Earlier this week a story hit my timeline on Facebook that made me both sad and angry.
The story has been pulled down from FB, but here’s a description of the situation from someone who knows the people involved.
My neighbors have fallen to a horrible situation. He had a stroke and they have had to thin their herd. They offered one of their horses free to a good home. She weeded out dealer calls the best she could. Received a call from a “competition rider” in the Cream Ridge area, said he needed an in between horse to hack in between competition, that he would share a 5 acre paddock with his retired hunter. Promised he would call them if there were any problems. They felt the riding experience he boasted would be great with their younger Missouri Fox Trotter, Murray, whome they given a lot of mileage and time. Thinning the herd is something they resisted doing but became necessary for several reasons. Murray Did CTR, very spunky, sweet had occasionally locking stifles which was minimal with consistent riding. They were honest about everything. He agreed to call them if for any reason it didn’t work. It was understood that they would want him back. Again, he was GIVEN the horse because a good suitable home mattered more than money. They called to check on him. He said that that he had a NEW BEST FRIEND in his retired hunter as they because fast paddock pals. Friends who know the horse saw him at Camelot Auction this past Wednesday — 10 days after he took him and made all of these promises and updates.
This horse was lucky. Camelot is one of the auctions where the horses generally go to private homes, not to kill buyers. Also the horse was spotted by someone who knew him and the family was able to get him back and the place him in a new home. The outcome could have been much worse — and the problem is it’s a common theme. There are plenty of dealers out there who misrepresent themselves to owners, promise a great home to horses that are being given away and then sell them for whatever they can at auction. When you don’t pay anything for a horse, whatever you sell it for is pure profit.
How common is it? I know two people who experienced similar situations.
It’s terrible to be put in a situation where you have to rehome your horse quickly. I hope it never happens to me but there are times when family and/or financial situations come up fast. When you are at your most vulnerable, it is especially sad that’s when the vultures are circling, hoping to make a quick buck.
In the case that was on Facebook, when the original owners confronted the trainer after finding their horse at the auction, he reportedly wrote back that since the horse was given to him, he had the “rite” to sell the horse to recover his costs.
There’s truth to that. Once you give your horse away or sell it for $1, you have no control over what happens to it. Even sales agreements with “buy back” options are difficult to enforce. There are plenty of people who thought they had the right of first refusal on horses they sold only to discover that the horse was sold on without their knowledge.
But there’s a difference between legal rights and moral rights. The lack of integrity of someone who would take a free horse with the stated intention of giving it a self-described “good home” and then sell it at auction for maybe $200, is stunning.
So what should you do if you are in a position where you can no longer keep your horse?
Don’t give it away. Ask for enough money that it would not be profitable to take the horse to auction. I did this many years ago when I had an OTTB with some physical limitations that made him unsuitable for me. I sold him for $300, which at the time, was more than he would have fetched at auction and required multiple references.
Get references and check them! Ask for references from their vet, farrier, etc.
Evaluate the situation described. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. In the situation with the Fox Trotter, it actually seems unlikely to me that a trainer with what seems to be an active sales business would seek out a free horse to trail ride.
Consider euthanasia. If your horse is unsound or old, it may be kinder to have your horse put down rather than put him at risk for a bad ending.