Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Social Media and the Kill Pen

When I was a teenager (eons ago) I used to accompany my dad to buy horses. It was a part-time hobby of his - finding good family horses for people and turning a small profit on them. Usually he dealt with a dealer whose job was to find such horses (and most came from ranches in Texas, Oklahoma, and Idaho.) But sometimes I'd go with him to one of the horse sales in California's central valley, where we would look for good buys on gentle, well-trained horses. My job was to jump on them (as the owners were showing them off) before the sale started and ride them around the parking lot, through mud puddles and between trucks and trailers and past dogs tied in the back of pick-ups. If the horse did well, appeared gentle, and was kinda pretty, my dad would try and make a deal and we would bring it home before it went through the sale.

I got quite an education back in those days. I not only learned how to ride a variety of horses (and it was also my job to show them off to customers back at home) but this was the time when I learned about the "kill buyers." The sad fact was that those horses at the auction who didn't find new jobs as riding horses would usually be bought by kill buyers and sent to slaughter.

Things haven't changed an awful lot today. There are still horse auctions where many horses get sold for meat. At the moment, there are no equine slaughter houses operating in the United States, and horses are now sent over the border to either Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered. There is a proposal right now to build a new horse slaughter plant in Missouri, and also a movement amongst horses lovers to stop it. But the sad fact is that many thousands of horses are still slaughtered and sold for meat every year, most of it shipped overseas.

What has changed from the time when I attended auctions? Technology. Cell phones, social media, twitter, and facebook help spread the word about horses that are available and horses in need. Is this helping some horses? I think so. At least a few of them.

There are many rescue groups now that scour auction yards ahead of the actual sale time, looking for horses that might be rideable or usable or registered stock. They can then post these horses on facebook, with pictures, and even get identification of tattoos of certain breeds, and find out the horse's name and history. With the abundance of smart phones, you can take a picture of horse, post it on facebook, and maybe find someone to fall in love with it and offer its purchase price or donation toward its rescue immediately.

There are a lot of soft-hearted people out there, and many follow these auctions from home computers. They can save a horse by sending money to pay pal, or by calling or emailing or posting that they'd like to donate. Amazing, huh?

If you'd like to follow some of their attempts to save horses from auctions, here are some sites:

Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue
Website: http://www.sctbrescue.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Southern-California-Thoroughbred-Rescue/155169894561912

Horse Plus Humane Society
Website: http://www.horsehumane.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/horsehumane

Pony Up Rescue for Equines
Website: http://www.ponyuprescue.com/index.html
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PonyUpRescue

Auction Horses
Website: http://auctionhorses.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Auction-Horses/281527494270?sk=wall

These mostly deal with auctions and horses on the West Coast, but I know there are many in other parts of the country as well.

If you want to save a horse in person, you can go to one of these auctions yourself. Bring your checkbook and your horse trailer. I've done so in the past, and brought home not only an emaciated pony that I took home and fattened up, but also a 6-month-old weanling filly that was separated from her mother in the pen and sold separately, price $50. She found a new home the next day with my best friend.

If you prefer to get involved in horse rescue from the comfort of your living room, that's okay, too. Look up some of the sites above, or feel free to post any other rescues or links you know of in the comments below.

Have you ever been to one of these small-time horse auctions, or saved a horse from slaughter? Tell us about it.


Unknown said...

There's a great list serve group on Yahoo for Texas morgans. Here's the link:

Great post!

(btw, you have double word verification on. Just in case you weren't aware. You can turn it off...)

Linda Benson said...

Thanks for that link, Breathe. Social media is awesome in the way it brings like-minded people together to share things.

And I turned off word verification. It never asks me to do that, so I wasn't aware it was on. Thanks for letting us know. Blogger has been pretty good about catching SPAM comments, anyway, so hopefully we can leave it like this. Cheers!

Jennifer Walker said...

I haven't done it, but some day I'd like to be in a position where I can.

Mikey said...

Yep, been to the meat auctions and found good horses there. I've bid against kill buyers, they're easy to spot. Wish more people would buy at auctions, but it does take a discerning eye and hope that you don't buy something with a weird quirk like flipping over.
Craigslist is pretty good too, lots of cheap horses on there that need rehoming. I bought two last year and both have turned out to be nice horses.
Rescues are a great place to find a decent horses these days too, I agree.

Linda Benson said...

Thanks for your comments, Jennifer and Mikey. Yes, in our part of the country, posting horses on Craig's List is often a last act of desperation before horses are hauled to the auction. I've often seen them for free of extremely cheap there. Many times they are horses that have been sitting in a pasture and not ridden for months or years, so it helps to have some experience in these kinds of things. It is sad how many horses there are that no one uses. We need to stop breeding so many.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

I heard that it didn't pass and they won't be able to build a slaughter house in Missouri! I think it's because of the social media, like you said. I know all my friends were posting about it and writing letters, etc. Yay!

I'm scared to buy a horse from an auction because it could have a dangerous problem I wouldn't be able to handle and then I'd be stuck with it because I would never put it at risk. BUT the answer is to adopt from a rescue. They look for the good ones just like you and your dad did and they kind of prescreen them for you. You can even call a rescue and tell them what you're looking for! It's a great way to save a life.

Alison said...

Great post, Linda. We've posted a lot about the new horse slaughter regulations, but you took it a step farther (further? I can never remember which is which.) It's a wonder you never got bucked off one of those auction horses!

So when are you adding one to your donkey crew? A skinny one that will help keep the grass down so the 'boys' don't founder.

Linda Benson said...

Greener Pastures - yes, you're right. Unless you're buying a young unbroke horse or an older one as a companion animals, it helps to have someone prescreen the horses. Getting one from a rescue is an excellent idea, as it frees up space for them to save another one.

Alison - don't you remember being young? You never think you can get hurt - ha. And as to your last question, ah, if wishes were horses.