Recently I wrote about a little gelding near me that was slowly starving. He lives in a makeshift corral alongside a path adjacent to the horse trails in our neighborhood. After watching his condition deteriorate over several months, I took some action and called Animal Control and filed an official complaint. You can read more details in What’s Up with All the Skinny Horses?
This past weekend I saddled up Wally and enlisted the help of one of my trail riding pals, Natalie. We decided to ride over to the house and see if we could actually speak with the owners of the skinny horse. Ron had assured me that if the owners would give the horse away to a good home that we could take it and try to rehabilitate it.
Well, guess what? As Natalie and I sat there on our horses, staring in near disbelief at the bony horse, one of the owners came out. She was very friendly and volunteered a lot of information. First, my call to Animal Control worked. An officer had indeed made a visit, and discussed the horse’s condition with her. Second, she’d followed the officer’s directions and increased the horse’s feed. Plus she made an appointment with one of the town’s equine vets for next weekend. She was ready to have the gelding examined and de-wormed, whatever was necessary to improve its condition. Third—and perhaps most important—she professed a certain level of ignorance about how to properly care for a horse. She seemed almost apologetic, going so far as to offer that perhaps she and her husband should have become a little more informed about what it took to maintain a horse and house it properly before purchasing one.
Immediately I felt relieved. Plus I felt like I did the right thing by calling Animal Control and making an official complaint. It instigated a series of changes that should quickly improve the little horse’s life.
And just to be clear, I don’t think claiming ignorance is an excuse for the horse’s plight. For several decades I’ve made a career out of writing about the proper care and feeding of horses. It’s not like there isn’t plenty of information out there. But at least it didn’t appear that the owners were being wantonly cruel.
But what about their horsekeeping neighbors? Apparent horse lovers live on both sides of this home, with their own horses ensconced in paddocks with shelters and mangers full of food. Why hadn’t they called Animal Control? It wasn’t like this was a tractor or a BBQ grill sitting outside, rusting away. It was a living creature, dependent on human beings for its care.
Now I have more empathy for people who work on the front lines of animal welfare: the first responders who confront the caretakers of neglected horses, the professionals who try to educate naïve owners, and the managers of overloaded horse rescue and adoption centers. They must have hearts of gold yet thick skins. Otherwise they couldn’t sleep at night, either, knowing that there’s always one more horse out there that isn’t having a decent life. As horse lovers, each of us must be willing at some point to step up and join their ranks.
Back to Life with Horses