Over the past few months I have been visiting farms and getting to know the potential adopters for a wonderful Clydesdale Cross, Prospero. The beginning of his story was dismal, but now, he is ready to move on to the next phase of his precious life.
There are many things to consider when re-homing or selling a horse, and as a professional in the equine world, I’ve seen many farms where I would gratefully send a horse, but others where red flags get inevitably raised. There are times when a client will approach me to help them find a new home for their horse (for many reasons) and I feel it is our responsibility to send that horse to the best home we can find. Everyone who has horses at home develops a careful balance between money, time, labor and attention for their horses. Finding the right home means finding the balance for that individual horse and his or her needs.
This past summer I ventured into a livestock auction with the determination to give a horse their second chance at a having a good life. “Prospero’s Encore” was named for his fantastic escape from a shipment of horses who were unfortunately destined to be transported for slaughter during a “Tempest” of a summer storm. A team of people and myself endured countless hours of support and care as he overcame his acute illnesses and emaciated state. My plan for this gentle and wonderful horse was to get his health back, put meat on his bones, and show him kindness and love until I found the right person to adopt him.
Prospero is a special case, as each horse is, in their own way. Although he has been healthy for months now, his body and immune system are still gaining strength, and I was hoping to find someone who would understand him and keep a close eye on his overall condition and development.
There are 6 things I have looked for when visiting potential homes for Prospero. This list applies to every horse I am accountable for:
1. Natural living environment – Horses are herd animals who need freedom of movement in order to be healthy and satisfied mentally as well as physically. I believe it is essential for horses to have herd mates and an outdoor lifestyle.
2. Forage – Horses are foragers, so I like to ensure that they have suitable forage (pasture or hay) and nutrients available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
3. Water – Every animal must have access to safe, clean water that never freezes.
4. Fencing – Some horses are “Houdinis”, and find themselves in trouble if they challenge a weak fence. I look around the property for safe fencing (preferably wood and/or electrobrade) that is being well maintained.
5. Shelter – Although many shelters stand empty the majority of the time, a place for horses to take shelter from extreme wind, sun and elements should be available for them to come and go. It is also very proactive to have a barn or other building available to bring horses inside for any special needs or attention, ie: vet, farrier, dentist, accidents and emergencies.
6. First impression – If all of the above basic needs are met, then the animals who presently live at the farm should represent the good care they are being given. I check that they are a healthy weight, have regularly trimmed hooves and veterinary visits, and are people friendly or at least approachable.
Prospero’s journey is a success story. After visiting a potential adoption farm recently, my fingers are crossed that his next trailer ride will be to his forever home. His rescue story was told in the pilot Free Rein, please watch and share so that I can continue my work rehabilitating horses who can have a chance at their own “Encore”: