Solving the Problem of Unwanted Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   3rd Nov 2015   •   1,588 views   •   0 comments
Solving the Problem of Unwanted Horses

I think itís agreed in the horse community that unwanted horses are a problem. A University of Minnesota publication claims there are 92,000 to 138,000 unwanted horses in the U.S., based on the number of horses previously sent to slaughter. These numbers are from 2011, and in fact, the number may be even higher as not all unwanted horses were slaughtered, and that number doesnít include unadopted feral horses housed by the BLM. The same publication offers four options for dealing with an unwanted horse: private sale, horse rescues, auction sales and euthanasia.

There are some problems with each of these Ďsolutionsí. Firstly, unwanted horses are hard to sell. Theyíre often even hard to give away. Horse rescues are overflowing. Many rescue stables struggle to keep horses well cared for. If weíre trying to keep horses away from slaughter, than taking them to auction doesnít seem to be an effective solution. And, euthanasia doesnít make sense if a horse is sound and healthy and able to do a job. Even those who are pro-slaughter would probably agree with that.

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Obviously, there are a lot more unwanted horses than there are possible solutions for dealing with them. It seems to me that what makes many horses unwanted is a very human decision. Could solutions in dealing with unwanted horses have anything to do with changing how we regard horses? What could we do to make otherwise undesirable horses more desirable? What am I talking about? Let me share one little thing that bothers me, makes some horses worth less, and that we could change simply by making a decision.

Good quality, well trained ponies can command big prices. A few years ago, a pony came into our hands. My daughter started it for the owner, and the owner hoped that with the training and experience it could be sold for a profit. The little mare proved easy to handle, wonderful to ride and was everything a youth rider would want. She would have been perfect for the hunter ring. But, for one thing. Barefoot and well trimmed she measured just over 14.2 hands. That effectively put her out of the large pony market, and she was automatically worth much less than if she was a half inch shorter. Now this horse wasnít really unwanted, but she was greatly devalued because of this human-made rule that did not affect her conformation, training, talent, temperament or intelligence.

What if we made the decision that ponies were, instead of 14.2 hands and under, were under 15 hands? Anything 15 hands and over would be classified as a horse. Would that change the worth and desirability of some horses in 14.2 Ĺ or 14.3 hand size?

I donít know what percentage of the horse population is in that size range. Unlikely there arenít enough to entirely solve the problem of unwanted horses. But, what if instead of trying to fit horses into our often times arbitrary rules, we create more sensible rules? What if we made eligibility into breed registries based on training, performance or conformation rather than just bloodlines? Some registries already do this, and itís uncommon to find those types of horses in rescue stables. Perhaps all it would do is create more unregistered horses. I donít know. But I really believe that to solve the problem of unwanted horses we need to be more creative in our thinking than sell, surrender, auction or euthanize. It may take many small shifts in the way we see horses, and what we believe is desirable in a horse. What do you think?

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