Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Different Slant on "Rescue"

I've been delighting in following the exciting rescues and re-homings being done here in NJ at Camelot auction and elsewhere. It's been great fun donating cash to bail horses out of the kill pen and seeing them going to assorted farms for quarantine ("QT" in the parlance), rehabilitation ("rehab" for you novices), and finally re-homing to long-term, permanent placements with people who will care for them and let them live out their lives free from the threat of the dinner table. It's all good.

Yesterday, after I'd logged in and checked on this week's crop of kill pen horses and their fates, I got started on organizing my (horrors!) tax documentation. I have lots of documents, lots of expenses, income, deductions..and lots of stuff that's just plain money whirly-gigging down the barn drain. Oddly, that's my favorite part. That's the pile of vet bills, feed bills, farm supply bills, tack shop invoices, and equipment receipts that prove to me that my horse life is definitely healthy and completely insane by the average non-horse-person's standards. I make hay on my farm--that's my income-producer--and I have horses who eat that income as fast as it's produced and return nothing but more work and utter joy.

I'm not running a rescue operation. I'd like to be, but as a female of a certain age with a property better suited to being a private horse retreat than an active rehab and re-homing establishment, it's not going to happen in my lifetime. But I have six horses, and this connected in my mind with a post on Facebook about a re-homed rescue horse who, after some time with his new family, was finally coming into his own, showing his personality and relaxing enough to be happy at last.

When we say "rescue" we think about those amazing folks who haunt the kill pens and the auctions and do mass email forwards for private owners looking to get rid of horses they can no longer afford. We think of a network of big-hearted humans, and so it is. But there's a horse standing in my pasture right now who doesn't belong to me and is as much a rescue as any coming out of the kill pen, if only because his owner told me several years ago that she was tired of paying board and wanted her lovely, funny, healthy horse euthanized to cut expenses. I offered the option of a huge reduction in board so she's just barely covering his feed, and I kept him. He'll be here until he dies. I didn't really rescue him. Some of his expenses are being paid for by this owner. He'd already been here for 10 years, so he wasn't a new horse to care for. But he'll never wind up at auction. Neither will my foundered mare with pasture heaves who has been retired for 11 years, nor my arthritic Quarter Horse, nor any of the others. They're covered in my will, and they're in a forever home. Even the Appy gelding pictured above, who came from a good home at a good price and is a riding horse I enjoy very much, has earned a forever place here, which qualifies him as well. He'd been bounced around a bit before he came here, not abused by any legal standards (though there are some scars that could be explained by some previous owner, I'm sure), but also not real trusting. It took nearly two years for him to decide to be my pocket pony, emotionally rehabbed to the nines.

What I'm asking today is for the horse owners who read this to think about their own horses and consider the idea that if they offer those horses the loyalty and friendship they themselves have demanded, then those horses too will be rescued. Consider this pre-emptive rescuing! Don't sell that pony or send him to auction; keep him as a friend. Sure, he's an expensive buddy, but the best ones often are. And if you don't actually own a horse but would like to make sure that another one stays free of the kill pen, think about chipping in to help support a horse that belongs to someone who has fallen on difficult times and more difficult choices. No, it won't be tax-deductible, but neither was the last pair of shoes you bought, and for the same price, that pony could have eaten for a month or two. If you really love horses and can't realistically afford to donate cash to help one live a bit longer, consider offering your help, not just to a recognized rescue as a volunteer, but perhaps to a neighbor who could use someone to pitch in and make it possible for her to take another horse or keep one that's on the verge of being just too much to handle as aging multiplies his needs. Not a lifetime commitment, just a show of support that will feel even better than sitting around reading heart-warming stories about horses saved from a bitter fate.

You, too, can be a rescue worker helping our lovely horses find the peace they've earned, and you might be surprised to find that you're really the one on the receiving end.

NOW AVAILABLE! Horses Happen! A Survival Guide for First-Time Horse Owners is available for the Kindle. Visit and order yours now. I can't autograph it for you--ebooks are hard to sign--but the thought will be there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Overload of Grief

Black hearts and souls sold to the devil? Wanton craziness. Stupidity above and beyond. I'm not a believer in the heaven/hell thing, but I'm forced to ask what in hell is going on around here?

Maybe it's just me, but it appears that the Top Ten Most Idiotic Folks list for 2010 is going to be fully populated before the first month of the new decade has passed. Did you read about a horse being dragged to death in Greece to the amusement and apparent pride of some testosterone cowboys? The subsequent plea for "polite" letters to the Greek government was awesome in its low-key quality. And the political correctness that asterisked the word "Nigerian" in a news report about the would-be Christmas Day airline bomber just tweaked my...uh...can I say "tits" here? But the idiocy that has become the politicization of the devastation of the beleaguered island nation of Haiti just takes the cake!

As one of the Haves, I make it a policy to donate whatever is needed wherever I can, and I like to twist arms and push buttons to guilt friends and family into doing the same. That's why I feel I have the right to speak out on this nutsiness. We who support the Great Causes of the world salute those who have pulled it together, given up much and continue to work quietly and without much public notice. We love you as much as you love the causes for which you struggle. Trust that, and trust that we will continue to back you in your struggles. We need to speak with one voice in pronouncing the loonies Unfit and relegating them to the limbo of No Air Time. We need to bring about a paradigm shift that puts the Good in the limelight and the asshats back under the rocks from whence they sleazed.

To the Pat Roberstons and Rush Limbaughs and Glen Becks of the world I say, "Go! Go be with God or Jesus or the Great Hairy Fungerer or whoever you think will have you. Go sit at someone's right hand and take your hard-core, blinded-by-the-light followers with you! You have no further business here!" We are perfectly capable of replacing you with hoards of upwardly-mobile idiots who haven't quite crossed the line and might still have some real purpose in the world if they are only deprived of your guidance. It may be true that "You Can't Fix Stupid", but you can geld it. Excising from the public eye the biggest producers of nonsense is a good start to creating a place where peace might actually stand a chance.

You Angels out there, you who save animals and humans and the environment, go forth and multiply! But when the moment comes when those ill-advised scum-suckers who find cause for delight in the misfortune of others and gleefully participate in creating more, when they finally fall on hard times themselves and need your hand and mine to pull them out of the rubble, take a knee, say a kind word, then walk on by and help someone who deserves your kindness. The applause you will hear will be well-earned!

Monday, January 04, 2010

2010 Comes In With a Growl

For my fellow NJ residents, this is not a mirage. These three big cats are cougars. Real ones. This photo was taken in an area off Clove Road in Montague and emailed to me just this morning.

So we will start the New Decade with the debunking of Fish and Wildlife's contention that there are no cougars (of the feline variety...I make no claims about the human version) in this part of the country. Sussex County has cougars. Period.

*Update, 3/5/10: So, it was a hoax after all. I am apparently as gullible as the friends who sent me the photo above. This was NOT taken in NJ, certainly not in Montague, and has been thoroughly and finally debunked. To those of my readers who fell for this as hard as I did, well....welcome to the boat. I apologize for not checking more thoroughly before I posted this.*

Following up on the New Year/New Decade theme, I touched base with my Advisory Council in the front pasture this weekend and asked what they think about the coming decade and what their hopes and concerns might be. Naturally, the initial responses involved a lot of food requests. Every one of my horses insists that my story about a carrot shortage resulting from Climate Change is just so much hooey. Apparently they're in psychic contact with the horses around the corner who are in carrots up to their eyeballs and ratted me out. Damn! I'll have to add a trip to Shop Rite to this morning's errands list.

Beyond the tummy-stoking issues, however, they all had concerns. Zips Money Pit was most worried about the economy as it relates to how many horses might come here to live. "We don't need to be too generous, you know. Those empty stalls are fine just filled with hay." I suspect he caught wind of my daughter's mare's possible temporary retirement here. I know his laptop isn't working since he tossed it into the trough, so he hasn't heard about the Unwanted Horses Initiative or my occasional lapse into the insanity that might bring some poor equine soul here for R&R of a Lifetime Home. That might push his frizzy little brain hairs into a snood from which they'd never be extricated.

Leo My Love was the only herd member to mention Illegal Immigration as a concern. "How many horses do you think are coming across the border? Do I have to share my stall? Can we trade in Duke for, say, three of them? I'd be okay with that." I assured him that the horse traffic has been and probably will continue to be in the opposite direction, though the Forces of Good are working hard to keep horse meat off tables everywhere. I probably shouldn't have mentioned the horse meat thing. The last I saw of him he was lying in the snow, possibly in a dead faint.

Pokey's only concern was for her fellow racehorses. "Could you please tell people we're okay?" I reminded her of our occasional rough moments early on. Those were the ones that result from a kind-hearted fool (me) with no track experience taking a retired (and pregnant....and foundered....)race horse (her) home for the Holidays. I don't think my tailbone was actually fractured, and the airs above the ground she performed in the warm-up pen at her only show may be the single most notable moment in my competitive career, so I'm not complaining. I assured her that the coming decade will bring less silliness and more rational thought in the horse world, though I had absolutely no evidence to support that claim and she seemed unimpressed.

Dakota the Inscrutable App frisked me for cookies then wandered off. I followed for a bit yelling questions and listening closely for answers, but I got nothing from him. He's been disillusioned since the insane cold weather hit us. Seems someone told him that if he wished really hard and clicked his heels three times, Santa Clyde would take him to Arizona where all good Appys go. Jersey was not on his Christmas list. I did manage to get in a word about climate change and how if we all pull together and he (in particular) refrains from excessive farting, we can stop its progress and end this manic-depressive weather pattern in the not-too-distant future. He farted and walked away.

Pinky the One-Eyed Wonder App doesn't seem to get what all the fuss is about on any front. But then, Pinky occasionally winds up on the wrong side of his stall guard in the morning, and he hasn't figured that one out either. I pointed out to him that we as citizens of the world need to do some serious thinking about the way we're living our lives. "Tell me you're not thinking about riding me again!" was his bug-eyed response. I assured him that his missing extensor tendon connection in the rear pretty much assured him of a quiet senior-citizen repose for whatever time he has left. Relieved, he stomped on Duke and joined the rest of the herd in the pasture.

Off all the voices in the pasture this morning, only that of the Mystical Beast, Duke, was loud, clear, and strident. "if you come out here fussing and angry about that politics stuff one more time, I'll bite the seat out of your jeans! And leave the damn cell phone in the tack room. You can't be petting my head and talking on the phone. That's just rude, and that kind of lack of attention is what's wrong with your species. This decade had better bring more petting, less yelling, more cookies, and not so many running-in-circles days for either of us! I have spoken."

And so it goes. I can't begin to fulfill all the hopes and dreams of my herd any more than the coming decade will fulfill the hopes and dreams of societies around the world. If it all hinged on increased carrot production and more petting, we might have a chance. But maybe making "simplify" the word of the decade would be a step in the right direction. The horses have it right. It's up to us to let them take the lead on this ride for a while.