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Marissa Raymo will discuss everything about horses, including horse health care tips, training tips, equestrian friendly trails, horse buying info and much more.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

For Free, or Not For Free - That is the question!

Whether you keep your horses at home, board, lease or take lessons on a school horse, the love of horses is by no means cheap. And in a poor economy, pet ownership tends to be one of the early luxuries to go. Pet rescues become overwhelmed with animals, breeders drop their prices to practically compete with rescues, and free animal listings seem to pop up everywhere. But a free horse?  

In the past, a free horse to me meant a twenty-something nag with a club foot and a blind eye...until I met Lyric. ‘Twas a chance encounter on Craigslist Detroit that brought me to her; a sad but hopeful listing from a college student who had lost her job and could no longer afford to pay her board. “Free Tennessee Walker/Arabian mare, come and get her.”  I called within 20 minutes of the posting, met her that night, and had her home by the weekend.

What I’ve since found is that a free horse does not come without cost. Lyric’s specially fitted tack (including the pieces that she destroyed out of spite), riding lessons, and the “Great Trailer Debate of 2010” (more to come on that later), all probably exceed the cost of a well broke, well bred and well mannered replacement…Plus, I’m fairly certain that she’s tried to kill me on a few occasions, so we can add my future medical bills to the mix.
So is a free horse a bad investment? Not necessarily. But is any free horse right for just anyone? Certainly not!

If you are considering taking in a free horse, here are a few things to consider:
  • What is the primary purpose of the horse? Will it be for riding or a pasture mate for another animal?  If it will be a riding horse, it's a good idea to get a full vet check before making the commitment. Though I like to give most people the benefit of the doubt, tight funds are not the only reason that people will offer up a "free horse".  If it is for a pasture buddy, request all vet and vaccination records (and it's still not a bad idea to have a full vet check performed). 
  • What are the conditions of the "adoption"? Someone who truly cares about their horse will require an adoption agreement before placing the animal to ensure that it does not end up in a slaughter house. Adoption agreements (see example below) will often include any restrictions (breeding or commercial use), "first right of refusal" to the previous owner, and a commitment to care (regular vaccinations, vet care and daily turnout). If the person does not care to make up an adoption contract, that is all the more reason to get a full vet check before bringing the animal home. 
Cowboy Logic of the Day 
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”



Anonymous Christine said...

My two oldest, then ages 7 and 9, took a group riding lesson a year ago this month and totally fell in love with horses and riding. The Gaylord Equestrian Center, 50 miles from my home in Cheboygan, is a WONDERFUL facility with a very experienced and patient trainer/instructor. Like you said, Marissa, nothing about horses (except for maybe drawing them) is cheap! Our kids, including the youngest, have been able to take several lessons in the last year and are blessed to have a Grandma who has given them birthday and/or Christmas gifts of gift certificates for a lesson. During the lessons where they get to canter, it seems the smiles will never come off their faces!
The kids would all love to own a horse and dream of someday doing so, but for now, they will take some lessons and enjoy every opportunity they get to pet, groom or ride the horses they encounter.

April 7, 2010 at 3:07 PM 
Blogger Marissa said...

Thank you for your comment Christine! I too remember the days when it seemed there was nothing longer than the drive in to my weekly lesson, and I'd still trade the 5 hours worth of work it took just to pay for that one hour on horseback!

I learned a lot from horses growing up and your children are very lucky to have parents and grandparents that are willing to give them such a gift. Thanks for reading!

April 7, 2010 at 8:23 PM 

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