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Justa Smidgen – Born in New York, raced, polo, traveled cross country and now teaching little girls to ride in California!

This is what we do here, and it feels GREAT!

Justa Smidgen - Good at everything she does!

Justa Smidgen – Good at everything she does!


If you have a polo pony who is ready to retire, e-mail us. Whether we take a horse into our program or not, we are always willing to assist you with screening homes, background checking, putting together a solid contract and other steps to help ensure your horse will not be in danger of anything more than too many carrots!

There is a school of thought that believes you should never name the people responsible for sending a horse to slaughter, for fear that they will find a way to send horses more discreetly to slaughter, and there will be no way to intervene.

There is another school of thought that believes you must name the people responsible for sending a horse to slaughter, so that those horse people who do not want their horses to go to slaughter can keep their horses safe from those people and also, refuse to do business with those people so that they suffer financial consequences for their actions.

We believe in the second approach.  Anyone who disputes the story posted here is welcome to post and tell their version of the story.  However, from everything that has gotten back to me, and believe me, I have heard this story from numerous people now, the story is extremely consistent, with the only disparity coming from whether or not one party knew what another party would do.

I am NOT a sandwich!

I’m NOT a sandwich!

The so-far-undisputed facts:

The owner of Tamara, the gray mare we bought at Mike’s Auction on March 8, 2014, outbidding the only other bidder, a kill buyer, for $250 absolutely did not know her mare was taken to the sale.  I am not going to name this person, she can name herself if she so chooses, because I am 100% convinced of the truth of her account of the story. She discovered her mare had been sold at auction when a friend of hers sent her the pictures of the mare at PPR a week later and her shock was completely genuine.

The nature of polo is such that people often play polo in locations very far from their actual homes.  The backstory on this mare is that she was in Indio, on pasture board.  The owner, who had gone home to her own country after the season, had authorized the pro player she employed, Victor Soto, to find the mare a good home as a broodmare or companion horse. She anticipated and had discussed with him that the mare would go to someone in the polo community, so she would know where the horse was and how she was doing.  She loved this mare. She had spent a lot of time working with her and feeding her carrots and convincing the mare that people were a good thing.  Since Tamara is an imported Argentine mare who was a fast, handy and highly valuable pro’s horse most of her life, she was a great candidate to at least try to breed.

(Weird small world coincidence:  Tamara came in from Kansas several homes ago with two other horses. She is the only one of the three I never rode while owned by that previous home, so I didn’t remember her.)

The mare was not an easy placement otherwise. She remained hot and quick on her feet – not a horse who could be a pee wee polo horse or a trail horse for an average rider.  She couldn’t retire to a lower level of polo because those people couldn’t ride her.  She was not unsound but she was 20 and had enough wear and tear that it was time she had an easier life. That easier life is what her owner wanted for her.

Here is the timeline as best we can piece it together:

Sometime on or prior to March 8, 2014, Tamara was given or sold by Victor Soto to Jose Garnica.  Garnica is a polo farrier who is well known as the “go to” guy if you want your horse to disappear.  He routinely runs horses to auction/slaughter.

On March 8, 2014, Garnica took this mare and the dapple gray gelding to Mike’s Auction in Mira Loma, California. Despite what other sources have reported, the dapple gray horse is indeed a polo pony and is not 17 hands tall.  We know, for sure, who he is. He flunked out of polo for rearing and we are still trying to learn his whole story.  He was purchased by Auction Horses Rescue.  They have been advised of his past behavioral history.

We purchased the mare for $250. The only other bidder was a well known kill buyer. We were outbid on the gelding.

On March 9, 2014, we picked up Tamara and posted a zillion photographs of her, documenting in a way that cannot be argued with that we had the horse in our possession. There are multiple witnesses and photographs showing the mare at the auction as well as showing that we picked up the mare at the auction yard.

On March 12, 2014, Victor informed the owner that he still had Tamara, but that someone was coming to look at her for a companion horse that coming weekend (March 15-16).

On March 15, 2014, the owner discovered we had Tamara and called me.  To say she was shocked was an understatement.

Throughout the past two weeks, this story has been pieced together from multiple sources in Indio – none of whom had a different story.

Now here is the sole disputed fact, to the best of our knowledge and information at this time:

Victor, when confronted, told the owner he did not know Jose ran horses to auction/kill.

The following graphic contains an editorial opinion about that statement.


It is up to the owner whether or not she will choose to take legal action.  We have mutually agreed the mare will stay with PPR for placement in a carefully screened home, on contract, and I have reviewed in detail the steps that have to be taken to ensure things like this don’t happen to the owner’s other horses.  A major part of our purpose here is to educate.  We understand that the main reason horses wind up in bad places is not because the owners wanted that to happen, but because the owners were (a) too trusting and (b) didn’t really understand the legal steps that must be taken to up the odds that a free/cheap horse will stay safe and sound in a new home.

Can anything guarantee a horse won’t be taken to an auction or sold directly to a kill buyer?  No. But a contract provides you with a basis to make an action like that an expensive mistake for someone, and that discourages it from happening, in the same way that hefty seat belt fines cause me to wear my seat belt no matter how unpleasant I find it.  Background checking a new home and doing your research can also greatly reduce your odds that you will give a horse to the wrong person.  You can’t ever guarantee someone won’t turn out to be a bad person, but you can reduce your odds by being smart – the same reason you background check your kid’s nanny or your elderly parent’s caretaker.

I understand that some people will read this who do not think horse slaughter is wrong.  Even if you don’t – do you respect the right of a horse owner to determine what is done with their property?  I hope so.  I don’t know how you can disagree that lying to owners and converting their property is 100% unacceptable.  Someone pocketed the money from the sale, sure as heck wasn’t the owner of the horse who thought she still owned the horse.  How do you defend that?  How do you give that person your business?

And I keep hearing stories from others about how they got cheated and defrauded in polo.  Horses sold by pros that the owners were never paid for.  Money given to pros to pay for expenses that was pocketed, leaving the bill intact and the owner on the hook.  Crippled horses drugged up and sold as sound to novice players who don’t know that they should vet check.  Why does this go on, with so few lawsuits or other consequences?

(I do understand that some people are afraid the person will take our their aggressions on the field and I know it happens but that’s a whole other blog about the need to bring in non-local umpires so that local pros aren’t having to call fouls on the clients who pay their bills.)

There are many, many people in polo that you can put your horses with that are trustworthy, honest and reputable. It’s a small world. It’s easy enough to find out who those people are.  It may cost you a little more to put horses with wonderful people.  It is your decision.

From my previous blog post:

“If you can prove you have been lied to, for heaven’s sake, stop patronizing the person who lied to you. The world is full of trainers of all disciplines. You don’t have to line the pockets of people who have no actual love for horses if you don’t want to.”

Your money. Your choice.  The most powerful tool you have in your possession to affect the lives of animals is your wallet.  Use it wisely.

Tamara in the auction pen on 3/8/14.

Tamara in the auction pen on 3/8/14.