THINKING ABOUT RESCUING? HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED
Bringing home a rescue can be a risky proposition, but it can also be very rewarding. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
• Be clear about why you’re rescuing. Do you want to rescue a horse to be your next riding horse, or are you bailing out a horse that may have a known defect, even if it means he will only be a pasture ornament? With the daily parade of online rescue equines, it can be difficult not to let emotion cloud your judgment. And be prepared to spend as much, if not more, than you would pay for a known horse from a private party.
• Arrange for high-quality quarantine. Most horses coming out of feedlots and kill pens have been exposed to infectious diseases, including strangles. Be prepared for a long recovery period and ongoing veterinary bills. And choose your quarantine facility carefully. Many are little more than warehouses for sick and frightened equines. Their very isolation can delay the healing process, so look for a facility that puts the time and effort into each horse. “You can’t just stick them in a paddock and hope they will recover,” says Angela Parham of Spirit Run Equine Rescue in Gilmer, Texas. “Dig deep and ask for referrals.”
• Adjust your approach depending on whether you’re going though a rescue or buying from a kill pen. If you are adopting a horse from a reputable rescue, you will know the horse has been thoroughly vetted and perhaps even has had some socializing and training. In contrast, horses from kill pens tend to be unknown quantities, both physically and mentally. In either case, the horse’s background may not be known, and his rehabilitation will require time and patience.
• Your rescue may not only be physically compromised but also mentally depressed. Be prepared to
A rescue can be the most loyal, loving horse you’ve ever owned. But be aware: You can’t just kick them out into pasture. These guys need to decompress and know that somebody is there for them.
offer near-constant contact daily with your new horse in order to lift his spirits. Ideally, set him up in a pen close to your house so you can interact with him often. Rescued horses seem to intuitively sense that someone has saved them and will respond in kind. A rescue can be the most loyal, loving horse you’ve ever owned. But be aware: You can’t just kick them out into pasture. These guys need to decompress and know that somebody is there for them. You need to build a bond, or they will revert to that life of fear.
“The biggest hindrance to healing is their heart and their mind,” says Parham. “Antibiotics and fluids and good feed can heal the physical part, but it’s those parts you can’t see that matter most. You are not just treating their wounds, as they carry so much on the emotional side, in their stomach—especially young ones. And some breeds get ulcers easily. Others are more likely to put up a tougher front yet be an emotional basket case inside. Just like people.”— Bobbie Jo Lieberman