When I first started this blog I thought it would be for just people that already knew who the new boy was. Now I am thinking that people who are new to his story might be checking in. He is a 2yo Appaloosa Thoroughbred cross that was born in Feb of 2010. He was purchased by Pony Up Rescue as a yearling from an Auction in Enumclaw, Washington. If horses are not purchased by a private buyer they end up in the "kill pen". This is a holding area where the horses wait for the semi truck to pick them up and take them to slaughter. No one else was bidding on this young boy and he was destined for the kill pen. Pony Up, being the amazing rescue that they are, saved him and brought him home. I know his history from birth and he is quite well bred. He has a lovely father with nice bone and a big appy mom. We know for sure that he was not dropped because of his heart condition, I was the first one to find out about it. It is amazing to me that someone passed up this lovely sport horse prospect. Lucky for me (and for him) that Pony Up specializes in rehoming animals with sport horse potential so they knew what they were seeing. The people who run this rescue are angels. Rosemary started the rescue and was so supportive of me when we first found out about his heart problem.
That brings me to the topic of horse rescues. If you are like me it breaks your heart to see horses dying a horrible death in slaughter yards (yes it is horrible, it isn't just a humane way to make use of unwanted horses and I am happy to share video proof). It makes me sad to see animals who are starved or who should be put down but no one has the money to do so. I probably have the expertise to rehome horses but I don't have the property or time. I also don't have much money left over at the end of the month. When I knew I would eventually be looking for a horse that would be able to take me further in riding I knew that rescue would be the way to go. There are so many nice horses out there. Heck, more than one equine Olympian came from a slaughter yard or off the track.
I have been stalking rescues for years (over ten years, before I even had Bre). I did this so I would know a nice horse when I saw one. I also wanted to be able to watch rescues come and go over the years and learn how to spot a not so reputable one. I was looking for a rescue that would help me find a new partner. I also really want to have long term relationship with a rescue. If I have a few extra bucks at the end of the month I want to know my money will be well used. And there will come a day that I will have more than a few dollars to send their way.
My idea of a rescue I want to support has evolved over the years. I encourage each person who watches videos of starving horses or wants to save horses before they are slaughtered to find a rescue they believe in and send money. Even if it is only 10 or 20 bucks here and there. Ten dollars would get you two fancy mochas, can you skip a few of those? Every dollar counts. Heck if 10 people reading my blog sent $10, that would give a rescue $100. $100 is a big start towards getting teeth floated, gelding a stallion, could worm several horses, or by a medicine for a horse regaining weight. I encourage you to find out about the rescue, do research, talk to people who volunteer there and visit the rescue if you can. What is important to each person might be a little different so my list of must haves are just a suggestion:
1. I want a rescue that provides needed vet care. This includes being willing to euthanize a horse when it is no longer comfortable.
2. Does the rescue actually check references? How many horses do they have in foster and how often do they visit those horses?
3. It is important to me that they are actually making an effort to rehome the horses. Every horse they rehome makes room for another horse at risk. My exception would be if a rescue was a sanctuary. They need to be up front about that though. If they bill themselves as a rescue that rehomes horses they need to be doing that. The best way to help a large number of horses is to rehome the horses you already have.
4. Do they put training on horses or are they just hanging out in a big herd waiting for a home? If the horse isn't receiving training of some kind he/she is being set up for a life of revolving owners. Training doesn't have to mean that they are being sent out to a fancy trainer. Ground work and hacking goes a long way. If the horse was donated or sent to auction because it was too hot it isn't going to get any better without frequent handling. If a rescue is frequently taking on horses that they don't have the means to rehab both physically and training wise they aren't doing what is right for the horses. Pony Up pays money to put horses and training and fully assess rideability before they are ever listed as being available.
5. What are they charging for a fee? Yes the rescues need money to keep going but charging over $2,000 for a rescue horses isn't fair. This means they will hang on to the horses longer and in the end the horse will have cost them more than if they had let the animal go sooner at a reasonable price. Pony up generally charges $500. And if the horse needs training they will often waive the fee if you are willing to put the horse in training for a month.
6. How transparent are they? Are they open to visitors? Do they say "Sure, let's compare dates and come on down" when you ask to visit, or do they put you off? Do they have frequent volunteers? It takes a village to even run a small boarding barn so if they don't have people coming and going it makes me wonder how the horses are getting cared for and if there is something to hide. In this day of social media I would expect to see a blog or facebook page with frequently updated pictures of happy horses. Pony Up has open houses, tack sales, horse shows, and has an open door for volunteers to see the horses and help out.
7. How are they covering expenses? Are they making an effort to go out there and fundraise or are they just holding on by a thread and making frantic pleas for money to keep afloat. Pony Up is getting ready to have a ponies only show and has a yearly dinner/auction. If you have something to donate they might be able to use it at the auction!!
8. How many horses do they have? If they have a huge head of horses I would want to know what the condition is. How are they managing to take care of that many horses. There are definitely parts of the country where it is reasonable to take care of a large herd of horses but this isn't the case every where. And it isn't impossible to have a herd but if they do I would want to know how they make it all work.
It might sound crazy to think of all these things but more often than not the person you heard about on the news with starving horses is a "rescue". If you send even ten bucks to a rescue like that you were paying someone to torture an animal. So do your homework. I did mine and know Pony Up deserves every donation they receive.
If you don't feel up to the task of doing your homework and want a really great rescue to send a few dollars to check these guys out:
Here is a little summary of "vetting" a horse rescue before donating: