Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's your definition of a good home?

Here's a discussion topic for you...

Everybody wants to adopt or sell a horse to what I call an "A" home. You all know what an "A" home looks like - immaculate facilities, a knowledgeable owner who is kind and consistent and gets regular vet and farrier care for the horses, a stable income that assures the horses will always get what they need even in tough economic times, etc. But with the horse overpopulation problem and the huge overflow of horses that are not "high demand" horses - horses with little or no training, horses in poor condition, horses with quirks and problems and flaws aplenty - we know they're not all going to get to live at that kind of home.

I have talked with other rescuer friends about the fact that we all have to accept the reality that many horses must be adopted to "C" homes when you rescue. By this, I mean a home that is acceptable, but not outstanding.

Some examples:

  • Beautiful facility, but owned by beginner horsepeople who are likely to make beginner you catch them feeding moldy hay and they didn't realize anything was wrong with it.

  • Nice enough facility, but just not really kept up...stalls look like they've gone several days, water buckets smelly, etc.

  • Okay facility, okay people, you're not sure you like them but the references came back good.

  • You love the facility but hate the way they ride and they don't appear to be the type who are going to take your hints about taking lessons.

  • You suspect the finances are iffy but you have a good overall feeling about the adopter and they're knowledgeable.

  • They board, and you know the situation isn't ideal - for example, the boarding barn only turns out for 30 minutes a day, or has a lot of management turnover that sometimes results in iffy horse care.

  • Everything looks good and then you find out they put the horse in training with a nightmare of a trainer, known for being abusive.
And so on. We ALL want the perfect homes for our rescues (or our sale horses in general). But it doesn't help to become the rescuer who trusts no one and therefore starts to cross the line into hoarding. So let's discuss this.

If you're a rescuer (or just sell horses in general), what kinds of things are absolute dealbreakers for you? What kind of things are you not thrilled about, but will accept?

We've all had adoptions go bad. Did you have a bad feeling about the people from the start? Or was it a total surprise?

My 2 cents:

My dealbreakers are: Barbed wire (if you have it, you have to rip it out and replace it with hot tape before the horse is delivered), other horses on the property looking in poor weight or like they don't get hoof care, inadequate shelter, obvious dangers (fence boards down with nails sticking up, for example) and of course having ever surrendered an animal to a rescue or shelter. If I find that you've had any kind of past conviction for abuse or neglect, you're out. I don't care if it was 20 years ago. Some horses may have a longer list of dealbreakers, depending on their needs.

Adoptions gone bad...I only really got surprised once, and that was a case where I still don't get was someone who I thought had enough knowledge and "eye" to see if a horse dropped weight significantly, and guess what, they didn't see it at all. Very odd. I got the horse back, no permanent harm done, and I know it wasn't malicious or deliberate, but I am still not sure how I could have avoided that one and it bugs me. Still, at least I caught it in time thanks to follow-up. Screening adopters is probably like interviewing job applicants - I assume the more you do it, the better you get at correctly sensing when someone isn't on the level. But then again, at what point do you have to worry that you are getting paranoid and turning into the person who won't adopt to anyone?

I have seen a lot of foster homes go bad, and go bad suddenly with very little warning. Rescuer friends had to quickly repo horses from someone who had a meltdown and wound up in a mental ward. You know, there was no reason to believe that was going to happen. Ultimately, shit happens and they did their job in that they were doing enough follow-up to catch it before the horses suffered permanent damage.

In this economy, anyone can lose their job and the living conditions for their horses can tank very suddenly as a result. And people are embarrassed - no one wants to make the call but they should - I know of many rescuers that will happily buy you some hay and grain if that's the only problem and you are otherwise willing and able to continue caring for the horse. (A clue: the sympathy generally dries up quickly if they see that you are continuing to breed horses despite your financial situation. When you are broke, don't make more!)

All very interesting questions, and ones that we all have to face over this upcoming winter full of horses in need. What's your take? How do we balance wanting great homes with the very real need to actually place horses?

And I must confess...despite my best intentions to resist my old, cute, redheaded Thoroughbred mare addiction, I fell off the wagon again. This is Thai's My Mama and she is currently rehabbing with Karen V, a definite "A" home! She has had 10 foals and won $9,155 on the track. It's the typical story - abandoned now that she isn't popping 'em out anymore. The cool news is that she appears to be sound so I am ecstatic - I may have finally rescued something I can ride! Thanks to Kerrie for helping to get her to safety, and to Karen for giving her a safe place to spend the holidays! I hear that she nickers for food with her head already in the bucket. OMG. Is that not the cutest thing EVER?
(Pic prior to rescue. She is not wearing a nylon halter in the field now!)

We have a LOT of Thoroughbreds in need in the PNW...please, please, please contact me if you have a good home to offer. Want tall and with h/j or dressage potential? No problem! They are cheap to free, just get in touch and tell me what you want. I can set you up with a tall, short backed, 2 year old filly, black with a blaze face, and many more. Teenage/twenty-something broodmares coming out our ears, of course...