Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What You Should Consider When Rescuing a Horse from an Auction Lot

The Second Race from time to time assists with the purchase of auction/feed lot horses. These are horses that could be destined for slaughter to Canada or Mexico for European plates if they are not purchased. Our mission is to work directly with owner, trainers, and breeders at the race tracks, but with constant pleas and pictures that are hard to resist, we have assisted in the rescue of 12 horses to date via our designated 'Quarter Pole Fund'. Our latest assistance was to "Dan" a grey gelding orchestrated by Kara V. in New York. To learn more about this particular program go to http://www.thesecondrace.com/quarterpolefund.htm
Photo by Patti Walker

Here is a post we received and thought it was worth sharing from Helping Hearts Equine Rescue, that monitors an auction lot on the East Coast.

Bringing Home a "Direct from the Feed Lot" Horseby Helping Hearts Equine Rescue on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 6:20am

Please, be aware that horse ownership is not something to be taken lightly. Especially taking on the responsibility of a direct-from-the-pen-rescue-horse. We strongly recommend quarantine, as these horses have been exposed to a number of pathogens during a stressful time. Liken it to sending a child to school for the first time. They ALL get sick from other children's germs. Illness and vet bills is a fact of life when purchasing a Feed Lot horse. Horsekeeping expenses vary from region to region, but all experienced horsepersons will tell you that the purchase price is the cheapest part of horse purchase/ownership. With a direct-rescue, expect those up-front expenses to be higher than the norm.

I always get a little mental- twitch when I see a post offering to take in a horse if the bail, etc. are raised for it. I'm hoping that the person is aware of the EXPENSE and COMMITMENT of taking in a horse, and can afford it, especially with a directly-rescued horse. Sadly, lately, a few situations hve come to light of horses that need rescuing from their rescuers. When this sort of thing happens, terribly-- the horses suffer and the whole rescue-effort is looked upon with suspicion--accusations and mis-trust quickly follow behind that.

Please note that we do our best to post accurate info on each horse, but each horse spends less than 2 minutes being run thru the sale-ring, often the actual time is even less than that. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of info about the horses temperament, soundness or training, as our notes are based on what is announced about each horse and our observations in a very short window of time--we are looking at dozens of horses every week in a very short period of time. The majority of these horses are WONDERFUL, and just need a bit of time to settle in. A few though, will need some work, may have been mis-represented by their sellers in regard to training and temperment. And sadly too, there have been a few cases of horses being much more "up" when they arrived at their new homes than they were in the ring. (sadly, some sellers "medicate" horses they offer for sale--If I think a horse at the sale may have been tranquilized, I mention it, I don't want anyone getting hurt). A question to ask yourself: Are you competent/confident to work thru these issues; or have the resources to work with a professional to assist in teaching your horse to be a solid citizen for you. Just because he's a low-priced rescue doesn't mean he's not worth the cost of professional assistance or training. (Sadly, I've heard that. "He was only $300, I'm not paying a trainer to work with him! It's not worth it!" -- makes me want to smack them)

Be realistic and be patient. I receive contact several times a week from Camelot-Feed-Lot-Purchasers whose horsers 'aren't working out'. I've helped network and rehome a good number of them. I've taken in a few who wound up being fine, the problem never materializing here. In a couple of recent situations where I was networking the horse, I later got calls back saying "never mind", that the issue resolved. The horse settled in, and became (1) less dominant in the pasture, (2), stopped banging at feeding time; (3) ground manners improved, etc. Horses are very social animals, they need structure, they need to know/understand where they stand in the social hierarchy. In the cases of social hierarchy/aggression in turnout----they've often had to protect themselves thru a series of pens and trailers packed wtih strange horses jockeying for position; In the case of bad-manners/aggression at feeding time, starved horses need to realize that they will be fed--every day--every time -- when that happens, they often become less anxious at feeding time and stop banging, screaming, kicking, lunging at the stall door, etc. But it takes time, sometimes weeks or months.

If you are unsure about purchasing an 'unknown quantity" from the sale list, please do consider adopting a horse that's been pulled by a rescue. Rescues get them in, QT them, vet them, evaluate them for training and temperament, often put training into them and the adoption contracts give you a safety net, should the horse NOT work out. Adopting from a rescue allows the rescue the resources to save another and repeat the process. YES, the adoption fee is more than the pull fee, but it is LESS than what YOU would spend to get a horse out of the Pen and up to that point.

This post is not meant to discourage the purchase of a Feed Lot horse, but is meant to make sure our prospective rescuers go into their labor-of-love with their eyes open.

Thank You.

Lisa (HHER)


  1. This was very informative and direct and when it comes to these horses you cant beat around the bush - they have been through a lot going through auction and in the kill pens and some have even journeyed and gone through several auctions. They dont know which end is up and what is coming next so they really need you to be patient and give them that chance to settle in! Dan in the picture had a home offer when we bailed him which fell through and I am glad because he really needs time in the care of the rescue to gain weight and rehab an injury from a kick in the kill pen. When it comes time to home him he will be in better shape and we will be better able to place him so i encourage those first timers or those a bit nervous to think about one who is in a rescue and like Lisa says it opens up a spot for the rescue to save another. The hardest part of adjusting them to normalcy is over and you will get a very nice horse who is still very grateful that he made it out of the kill pen and that you are giving him a new life! Kara V

  2. Training or retraining horses is like watching paint dry.....baby steps....never ever lose patience. If you do, do yourself and horse a favor and re-home them.

  3. I always worry when I see the posts for people looking for donations for the bail etc. The most expensive part of owning a horse is definitely NOT the initial purchase cost. I've had horses most of my life and we have 3 now, 2 of them rescues. One was local when the owner couldn't afford to keep him while she goes to Vet school. The second is Dexter, who came out of the PA kill pen at the end of June and came to us with Kara's help. He's about 800 lbs now which is 100 more than when he arrived. When he stepped off the trailer he was much smaller than the 14.2 or 14.3 as described - he barely hits 14 hands if he stands up VERY straight and his feet are a little long - so I really wasn't sure if he'd work for me. I was able to do the quarantine here so I told Kara we'd at least provide 30 days QT and she could have that time to find a home that would be a better fit for him. It really started out that I just felt sorry for him but now that he's here and doing so well we've decided to keep him. His personality is really blossoming and he is such a love. I was so surprised that at 9 years old he's barely green broke. I have the experience to do most of the training work he needs but will still work with a trainer when I run up against something I can't handle. In fact we went to a Natural Horsemanship Clinic this weekend which was very helpful. She was able to give me some pointers and show me how to get past his tendency to just lock up. Just because you don't pay a lot for the horse doesn't mean he isn't worth spending more money on. Training is just as important to a healthy happy horse as veterinary care and keeping their feet in shape.

    These horses deserve a second chance but if you don't have the experience and knowledge to go it alone please be realistic and show the horse one more act of kindness and get the help you need.

  4. yes this is so right! To all that get a horse, it is a lifetime commitment :)


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