Today we have the complete tale of our recent “save” from the NJ – I think I mentioned it on here, but as always there’s more to the story.
“Major” came to our attention through the efforts of those who go to the local auctions and kill pens every week to identify horses and try to find them homes. One such auction is Camelot, in New Jersey. Typically when a horse goes to Camelot Sales, if there is no buyer or the price is low enough, the owner of the auction house purchases them himself, and then either sells them privately after the sale or ships those that are left to slaughter. Fortunately, he’s a good business man, and has allowed local rescuers to photograph these horses and post them online.
So several weeks ago I noticed a posting on the Chronicle forums about one of these horses. Not only was he an identified TB, he had been in our Delaware Park CANTER listings not long before. That same post detailed a series of ads found online. First for $500, then later for free. The free ad contained some choice wording, and because it’s the kind of ad that makes me want to bang my head against the wall, I’m going to share it with the world. The person who posted it deleted it, officially, but the internet is a magical thing. The ad is still out there, but in the interests of a copy staying online I’m posting just a piece of a screen grab from it.
OK, that may be hard to read (sorry, had to save it as a gif and lost a lot of the readability!). But the end there says “He will go to the auction at the end of this month!!!”
At first we thought this woman had purchased Major through our listings directly, which made steam come out of our ears a little bit that he had ended up where he did. If she hadn’t taken him, he may have been able to find a good home. Or heck, she could have called us at any time, right?
The wheels were set in motion. We felt we needed to help this horse as he’d gone through our listings (even though we have no real control of those sales). Through some quick posting and networking, some kind donors contributed to his purchase price and a few days later he was on his way to a quarantine facility in the Fair Hill area. I met him that day, delivering a blanket and a check to the kind woman who shipped him and would take care of him for a few weeks. He was a little banged up, with some scrapes. His attitude seemed sort of defeated – when I got there he was in a round pen, hanging his head and totally ignoring his hay. As it turned out, he would need extra antibiotics and a vet visit within a few days (prognosis: fine, just needed some drugs!)
All seemed well. A week and a half went by and we began making plans to move Major to our Frederick location for some quality horse time.
Then on Saturday my phone buzzed. Way earlier than a phone is ever supposed to buzz on a Saturday morning. I tried to sleep through it but it buzzed again. When I checked, I saw that the lady taking care of Major had called, and also sent on an email. To paraphrase that email: “this horse was taken under false pretenses, his old owners are desperately looking for him and want him back.”
Oy. Keep in mind the rescue world is full of drama. Dramadramadrama all the time. Half the time you can never tell who is normal and who isn’t, or what the real story is when you get an email like this. They have a way of circulating and taking on a life of their own. So in order to calm any impending hysteria, I called the rescuer who had begun circulating that information. Was it 7 AM? I think? Oops.
This is where Major’s story actually came together. The rescuer happens to be very good friends with some local horsepeople who operate a racehorse layup facility and hay farm. I was told they are great people who take excellent care of all types of animals and had done some foster care for the rescue. They desperately wanted Major back.
At this point I was still sleep addled, and very confused. I told the rescuer to take my number and have her friends call me so we could sort this all out.
Fortunately they waited until after I had coffee, because up till that point I really needed a flowchart to understand what I had heard over the phone.
When they went to the track to pick up a couple horses for layup, another trainer emerged from a barn, asking if they had room for a free horse, or knew anyone who wanted one. As it so happened, they did know someone who wanted one – a neighbor and trusted friend had been looking for a h/j prospect to work with and eventually rehome. They knew her farm to be nice, and knew them to be decent. So they put Major on their trailer with her in mind.
They took him home, and with full faith that their neighbor was a good person with good intentions, gave him to her.
From there, we know the rest of the story – she put him up for sale for $500 almost immediately. When he didn’t sell, the “free” ad went up, giving him till the end of january or he would go “to Auction.” She now claims someone took the horse claiming to be a good home, and that she was lied to about where he would end up. While that is entirely possible, it was still her stated intention that he would end up there, so I consider that point moot (however, people in this area should be aware that there IS someone grabbing up free horses with a nice feel good story about a good home and then taking them to local low end auctions. Be aware.).
At no time did she expressly ask her neighbors for help, or say “can you please take him back?” While they knew she would be looking to rehome him, they never anticipated or dreamed he could end up in this situation.
The thing is, this could happen to ANY of us. Even people we know well can occasionally do things that we feel is beyond the pale, and surprises us to know end. Similar things have happened to us as an organization – people who pass their application and are recommended end up being such poor owners we have to take a horse back (fortunately this has only happened once!) It’s a rough world out there and there are a lot of people who just suck (sorry, no other way to put it).
In any case, the folks who took Major off the track and tried to do the right thing by putting him into a home have offered to keep him themselves. We received many calls and emails from people in the rescue community, including some of our own volunteers, who know these folks and recommend them. We checked the references they gave us, and though the entire episode is one big cautionary tale about trusting people, we can’t find any reason why they shouldn’t be able to offer Major a great home.
Later today I’ll be heading back up to Elkton to get all the paperwork signed (he will be protected under our standard Bill of Sale) and meet them (and probably also to take a look at their farm – which may at some point serve as a layup or stopover farm for CANTER horses, as they’ve also expressed a desire to help us out if we ever need it). Since we know so many people in the area it should be easy for us to keep tabs on him and make sure everything is going well.
In any case… be careful out there. If you are ever involved in giving away a horse, whether it is your own or one that fate puts in your hands even temporarily – check up on them. Even doing your best, there are always people out there saying the right things and by all appearances good people, who will turn out to be untrustworthy. It makes me want to hold on to horses and never ever ever let them go, even though my brain KNOWS that the majority of people in the world actually are OK.
In this case, it looks like things will be ending well for Major. By all accounts, the farm where he is going is essentially the Northern Maryland version of our own Frederick area “Funny Farm” – so he should enjoy his life there. If his new people are amenable, I will post some updates here about how is doing.