by Laura Crum
Advance warning—this is not a feel-good post. If you want a feel-good post, read my previous posts, Payback Time or What Happens.
I recently read something posted on another blog that made me think hard. I am going to discuss it here because I believe it’s important. I’m not going to mention the blog or the author of the post because I don’t want to pick on this person in particular, and I may not have the details right. But I have known many situations like this, and, to be frank, they really piss me off. And so I am going to tell it like I see it. Maybe it will help one horse. If so, it’s worth it.
The story, as I understood it, went like this. The person had a seven year old horse who had become blind. She described him as her “heart horse,” said she loved him, but said she eventually couldn’t cope with the difficulties of keeping a blind horse. She repeated many times that she could only afford to feed two horses. I don’t remember her explaining who her second horse was. She said she could not afford to have the blind horse euthanised and hauled away. So she sold/gave him to a horse trader, with the clear understanding that he might end up going to the sale and going to slaughter. The story implied that she used to judge people who did things like this and now she knew better. She said how heartbroken she was. The blogger who posted the story said something about not judging. Those are the facts as I understood them—with a lot of weeping, wailing and such thrown in.
I spent several days thinking about this story. And the very many stories that I personally know of that went something like this. And you know what? I am judging. I think this sort of behavior is really wrong.
The person who wrote this post sounded young to me. I understand that young people make mistakes. I made plenty—though I never did this exact thing. In fact, as a young woman in my twenties, I stepped up and found a home for a horse that my uncle had been going to haul to the sale to (probably) be bought by the killers. But anyway, young people make mistakes. There are horses that I wish I had done more to help, that is for sure. And I also wish I could have told the young woman who wrote that post, “Don’t do this. You sound like a good person. This act will keep you awake at night, full of regret and grief, when you are in your fifties.”
Because if this gal has the money to feed two horses, she has the ability to come up with the cost of euthanasia and hauling. Most vets take payments. The money she was spending to feed the blind horse could have been used to make payments until the cost of the euthanasia was paid off. If her other horse was a useful horse, she could have sold him to a decent home and raised the money that way. What I read between the lines (not said, possibly not true) was that she wanted to replace the blind horse with a horse she could use—and thus the money used to feed the blind horse, which could have been payments for his humane end and disposal of his body (whether shot by someone who is capable—which can be cheaper-- or euthed by a vet, whether the remains hauled away in a truck or buried with a backhoe—makes no difference to the horse), was needed to feed a prospective new horse.
And you know, I have no respect for that point of view. If this person “loved” that blind horse, she owed him better than the possibility of being hauled to slaughter. If you can afford to feed two horses, you can afford to deal with putting a horse down. A blind horse has VERY little chance of finding a good home. If she couldn’t cope with him (and she loved him), what would make her think that anyone else would want to cope with him?
I totally understand not wanting to deal with a blind horse. If any of my much-loved horses went blind, I’d probably put them down. But it boggles my mind that anyone who says that they love a horse could ever, ever allow that horse to go to the sale and be bought by kill buyers.
The thing is, I’ve known lots of people who did this. I will never forget a likable roper I know telling me all about his favorite horse of all time and how much he loved that horse. I asked where the horse was, since the guy wasn’t roping on him. And this is what he said:
“Well, he went lame a couple of years ago; it was his stifles, and we rested him and tried to get him sound, but it just didn’t work. Every time I used him he went lame again. So, about six months ago, I had to send him to the sale.”
My jaw must have dropped a foot. I could not believe what I was hearing. It would not have shocked me, not at all, to hear he put the horse down. But to let a much loved lame horse be hauled to slaughter in Mexico? I could not believe it. I literally did not know what to say. I think I just walked away.
The thing is, people, this is not about you, and your broken heart, and others not judging you, and wanting to spend what money you have on a horse you can use…etc. This is not about YOU. It’s about the horse. And how much he must suffer. Surely if you say you love a horse, you will spare him unnecessary suffering? How could you not?
To say it is about money, other than a situation where your children don’t have food or you can’t pay the rent (and in such a situation you absolutely should NOT own a horse, anyway) is a complete cop out. It is not about money, it is about priorities. If you love a horse, you prioritize what is best for him (or at the very least you try to spare him suffering)--even if it causes you to have to give up something you want (like another horse that you can actually use). In my opinion, the blind horse should have been given a humane end if the gal didn’t want to keep him or couldn’t find a home for him (and I do understand that it would be very difficult/impossible to find such a horse a good home). Yeah, it would be sad for her to put him down, yeah, she would still be heartbroken, but the horse would not suffer. And that is what counts. I’m willing to bet that some day this young woman will see it this way, too, but by then it will be too late to make a different choice.
It is definitely the kindest possible end to put a horse down at his familiar home, whether by bullet or injection. There is absolutely no question that a reasonably humane end for a horse is possible, if you will put the needs of the horse before your own stupid frivolous wishes or your cowardice. (There is very large group of horse owners who simply don’t want to deal with the trauma of putting a horse down and think sending him to the sale or giving him to a horse trader is somehow better—perhaps the horse will “find a good home.” It’s possible, but very unlikely in the case of blind or crippled or unbroken or old horses. What is really at work here is it’s easier for the owner to think that the horse may find a good home than to face the horse’s death head on. In short, the owner—with a bit of denial—finds the horse trader/sale option “easier.” Easier for the owner, but much harder on the horse.) There is much suffering involved for a horse in being taken to the sale and hauled to slaughter. Sorry, but it’s true. It is a really terrible thing to do to a horse that you pretend to love. And a blind horse or a lame horse is going to have an even worse time of it than a horse without weaknesses. An old horse that is bonded to his companions and home will suffer an enormous amount of distress and fear on top of the physical suffering.
Every single person who can afford to feed two horses can afford to give a horse a humane end. That’s the straight truth. If you are not willing to do this, you just shouldn’t own horses.