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When breeding becomes hoarding

There is a farm in VT that has had 13 horses taken away in very poor shape. There are 120 horses at this farm. The owner is difficult at best. The 13 taken away were 1 and 2 year olds along with broodmares because they were the worst of the bunch.
It is so frustrating that the law moves so slowly on this and that the farm owner is obviously mentally ill or greedy and living in the past with his successes.
We need to figure out a way to stop this sort of thing before it becomes unmanageable like 120 horses.
Short of the donations to the rescue what can we do?

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I heard about this and saw the photo of the yearling who ended up hospitalized. Very skinny and looked stunted.

I have no idea what to do. Have seen it several times in the Morgan world - some well-known breeders getting old and just keeping almost everything they breed, which are often pretty feral. And then a disaster when the breeder either dies or has to move to a nursing home etc. Some entire herds have ended up at low end auctions.

There’s a Morgan breeder pretty local to me that everyone is worried about. The town has gotten after them a few times and they’ve sold some horses but always breed more, and people are pretty sure they have horses stashed in a field in another town. They are not feral for the most part, though.


In my breed (Arabians) it seems like there is often an element of dementia that accompanies these cases. I unfortunately don’t have any brilliant ideas for preventing this.

As a single, childfree, breeder myself, I already have a plan to stop breeding when I find myself reaching “a certain age” in hopes that my horses don’t outlive my ability to care for them. :confused: Best laid plans are no guarantee, but it eases my anxiety a bit to at least have some general end point in mind.


This guy has a reputation for being a jerk and greedy but at some point when you have 120 Friesians on your property that are not being cared for…and some are yearlings you have to think the guy is mentally ill.
How do you just walk away and not do something about it? I am finding it hard.

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Friesians of Majesty horse farm owner faces forfeiture hearing | Local News | reformer.com


More info here: https://www.reformer.com/local-news/heartbreaking-dorset-equine-rescue-cares-for-13-malnourished-horses/article_f729f554-2fca-11ee-b654-5ba7aeec4421.html


OMG the judge said a compromise is possible. WTF look at the condition of those horses

The same rescue that has the 13 horses mentioned in the original post is the rescue I got my mare Josie from in April 2022. She was in a feral Morgan herd of 9 that was in exactly the situation you mentioned. Through the Morgan DNA program, we figured out she is, but the owner hadn’t kept good records and she was initially believed to be a different, older mare.

Dorset Equine Rescue is an invaluable resource to law enforcement in this state. One of the really good ones. And I am heartened that some of the law enforcement seizures in the past couple of years actually have resulted in convictions for the owners. Josie’s owner’s case didn’t end up that way, but there were dementia/elder welfare concerns that I suppose were confounding factors. Though it was supremely frustrating to know that Josie’s breeder had once been very active in the VT Morgan breeders community-you can find her in ads in The Morgan Horse magazine from the 2000s-but refused help from other breeders when things started going downhill.

This mare has two world champion parents for goodness sakes! And yet she was fending for herself in a herd, stealing hay from neighbors and drinking from a frozen stream in the winter. Owner’s dementia aside, it’s infuriating it had to come to that before anyone could help them. At least I can promise Josie that she’ll never be hungry or thirsty or have to fight for her survival again!


Look at her! She is gorgeous. When I had a lot of horse for my lesson program I took out a life insurance policy to make sure they would all land well if anything happened to me and assigned them all to friends who would take care of them.


Beautiful mare! I remember that case, and donated to Dorset Equine Rescue at the time. It was very sad.


If I had a dollar for every hoarder breeder I crossed paths with…

Some of my best friends are breeders. I grew up on breeding farms. I worked on breeding farms. I dipped my toe into breeding myself.

But for every sane and responsible breeder out there, there are 3 other wackos who need to be focusing on themselves instead of contributing to the animal population.

I blame it on the fact that breeding will literally make you insane. It is thankless. People get in over their heads on a lot of different levels.


ACC employee here…sadly a lot of times an organization doesn’t want to take such a large hoarding case on so they will work with the person sometimes for years to avoid a large expensive seizure.

I get it…I just wish someone could step in and stop him from breeding.

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What is the role of the breed registry in this sort of situation? I know nothing of how Friesians work but it seems like they have an interest in not having very prominent breeders representing them this way. And this guy certainly thrives on public attention.

I share similar experiences and agree. Perhaps to animal husbandry and/or breeding animals attracts a certain type of person, too.

It’s my experience that hoarding and breeding in excess has roots in legitimate mental illness[es]. I’m not a trained medical professional, I can’t go into depths to explain why. I’ve just had the unfortunate experience of dealing with hoarding “from within” a few times now. There is no rationalizing with people when (or even before) they get to this point - and if you try to help them, sometimes you get burned at great personal cost. They’ll cut you from the farm and/or the animals. Maybe they’ll blast you on social media. They’ll make you look crazy. You can’t help them because they refuse help. I’ve seen a few well-meaning people now try to save livestock or horses from hoarding situations before it gets to total starvation, and the way the hoarder/owner/breeder reacts when they feel threatened by another person is unhinged. Some of them are control freaks to such a degree they can’t conceive that anyone can take care of an animal better than they can, or they can’t bear the thought of the animal ending up in a “bad” spot. Most of these hoarders start with legitimately good intentions; some rescued livestock, others had a good vision for breeding for a while before age and/or mental illness set in. They can be so barn-blind they can’t see how their own program has devolved over the years to the point it’s one step away from an animal graveyard.

It is a prolonged and suffering road before you get to the point of total starvation in a breeding population, too. You might see 10-13 animals in really poor condition, but what you don’t see are the dozens and hundreds of animals that didn’t make it because of lack of vet care. Feeding an animal is the bare minimum and it’s really the last thing to go when people are legitimate hoarders. What happens first is the resources are stretched so thin between the animals, that the owners forego necessities like vet intervention, farriery, etc – animals die from rather preventable and basic injuries simply from lack of something as simple as a $30 round of antibiotics. Others are humanely euthanized or PTS because the hoarder can’t conceive the idea that other people can provide better care. There is a long road to suffering before a herd shows a few starving members.


I suppose it is a slippery slope. Most people don’t intend to get over their heads until they are.

I am hoping for one more foal. Sure I could breed more, but I want to keep my foals. This will leave me with 2 older mares and 2 young horses. 4 horses is plenty for one person. I’m happy with 4 and that is enough.

I know someone who has 16 horses. She breeds and keeps the offspring but has limited time to ride… in my opinion that is too many but the horses look healthy and happy and that is what matters.

Given the rising costs of keeping and maintaining horses it’s easy to see why people struggle. One change in circumstance is enough to go from “doing fine” to “having too many”.

The issue with getting too many is that it isn’t possible to handle and train that many. No one wants a feral horse (at least most don’t). It’s better to have fewer animals and focus on giving them the best training possible.

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I have been around borderline situations and I absolutely agree that the folks doing this have mental issues. Which can include the ever present long term brain injuries from horse related accidents. People can end up with very poor executive function, poor impulse control, and be prickly about accepting help except on their own terms (like a “rescue” that is happy to accept donations for hay but goes nuclear if someone on FB suggests rehoming horses).

There’s also something about chasing the new shiny thing and the dopamine rush from acquiring a new horse or having a new foal.

Despite all the difficulty with AI and frozen semen and what not, pasture bred horses reproduce very efficiently and can easily outgrow your facilities.

Also horses lose weight very fast in drought or winter snow or growing colts. You might be tottering along OK, then the weather changes and in 2 months you have horses at death’s door.

It’s really hard to prevent in advance, the slide can be slow, the person can be self isolating, and dementia or just decreasing physical capability can create a disaster.


It also seems like breeding can be a self perpetuating – if you have horses on pasture with enough grass and other basics, the owner or breeder doesn’t necessarily have to make deliberate decisions and take a lot of specific actions for breeding to continue.


Yes. If you are pasture breeding, you would need to make a decision to actually seperate the stallion into his own area and indeed the yearlings and two year old colts or they are all just going to multiply like mice in a hay loft…

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The recreation department of a nearby town did a day trip to that farm this past Spring! I wonder if they put on a good front and kept the tourists from seeing the horses “out back”.