Recently a former FEI level dressage horse ended up with a horse trader known to take horses to slaughter. He was sold by unsuspecting owners and was on the brink of a very bad ending when someone on Chronicle of the Horse posted his sales ad. By a stroke of luck the person who owned him during his show days (5years ago) saw the posting. She bought him with another person and he will now live the rest of his days in the lap of luxury. Here is the blog about his story.
One of the most heart breaking parts of being involved in the horse show world is seeing what happens to our old friends. I know it happens with recreational horses but show people are big offenders when it comes to selling horses. When someone out grows a horse, the horse gets too old, or the person wants to change disciplines the horse gets sold. Each time the horse is a little older and the little worse for the wear. And worst of all a little closer to ending up at the auction with no one but a kill buyer bidding. In this economy young, sound, and often trained horses are a fraction of what they were even five years ago. With that in mind, why is someone going to chose the old guy with creaks and groans? That isn't to say that there aren't saints who buy older horses. However, in the general public those people are few and far between. When you sell a horse there is no way to guarantee where that horse goes. It is really important to do your home work and if anything sounds fishy then go with your gut. Please please put a buy back clause in the bill of sale but know that people can still sell the horse without talking to you. It is important to keep in contact with the buyer because in five years when they want to sell that horse they will have forgotten about you or lost your number.
My friend sold a horse she started and showed dressage through her teen years. Then, like many teens, she found herself ready to leave for college and unable afford or care for a horse. However, that is where her similarity to the hoards of teens selling their horses before college ends. At the young age of 18 she had the maturity to know she needed to continue looking out for her horse even after she sold him. She had leased him out and sold him to a person who understood part of the sale was a buy back clause and continued contact. Over the years she contacts the owner often and goes to visit her horse. And if the current owner will not provide for a retirement when he is old she is going to see to it. She hasn't owned him in ten years but she is still making sure he is ok.
The best thing you can do is commit yourself to keeping the horse you buy. That horse loves you and depends on you. As soon as you sell them the downward spiral of his/her life has begun. More often than not it isn't going to end well. According to a New York Times article the government reported 138,000 horses were sent out of the country to slaughter. After all they did for you, you owe it to them. I know horses are expensive and it is hard enough to keep one let alone two. In my book you need to think about that when you get the horse. And this will be very unpopular but sometimes euthanasia is the kindest thing. If you are selling the horse because it won't hold up to the rigors of your riding it isn't fair to pass him on to someone else. Give him a kind ending because slaughter isn't kind at all. They don't walk quietly into a box and die without stress. They are shipped in horrible conditions, in holding pens for sometimes months, and killed in a horribly inhumane way. Watch some videos on slaughter and it will make you feel better about humanely euthanizing that old friend who "Won many shows but has arthritis and would be sound for light trail riding"
For me selling Bre has never been an option. She is well bred and when she was a little younger someone would have paid a pretty penny for her as a brood mare. Some little girl could clean up in 4h with her. But I know where she would eventually make her way. So she stays with me for the rest of her days.