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Rachel Kosmal McCart is a lifelong horsewoman and the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, PC, an equine law firm based in the Portland, Oregon area. Rachel is a member of the New York, California, Oregon and Washington State bars and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Rachel currently competes in three-day eventing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Story of an Unwanted Horse: Will It End in Euthanasia?

Unwanted horses are not an abstract issue for me. I have been diligently trying to find a quality home for a registered 13 yo Paint mare over the past three years. This mare isn't a horse we purchased, or a horse we bred. She belonged to a friend of mine, and I took her in three years ago as a temporary measure until I could find her a new home.

This mare isn't a beloved pet who has earned a lifelong place in our herd (as several others have). She's a pasture ornament who costs us $300/month to keep. She is also the reason my right knee will never be the same. (I tried to fix her really spoiled under-saddle manners so she might find a good home as a light-duty riding horse. She rewarded me by flipping over backwards with absolutely no warning.)

Twice over the past two years, I found this mare a new home. Twice, she came back to me. The first time, the person moved and decided to get rid of all her horses. The second time, a concerned citizen called me to tell me the mare was half-starved. And that second home was the one I checked out in person, the one with a gated entrance, pretty white vinyl fencing and lush green pastures.

People often don't seem to value things they get for free, so after two bad experiences giving her away, I advertised the mare for sale for a nominal sum. I bought a premium Internet ad ($50), and had plenty of photos and even video clips. Six months later, I had received exactly zero serious inquiries (unless you count the gal who said she wanted to come and see the mare, but had to save up gas money first, or the backyard breeder who wanted to trade me one of several home-bred yearlings she hadn't been able to sell).

I'm still diligently trying to find this mare another home. But the prospects don't look good. This mare is pretty, a cherry-chestnut sabino overo, and her sire has sired several APHA world champions. But she's not sound, not rideable, and is unproven as a broodmare at age 13. No one seems to need a pasture pet, especially when sound riding horses are being given away. Most folks are finding it difficult to afford the horses they already have. The rescues are full. The humane choices look like spending $300/month for the next 15 years, or euthanizing the mare. Let's hope it doesn't come down to that. But it very well might.


funchy said...

it is a tough dilemma. If she absolutely cannot afford to feed the horse, has much as I hate to see a horse put down, humane euthanasia is still far better than taking her to auction (which will result in sale to slaughter, a very inhumane end).

It might be good to consult with the friend who seemed to have some attachment to the horse. If the author is helping her friend by keeping the horse until a buyer comes, it might be a good ides to consult with the friend before putting the horse down. Who is the full legal owner right now?

"Unwanted" is a label that is used to describe a hard to sell horse. But there certainly are things a person can do to improve a horse's marketability.

I am unclear on why the horse is unsound? Is it because she reared up "flipping over backwards with absolutely no warning"? I might ask if anyone's considered taking her to a good pro trainer for an eval? And, of course, I'm assuming she'd gotten a vet check-up to rule out physical reasons for her misbehavior? (pinched nerve? pain? neuro issues?)

I know it's expensive.... and it may not seem fair to have to put money into a horse that was accepted as a favor to a friend. But once you accept the horse as yours, it is yours both to enjoy and to be responsible for (sorry!). This means if the horse needs training to be marketable, it's the current owner's job to train it.

While 13 is not young, we've started older horses than that into work. I am a fuzzy on what this particular horse's limitations are,but if it's just age and the rearing problem, those alone aren't reasons to prevent starting her under saddle.

Good luck to you in resolving your quandary.

Rachel McCart, Equine Legal Solutions said...

From the author:
-Even though I have legal title to this mare, I did contact the previous owner, who would like to help, but can't. She said she understood the dilemma and appreciated that I had loved and cared for this mare for three years.
-This mare is unsound because she has degenerative joint disease in her hocks (which has been treated to the extent it is treatable).
-Her posty rear leg conformation likely caused or contributed to the DJD. Conformation is a heritable trait, and it doesn't make sense to me to breed a horse whose conformation made her unsound.
-I did consult a professional trainer about the flipping over backwards. This isn't rearing and tipping over - the horse violently threw herself over backwards, both with a rider and without. I share his opinion that retraining attempts would likely be ineffective AND get someone hurt (horse or human). To me, this mare isn't worth taking that risk. If someone else wants to take that risk, I'll happily sign the mare over to them, provided that they sign a liability release accepting the risk of getting hurt or killed if the mare flips over on them.

Mary K said...

Sounds like she isn't safe for anyone, which is a real bummer. Is there a wildlife park nearby you could donate her to? At least she'd be of some use somewhere.

Mary K said...

She sounds dangerous enough to kill someone, that's for sure. Is there a wildlife park you could donate her to? At least she'd be put to good use there. Cold, I know, but it's realistic.

Rachel McCart, Equine Legal Solutions said...

Happily, the mare that is the subject of this blog post now has a new (and hopefully permanent!) home as a broodmare.