Thursday, February 3, 2011

52 TB horses need homes!!

This is not what you think.

We've all seen the notice spammed everywhere on the internet. "52 tb horses need homes. Will go to Sugarcreek this Sat for slaughter. Gentleman died and his son wants nothing to do with them. Most broodmares are broke and some are in foal weanling, yearlings, 2 yrs and 3 yrs old most are gelded. FREE and papered. Friend of the deceased is trying to find homes 440-xxx-xxx or 440-xxx-xxxx Barnesville, OH."

There's several issues I want to talk about here.

First, why are the people who are posting this not posting the followup info - that they have homes now, and if you call there's a message about how they've been placed. It's stupid and irresponsible to just blindly forward stuff, especially if someone's home phone number is in it. Do some research, act like a damn grownup, and post the followup info.

Second, there's a good chance the son isn't the villain here. A quick google gives me a cost per day ranging between $2-4, depending on boarding vs. home care and grain/hay prices. 52 horses is at least $100 a day. Every single day. $700 a week. How long can you pay your parents' $700 a week hobby? And at that number, Dad probably had barn help too - they also like to be paid for their work. I don't know anything at all about the circumstances of Dad's death, but no matter how you slice it he wasn't being responsible toward those horses. Why does the non-horsey son have to step up to the plate and get rid of fifty-two freakin' horses asap? I'll bet you $50 it's because he's going broke feeding the damn things. The only reason this is getting so much press is because there are so many horses and they are (were) in urgent danger - this kind of thing happens every day on a small scale.

Let's talk about us and how we can prevent this tragedy in our own lives. Every year, G and I talk about what he should do with my animals in the event of my untimely demise. He hates this conversation, but it's really important to me to know that they'll go to good homes and not be a huge "what do I do!" burden on him. First, and most importantly, he knows the value of my horse. She is a hell of a good horse - young, sound, flashy, papered. It would take several months for him to sell her for the $3500 I paid for her in '07. If she wasn't a rare breed out here, if she wasn't papered, if she was lame, he'd be lucky to give her away. If he needed the money, he could get her gone for $1500-2000 pretty quick.

Luckily, he won't have to sell her on Craigslist. He knows she's not exceptionally valuable, and he knows I have Death Pacts with several people - three right now. One friend in town and two across the country. Make several people swear on a stack of bibles to take and keep or place your horse if you die! Make sure they have the money for shipping if they're not in town! And make sure your next of kin knows that your friends are doing you a favor, not trying to rip you off! All three of my friends are also goat people, and they'd help him dispose of the goats. I have a hard time worrying about the fate of the chickens, and I know he'll take care of the cats and dog.

What if you have more than a couple of horses? You should really start a bank account just for the horses. Make it a POD (payable on death) to your next of kin. Yeah, your next of kin will eventually get all your money and stuff, but probate takes years. A POD account avoids probate and gives your kin immediate money to care for your animals. Again, make sure he or she knows the reasonable value of the animals and has a knowledgeable friend to help sell or place them. Save up enough money in that account to feed and care for the horses for a reasonable amount of time - a month, two months, something. Don't leave your family bereaved and overwhelmed by your horses.

If your horses are at home, does your next of kin know how to care for them? Even if your husband, like mine, doesn't even want to pet their velvety noses, he should know that a horse needs X flakes of hay per day, stuck in that feeder like so, and you have to check water every day, and keep an eye on the salt block. If my local friend and I got struck by lightning, G could keep Dixie healthy til he shipped her to a cross-country friend.

Note: If you don't trust your next of kin, get a lawyer. Get a POD to someone you trust, write a will, and ask a lawyer how to insure that the trusted friend can immediately care for the animals. Most importantly, talk to your family! They need to know how sucky the horse market is, and they need to know that you're doing them a favor, not denying them your most valuable possessions.

There's another herd dispersal going on in a much more reasonable fashion on a mailing list I'm on. The guy was a big Paso breeder in the northern plains states. He started placing them when he found out he had cancer, and he handed over placement duties to a family friend before he died. It's still a burden on everybody to try to find homes for that many horses, but it's vastly preferable to "fuck I can't buy hay for these stupid things, they gotta go to the auction tomorrow."


  1. All very good points - no one likes to think they're going to die but we all will someday. And the more horses you have, the bigger the issue for next of kin, as you point out. While you're at it, make a will and make sure things like a durable power of attorney and living will/access to medical records are in place in the event you're injured or disabled and they're needed. You'd be amazed how many people have no will - do you want your state's laws to determine who gets your assets, including your horses?

  2. Excellent post! And something I think about often, especially now that I'm a "one man band."
    One of my friends (the woman who helped me find Gabe) is a retired jockey and very, very active in helping horses find homes after racetrack life. She was instrumental in doing a ton of networking and making phone calls to find homes for those 52 TBs.

  3. I can't tell you how many well-intentioned, ill-informed people "alerted" me to the "emergency".


    As you say, the situation is not so unusual. Even the size of the herd dispersement is not unusual. The recent Icelandic pony dispersement in Zillah involved a lot more animals.

    I guess what hits my "iritable button" is the perception that it's possible--and morally permissable--to forward a message and feel that the emergency will be handled by somebody else.

    Responsible people do as you suggest: dig out the facts, ascertain the real situation, and offer REAL help if possible. Cash is helpful. A ton of hay is helpful. Making a truck/trailer available to move animals for a day is helpful. Another forwarded email, not so much.

  4. Fantastic...I agree 100%! I guess things happen, and death can be unexpected, but especially when you have THAT many horses, you need to have a plan, because unfortunately not all of us get to live to be the ripe old age of 105.

    I agree that we can't completely blame the son. One horse is a lot of money, let alone 52. I'm glad they all found homes, but I think it's not quite fair for people to be all over the son for not knowing what to do this all those horses. I can bet you that even any of us who are horse lovers through and through wouldn't completely know what to do with 52 horses...

  5. This is a very good post... It's good to have many options and have several people on board with caring for your pets when you go. Last year we rehabbed a mare whose owner had loved and spoiled her for 20 years, and even left provisions for her in his will. But when he died, the family left everything up to the barn staff, assuming they would do what they were paid to do. Instead, the staff said, "They're self-care, it's not our problem," and left the mare to starve. The family, uneducated about horses, was caught up in dealing with their own matters and didn't realize what was going on until it was almost too late.

    The mare is rehabbed now and back to being spoiled, but it just proves you can't ever plan too carefully -- have two or three backup plans and update all of them occasionally.

  6. Thanks, yall. I hope if you don't have plans, you're making some now :)

    Kate - that's why I keep emphasizing the (un)value of your horses. 90% of the horses in America in 2011 aren't actually assets, they're liabilities. No one in his right mind would fight over who gets the enormous privilege of taking on Mom's old horses if he only knew the state of the horse market.

    Aarene, yes, it vastly irritates me to get wide-net forwards too. If someone contacted me about a gaited horse in NV or CA that needed a home urgently, I'd evaluate my ability to help. But QH's in NY? TBs in Ohio? I don't care. I cannot care, because I can't help everything. Please direct your efforts toward people who can help, like Jenn's friend!

    NTAT - That's heartbreaking. Very very scary. The barn staff should be ashamed.

  7. Amen girl! You said it. Nailed it right on the head - not everyone thinks they're going to die soon, but accidents happen and illness takes over. It's always good to have information and plans in place. I know that if Lisa was to die unexpectedly, I know what to do for each and every one of the horses, and so does her husband and 3 children, as well as 2 step-children and an ex-husband. If anything was to happen to Lucy, my sister knows all my worries and everything to tell Lisa or Mom or anyone so that they could take care of her. There are plans in place for pretty much everything.

    Who wants the government to decide who gets their horses? Who wants their horses to be sold off at an auction because you didn't have a will or plan in place?

    As for the 52 thoroughbreds - my friend alerted me to the situation two days ago, and around yesterday afternoon as she was trying to tell me about it again and that we need to do something, I read that they had all found homes. I am very glad they found homes and people to love them.

    Best of luck to everyone!

  8. Thanks for this post, Funder. My parents and I have an unspoken (or slightly spoken) agreement about what to do with our horses should anything happen to any of us, but I hadn't thought about setting up an account to help pay for their care - that's a great idea.

  9. I tell you what-- the NEXT person that sends me that "emergency" message??? Is going to get their ASS CHEWED BY ME. Seriously Now, People!!!!

    Well said Funder. Thank you for beating me to it, as I ran about ALL this entire freaking week like a one legged as... err.. wait.. like a head with my chicken cut off. Amen, Amen, and AMEN!!!

  10. When I saw the title of your post i was like oh no, she got sucked into posting this too???? Then I saw you were smarter than that and already knew they were all placed. I have a feeling I'm going to be seeing the posts about these horses for the next year!

    And of course the rest of your post is excellent as well.

  11. THANK YOU !!!

    I never thought of the POD! I also have documented plans for each of my (13) show/breeding dogs (gulp) !

  12. I think I got this same email two days ago from a well meaning near stranger that I've worked with once. My response to her was to ask her what she really thought I could do from GA. Ohio is a long way away, the cost of transporting one equine that distance no longer really makes it reasonable. I'm pretty sure you could give me 10 minutes and I could find you 10 horses within 100 miles that need homes desperately too. I know the horse community networks like crazy but the spam "save this horse from distance far far away" sometimes makes me want to ignore the call... even if it came from someone local. I whole heartedly agree about the fact that people should think before they just pass the spam along to if the people their sending it to can really help or not.

  13. I'm really glad to hear so many of yall a) are annoyed about the TB spam and b) have some kind of plan for your animals!

    Melissa, I'm curious - have you had an owner pass before her horse yet?

    Caitlin - oddly, the only people I *don't* mind getting "super urgent slaughter alert warnings!" from are non horse people who vaguely know me. I don't expect them to think it through: cost of transport, cost of keeping the horse, time and pain to train the horse for something, time and pain to find a good home for the horse. They just see "horse" and think "Oh Funder has one of those." I cut them extra slack. :)

  14. I facepalmed when I saw the title of this post. So, so glad when I opened it.

    My life insurance is for the care of my horses, and will comfortably take care of them for a number of years. I have two beneficiaries who both agree with my horse-keeping philosophy and know my horse professionals. I also trust them not to dump them at auction and run away with the cash.

    As for value, it's already been decided that Gene would be put down before being sold. I don't see a secure future for an arthritic coming 24 year-old with bad teeth. Peanut would bring nowhere near what I paid. The horse market isn't what it was 7 years ago.

  15. Sara - yeah, the first Talk with G was "Please put Silky down and give Champ to my friend..." (The newer people - Silky was my ancient TWH mare who had congestive heart failure. No new home for her.)

  16. The animals are our #1 priority in the event of our death, and are provided for in our will. We also have 2 signs in the barn. One lists exactly what each horse gets fed every day, and the other lists all phone numbers - owners (we own 2 and board 2 for friends), vets, farriers, and neighbors that can be counted on to feed should something bad happen.

  17. Funder that has not happened yet, but we are contacted all the time by people preparing their estates. I don't know how many wills and estate plans mention Paradigm Farms as a possible destination for their horses but there are several!

  18. Having a herd the size of mine and currently living on a shoe string makes me pretty nervous about this issue. While a POD account is a great idea, it will have to wait here. I do have a life insurance policy that is set up solely for the care of those horses until they can be rehomed in proper fashion AND someone trustworthy to handle that challenge.

    I'm also known for reminding friends they need a plan for their horses as well. Just because someone only has one or two doesn't mean a plan is not necessary.

  19. Oh that is SO well said!! I never got even one e-mail but I got that exact same msg on Facebook over and over, including from people that I didn't know. And you know what, every single msg I got was after the horses had been placed.

    Pie and I have "the talk" every so often. I should look into the financial thing though, not sure if we have POD accounts here in Canada (I've never heard of them) and probably should put some of it in writing.

  20. i always told my family to bury me with my horse, whoever dies first waits in a grave big enough for 2.

    my horse will be euthanized if i die first. euthanized, not eaten.

  21. Thank you so much for posting from a logical standpoint and not just blindly diving into the masses. Working in rescue means that I get a ton of calls, emails, and texts every single time something like this happens. I got multiple messages long after the horses had been rehomed. What blows my mind is that this guy was 90 and had no plan for his horses. What the hell? Seriously. I guess it's pretty typical though. The training center I grew up working at was owned by a really old dude. He left his farm to his kids in his will. Only the kids didn't want anything to do with horses so the farm (a beautiful 300 acre facility) is being torn down and made into a housing development. Awesome.

  22. That stupid fb post made it around the world 3 times in one day I think.

    Good idea about the POD horse bank account.

    My girl is in my will and also gets part of my life insurance money that will give her a more than comfortable life if anything were to happen to me.

  23. Friends of Dr. Stearns are beginning to come forward about this story. I personally received a message from a Euclid police officer, who knew the Dr. for many years. Several messages appeared on blogs just today. These people are only asking that the truth be shared.

    Dr. Stearns was a good man. There may have been horses in need of homes, but THEY WERE NOT DR. STEARNS' HORSES!

    Dr. Stearns horses were placed privately, prior to the Dr.s passing.

    The Dr. owned the Euclid Veterinary Hospital, and worked there until just before his death, along with several other veterinarians.

    He was a past president of the Horseman's Benevolent Society.

    He was a vet for the Cleveland mounted police.

    He won "Breeder of the Year" awards many times.

    He owned Harmony Hills farm, in Barnesville, Ohio. His wishes were for that farm to be closed when he passed.

    The story that started on facebook is not true.

  24. Hey Anonymous - if that's true, I'm really glad to hear it! Nobody of his age should die without a solid plan to care for his animals. Thanks for the update.


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