She Stood Dejected…

She stood dejected, feeling alone out in the nosebleed section of the stables. Other buyers were looking for nicer and healthier-looking mares and steeds. They were led to prospective “show” champs. Each was papered and could brag of blood lineage that rivaled neighbors in the stables next to his. But Katie stood alone in the mud. As I was led to each of the stables’ rock stars, I kept wondering, “What about her?” I finally asked the question. I was told that she wasn’t what I was looking for, even though the owner knew that I wasn’t interested in showing a horse. I just had dreams….

Dreams of when I grew up in SoCA. A time when one could run around in O.C. as a kid, and told to just be home by dark. It was a time of stables, cows, horses, and orange groves. As I grew, so did O.C. and with that growth, there was no room for horses or cows and there was no time for them either. Then the dream started to work to the front of my brain. I wanted to introduce my daughter to one of the simple pleasures of life.

“Shopping” for a horse is hard. First, one has to travel to Riverside or beyond to get to the stables. The sell is hard, as it can be a cutthroat business (as I was to soon learn.) Horses are luxuries and can be very difficult to sell. So, here I was, standing next a beautiful stallion, but found myself wondering about that gorgeous paint down at the end in the mud. You see, horses that won’t sell or fetch much are not given the enclosed stables. They’re stuck out in a covered outer shelter. By providence, a buyer interrupted us and the seller had to leave my side for a few minutes. I took the opportunity to go out to the nosebleed section and see this mare.

She looked depressed. She was a muddy mess. Yet, in her eyes, she was saying, “Please save me from the meat factory!” I had no prior knowledge of what they did to horses that couldn’t be sold. I hadn’t ridden for years and never was on the business end of things. Yet, I had this feeling that things weren’t going too well for her. The seller returned and I again asked about the mare. The seller didn’t seem to want to sell her to me, which prompted me to ask if she was unstable (I had once received a broken lower lumbar care of my brother’s crazy mare.) The seller just shook her head no, that she was fine, but… I had the feeling the BUT was about my spending more money on something of “value.”

So I asked how much for the mare. “$1200” was the reply. I walked around the mare, checking out as much as I could see, which wasn’t much, as she was so muddy. Did it matter if something wasn’t perfect? The mare needed a home. “SOLD”. The seller wanted to do the hand-off a few days later, which was fine. I had arrangements to make.

I walked her back to a family member’s spread, where she could stay for free upon an agreement. I would pay for Katie’s food, and the family would care for her. They had a guy that had eight horses there, whose agreement was to keep them there for free, but he would have to clean the stables, feed the horses twice a day, and change the water daily. He would also have to provide food for his own horses. The other half of my deal was to allow the family to keep a second offspring (the first would be mine). They would pay for the breeding fee. They could ride her whenever.

That first day, she proved to be so temperate among the kids and the ten other horses. She had been a show horse and was well trained. She was a papered paint and had earned trophies. I did not want her to be ridden for a week, as I wanted her to have a chance to adjust to her many changes and be checked out by a vet. She wouldn’t lack for attention though. Everyone doted on her as a long-lost friend.

A day later, she was limping. In order to see what was up, she needed a bath. We had planned to give her a nice one anyways (with the whitening shampoo to boot), as it had rained much, and she had been muddied up again upon receipt. . Sure enough, she had a crack and a half on her hoof. Not only that, it showed signs of infection. AHA! Thus the price (yes, $1200 was cheap for a papered paint.) The vet came and went. The bad news is that she couldn’t be ridden until fully heeled (pun intended), which took months. Honestly, she never did fully heal from it. She sometimes limped a little from it. I am guessing that the seller knew that it was there, and it possibly kept coming back in the muddy conditions. It didn’t matter. Katie was much better and was alive.

We bred her not long after. Yet, she never seemed to gain weight, no matter how much food I bought for her. She was even given oats to supplement her diet. I would ask my family if she was eating. “Yep.” Was she able to get enough food, given the competition with ten horses? “Uhhh” So we separated her. She was so miserable that she rubbed her mane off her neck to the point she would bleed, just so she could get out. We finally relented. She hadn’t been able to gain weight in her time of solitude anyways. I had started to get the suspicion that the guy who fed the horses was stealing feed. The family did have two horses, and both looked scrawny. Quite possibly normal, since one was bought as a runt and the other was an old 30-year-old (yep!) ex-pack horse. My family wouldn’t listen, when I voiced my concerns, so I shut up. After all, I saw him with his own food, every day when he came. Besides, it was judgmental, wasn’t it? They would not do that to their own animals, right?

Finally, she was getting close to the time of baring her young. I brought the vet in again, and he was concerned about her weight. She barely looked pregnant. He accused me of abuse. I showed him my feed bills, so then he accused my family of it. I thought about the man whose job it was to feed these beautiful creatures. I told him about it, and he knew this guy! He was on disability and had many more horses all over the city! “How could he afford all the feed for them,” I thought. Right then and there, I took Katie out of there. My family was so mad; they still don’t speak to me all these years later. It didn’t matter that I felt that their feed man was stealing the food. They refused to boot him. That was that.

Katie had a hard night. It was to be one of her toughest. Baring young has always been painful, but no one told Katie that it would include many seizures. Joy of joys, April was born. She was just the size of a cricket, and thus, her nickname. We spent a fortune in vet bills for mare and filly. We spent money we never counted on spending for stabling. We were going broke, but the prospects of being turned into a steak were quite good for the two. We went into a credit hole with no end in sight. We had put them both up for sale, when Cricket was old enough, which broke my heart. I had an offer of $1200 for Katie, which hardly recouped my losses, but we had no choice but to take it. She could never be shown again. SOLD. What to do with Cricket? No one would want a runt. Sure, she would make a beautiful pet, but this city was into shows.

I thought about my family and the possibility of just giving her to them. After all, I had made a promise to them. I hate not keeping my promises. No! I simply couldn’t let what happened to Katie happen to her. I told the person handling the sale to please find her a good home and let her go for free. It took some doing, but it got done. I never met the buyers, as I lived another county over. I felt like my breath had been taken away and yet I was relieved all at once.

Until I received the call…. “Were you the owner of April?” “Yep” “Was there anything wrong with her when she was born?” “Yep, underweight.” “Oh.” “Why?” “She is not growing.” “Did you expect her to? Did you buy her to show?” “Yep.” “Weren’t you told about her health history?” “Nope.” The nice lady hung up, but I could tell she was sad and mad all at once. Who wouldn’t be? Sadly, there was nothing I could do about it. I no longer had control of the situation. All I could do was to pray to her creator for her life. After each fire in the vicinity of the city to where Katie was brought, I still pray that she is spared and can breathe. I pray He grants each of my requests…. Horses deserve better than what many humans give to them (using the term “giving” loosely).

PS I have been to many horse auctions. Yes, all know who the meat packers are. One can always withdraw the horse before the final bid is closed. Sometimes there is nothing else one can do with a horse that can’t be sold. One sees some crazy horses there that just are no longer tame—maybe they never were. One sees the families’ tears, when they have to try to sell a horse that they can no longer afford. It happens. It is sad. I prefer they be turned into a steak than to be starved. Walk around the stables in many backyards, as I have, and you’ll see the hunger. No pet should be starved to death. That is really what makes me sick. The government got into the regulation of pet disposal, but refuses to do anything about horse abuse. Sick. If they truly cared about these animals, they would get out of the business of regulating their slaughter. May I suggest that communities offer the help instead?

Patricia from CA