Gallant Hope Farm
...more notes
from the Schoolmarm...

Become a part of the solution to the unwanted horse problem!


copyright 2000 by Joanne M. Friedman

Mud-caked, red blanket askew,
She approaches so softly;
Her gentleness belies
Her size.

Don't-wake-the-baby steps
Leaving coffee-cup impressions
Of a thousand pounds of concern.
The ground is churned
To ankle-deep muck
In an hour of pacing
Now interrupted by

Neck craning over creosoted pine.

Ears pricked,

Eyes wide,

Rapid breathing stretching nostrils.
One hoof comes up, pawing the air
Softly ~
A silent greeting
To mother and child.

Is there anything that signals spring more poignantly than the birth of a foal? Unfortunately, the excitement of the birth is often marred by anxiety and fear, but with a little help from a veterinarian, good prenatal care, and the support of the many veterinary and other equine sites currently available online, even a novice midwife can successfully guide a foal into the world.

Sadder still, however, are the foals who are not welcomed with open arms. Many are born weak or ill, or with genetic anomalies that doom them to a short life. It is with those babies in mind that we mare owners must keep our mares up-to-date on their vaccinations, follow the highest pre-natal care standards, and, most of all, breed cautiously and wisely. The more "throwaway" foals we can avoid producing, the less need there will be for websites and legislation geared toward preventing equine abuse and inhumane slaughter.

Which brings me to another subject. As cute and exciting a new foal might be, in the present state of the horse business--crashing!--backyard breeding, breeding mares just to maintain farmland requirement, or professional breeding for profit are not the positives they once were. Every excess horse created is a horse whose future may be clouded by neglect, abuse, or eventual slaughter. Think long and hard about how important your breeding project is in relation to the scope of the horse world. If you can take a breather, step back a little, and find another way to make money for a while, this is a good time to do that. Adding numbers to breed registries is a matter of pride for some breeders. But in the current economy, that has become a self-serving end that does not do justice to our equine partners.

What exactly is the projection for recovery of this business? Well, opinions vary, but overall it would appear that we have not yet (July, 2009) reached the bottom. The end of the unwanted horse problem is not in sight, though many people are making great strides toward repairing the damage that decades of greed and self-absorption have created. For a while even those owners who were facing dire straits financially managed to keep their horses fed and healthy. But as the recession has dragged on, savings accounts and retirement accounts have vanished, and with them any standing that the family horse held on the priority list. Food, housing, health care for family members, college tuition....those are the trump cards. Until the economy rebounds sufficiently for folks to once again have significant disposable income, the horse industry will remain quiet and existing horses will continue to suffer.

If you're not part of the solution...become part. We all need to pull together to lessen the impact of past bad decisions.

~ Hold off "trading up" you competitive horse so he doesn't wind up at auction.

~ Don't breed your mare this year unless you intend to (and can afford to) keep the foal.

~ Take in a needy horse if you can afford to feed another mouth. Even a temporary, affordable home may help another owner hold onto a horse that would otherwise go to auction.

~ Buy wisely. Don't take on horses you can't afford to keep indefinitely. If you have to pay for it on the installment plan, you can't afford to keep it.

~ Be a good custodian of the animals you already own.

~ Think!