Ad­vice for res­cuers

EQUUS - - Eq Letters -

I have bought horses from kill pens, and I have to agree that this is not the best way to res­cue them (“From Sick­ness to Health,” EQUUS 473). How­ever, I do not re­gret for an in­stant sav­ing th­ese horses from this fate. Once I pur­chased a herd of year­lings that had been sold di­rectly to a kill buyer. I ended up putting one down, but the rest turned into nice horses.

An­other time I pur­chased a lame horse who should have been hu­manely eu­tha­na­tized by his own­ers rather than sent to auction. He was a dear, sweet horse. I kept him three years un­til his in­cur­able is­sues started to ap­proach a cri­sis, and then I put him down. My vet­eri­nar­ian said if he had been shipped to slaugh­ter he prob­a­bly would have fallen and been tram­pled to death be­fore he ar­rived at the fa­cil­ity. I know some peo­ple who res­cue horses from kill pens just to put them down im­me­di­ately to give them a cleaner death.

If you’re tempted to try to res­cue a slaugh­ter-bound horse, I’d like you to un­der­stand a few im­por­tant points:

1. Th­ese horses are of­ten very sick and might not make it. Strict quar­an­tine pro­ce­dures must be in ef­fect when you bring one home. That means change your clothes and wash them in bleach, wear gloves and pay at­ten­tion to your boots. A bleach foot­bath for your boots is not overkill. You do not want your cur­rent horse to get what is spread in th­ese places.

2. You might need a trainer who deals with feral horses. Get a re­fer­ral for some­one with ap­pro­pri­ate ex­pe­ri­ence. You don’t want your horse fur­ther trau­ma­tized by a rough trainer.

3. The pub­lished de­scrip­tions of the horses may lie. “Hal­ter broke” might mean the horse once saw a hal­ter in the dis­tance. Be pre­pared.

4. The horses get in­jured in the pens. Your horse might be fine when you pay for him but can be kicked or in­jured be­fore you pick him up.

5. You can do ev­ery­thing right and still end up hav­ing to put the horse down. This is OK. The idea is to give the horse a dig­ni­fied and trauma-free end to his life, whether that life is long or short.

6. Even if ev­ery­thing goes well, you might end up with a horse who is of no use to you. Plan for this. If it works out, then con­sider your­self lucky.

All of that said, if you want to save a horse, I would rec­om­mend go­ing to an ap­proved res­cue, where the horses have al­ready been quar­an­tined and their level of train­ing is known. When you adopt one of th­ese, the pros then have room to go out and res­cue an­other one. And don’t for­get Craigslist and other sale sites. So many free or cheap horses can be pur­chased be­fore the kill buy­ers get them. Name with­held upon re­quest

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