What Kelsey Lefever taught us

Kelsey Lefever
This post has gone viral over the past week, with more than 17,000 views so far!

Over the past week, my post Charges Against Kelsey Lefever Bring Deceptive Rescue Practices Out Into the Open, has received more than 17,000 views. For a post that’s more than three years old, that’s pretty amazing.

Certainly the story bears repeating. Kelsey Lefever represented herself as a horse trainer who specialized in training and rehabbing thoroughbred racehorses and finding them non-racing homes. Many trainers gave her their horses; some provided her grain and cash to help her. In fact, Kelsely Lefever sold the horses for slaughter.

The story isn’t important because of what happened to Lefever (she got off with probation). It is important because people are outraged by what she did and are continuing to talk about it. Putting the spotlight on people who are scamming the public for their personal profit is an effective way to educate us about the potential issues.

There are a lot of legitimate rescues that help horses. These are the ones who have 501(c) status

But there are a lot of people and organizations who fund raise online, who play on the heartstrings. You know the groups. They are the ones who are threatening to send the horse in the photo to Canada on the next truck unless they get $$$ today.

How do you keep from supporting the wrong organizations? You need to do your homework. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Is the organization 501c(3)?
  • Do they receive funding from other/larger organizations or are they purely funded by the rescue funds?
  • Will they provide financial information?
  • Can you visit the location and meet the people?
  • Do they have a good reputation? Ask for references, not just from people who got horses from them but from a local vet or farrier.
  • Are the horses who live there in good health?
  • What are their rescue/adoption fees? Are they higher than normal or consistent with other organizations?

The important thing is not to stop caring. Just to care more wisely.







Blue Seal helping Massachusetts horses in need.

Horses at Nevins Farm, the MSPCA Facility in Methuen, Mass.
Horses at Nevins Farm, the MSPCA Facility in Methuen, Mass.

Help the horses of Nevins Farm MSPCA facility in Methuen, Mass. simply by sending us the UPC codes clipped from each bag of Blue Seal Equine feed.

Blue Seal Feed Company, in partnership with Dodge Grain, is helping to feed the horses of Nevins Farm, the equine will donate 20 cents per UPC code submitted, up to $100 per month!

Kudos to these companies for reaching out to horses in need at a time when more and more horse owners are turning to shelters when they can no longer feed their animals. Last year a large percentage of the 39 horses taken in by the facility were donated by owners experiencing financial distress.

It has made me consider switching to Blue Seal in appreciation!

Drop clipped codes off at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm Barn office, or mail to:

MSPCA at Nevins Farm Equine Center
400 Broadway
Methuen, MA 01844
Attention:  Blue Seal UPC Code Program

Warning: Keep this in mind before you give away your horse

I received the email below from someone in my area. I’ve removed the names mentioned as I cannot personally confirm what’s said but the story is all too familiar. In fact, a little more than a year ago, a woman at my barn almost gave her pony to someone like this for a dollar (When you have to give up your horse). Like the man below, he promised to find her 20 year old laminitic pony (who had food aggression issues) a wonderful home.

In this economy if you find someone who says they are finding good homes for unwanted horses, you are really fooling yourself if you believe their spiel. In fact, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that’s looking for an owner too! Trust me. All the reputable rescues are bursting at the seams. Don’t give your horse a one-way ticket to Canada just because you want to believe. That kind of willful self-delusion should have ended with Santa Claus.

Hi All, thank you for your replies. I have a personal mission and am asking others to help if they want to. I am trying to give as many people as I can a heads up about an individual who answers free ads. I know that often times STB’s are indeed free…so I am asking that you please pass the word to warn trainers, owners, etc., that you know, to please beware of a man named WM, of MF Farm, J-town, Maine. There was a post on the BB about him that got quite heated. I have done my own investigating of this individual who posts an ad in Uncle Henry’s saying he will take your unwanted horses and find them good homes. He also calls himself a “rehab/rescue” . He is plain and simple an inexperienced horse dealer who also ships to Canada. I spoke with someone who he approached about hiring to drive the truck to Canada as he can’t cross the border due to being a felon. I have also spoken to my vet and a real rescue here and they are aware of him.

So if you feel comfortable giving people a heads up…PLEASE let people know about this guy. He is not truthful about what he is and will at times bring his 2 young daughters with him and pose as a happy family come to take your unwanted horse and give it a good home. He will travel all over New England looking for free/cheap horses.

The more people who know about him the better off the horses will be.
Thank you to all who feel they can help.

When you have to give up your horse

For several years I’ve worked with CANTER New England, an organization that helps retiring racehorses find new jobs away from the track. In that environment, there’s always the worry that a horse will go to auction (and potentially to slaughter) if it is no longer competitive at the track. For many trainers it is a purely economic decision: some of them don’t have money for dinner, let alone the money to carry a horse that doesn’t perform.

I always thought that most of the show horses and “pets” owned by people I knew were fairly safe. I learned how really wrong I was last December.

Two days before Christmas I got a phone call from a woman I know who co-owned a pony with two other ladies. The other owners had decided that the pony was a liability and they were going to sell her to a “rescue” for a dollar. And, by the way, the pony was leaving the next morning. The kicker for me was that the man who owned the rescue, “John”, wouldn’t provide his full name, the name of his organization or its location. To me, that sounded like a one-way ticket to Canada, maybe with a quick side trip to Crowley’s or New Holland auctions. In short, they panicked.

Let’s be honest, the pony had problems. She had foundered the previous year, which resulted in significant rotation in both front coffin bones. While she was sound, she required corrective shoeing and constant vigilance. But the more immediate issue was one of aggression. She had recently knocked over a woman who had gone into her stall to adjust her blanket, leaving the caregiver with a bloody nose. She had also started to charge people who came into her paddock when she was eating hay. At first, the owners banded together and brought in a friend to provide some round penning work. They talked about sending the pony off site for training. But in the end, two of them had decided the pony was too dangerous to keep. Plus, “John” had promised that he would find the pony a great home, as either a riding pony or a companion. They thought he might even be able to sell her and help them recoup some of the money they had spent on her vet bills.

In the end, “John” didn’t take the pony. I helped the woman who called me find the pony a home with an experienced horse person who came with references, an address, and a commitment to keep the pony forever. She has extensive experience with older horses and ponies and when I toured her facility, her herd looked happy, healthy and looked well cared for. She had a good farrier, a nutritionist and a vet. Finding that home took time and effort. I even included a bitless bridle with the pony as an incentive. I called every person who had owned her, and contacted all of the rescue organizations in my area. I was amazed by how extensive the network of the horse rescues reaches, and I got excellent advice from the people who ran them.

In short, what I learned was that you must plan ahead, as much as is possible. There are a lot of people willing to help but you must give them enough time to get the wheels turning. A few of my take aways include:

  • Address behavioral issues as soon as possible. It is much easier to nip a problem in the bud then deal with a horse or pony that becomes dangerous. Bring in a trainer who has experience, don’t rely on your friends.
  • Always call the people who owned the horse or pony before. I had hoped that one of the previous owners would be able to retire this pony to a farm, or would be able to take her back. While that didn’t happen, the previous owners helped as best they could, both with outreach and to help cover expenses.
  • If a situation sounds too good to be true, it usually is. According to the staff at the rescue organizations I spoke to, many owners are dismayed to find out that the kind woman who bought their pony for her daughter/granddaughter for a song (because of the good home), actually took the horse to the nearest auction. Hey, if you only pay $1, then even if you sell for $150 that’s a reasonable profit. If it’s at all possible, charge more for your horse or pony than the kill buyer will pay at auction. Yes, it’s hard to think of a price per pound, but you want to eliminate the profit motive.
  • Tell everyone you know that you need to find a home for your horse or pony. Yes, it might be embarrassing to admit you can’t keep your pet, but think about it, isn’t it worse if people find out you let your pet go to a questionable end? The best way to find a good home is through word of mouth. Ads for free horses in Craig’s list or bulletin boards do not bring out the kind of people who want to give your pony a soft landing.
  • Always, always check references. If possible, inspect the place where your horse will go and make sure that the other animals there are healthy and that they facility is safe.

I came across an excellent article evaluating rescues on Behind the Bit. It contains detailed advice on how to find a legitimate rescue along with links to other resources.
Above all, don’t panic. I know that the people who owned this pony loved her. I’m sure they thought they were making a good decision and that she really would have gone to pony Nirvana. Luckily, she’s gotten pretty close. When I last checked, the pony had settled in nicely to her new home and was not demonstrating aggressive behavior.