The will of horse people combined with social media can be a powerful force. Lost or stolen animals can be reunited with owners, and homes found for the needy, thanks to word of mouth online, with many posts ‘going viral’. In a bizarre case, which could be referred to as the “52 Thoroughbreds Virus,” the same desperate post appears and spreads throughout the horse community each year.

Since the first (real) plea was posted in 2011, for reasons unknown, new incarnations of the same story crop up online every year. The post, made on Facebook by Lynn Boggs, sought homes for 52 Thoroughbreds that had belonged to her friend, Daniel C. Stearns, DVM, who died on January 27, 2011. A Thoroughbred breeder, Dr. Stearns was a founding member of Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners, and also served as president of the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association. When he died, he tasked his son with dismantling his operation, and finding reputable homes for his horses. Within in five days of the posting, Boggs had found suitable homes for every horse.

While the most recent 52 Thoroughbred posts claim the horses would be sold for slaughter, Boggs assured the public this was never the case. The wording has been altered since the original post and today, well-meaning folks pass it around, worried about these horses, all of whom found homes eight years ago. Meanwhile, as many have pointed out online, those horses that actually do need homes are overlooked.

Many in the horse community have come to expect the posts, and some have taken it upon themselves to share warnings with others, including a host of memes for the occasion, like this one featuring comedian Kevin Hart. A Facebook group was even created for this purpose.