age five or 25, there are worse things than being humanely dispatched from this earth in surroundings that the horse knows and with the people who have provided him with many lovely experiences in the past. Yes it’s incredibly hard for the owner to make that decision, but surely that is better than the alternative described above?
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And for everyone who is saying, ‘but surely there is a charity somewhere that would take the horse’, I’m afraid you are deluding yourselves. The charity centres are fit to bursting with real welfare cases. They do NOT have space to take on any horses that do not fit that description.
It’s really hard when you find yourself in this position. I know, I’ve been there, more than once. Only you can decide what’s best for you, and your horse. Personally, I’ve chosen A, B and C at different times in different circumstances. But every time I’ve found peace with the decision I made because every time I’ve put the horse first, and that includes the time I chose option C.
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