This past weekend, two of our trainers made the trek to the New Holland auction in Pennsylvania to acquire some new horses for our program. The auction is a sobering reminder of just how many quality horses are neglected and unwanted. Our staff was struck by the sheer number of horses who appeared sound, healthy, and who trotted and cantered quietly through the turmoil of the auction ring; only to sell for a couple of hundred dollars. Likely due to the Columbus Day holiday the facility was particularly crowded, with a full house of animals to be sold, but the unbelievable fact is that this auction takes place every single week. As always, our staff headed home feeling heartbroken for all of the worthy horses now potentially headed to slaughter. Fortunately, we acquired three new horses who are very deserving of a better life, and we are excited to see what the future holds for these sweet boys.
Amidst the chaos of the auction, it is extremely difficult to make the decision regarding which horses to bring home. Our trainers look for horses who appear to have potential, yet who for whatever reason have no interested buyers or owners present, and thus would likely have ended up on the slaughter truck. The majority of horses at the auction come with dealers or their owners, but there are always those who have simply been dropped off to be sold, and we focus on that group. There are several Amish cowboys working at the auction who will hop on a horse bareback for prospective buyers, and we’ve come to trust their opinion of horses we’ve asked them to sit on. The auction is such a loud, stressful environment that we are always struck by the horses that seem to take it all in stride and remain calm. We keep in mind the qualities that make horses easy to adopt out, and we try to imagine what strengths a particular horse may bring to the table once they are in regular training. At times it feels almost impossible to make a choice, and we have to keep reminding ourselves that there are no bad decisions: any unwanted horse we choose is worthy of a second chance.
Since we don’t currently have any large ponies, we were on the lookout for one and ‘Baxter’ seemed perfect. He is around 15 years old, 14 hh, and was curious, sweet and calm when we handled him and while being ridden around the auction. Due to his severely neglected feet, an old (healed) ulcer in one eye and his general shaggy and unkempt appearance, we knew that he wasn’t likely to be purchased by anyone but the kill buyer. He had been left off at the auction, and the only thing we were told about him was that he had been a camp horse. So far he has been a total sweetheart, and we can already imagine him being super with children.
A mini can fit in our trailer tackroom, and we always try to bring one home as they are such easy keepers and are usually quick to be adopted out. This time, we were looking for a mini big enough to be ridden by young children, and we picked out ‘Snickers’ from the bunch because he was friendly and plain looking: he wasn’t flashy like some of his neighbors and thus seemed likely to be overlooked. Snickers has thus far been perfect to work around and we can picture him as a great family pony. He is about 12 years old.
At first glance we thought that ‘Acadia’ might be pure Thoroughbred, but he has no tattoo and was listed as an Appendix Quarter horse. In the commotion of the auction, Acadia caught our eye with his striking looks and alert yet calm demeanor. He is around 8 years old, 16 hands and sound with clean legs. Like Baxter, Acadia had been dropped off at the auction and incredibly, no one else showed any interest as he went through the sale. The cowboy who rode him through commented that he seemed to know what he was doing, and we simply couldn’t let such a lovely horse end up on the slaughter truck. He appears to be in good shape and enjoyed a gallop around the pasture during his first morning at the farm.
All three boys will spend a month in quarantine on the farm before we integrate them into the herd. They have had an initial veterinary examination, shots, and will be seen by our farrier next week. We will make sure that any physical issues are addressed during the quarantine period, but mostly we will let these guys relax, recuperate and enjoy themselves…they certainly deserve it!