It’s a topic that has come up too much recently, so today’s thoughts are on our responsibilities as adopters.
Let’s face it, we live in a disposable society. Be it relationships or tangible objects, the days of fixing what’s broken are long gone. Attention spans are shorter. How many people will even read this blog post to the end? We are programmed for instant gratification. I could keep going, but let’s look at this from the perspective of horse adoption.
Rescues are full, with so many horses waiting in the wings. It’s easy to go to a rescue and find a horse for $500 (often less and sometimes more). Adoption fees don’t typically cover the cost to get that horse up-to-date on medical, dental and hoof care, let alone carrying costs and then training! If you’re adopting a horse, you need to appreciate and understand this. And this also means, you should have realistic expectations for the training that horse may have received. Sure, it’s possible to find some well-broke horses for a cheap adoption fee, but they usually come with other health issues or special maintenance requirements. Many horses that you’ll find at rescues have been started, but the odds of being able to adopt a sound, sane and completely push-button horse for a pittance is simply unrealistic.
What does this mean?
1. If you’re interested in adoption, be prepared! Involve your trainer in selecting the horse. Know where the horse is at and determine how much additional training will be required to get the horse to a point where he’ll suit your needs. There is a time factor AND a financial factor. Proper training takes time. 30 days likely won’t create a push-button show pony for your kid.
2. Make sure your trainer supports and is familiar with the breed you choose. I say this, especially from personal experience. Our beloved Standardbreds are often misunderstood. If you want a Standardbred (why wouldn’t you), select a trainer with experience with the breed or, at least, an open mind who’s willing to learn about them.
3. Be completely honest about your abilities and goals on your adoption application! That helps the rescue match you up properly and sets everyone up for long-term success!
4. Have patience. Setbacks happen. Your horse may take longer than anticipated to learn what he’s being taught. Or, maybe he’ll have a medical incident that delays the timeline. They’re living animals, it happens.
5. Have patience. So many times, these horses have been through frequent changes of ownership. They may have traveled to several locations in a short time period. They may have come from a traumatic situation, like an auction house. Or, they may have come from a very loving and doting owner. In all these instances, their lives are in upheaval and they need time to settle and learn their new routines and expectations. Some are more sensitive to these changes than others. I have had horses that take almost 2 years before they finally settle in and connect.
6. Be understanding. Again, these are sentient beings. They all have their own personalities, quirks, opinions, emotions, etc. No one horse can fairly be judged against another.
7. If at all possible, don’t simply return them or discard them without a fair shake. I know that may be easier said than done. Many people have to pay board and can only have one horse. I think in that situation, giving up happens faster. But, please, reread 1-5.
If, after reading this, you find yourself in disagreement, I would kindly suggest you consider saving up your money for a tad longer and buying that $5000 horse that has extensive training and show experience for your kid to start showing in 4-H next month. You get what you pay for. And, you either need to pay that up front, or you pay over time with hard work, dedication and professional training. Any way you slice it, it’s not fair to the rescues to constantly have to take the horse back in when he doesn’t meet immediate expectations. And, it certainly isn’t fair to the horse to be bounced around.