A Moral Tale

I’m still here, and still horse crazy … though feeling more of the “crazy” part recently.  Work has taken over my life, as I wait for the HR department to finally get my staff vacancies posted.  What’s left of me after a day at work, has been going to the horses.  I’ve realized that they, Noble in particular, are more affected by my absence than I fully understood before.  So, until I get my staff in place, writing takes a back seat.  However, a close friend is currently smack in the middle of a drama that has a lesson I feel all horse owners, especially those with multiple horses, should be mindful of. 

In our area lived a woman who, for many decades, bred horses for show.  She was a long time client of my friend, who is a veterinarian.  About four years ago, the woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  At that time, friends urged her to thin down her herd of nearly thirty horses.  She would have none of it.  This winter, the woman died leaving twenty four horses behind.

Now, this woman had a good bit of money to leave, and she did provide for her horses in her will.  That was the smart part.  If you have animals, you should make provisions for their care, in the unthinkable event something happens to you.  Don’t just count on friends or relatives – I have heard of horrible results in such cases.  It’s not always because the person couldn’t be trusted – sometimes the well meaning, caring relative just doesn’t know animals and makes a bad choice.  If you are sure that is not the case for your situation, then you are blessed – but why take a chance with the animals you hold dear?  Why not commit your wishes to paper?

The trouble in this story, is that a piece of paper is not enough preparation, especially when you have multiple animals.  Let me explain …

Of the two dozen horses she left behind, most are in their late teens to early thirties. Only three were ever started under saddle, and it has been four to six years since any of those were ridden.  Five are stallions who were never bred – and some of those aren’t even halter broke.  Several, in spite of being registerable and well bred, were never registered – and due to various circumstances, cannot be now – so use for breeding isn’t an option.  Though she would not part with the horses, the woman did sell most of her acreage since her diagnosis – so the horses have mostly lived in small, dark, rundown box stalls for a few years now.  Placing these horse is the Herculean task my friend is saddled with.

The woman did leave a sizable estate, so funding placement at a rescue would seem a viable option – except she named several charities as beneficiaries to the balance left after the horses are placed.  Here’s where it gets ugly.  One of the charities is an institution that is in the business of caring about animals.  Yet, their representative is pushing to have all of the horses euthanized “so the trust doesn’t lose any more money on keeping them”.  I am sure that the woman who named them a beneficiary would never have suspected such an attitude.  This institution even advertises that they will take loving care of your animal if you name them in your trust!

It took my friend painting a picture of how the institution’s reputation would be tarnished if word got out that they had the horses killed to get them to back off.  However, my friend has a long standing, well respected reputation in this area, and knows all the right people to make that potentiality plausible.  Imagine if that were a non-horsey relative faced with that same pressure?  Or someone who believed the institution to be holding the horses best interests at heart?

For now, the horses are safe.  But, by keeping horses that had minimal to no handling, by not gelding the stallions she had no intention of breeding, and by not registering her stock, the woman has set up a formula for failure.  I have faith that my friend will do all that she can, but as she told me, how can she know that the people who do take these horses are suitable?  She is not a well staffed rescue organization.  The rescue groups in our area are overtaxed as it is, so little help there.  And the clock is ticking for those beneficiaries who want to reap as much money as possible.

How much better it would have been for the woman to have taken the advice and assistance offered, after her diagnosis – to have prepared her horses, and to have found homes she felt were suitable.  Admittedly, I would find it very difficult to part with my little herd under those conditions – but watching this mess left behind scares me more.  We are the caretakers of these animals we bring into our lives, and we are responsible for them unless or until we choose to place them with someone else. It is a moral obligation to educate them to live a life with people, so they don’t become so much “waste” in our absence. Don’t just hope for the best – prepare for the best!

Be good to your horses … and I’ll be back around when I can.



3 thoughts on “A Moral Tale

  1. Such valid and true points you make here– and it speaks to the problem we have in general with “unwanted” horses in the US. The Unwanted Horse Coalition defines an unwanted horse as one which is no longer desired by its owner– the reasons range from lack of suitability for the job to lameness to age to temperament. Horses which lack training are among the most difficult to place, as only experienced people have the aptitude to take them on, and if the horse’s potential is limited, it makes placement that much harder. Good luck to your friend– I do not envy the task.


    1. Thank you, Christina. The unwanted horse issue is very tragic. You see even lovely, well trained horses going through auctions … untrained horses have little chance. We need more education and more options, which I know the Unwanted Horse Coalition is striving to develop.


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