Monday, June 2, 2008

Don't keep a horse you can't afford

An article on The Washington Post tonight discussed an interesting trend: Pets are living longer these days, but people are also paying more for their pet's medical care in order to keep it that way.

Although the article is about house pets, primarily cats and dogs, it reminds me about one of my biggest pet peeves: people who acquire horses they can't afford to keep.

I know I've ranted about it before, but I really don't understand it. Horses are not all that cheap to begin with, so how do you spend $2,000 on an animal you can't afford to provide care for? Yet this seems to be the case, especially in rural areas.

I think part of the problem is that people think of horses as maintenance-free animals. After all, they eat what grows naturally out of the ground, right? Only it doesn't work that way. It takes a lot of pasture to feed each horse, and you still need to be able to provide hay for them in the winter. You can't simply say, "I don't like the price of hay right now," and opt not to feed it to them.

And feeding is only the beginning. Stabling a horse if you live in town can be quite expensive — in my area, boarding costs run as high as $600-ish a month. (No, I don't pay that much, but I had to really look to find a barn that was both inexpensive and a good place for my horse.) Horses also need foot care from the farrier every six to eight weeks, vaccinations twice a year, and a variety of other things that often have to be done annually (floating their teeth, cleaning a gelding's sheath, etc.).

The bottom line is, horses cost money. I want more people to own horses, because that means fewer go to slaughter every year, but I also want it to be people who can afford to care for their horses properly. So please, don't get a horse (or two or three or more) unless you can afford to give it the care it needs.



At November 12, 2008 at 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucky you! I'm so glad that YOU can afford to keep a horse. And thank you for reminding those of us who are less affluent that we should not own a horse. I can only imagine how upsetting it must be for you to see the "lower class" rural folks with their horses- not to mention their children (we all know how expensive they are)!

At November 12, 2008 at 12:37 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...


Why the hatred? All I said was that people should only own a horse if they can afford to provide for its basic needs. I don't see what is wrong with that. Are you advocating starving and neglecting your animals so that you can afford to keep them?

At November 12, 2008 at 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't put words in my mouth. I did not suggest that it is okay to allow a horse to starve. It is also not hatred that I am expressing. It's sarcasm. Your original post is condescending. You have no idea what the circumstances are, of these people you "rant" about. Most of them are doing their best to keep up with the costs of caring for their horses. It's easy to throw out criticism, which doesn't do anything more than establish a superior attitude. Why not write about possible "solutions" instead? Would you advocate that they take their horses to auction? Have them put down? If you chose to approach people and their situations with a different attitude, you might actually make a difference. Of course, "peeves and rants" are so much easier.

At November 12, 2008 at 2:26 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

I don't think it is condescending at all to say that if you can't afford to care for a horse, you should not own one.

Approaching people with sympathy when they are neglecting and starving their animals is not going to make a difference, unless you call enabling the problem "making a difference." People need to learn not to live beyond their means, but they especially should not be treated with leniency when living creatures suffer due to their inability to make practical decisions.

At November 12, 2008 at 2:30 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Anonymous, I also think it is possible that you are taking my post too personally. Do you perhaps have a guilty conscience?

You said in your comment, "I did not suggest that it is okay to allow a horse to starve." However, if you'll reread my post, you'll notice that I was ranting about people who do things like choosing not to buy hay just because they don't like the price.

So by defending people who are the subject of my post, you are, in fact, defending people who choose to starve their horses.

At December 7, 2008 at 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 66 years old. 3 of my 5 horses are over 16. Two have lameness issues. I planned to care for them until they die, but my wife and I have lost $600,000 in the past few months. It's time to sell the horses, and house, so we can buy a mobile home and survive for the next few years.

Put yourself in another persons moccasins before you pass judgement.

At December 7, 2008 at 2:05 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Anonymous 12/7,

You misunderstood what I was trying to say. Reread your post -- you said that you are going to sell your horses and your house, because you recognize you can't afford them anymore.

The people I am talking about are the ones who would, in your same exact situation, refuse to sell the horses -- but not be able to feed them either, and possibly even foreclose on the ground they are standing on.

I'm not talking about the people who are responsible enough to make the hard decisions. I am talking about the kind of people who don't see anything wrong with starving a horse when they run out of money to pay for hay!

At December 7, 2008 at 2:14 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

And really, if you think about it, the kind of people I'm talking about wouldn't have had $600,000 to lose in the first place. I'm mainly talking about people who barely scrape by every month, and go and buy a horse anyway, even knowing (or probably not even stopping to consider) that they can't afford to feed and care for it.

Your situation is heartbreaking and completely different, because for 16 years you COULD afford your horses. I have a lot of sympathy for you and I can only imagine how painful it would be if I found myself in the same situation.

At December 30, 2008 at 3:23 PM, Blogger OldMorgans said...

Sometimes people do not realize all the costs of keeping a horse; when that happens, a person then needs to decide what to do--sacrifice elsewhere & keep the horse or sell the horse. Of course, some people just cut back on the horse's care and the horse suffers for it.
There are people who are less affluent who do manage to have a horse because they plan for it and budget for it and work hard to do it right. One does not have to be affluent to have a horse, but one does have to be able to plan and spend less in other areas.
Having horses is not a right but a privilege. Doing it right takes work and planning. I am not affluent but do have horses. I rarely buy new clothing for my self; Salvation Army & yard sales are my friends. I don't eat out--ever. I just live frugally in all respects so that I can have horses. If the day came that I could not give them the care they deserve, they would find new homes.
The author of this blog did say this was a rant--not a solution finding post. We are all allowed to rant.

At December 30, 2008 at 4:14 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

OldMorgans, thank you for visiting and commenting! I'm making your blog URL into a link:

I'm with you, by the way -- we are not by any means affluent, but we make sacrifices when necessary in order to make sure all of our animals are provided for.

Thanks again for your comment!

At January 29, 2009 at 9:02 AM, Blogger Dunaleigh said...

I really appreciate these posts. I have two Morgans, one elder mare and one 2 1/2 year old who shows great promise as a carriage horse which I had hoped to get into. So far we can still afford their care in the short term but we too no longer eat out, and Salvation Army has been my store for a long time. Recently our retirement savings partly disappeared and my husband retires next year. I am trying to find a home for the younger horse who takes more time, energy and money now (he is in training) than we can give him. Around here peope are trying to give their horses away so I know this is a horrible time to find a good home. I will follow the advice posted here and try to give him to someone I know and trust first. He won't go unless I am sure he has a good home.

At January 29, 2009 at 11:53 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...


You have my sympathy. That's a difficult decision to have to make.

Just one other thing -- I think you can write some protections into the sale contract (even if you are giving him away). For instance, I've heard of sellers writing in that the horse cannot ever be sold to slaughter, and mandating that the clause be put into any future sale contract. You could also put into the sale contract that if they ever can't afford to keep the horse, they give you the right to buy him back for the same price you sold him BEFORE they try selling him elsewhere.

I wonder if you could also write something in allowing you to "repossess" the horse if they are mistreating him?

The good thing about this is, whether or not you ever need it, at least you'll know that irresponsible people will be scared off of buying him!


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