When It’s Time to Ask for Help
American individualism and rugged self-sufficiency have been a part of American culture since the Pilgrims landed. When I was growing up, people took enormous pride in being able to take care of themselves and their families without relying on the charity of others. You needed to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps! To ask for help was a sign of weakness. In fact, we would rather have done without than feel as if we owed anyone anything. For many people, this is still true and it is a difficult thing to ask for help even when you really need it.
Why do I bring this up? Because in the past few years, we have been hit with a recession of historic proportions. And even some of the hardest working among us have lost their jobs or homes, no matter how hard they’ve tried to hold things together. They’ve had to do with less and less, cutting one cost and then another, until they were living on practically nothing. Some of these people have horses and some of those horses are living on practically nothing, too.
It takes a lot of courage to admit that you need assistance. Not everyone can muster that. But if you are a horse owner and you can’t, your horse will suffer. And many horses are doing exactly that, standing quietly in peoples’ fields, without pasture or feed (this year has been horrible in Southside) and many of them will die out there.
So, if you can’t afford to care for your horse and you know that he or she is steadily losing ground, please tell someone. It takes guts, I know. But I know that because the people we tend to hear from are the good guys- people of integrity who summon the inner strength to do the right thing. We may not be able to take your horse, although sometimes we can. We can certainly help you get the word out. But even if we can’t take him or her, chances are good that you know other people and they know other people, and eventually you’ll find someone who is happy to take on your guy or girl. It just may take a little work.
Really, it would be best if you could keep your horse. But if you can’t, here are a few things we suggest to help you get started:
1. The horses most likely to find homes are those that look healthy and happy. And this is not surprising. If you were looking for a horse, what would you want to see? A little money spent on feed and hoof care will be made up quickly once your horse is rehomed.
2. Haven’t ridden him in awhile? Adopters will want to know that he is safe to ride and there is no way to find out without getting on him. If you are nervous about doing that, please call someone whose abilities you trust and be honest about his status with his prospective home. If he is not sound enough to ride, it’s still important that he look well cared for to be considered as a companion horse.
3. Okay, your horse is thin and you don’t have either time or money. You have a problem right now. Speak up! Shout! Call your local radio station, your friends or your local humane society. Call your local equine rescues and be candid about your situation. People really do understand and most will try to help if they are told the urgency of the problem.
4. For those people who offer to take your horse, absolutely, positively get a veterinary reference. You don want your horse to end up with a swindler or a slaughter buyer and most veterinarians are only too happy t tell you about their conscientious clients. Please visit the new home, too. Is it safe and adequate? How do the other animals look?
5. If, in your heart of hearts, you know that your horse has a condition that will permanently prevent him from having a reasonable quality of life, please do the right thing and euthanize him. This takes courage, but do it anyway. Give him anything he wants to eat, then ease him peacefully into the next life. Please don’t send him off to live with strangers, putting him through the anxiety of adjustment when he really has no hope, or forcing others to make that difficult decision for you. Grieve over him (we always do), but know you did the humane thing.
The horse in the photograph above is our new resident, Copper. He is with us because his owner, after trying for two years to find a home for him, kept right on trying. In a few months, Copper will look like a different horse. And in a few months, his former owner will be able to look back and know for certain that she did the right thing.