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The Starving Horse is Served Some Support

By Cindy Hale

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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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?

I had become so distraught at the little guy’s condition that I literally could not sleep the other night. All I could think of was how Wally and Joey were snuggled in their beds on a chilly autumn night, their bellies full and their coats groomed, while this poor thing was crammed into a tiny pen, fed only small amounts of obscure grass hay. I’d done all I could by contacting Animal Control. Or had I?

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.

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Reader Comments

Jamie    Lafe, AR

11/12/2009 9:15:41 PM

Bravo! Well done in getting the poor horse some justice. A couple of years ago I rescued a tiny sorrel mare that should've weighed at the very least 650-700 lbs as a 14hh reg quarter horse at 3 years old. (she's cutting bred, so smaller) She weighed just over 300 lbs. Covered in rain rot. She was on a very busy road, and who knows how many people drove by her every day and didn't care. She dragged me to the trailer and jumped into it! When I got her home, she looked around, nickered, rubbed her face on me, and started mowing the lawn! I will never understand some people. I have just rescued another mare in July. The "ahem" owners, bragged to me how tough their horses are. They only had to water them once a week, and they did just fine. Grrrr. I'm gonna go feed my horses, and hug them, and thank god that they are in MY life.

Allyson    Los Angeles, CA

11/11/2009 8:39:04 PM

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

I sincerely HOPE that the owners step up and educate themselves and pray that the horse will forgive them when they pull their heads out of their a$$e$ and FEED him. But until then, I thank you and AC and the vet for stepping in and giving them a sharp yank of the stud chain. Figuratively, alas, but if only if it could be literally.

Could I **please** give that first sharp tug on the stud chain? The literal one? Pretty please??

Julie    New Cambria, MO

11/11/2009 12:17:45 PM

unfortunately, not all horse owners are horse lovers and will gladly turn their eyes away at known abuse or neglect. what about the abuse some riders or trainers subject their horses to at horse shows when they think no one is looking?? I guess we just have to take action when we see it. Some people really don't see a difference in the horses condition as they deteriorate into a skeleton, it's unbelievable and sad. It looks like this guy may have a happy ending.

Alecia    Birmingham, AL

11/10/2009 2:58:32 PM

Thank you for making that call. This situation reminds me of a quote by Albert Schweitzer:
"Think occasionaly of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."

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