There is a Facebook group I used to belong to called “Free Horses In Texas.” Contrary to many of its members, I did not join it because I wanted a free horse. I have a free horse. Let’s do a quick refresher.
- I initially paid $0 for Simon
- I would be shocked if he passed a vet check very cleanly
- I have spent several thousand dollars on training
- I have spent several thousand dollars on soundness maintenance & diagnostics
- I have spent a lot of time in the saddle to get him reliable
He’s an excellent horse and I don’t regret any time or money spent on him, but those are the facts.
So why did I join the Facebook group? Honestly, I joined it so I could write this post. Almost without a doubt, posters fell into one of two categories: I want something valuable for nothing or I have something worth no value that I am no longer willing to maintain.
Here are some examples (paraphrased, I am not copying/pasting anyone’s personal information or words). I may or may not be adding a level of snark to these…
I need a horse for my 10 year old daughter. She is a great kid! She’s a very timid rider who is an absolute beginner. We want a horse, but don’t have any money to pay for one. This horse cannot be older than eight years old. It has to be sound, calm and healthy. I stay at home with my kid all day, so that’s why I should get this well trained, calm, free horse.
I have four rescued horses. They were all rescued from a feed lot, because their previous owners could not take care of them. I can no longer take care of them either! The youngest is 25, and the other three are in their late 20’s or early 30’s. One is too old to be ridden, one is too hot to be ridden, one is too lame to be ridden and one is blind. They are hard keepers too… can’t just be turned out! Would be great for someone… but that someone obviously isn’t me.
I rescued an aged mare and her foal last year. Foal is doing great! Mare cannot keep weight on now that it’s summer… she is also lame. She is sweet, but has bad feet. Needs more groceries than I can give her. Must find her a home soon before I have to make a tough call.
I need a horse for my kid to show 4H in. We already have several horses, but they are out of control and my child can’t ride them. I promise I will give a calm horse a good home! I can’t afford to purchase one.
This is not a knock about people wanting to find a free horse. This is not a knock about people wanting to give a horse away to a good home. There are plenty of people out there with horses they didn’t pay a purchase price for (me me me) and there are plenty of horses out there who need good homes.
Pleading for something that has a significant value and adding restraints on it? That’s kind of like saying I want a fancy show pony and I want it to be at least 17hh and I want it to not buck or spook or bolt and oh it needs to be sound enough for 3′ and I would like a pinto but I don’t have any money.
If you don’t have enough money to buy a reasonably priced older show horse or younger prospect, how do you afford to show? Or lesson? Or board?
On the flip side, not every horse gets a forever home folks. I honestly think it is kinder to euthanize the 25 year old lame/blind/untrained gelding hobbling around the pasture than it is to try to find him a “dream home”.
Do you know what a semi-retired “dream home” often turns into for crippled old show horses? Saintly old horses getting ridden anyway because they know their job. The “kid safe leadline only” steady eddy gets friends or neighbors or dad with one too many drinks thrown on him for a long trail ride or gallop around the pasture.
I think for every one “perfect retirement home” there are five nightmare situations for old horses.
My time observing this group reminded me of two things I think are consistent in the horse world. You usually get what you pay for, and we are responsible for our horses throughout their lives… even if that is sending them to horse heaven with love and safety.
Maybe I’m just grumpy today though, what do y’all think about some of these ads?