Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mistakes I Have Made

                                                by Laura Crum

            So last post I wrote about judging another horse person’s action as a wrong action. And that is exactly how I feel about it. But I have also made some bad mistakes. Today I’ll tell you a true story about a time I really failed to do the right thing. And it haunts me.
            About fifteen years ago, my husband had a co-worker who was looking for a gentle horse for himself and his kids. Said co-worker had just bought a country place with a horse set-up. He was no horseman, but he’d been raised with horses and he wanted his kids to have that experience. At the same time my horseshoer was looking for a home for his gentle, still sound, older rope horse who was a good trail horse and fine for beginners, and twenty years old. I got the two people together and the old horse (Latch) was bought for the sum of $1000.
            Latch lived at his new home for about five years and taught the kids to ride. The dad took him for trail rides. Latch never did one thing wrong. But eventually the kids were no longer interested in horses and the family was moving. The co-worker asked my husband if I would find a new home for Latch, who was now 25, but still sound. He was willing to give the horse to a good home.
            Latch’s previous owner had moved to town and could not take the horse back. I had a nursing baby and wasn’t interacting in the horse world to speak of. I asked a friend, a young man I’ll call T, who did quite a bit of buying and selling and training, if he could find a good home for a free horse. I explained exactly what the horse was, said that no money was to change hands, and it had to be a good forever home. I said to T, “You’ll be doing the right client a huge favor—this horse is a real babysitter and still sound. And you’ll be doing the horse a favor, too. Remember, no money changes hands and the new owner has to keep him and put him down when it’s time.”
            T said he understood, and I made arrangements for T to pick up Latch. A month or so later T told me that he had found the horse a good home with a roper who wanted his very timid five-year-old to have a safe horse to ride. It sounded good. And there folks, I screwed up. I never looked into it further.
            I was a new mom, I was overwhelmed, still trying to keep up with my career writing a  mystery novel every year or so and raising my baby. Yes, I had excuses. I thought I had taken care of finding Latch a good home through T. But it turns out that I hadn’t.
            Maybe a year later T mentioned casually that Latch had been sold. “Sold,” I said. “He wasn’t supposed to be sold.”
            T gave me a look that I didn’t quite understand and shrugged.
            I then asked a few other ropers who it was that T had given the horse to. One of them gave me a straight look. “To R—he’s a horse trader. I don’t think he’d really fit anybody’s definition of a good home.”
            Of course, I went back to T and demanded an explanation, but T wasn’t talking to me.
            Eventually I pieced the story together. T had SOLD the horse to R for $1500 and pocketed the money, rather than giving Latch away with the stipulation he couldn’t be sold. R was indeed a roper, also a horse trader. The only true part of T’s story was that R had a timid 5 year old daughter and wanted a gentle horse. But within a year the daughter was confident enough (due to Latch) to move on to other horses, and R got rid of Latch.
            I was able to contact the woman who took Latch off R’s hands. She was a horse trader, too, and a friend of R’s. She said the then 26 year old Latch was thin and sick with pigeon fever. She took the horse, doctored him and fed him up until he looked OK. She then traded him to a woman who had a five acre property. That woman had just lost one of her two old horses and wanted a companion horse for the other one—she wanted to find an old horse that was gentle and sound enough to ride at the walk around her property. She swapped the lady horse trader a purebred Aussie puppy that she had raised for Latch.
            Well, it sounded good, but the horse trader could not remember the new owner’s name or address, and though I tried and tried, I could not track Latch down. It made me wonder if the story was bullshit and Latch had ended up at the sale. I was furious at T and told him so (in front of a group of other people). He had not only lied to me, and done a huge disservice to the poor horse, but he had totally screwed the previous owner, who gave the horse away in the hopes he could find a good home. If anybody should have had the money for selling Latch, it was the owner. T behaved in a totally dishonest and despicable way—though not untypical of a horse trader, sadly.  But the person who really was to blame for this mess was me.
            I was the one that my husband’s co-worker trusted to find a good home for the old horse. That man was trying to do the right thing. He wasn’t trying to get his $1000 back out of the horse, he just wanted Latch to have a good home.
            That was all I wanted, too, but I made the mistake of trusting T, who was a friend of mine. I simply did not realize that T would see a chance to make money on this horse and take it, rationalizing to himself that he had gotten Latch a good home, just as he was supposed to do.
            I should have checked, I should have asked a few people about R as a “good home” (if I had asked I would have been told that R did NOT qualify as a good home), the truth is I should have placed Latch myself. Though I tried and tried I was never able to find out what happened to Latch. I’d like to believe he did get a good home in the end, but I know it’s perfectly possible he ended up at the sale.
            The worst part is that this was a genuinely nice old horse. If I’d been thinking straight, I would have taken him myself, knowing that Latch could teach my child to ride. But no, I was tired and not riding my own horses and the last thing I thought I needed at that point was another horse.
            But I’m very, very sorry I dropped the ball on this. It really does haunt me to this day. The next two horses I found homes for, I made sure to do it myself and the horses got a great home. But Latch…poor Latch suffered because I didn’t do for him what I should have done. I can only hope it ended well for him. But I’ll never know.


Val said...

I understand that you feel responsible for Latch's fate, whatever that might have been, but like you told me, it is very difficult to do anything else when you are nursing a baby full-time.

Laura Crum said...

I know, Val. And now you know, too. Having a nursing baby is pretty all consuming. But still...I 'm sure you understand what I mean. I WISH I could have done better for that poor horse.

Julie Maidment said...

I guess this is why we are not to judge. I have made bad decisions too and they also haunt me. I agree in your previous post that someone did make what appears to be a rather thoughtless decision. If everyone felt free to be honest, without anyone turning against them, we would all have stories where we dropped the ball and people or animals maybe suffered because of it. Thank you so much for your forthright, honest, and well written blogs!!!!

Anonymous said...

At least you learned from it. I have a couple of friends who did almost the same thing. That's why I don't believe anything horse traders say, you thought he was your friend, and look what he did.

Laura Crum said...

Jukie--I agree. That's why I tried to say in the post that I am judging the action, not the person, and to show that I too have done things that I think were wrong. We all make mistakes, but as redhorse says, hopefully we can learn from them. And that was the point of these posts. To help others not to make those same mistakes and spare them the regret and grief.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

We trust our friends because we think we know them sufficiently well. Occasionally someone we think of as a friend proves not to be. Should we stop trusting? No, but as we get older our judgment improves. I've been let down by people who presented themselves as friends then proceeded to neglect the horses they bought from me. I was angry and frustrated...and yet, based on the information available at the time, the decision to sell seemed like a good one. There comes a point where one has to stop blaming oneself. The learning remains just as valid, however there is no point in continued self-flagellation. And unfortunately there will continue to be warped people who maltreat animals (and other people). We can simply stay on guard and hope to thwart a few of them.

I was out today and stopped to watch a herd of horses on a nice big hill pasture. They were chasing around in play, then stopping to groom and graze, all so happy and healthy together. It was such a contrast to those sterile facilities where the majority of horses are kept each in a boring little paddock on its own. It's sad but in so many places some injustice or other is being committed against horses.