Mature-age horses – say, 4+ yo – that have very little or no introduction to riding, in some cases to even basic handling, are at greater risk of neglect. This became a side discussion in the thread about the ‘crazy horse market’, with big $$ being asked for show-type horses with no advanced training.
These mature, untrained, primarily grade horses represent probably most of the classified-ad backyard horses in this part of the country. Over the past years, many owners purchased horses to live in their pasture, planning to use the horses, but almost never doing it. It’s become a sort of demographic in rural areas that now have a lot of new-ish farmettes and owners inexperienced with farms.
How big of a problem is this in your area?
In this part of the country, grass tends to be abundant and grows throughout mild winters. So if they are on enough acreage, many of these horses just live out their lives at pasture.
But many of these horses get into serious neglect situations with owners who lose interest or can’t afford to continue caring for them. They may be in dirt lots or seriously over-grazed pastures. Some owners think that if a small lot has “green” growing there, that is horse food. Often the horse grass is long gone and it’s just non-nutritious weeds. The horses are bony on top but with a swollen belly, which the owner (and often law enforcement) thinks means they are ok.
This is no fault of the horse, it is entirely about owners who don’t/can’t/won’t work with them. Owners are very distracted these days and that started long before the pandemic. Career, school, other activities & sports … and let’s face it, the attractions of the internet & mobile phone … eat away at what might have been horse time.
- Here is a list of hard-to-adopts listed by a local rescue that I work with (that need extra placement help to get them adopted). These horses are all law enforcement seizures for neglect. (No “kill pen pulls” – those are just marketing ploys to sell horses.) All are now in good shape thanks to feed, care, farrier, vet and other services provided by the rescue. But they have little training.
5-6 yo bay paso fino mare. She is reportedly broke to ride, but very green. Will probably need an experienced rider.
5 yo mare. Is halter broke and a gorgeous mover, could be an English prospect. Has been working on basic ground manners.
8 yo stock type mare. Is halter broke and has been working on ground manners.
2 yo stud colt. Is semi halter broke, and needs to lot of ground work and to be gelded.
6 yo bay Part Arabian gelding. Is halter broke, but not been ridden.
That’s just the few that are halter-broke and are the most ready for new homes. They are all on pasture at foster homes for now, and not getting much interest from potential adopters.
This rescue has another 20 or so mature horses with little training that are now in the hands of fosters who are volunteer trainers. These horses have been with their trainers since spring, and the goal is to have them ready for a productive new life by October.
But we all know that 6 months of basic training and riding, while helpful, will not last long in the new home if the new owner does not continue riding and working with the horse. So given the propensity of many owners to not follow through with their horses, those horses may someday be back in the same cycle.
Mature horses with little understanding of human expectation for handling, not to mention rideable, can be at risk of not getting good care. And become a problem that is hard to solve. Even by rescues.
How big do you think this problem is where you are?