Don’t Give Away Your Senior Horse

ArticleHow to - General Equine AdviceThursday 19 January 2012

It is a story heard time and time again:  “My horse is too old to be ridden any more.  I’m offering him free to a good home.  Great pasture pet, just needs a bit of TLC.”

In this world where the cost of keeping a horse is constantly on the rise, few people can afford to keep more than one horse.  When that horse gets too old to be useful, far too many people want to give him away, making room for a new, rideable animal.

But even if you do give him away, someone will have to take care of him.  Horses cost money, and there are so many free pasture ornaments out there that rescues are forced to turn away more horses than they could ever dream of taking in at any given time.

Sadly, not all people who take in free horses have their best interests in mind.  Many horse dealers have sweet tongues and the gift of the gab.  They will tell you whatever you want to hear, then cart off your best friend and dump him at the feedlot.  A free horse quickly earns them $200-300 that way.  Why not make a quick buck?

Of course, sometimes owners decide that the auction is a good way to find their old partner a new home.  At the sale someone might pick him up as a companion, or even a lead-line horse.  Sadly, with so many animals selling for next to nothing, you are unlikely to make even your entry fees from the sale, and your horse will soon be loaded onto a kill truck and be on a trip he won’t return from.

While horse slaughter is not permitted in many areas, this does not stop kill buyers from picking up horses and shipping them off to places where slaughter is allowed.  And if the kill buyer does not get your horse, who is to say that the person who does get him will take good care of him?

Too many old horses wind up in bad homes where they sit in pastures too sparse to feed them, without any vet care or foot care.  Horses suffer in terrible condition all the time.  Many well-meaning people pick up horses, only to add them to their collection, soon finding that they can’t afford to keep them.

When you give your old horse away, there is no way to know where he will end up.  His years of good service can quickly be rewarded with terrible conditions and a trip to the slaughter house.

Consider finding a nice retirement farm to board your horse at.  Pasture board is often a lot less expensive, and many barns will give grain to their pasture horses.  You may not be able to keep him close to home for a reasonable price, but if you look around, you might find a suitable barn further away.  If the owner is willing to keep you updated and send you photos, you can be assured that your old man has a safe, comfortable place to retire.

If this isn’t an option, you may be better off humanely putting your horse down.  While it is terribly sad to have to euthanize your horse, it is far better than sending him off into the unknown.  If you are unable to afford to keep him any more, it is better to give him a peaceful ending than give him away to a stranger who may not care what becomes of him.

If you love your horse, think hard before sending him into the unknown.  Rescues are full of unwanted horses and kill pens are flooded with animals that have no future.  Your horse has earned his retirement.  Do your best to make it a happy one.

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