365 Days in Horse Country – Horse Dealers: For The Love Of Money, Not The Love Of Horses
Those of you who know me, or have been following my blogs, know that I endeavor to be as objective and fair as possible when presenting information. Rarely do I inject my personal views when presenting data, except in times when my passions for the subject matter exceed my inner reporter’s sensibilities. Today will be one of those exceptions as I discuss with you a recent encounter with one of the used car salesmen of the horse industry; a horse dealer!
Just this past week, after developing a horse addiction himself, my partner decided it was time he had a horse to call his own. He didn’t want just any horse, no he wanted to do things the hard way. Feeling that he wanted to experience the same kind of bond that I have with my boy Diego, he wanted to start his own horse from the ground up. Yes folks, the search for a healthy youngster, in need of a loving home, began. During his internet search one day, he came across an advertisement for a weanling cross. To my surprise, the foal was located on a farm very close by, in Springwater Township. Why the surprise you ask? Well it just so happens that this foal was at the very farm that one of my other horses was liberated from. When acquired, he was a starving 3 year old “school horse” and grossly underweight. Immediately my hackles were up and I was on the defensive, and with good reason too.
Upon our arrival at this “equestrian facility”, we were appalled by the abhorrent condition of the paddocks and the horses themselves; many being underweight, unkempt, and crowded into muddy paddocks with no opportunity to properly graze or forage. As we waited for the centre’s owner to join us, we had an opportunity to strike up conversation with one of the farm hands; attempting to glean whatever information we could. Immediately, we were warned that one of the horses sharing the pen with the foal, was recovering from a bad “cold”. You should be asking yourself why a young foal, underweight at that, and with very little immune response as compared to an adult, was being housed with a sick animal. Yet more alarm bells rang in our heads.
During our time there, we also discovered that no one really knew when the weanling had been foaled, or in fact when it had been weaned. This, most likely attributable to the fact that they had only just acquired the foal themselves; we suspect from auction. This assumption is not such a stretch given the fact that the centre’s owner shares the same surname as a large auction house, and that this individual’s name also appears as buyer, for countless horses sold through this same auction house. Upon further investigation, it would be noteworthy to mention that in this year alone, 78 horses have been sold through this facility; all being a mixed-bag of breeds and each sale being proudly, and arrogantly, posted on their website. You should be wary of anyone who is moving that volume of horses through their facility as it is a clear indication that they are horse dealers. The alarm bells ring louder still.
One could argue that these 78 horses were spared from the confines of a can of dog food. I too could argue this point, and do a convincing job of it as well. The issue is not that these horses are being sold, but rather that these trader-types don’t have any real interest in, or concern for, the welfare of the animals they buy and sell like used cars. This whole enterprise is founded on commerce and not the rehoming of horses, or the welfare of them. Oftentimes, these animals are not properly cared for and do not receive the medical attention they so often require. As they are also, very often viewed as commodities, rarely are they handled with the compassion they deserve; as evidenced by the way this particular foal was chased around the arena by whip-wielding assistants. During our visit, not once were our credentials checked and not once were our motives scrutinized. All that mattered was the colour of our money and how much of it we were prepared to part with. As it happens, we lost out on the opportunity to offer this rain-rot-riddled foal a good home; he was sold off to the highest bidder. Our only hope is that he has found his way into the barn of a loving and compassionate person who will afford him a good life.
When contemplating making an addition to your barn, it is imperative that you do your homework and know what you are getting yourself into. Given the inherent nature of the horse dealer’s unscrupulous business model, horses purchased from dealers often come with a sketchy history, if any history at all. Oftentimes, they also come with illness and/or behavioural issues. These can be overcome but it is important to understand that your new addition may need significant investment; both in time and money. You must also resign yourself to the fact that there are no return policies when dealing with these trader-types. Needless to say, buyer beware is the order of the day.
In an effort to help you identify whether or not you are dealing with a horse dealer, ask yourself the following questions;
- Have there been an inordinate number of horse sales overseen by seller?
- Does the facility or individual you are contemplating buying from, appear to handle a large number of various breeds indiscriminately?
- Are you concerned that other horses located at the facility might not have adequate nourishment or access to clean water?
- Does the horse of interest, or any other at the location, seem underweight?
- Are you concerned that the horses at the facility might have inadequate or subpar paddock space?
- Are you concerned that the other horses at the facility might not be as healthy as they should be?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to be hyper-vigilant and ask any and all questions you deem fit, and appropriate. Trust your instincts; if it looks like manure, and smells like manure, you don’t need to taste it to know that it is manure.