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Question:  Is this horse good for kids?

Answer:  How well does the kid ride?  How old is the kid?  Does the kid have a trainer?  Arena or trails?  Aspirations to do gymkhana?   A kid with quiet hands and seat who is in lessons with a good trainer is a completely different thing for a horse to be good for than a kid who is a beginner whose parents think they don’t need lessons and can “learn as they go” or “teach themselves.”  (Hint:  Most quality rescues aren’t interested in adopting to group #2, so if that’s you, you probably need to just go buy a horse if your mind can’t be changed about the necessity of lessons.  But I really hope it can.  You love your kids, right?  Keep them safe by investing in quality riding instruction.)

Question:  Is this horse bomb proof?

Answer:  Most rescues don’t even use the term, because there is only one kind of horse that is bombproof.

On the plus side, he doesn't eat a lot, either!  And no vet bills!

On the plus side, he doesn’t eat a lot, either! And no vet bills!

Every horse can be spooked by something.  No matter how elderly or phlegmatic, there is something on earth that will absolutely make them lose their pea brain and fly sideways or do a roll back or do a big, splay footed startle in place.  If you’re uncomfortable with that every happening, horseback riding is not for you.  If you’re a good rider, it won’t result in eating dirt (see the afore-mentioned suggestion about taking lessons!)

Question:  Is this horse completely healthy?

Answer: I don’t know, are you?  Think about it – most of us don’t hit the doctor for a full body physical and a set of full body x-rays too often.  And neither do horses.  Rescues work on limited budgets.  We do a basic intake exam when they come in to see what the heart, lungs, eyes, teeth, etc. look like but it’s a basic exam.  And of course we are going to notice something like heaves, Cushing’s disease or neurological issues.  Or in Violet’s case, nosebleeds – which have been diagnosed and resolved.  But overall, if you want to know how healthy a horse is, you are going to have to vet-check it at your expense, whether you’re adopting or buying — and even then, you may not find every issue that is lurking.  Horses, like people, can be afflicted with things that aren’t advanced enough to be apparent (like cancer).  That’s why neither we nor any rescue or horse seller can guarantee health.  Two things that may  help you decide the most are a full blood panel (about $100) and some x-rays ($40 a plate).

Question:  How old is this horse?  I don’t want anything over 15.

Answer:  Unless it’s an OTTB with a tattoo, or it came with its papers, we are guessing. It is an educated guess, but sometimes even the vets have trouble pinning it down to an exact year.  We adopted out a horse that Alamo Pintado declared was younger than we said, but I’ve had many come in that the former owner was “off” about the age by 10  years or more.  Ask yourself why you need this exact limitation on age.  Many horses competing at the highest levels are over 15.  Are you planning to do Grand Prix jumping like Flexible?  He’s 19 years old.  If Rich Fellers doesn’t need a young horse to jump 5′ fences, why do you need a young horse for what is likely to be much less demanding work?

19 years old.  Just saying.

19 years old. Just saying.

Question:  Is this horse an easy keeper?

Answer:  That is a question that will send rescuers running for their delete button.  It says two things:  I expect to feed a horse on $100 a month (answer:  you can’t afford a horse) and I don’t know how to keep weight on horses (you need to learn more before taking on the responsibility of horse ownership).  Please don’t make us cringe by asking it.  We’re very, very, very happy to provide you with an affordable feeding program that will, for sure, keep weight on your adopted horse.  It won’t be $100 but it won’t be $200 either.  Expect to spend about $150-$175 a month, in Southern California, to properly feed a horse kept at your home.

Statement:  I don’t want an Arabian or a Thoroughbred.

Then for Heaven’s sake, why are you contacting a Thoroughbred rescue?  (We got this inquiry. We really did.)

Look, I know many of you have had a bad experience with an individual horse of one breed but it’s truly not a reason to decide they’re all looney tunes. The scariest horse I have ridden in my lifetime was a bay AQHA gelding, who would wait until you were walking him out on a loose rein at the end of the ride and then blow up bucking.  Any time he felt you let your guard down, you were airborne.  Conversely I have ridden lazy, quiet Arabians and Thoroughbreds. They do exist.  Equine behavior generally has a lot more to do with feeding plan, turnout, and consistent riding than breed.

Statement:  Would you waive the adoption fee? I’m a really good home.

Answer:  Great, I’m happy you’re a really good home, but that doesn’t affect the adoption fee.  Craigslist is full of free horses. We will never waive an adoption fee and nor will most rescues.  If you can’t come up with typically less than $1000 for a horse, we fear you won’t be able to cover even a basic colic vet bill ($300-$400) or a cut requiring stitches or pretty much anything out of the ordinary.  We also fear you’re a kill buyer’s accomplice who is a really good liar.  Adopting from us, or any other quality rescue, you get a horse who has already had a tooth float ($150-$250), hoof trim ($50), basic vet exam ($100-$150), and usually some riding or training ($200+, usually much more).  Getting a free horse, you’re unlikely to get any of that.  So we’re not sure why it’s so important to you to save money that you’re just going to end up spending anyway if you’re the good home that you say you are (that would pay for all of those things for a new horse that needed them)?

Question:  I can adopt if you can deliver the horse to me (three states away)

Answer:  Let me solve your problem for you:  here’s a referral to a rescue near your home.  There is truly no reason whatsoever to ship rescue horses all over the country. There is no shortage of rescue horses anywhere in the U.S.  Shipping them all over is not necessary unless they’re special needs of some sort and an appropriate home truly is rare and hard to find.  We are happy to adopt out of state to a person who can afford to pay 100% of the cost of transport. This makes us feel confident about your ability to afford another equine mouth to feed!  Also, you are going to have to come here and ride the horse first. We aren’t sending a horse a thousand miles to a person who has not ridden it, and knows they feel comfortable on it.  Plane tickets are a lot cheaper than shipping a horse back!

Question:  Is the horse okay around emus?

Answer:  Rescues do their best to test out horses in a variety of situations, but you may have an unusual situation that we cannot replicate at home.  Some examples are properties with an arena adjacent the freeway, or your 4-H show grounds is next to a motocross track, or you have to ride past a farm with exotic animals to get to the trails.  In a case like this, you’re just going to have to take the horse and try it.  We take returns cheerfully as does every reputable rescue.  Make sure you can return the horse if it isn’t going to work.  Returning a horse if you have made a good faith effort and he just isn’t settling down in your situation is not a bad thing – just be honest with the rescue that the horse needs to tolerate whatever the situation is, so that they know the adoption may not stick.

Question:  Can she run fast? (And that’s the entire email)

No. Just no.

No. Just no.

Believe it or not, any good rescue really DOES want you to be super happy with the horse you adopt, if you adopt.  So here’s the kind of inquiry that helps us do that and makes us think you’re likely to be a responsible horse owner:

Hi, I’m looking to adopt a horse for trail riding and team sorting.  The horse would be ridden by me – I’m a confident rider who has competed in cutting and reining and started a few horses when I was younger, but don’t want a bronc at this point in my life.  I’d also like it to be quiet enough for my 8 year old to ride in her lessons.  We ride with Jim Smith at Smith Ranch in Smithville.  The horse would be kept at Jim’s ranch and have a box stall with an attached 12 x 24 run.   

(attaches pictures of Mom and Kid riding)

This is our dream inquiry e-mail. It’s not a novel but it tells us:

– About how well the people ride  (pics help, video helps even more if you have a link!)

– Where and how the horse will live

– What discipline you want to pursue (we try all of our horses on cattle, for example, so this is something we can give you a clear answer on)

– Who the trainer is (so we can establish it isn’t the Rate My Horse Pro horse-beater or horse-starver of the month)

Bear in mind most of us take this exactly as seriously as if we were adopting out human babies.  We would feel horrible beyond belief if one of our horses met a bad end or was abused or neglected in any way.  We understand you may feel like you are being interrogated by the CIA with all of the application questions, but we don’t know you.  We’re strangers at this point and we hope we’re going to adopt a horse to you and make a lifelong friend as well, but just as with meeting people online to date, you have to be a little careful.  Please don’t be offended by the caution rescues show.  We really do want the best for all involved – including you and your family!


One response to “10 Things Adopters Say – and what they say to us!”

  1. Susan Crane-Sundell (@sabaahslight)

    Yes the adoption process should be called the education process. I have seen so many defensive people leave a perfectly respectable exchange regarding the adoption of a horse. People want 100 percent guarantees that they are getting a perfect horse which we all know doesn’t exist. Because, let’s face it, if you meet any perfect people in this world they turn out to be either not so perfect or so boring as to be avoidable. The “perfect” horse is one with whom you have simpatico and a similar skill level. The wonder of horse adoption is the magic of making a perfect partnership.

    The potential adopter has to be completely candid with the agency responsible for placing the horse. It’s not a matter of point to the prettiest and take that horse home.

    We’ve all seen terrible results when a rider gets in over their head with their perceived skill level versus their actual skill level. We’ve also seen horses suffer when someone adopts them who can’t really afford them. I am grateful for agencies that perform due diligence and go the extra mile to make a sound placement.

    A happy horse is one who has a steward who understands them, respects them and is willing to take on the work and expense involved in keeping a horse healthy.

    Thank you for sharing the wisdom of experience that you have gleaned from your own horse/rider education program. The work you do is magical.

    P.S. Many years ago,when I first started rescuing Greyhounds I was blessed with a great first dog. It all clicked. When I went to adopt my own second dog, I met the most amazing program director. After an afternoon of really getting to know each other and meeting responsible trainers, he took me to see the available dogs. I immediately fell in love with a large red male and thought I couldn’t live without him. Well the wise program director told me there was no way I could have that dog…no way. I was miffed as I just felt a bond with that dog. He picked the dog that I should have out for me, and she was a lanky fawn female, with dark eyes whose legs seemed to be too long for her frame and she had Chippendale legs. He told me “that’s your dog”. He said she’s got problems and you’re a “dog”person. I decided to honor his wisdom. That Greyt was the most devoted dog I ever had and she gave me years of pleasure, laughs and was the most special dog ever. It pays to trust the people who really know their animals. When adopting, be honest, state your skill, time and energy level and let the people who know what they’re doing be your guide.
    No one gets to a great partnership without some outside help.

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