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.
Great post Laura!
I can understand not wanting to keep a particular horse. Unsound, unsuitable, dangerous, badly behaved, can't afford it, don't have time or just getting out of horses. I cannot understand sending any beloved or even unloved horse away to an uncertain fate, possibly to be tortured and killed.
When you sell or give away a sound usable horse, to a known person , because you can't afford him or he is not suitable for you, then someday 10 or 20 years from now, that horse might end up being sent by that person to an uncertain fate. But there is some hope that he will have a wonderful life and be retired and eventually die or be euthanized with dignity.
This horse had no hope, unless a rescuer from a sanctuary was at that sale competing with a kill buyer. Sadly, most sanctuaries will not take a horse from the private owner. The sanctuary people think that the horse has someone to advocate for him and they leave it in that person's hands. They use their resources on the horses with no hope left.
Here are some options for an unusable horse that a person cannot keep: Some local animal control agencies will take the horse as a surrender and either place or euthanize him. Zoos and sanctuaries that feed big cats will take a horse as a donation, house him kindly, feed him well for a month to make sure any dangerous drugs are out of the system and then humanely shoot him to feed to the cats. There is a horse rescue in California (north somewhere) that offers $25 euthanasia clinics. The owner brings the horse for evaluation and the rescue either accepts him as a surrender and tries to rehab/rehome him or agrees that euthanasia is appropriate. Your idea that he could be euthanized at home and buried or hauled away by the rendering plant for not much cost is true.
There are so called rescues that are worse than the auction, so the owner has to check it out carefully.
I have arranged my situation so that I can retire my horses on my property and they can end their lives here. The ridable ones remain useful and kept fit and in training so that if ever I couldn't keep them all, they would have futures to go to. Most of them have other people that love them and would advocate for them if I were unable to do so. I have one youngish mare that is unsound, and was dangerous to ride even when sound (long sad story) but she has found her niche as a companion to a lovely woman who wants to come out, clean pens, and groom and play with 'her' horse but does not want to ride. This horse is very intelligent, sweet and interactive on the ground. If my home was not available for her, she could be used for EFP/EFL equine facilitated psychotherapy and learning.
The particular horse owner you write about was just lazy or stupid or both.
Your story is about a person who does not know what love is. That being said, there are horses that I have met and not liked and I still wouldn't wish that fate on them. How much could it possibly cost to give a horse a humane end? It is certainly not an insurmountable price, literally-speaking, and for a horse that one loves the cost is immaterial.
A call to the local humane society would probably yield reasonable and humane ideas for an owner who felt that they had no options. Some police officers are trained to put large animals down in an emergency and may be able to help. I would think that local horse folks might help with the disposal or burying of the remains.
Good public service announcement.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know the blog post you are talking about. I wanted to comment, but there were already too many people complaining about "judging."
I have had a couple of friends who made poor choices, two horses (one lame, one a used up show horse) went to slaughter, after being given to a "retirement" home where they were supposed to be pasture pets. Another horse, who had a bad rearing problem was sold, my friend told the new owner the truth. The new owner then sold the horse to be a child's mount, and didn't tell the truth. I recently heard the horse was put down. That should have been done before. I believed all along that the horse had a physical, pain problem, and couldn't be retrained.
I also used to believe that horses didn't suffer more than cattle or pigs from being slaughtered. I've looked into it, and I no longer believe that. That is using my judgement. I have also shared that information with my friends, who now realize what they did, and what they could have done to a young, innocent person.
I believe the woman who wrote that guest post is not being honest with herself about what happened to her poor, blind horse. I don't care how well she knows that horse trader, he didn't tell her the truth. There are a lot of them who sell horses to good homes, but when it comes time to load the truck for slaughter, they fill it up any way they can. I even heard of one who loaded his own saddle horse to make sure the trailer was full.
Why have we demonized "judging?" Doesn't judging require that we look at the truth, weigh both sides of the issue and make our decisions accordingly? I think any parent who doesn't teach their child to judge correctly these days is putting their children in danger. I also believe that as an animal owner I have the responsibility to judge what is best for that animal. Thank you, maybe now I can stop thinking about it.
redhorse--I couldn't stop thinking about it either. I did feel sorry for the poor young (she sounded young) woman who made such a poor choice--I believe it will always haunt her. I felt, just as you did, that the horse trader implying he might make a riding horse out of the blind horse was typical horse trader bullshit. I know that game all too well. It's in the horse trader's best interest to make that person feel that she HASN"T let her horse go to slaughter. But the reality is that that is where he probably ended up.
My comments aren't welcome on that blog, but even if they were, I wouldn't have commented anyway, given the blogger's lead in about not judging and the usual approach over there, which is everybody agrees with that blogger or they are public enemy number one. So yeah, I've said what I think here, and I really do think it is an important point to make.
I agree with all that you said in your comment. I often think we look at life a lot the same way.
Thank you, Kerrin, those are all good points. You take wonderful care of your horses and I really appreciate your comment.
That's a good way of putting it, Val. Just not knowing what "love" amounts to. I agree with you about not wanting any horse to go to the sale/slaughter the way it works here and now. But it is particularly sad when it is a horse someone claims to love, or a good horse that has paid his dues, or a compromised horse that will suffer even more due to his issues. It makes me very sad to think about about it, and, yes, angry, too. Thus this post.
That is not love -- or it least it's not the kind of love that matters, because you make a decision to leave a "love" animal's welfare to chance, not even a fair chance, of a decent life -- and then you walk away and look for sympathy.
Hoo-boy am I judging. Can't afford EUTHANASIA? How did you ever care for your horse? I'm sickened, and judging.
For many people, animals are accessories, or for convenience, as long as it is easy. I admit that economic situations can trump or outstrip our ability to care for an animal, but if you can't afford euthanasia you have no business owning any animal.
Stacey Kimmel-Smth--I do think that's the bottom line in a nutshell. If you can't afford euthanasia you have no business owning a horse. Well said.
I know the post you're talking about, and I have to say I agree with you. I admit, like you, that I DO judge the choice that was made. In my (admittedly first-world, middle-class) opinion, critter owners owe it to their critters to minimize their suffering. I'm not too picky about how one goes about doing that (bullet, vet) as long as it's quick and painless. If you cannot afford to take that step AT ANY TIME, you shouldn't own the critter. I understand that economic situations can change rapidly, but you've GOT to have a plan that does not involve leaving your animals to an uncertain fate.
The other part that people don't seem to think through is whether or not they can actually DO that to a beloved critter. It sucks, and it's an impossible decision to make. But you have to put on your big girl panties and do it sometimes, for the sake of your critter. There ARE fates worse than death. Only you can make sure your critter doesn't suffer them.
jenj--Yes, your last point is really valid. I think many people choose to send a horse to the sale or to a horse trader rather than euthing because they can't stand to face the horse's death head on. I mention this in the post. It's far easier, with a bit of denial, to see the horse hauled away than to see or know that he died. But this is really a coward's choice--or this is what I truly think.
I know you have had to make the hard choice several times lately, and I admire you greatly for always doing your best for your horses, even when that is very hard to do.
My horse was blind for many years and I feel very sorry for the one that was sent off to a strange place to suffer instead of being put to sleep in a familiar place. Vets give many options to pay these days-CareCredit-a credit card for medical expenses, and others. The person did not love that horse, or she would've done the right thing by him.
I am a huge believer in only owning animals you can afford to take care of, and that mean euth'ing when needed. Period. Don't have them if you can't take care of them. #1 reason why I don't have a horse - I'm only too aware of what can go wrong.
Unfortunately, many, many, MANY people have animals (and KIDS) seemingly without thinking this through. I understand having a major catastrophe of some sort that you truly haven't budgeted for, but long-term disability - you have got to be prepared to step up to the plate and do what's right, up to and including euthanasia.
This happens far too often with horses. Some folks truly just do. not. care. what happens to their horses when don't want 'em/can't fix 'em. Off to slaughter they go. And it's a shame when like this person you're referring to (and I don't know who it is but if I read that blog I'd quit doing so and want to kick her), they CLAIM they care and still wash their hands of the horse. Especially when you know they just WANT another one...
Judgey? You betcha. Got no problem with that.
Anon and RiderWriter--I agree with you both. Thank you for the comments.
Laura, I agree with you and appreciate the reasonable way you express your dissenting opinion. I made several posts on the blog that must not be names and was labeled a troll for not drinking the feel good Kool-Aid. Sometimes we have to take a stand and go against the flow for the sake of our horses. I posted an anonymous comment in response to the blog post in question and was told that I (and other dissenters) did not have enough information to judge. They can churn out pages of flowery bullcrap but to me it is a black and white situation. Blind horse plus horse flipper equals a terrible fate for your horse.
Anon--I hear you. I parted company with that blogger years ago because I am not one for pretending to like stuff that I disagree with. And sure enough, I was called some pretty ugly names. That's just the way it goes over there. You either agree with the blogger or you're public enemy number one with her and her "blogettes." (And that was HER word for her regular commenters, not mine, I assure you--and I can prove it. She called her followers the "blogettes" in many, many emails she sent me.)
So yeah, whether or not this one particular horse ended up with a sad fate or not, I don't know. But the stated behavior--giving a blind horse to a horse trader with the understanding the horse might go to the sale and to slaughter-- is a recipe for much suffering for the poor horse--just as you say. And I for one DO judge that behavior as wrong.
Thank you so much for the comment.
Humane euthanasia is part of the cost of owning a horse. Part of the cost of doing business in the horse world, or what you owe the animal you say you love.
If you can't afford a quick, painless end for the horse you took responsibility for, you simply can't afford horse ownership. Period.
There is almost nothing that makes me angrier...
CFS--I agree with you completely.
I sure as hell felt 'judgemental' reading that story - HARSHLY judgemental.
Thank you Laura for writing the rebuttal (to that load of crap) I wish I had written.
Anon--Why thank you. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who read that and read the blogger's uhmm, dictate not to judge, and ended up thinking, to hell with that. I'd never comment there, but you know, that post and that blogger attitude NEEDED a rebuttal. Or so I think. We should not treat our loved horses in that way. It makes a mockery of the word "love."
Lately I heard an experienced social worker remark that there are people out there who simply don't think as we do. They make bad choices, sometimes cruel choices, and these things barely register in their heads. (And once in a while, being related to such specimens, we can make poor choices too.) Hence the "loved" animals that go for slaughter. Hence the ill-kept animals that certain people seem to collect, and the indiscriminate breeding of them. For that matter, hence the badly kept children that such people all too often breed.
It makes me think of a woman who lives a few miles from here. She simply collects animals. Last time I looked she'd acquired a Shetland pony stallion and three mares "because it would be nice to breed them and perhaps someone will buy the foals", in addition to several horses and foals, sheep, dogs and chickens. She's wealthy enough to feed them but likes to travel. The horses and sheep can be left for weeks on end in a field with grass and water but no hard feed or care. Last week she was incensed that the humane society had paid a visit because of a thin horse with a skin infection. There is no getting through to such people. And, if we try, they project their inadequacies onto us. One doesn't have to be Sigmund Freud to see through their mental problems and evasions.
WHP--Yes, I agree completely. There are certain people who collect animals and essentially abuse them by making them live in crowded, filthy conditions with inadequate food and care, and actually feel that they are "helping" animals or "rescuing" them, or some such thing. They really do have some sort of a screw loose and do not seem to understand that the animals in their care are suffering. I don't think the person who gave the blind horse to the trader was in this category, however, based on what I read of her post. I think she was young and felt overwhelmed and made a poor choice, but I think that overall she was/meant to be a good horse owner. I wrote the post to (hopefully) perhaps influence other horse owners to make a better choice.
Thank you for the (always) insightful comment.
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