The Rescue Dilemma
April 2008
Our clients recently raised $600.00 to go out and rescue a horse from slaughter, and now we face the rescue
dilemma. What is the best way to find a deserving and suitable horse to rescue?

The first option is to get a horse at auction.

There are people who seem to keep mares and stallions running loose and breeding who then send the resulting
the foals to auction. These horses are bred with little thought to their future, and the broodmares get very little
care. The foals don't have any particular bloodlines and aren't handled. They are run through the auction in small
herds. Typically they sell for very little, with many ending up aimed for the slaughter pens.

These foals deserve a better chance at life, but do their breeders deserve additional money for breeding them? If
good hearted people continue to buy these babies to keep them from slaughter, aren't they just encouraging these
people to continue breeding indiscriminately?

Some foals that are at the sales are also culls from horse breeders; foals that don' measure up to their breeding
standards so they don't want to list them for sale along with their better foals as they don' want these babies to
make their breeding stock seem less ideal.

Then there are the untrained adult horses that end up at auction: horses that were bought when young and
innocent and then left to grow up to be big and unhandled. The owners don't want to spend the money to train
them so they run them through auction. Do these people deserve money?

Sometimes older horses that have been used up end up at auction too, because their owners don't want to feed
or care for an older horse. Or a trail place that doesn't want to feed their horses over the winter.

And then there is the possibility that the horse is there because it is dangerous or lame.

Of course there are also some good horses at auctions: horses that people need to sell in a hurry as their life
circumstances have changed and they can no longer keep their horse. Sometimes that happens and selling a
horse through ads can take a long time. But how do you know if the story behind the horse and why it is for
sale is true or just the practiced tale of a horse trader who needs to dump a horse and wants the best price they
can get by whatever means they need to take?

Other risks with buying a horse at auction is you don't know what diseases they carry and can then bring back
to your home. As well, mares may or may not be pregnant and geldings may or may not be proud cut. It is also
important to keep in mind the emotion factor; it is easy to be caught up in the excitement of an auction and bid
on a horse out of pity without being practical about the suitabilty and savability of the horse.

You can limit some of these risks by advertising for a horse wanted. There are a few ads out there: "don't send
your horse to auction, call me first!" That is an option as then you have less risk of the horse picking up a
disease at the sale, and more time to meet with the owners and do some research on the horse. Buying straight
from the seller rather than at auction does save the horse (and the conscientious owner if applicable) from the
stress of going to auction.

Still there is the risk of being lied to, there is less selection, and you may have to travel father and invest more
time to find a suitable horse.. As well, usually you will end up paying more as some people would rather take
their chances at the auction to get more money, rather than take less and give their horse a better chance at a
successful life.

Some people use the auction threat as a way to create urgency to pressure sympathetic buyers to look at their
horses so it is hard to be certain that you are actually saving the horse rather than just giving the seller some
quick spending cash.

Finally there is the option of doing a second hand rescue: adopting a horse that was taken in by a rescue such as
Rescue 100, Bear Valley ranch and others.

This has the benefit of dealing with an organization that is unlikely to lie about the horse, the horse will typically
have already undergone a veterinary evaluation and quarantine period, so less risk of bringing back disease or
being caught by surprise by an existing issue.

As the rescue has put time and expense into the horse, you do end up paying more, but you can take some
solace in the fact that any gains the rescue makes supports future rescue attempts.

On the other side of it though, are you really rescuing a horse with this option? After all, the horse has already
found a safe place to be. In many ways you aren't really rescuing the horse you bring home, but are in fact
rescuing the horse the rescue brings home from the next sale with the money you paid. As well, many rescues
impose some restrictions on what you can do with the horse. Some do not allow you to ever resell the horse.

There are so many horses in need...how do we best help a deserving horse without adding to the problem by
encouraging unscrupulous individuals? How do we best ensure we don't bring home a dangerous or contageous
individual? What is our best solution to the rescue dilemma?
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