By Laura Crum
So today I have a question for all you horse people out there—particularly those who have adopted out a lot of horses. I have done a little of this, and sometimes my adoptive homes worked out and sometimes I had to take the horse back. Sometimes they worked for a few years and then I had to take the horse back because something had changed—the adoptive owner had lost her job or had a new boyfriend and was no longer so interested in the horse…etc. So I have some ideas about what makes a good adoptive home, but I don’t feel I have that much experience.
Here’s Harley’s story—I would welcome advice.
Harley belongs to my uncle, who is a team roper and has owned and raised horses all his life. My uncle bought Harley a couple of years ago for ten thousand dollars, which is a pretty fair price for a team roping horse. (I know, in some disciplines it would be peanuts, but for a rope horse it’s a good price.) Harley was everything the price implied—a twelve year old, well broke, sound, mannerly critter, and a very good rope horse. My uncle roped on him for all of six months and the horse came up lame.
The lameness was diagnosed as a suspensory tear. My uncle did everything that was prescribed. First rest, then a surgery, more rest, gentle legging up, and then, when the horse went lame again, another surgery. Much money was spent. A year and a half passed. And though most horses do heal up and get sound from an injury like this, Harley didn’t. He is still lame. The vets now think he may always be lame. My uncle has him turned out in a small field, and though the horse walks freely and seems comfortable in the pasture, if you trot him he has a noticeable bob. He isn’t sound enough to be a riding horse. A person could walk him for short sessions—either by hand or on his back—which might, perhaps, help him to heal.
My uncle decided he wanted to find a home for Harley and asked if I knew anyone who might be appropriate. It just so happened that that very day a woman I know, who loved horses when she was a girl, told me she’d decided that she wanted to “bring horses into her life again”. She has a small property where she keeps goats, chickens, and ducks….when her kids were small she kept a pony for them to ride. She is an animal person and a very reliable, responsible one. I know her well.
I asked her if she wanted to own a horse. She said, “Maybe.”
The upshot of this is I told my uncle about this friend, and got his permission to tell her about Harley. I put the two of them together. My friend met Harley and loved him. My uncle met my friend and agreed she was a very nice woman. “But,” he said, “She’s not a horse person. Its not the right home.”
I knew exactly what he meant. My friend is not really a horseman. She has some experience with horses. But even a gentle horse like Harley might spook or kick up on a windy day. These are behaviors a horseman takes for granted. But a woman like my friend could get scared or hurt. She doesn’t really have a horse corral or fenced pasture. Merely a largish fenced area where she keeps the goats.
Here’s the rub. My uncle intends to put Harley down if he can’t find a good home for him. He’s also willing to take the horse back at any time if the new home needs to get rid of him. The friend who wants Harley and my uncle live about one mile from each other. These things are in favor of giving the horse to this home.
The fact that my friend is such a responsible person who takes such good care of her animals is in favor of giving her the horse. The fact that she is not a horseman and doesn’t have a horse setup weighs against it. But lame horses are hard to give away in today’s climate. Harley is a happy, healthy horse who does not look as if he needs putting down.
I’m stymied by this. Should we give the friend a try and take Harley back if it doesn’t work out? Or is that asking for trouble? Should we keep looking for someone else who might possibly want this horse? I don’t think we’ll get many takers right now.
I honestly want to do a good thing here, not a bad one. I don’t want to see my friend get hurt or scared. I don’t want to see Harley get hurt. My uncle has thrown the ball back in my court, asking me if I think that he should give the horse to this gal. I’m worried I’ll end up with Harley myself, rather than see him put down, and I really, really can’t afford to take on another horse (see my last post on “An Old Gray Horse”). I’d like to see this friend have a chance to get back into horses, as she wishes to do. I’m truly confused as to what’s the right thing to do.
So what would you do here? Any advice?