Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day weekend and my rant about the responsibilities of owning pets, part II

I spent my weekend visiting Michael's friends and family. First we went to Des Moines to visit some old friends of his there, and then we went to Kansas City to see his family.

Michael's brother lives "off the grid," out in the countryside where they can't just call the power company and set up an account. It's a large, beautiful lot with plenty of room for their horses.

Their neighbor also has horses, except that he doesn't have them for the usual reasons: riding, companionship, or simple love of horses. This guy thinks he's in the middle of some get rich quick scheme. He just decided out of the blue that he wanted to breed horses, and he knows nothing about them. His three mares look rather ill-cared for, although they are still obviously beautiful creatures.

The idiot with the visions of an easily-made fortune was planning on trading some cash and one of his mares for a pregnant mare and her one-year-old colt. The jackass selling the mare and her baby brought them over in a trailer with a jacked-up floor, and the mare got one of her back hooves caught in a hole in the floor. By the time they unloaded her at the neighbor's house, a two-inch-wide strip of flesh was gone, scraped away either by the trailer or by dragging on the ground underneath. The joint was fully exposed.

The mare eventually laid down, and after some shifting around, just stayed there. Michael's family called their vet, and he came out, despite the fact that it was a holiday weekend. In the meantime, the jackass that was selling her - and who was obviously running the equivalent of a puppy mill - started talking about shooting the poor pregnant horse. When the doctor came, neither he nor the buyer were willing to shell out the $1,000 to save the horse and her unborn baby, so they ultimately decided to put her down.

I cried, of course, but I refused to leave the horse's side. I sat with her, stroking her face, neck, and shoulder, through the entire ordeal. Her colt, who was not very comfortable around people, even came up to me a few times - I assume because I'd started to smell like his mom. The situation was sad, not simply because a good horse was losing her life, but because the entire thing had been completely unnecessary - not only could the trailer incident have been avoided, but she could have been saved even after the accident, had one of the men involved in the deal chosen to view her as a living creature rather than a hunk of money.

Her yearling colt, at least, is getting the care he needs. He had scraped ankles, too, and he is now in a stall at the vet's office - he, apparently, was worth the expense to the buyer. The vet roped and caught the skittish colt, and I sat with him while we waited for the vet to return with a trailer to transport him to the clinic. The yearling - a paint pinto, and fairly small - turned his head and put it almost in my lap while we sat together, leaning his forehead against my shoulder. He was so bewildered and sad, and I felt honored that he allowed me to comfort him.

However, even in the aftermath of the mare's death, nothing seems likely to find an acceptable resolution. Offended that we would dare accuse him of not taking the proper precautions in transporting horses, the jackass seller left in a huff when it became clear that his shit-talking was starting a fight he couldn't win. The colt apparently remains the property of the buyer - who had, after all, put money down already - but I have my doubts that he will be able to properly care for the little tyke, any more than the other guy.

The only good outcome was that the trade was not completed, none of the nonpregnant mares were required to leave the frying pan for the fire. At least, I hope that's a good outcome... Only time will tell if her owner - the foolish, get-rich-quick wannabe - will do right by his horses in the future.

What it all comes down to is a lack of good laws out here. Horses are not seen as pets, which allows owners to do just about anything they want. There is little that can apparently be done, either against the breeder or the wannabe. There is nothing to stop them from putting their horses down when the animals can no longer earn their keep.

As sad as the story is, the ending is bittersweet. I already mentioned that I sat with that mare through the entire ordeal, stroking her neck and trying my best to soothe her with my voice. I was even right there with her when she died. Much later that night, when I was in that limbo approaching sleep (but not quite there), I experienced a lucid dream, or perhaps a spiritual vision. I saw the mare in my mind's eye, healthy and happy and running free. I smiled, knowing she thanked me for the care I'd given her.

And even though I rarely remember my dreams - and even more rarely remember a dream I had as I was falling asleep - the dream was still quite clear in my mind the next morning.


Anonymous said...

You voiced exactly what was in my head as I was reading the first part of this - there is a serious lack of law regarding "breeding" and other such animal "cash cow" endeavors (you wouldn't believe the story I read yesterday about this farm in Kentucky and its behavior toward a cow - even less believable is the way both the local law enforcement and Kentucky State Police handled it).

Hooray for you for staying with the pregnant mare, and I'm glad you experienced your vision. Perhaps God's way of letting you know you did well and now the mare is well, too.

Katharine Swan said...

Thanks for your comment. It has been a long time since I wrote this, but the mare has been on my mind lately, perhaps because Panama is moving out here next month.

It is worth mentioning that the neighbor's three mares eventually ended up right back with the seller. I found out later that the same man who was selling the pregnant mare and her colt (and was responsible for her injuries) had also sold the neighbor the other three mares -- and that, however ill-cared for they looked at the time, it was an improvement over how they looked when the neighbor first got them. In other words, the seller has a long-standing habit of mistreating his horses.

It saddens me that lawmakers don't see the problems with the current laws, and change them so that all animals have the legal right to live a life free from cruelty.

Anonymous said...

This is the exact thing that I am dealing with here in SD. I work with a horse rescue/shelter and it is so disheartening when you see how many people view their beautiful majestic horses as numbers. Irresponsible breeding is rampant. With determination and hard work I pray we can get the word out about these people.

Katharine Swan said...


Thanks for visiting and commenting. I also think it's tragic how horses are treated. On the bright side, though, my husband and I were able to rescue the mare's yearling -- he is now a little over two years old, and I am in the process of training him. Please do read the other posts about him, and check out the pictures!


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