The Horse Dilemma

Last fall we had a horse trader stop by our place and offer us a pittance for two of our horses. He proceeded to tell us how many people are being forced out of the horse business due to the doubling and tripling prices of hay, and the shortage of grains here in the USA. Of course we knew this already, but at the time we weren’t ready to give in and pare down our herd. This guy told us that he has people pull up to his place, unload a trailer full of horses and say, “Just send me whatever you think they’re worth, I can’t afford to keep them.”

This article at cbsnews.com says that people are dropping their horses off on government land and at city parks. And the higher hay prices couldn’t have come at a worse time. When you consider that hundreds of thousands of unwanted American horses were slaughtered every year…prior to April of 2007 when it became illegal in the USA…it’s no wonder that there’s a surplus of people with horses that no one wants, much less can afford to feed.

I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of selling horses for dog food or for human consumption (yes, it’s a delicacy in certain countries), please understand that. Yet there have been times in our married life when we dropped a horse off at a sale not knowing what it would sell for, but not really caring because the horse had proven itself to be a danger to my husband or just a downright mean horse. Plus, you can’t keep them all. Now there is absolutely no money in horses, there’s so many free for the taking. So what used to pay for itself has now become a huge drain on our family budget. I can hardly joke about it anymore, but for a couple years now I’ve maintained that our horses eat better than we do. It’s ridiculous.

Sobering stuff we heard from this horse trader, yet at the time, we couldn’t bear to let the two horses he was interested in go for the couple hundred he was wanting to offer. Hubby has always raised horses…he bought his first one with money earned weeding farm crops at age ten. We’ve had as many as twenty at one time in our married life. We’d keep a couple of colts each summer and sell the rest to pay for pasture rent. Now we’re down to owning two Shetland ponies (for our girls) and six mares and geldings.

Sunday morning my dh loaded up the paint mare* that my father-in-law gave me 14 years ago. He took her and her two year old to a sale, dropped them off and made it back in time for church. We’re just hoping they made enough at the auction to pay the sale barn’s commission. And before you blame him for taking my horses to a sale, let me assure you that I insisted. They are special, but sentimental doesn’t pay the bills. At least the other horses we still have are all great bloodlines, kid-friendly and assets at hubby’s job. My horse was always too high-spirited to trust very far.

If we owned our own pasture, or had a way to raise our own hay crop, things would be different.

A “chicken in every pot” and a “horse in every yard”. Not for the majority in America. Maybe not for long at our place either.

*Topaz, pictured above on a drizzly afternoon last week, picture credit goes to my friend Amy

7 thoughts on “The Horse Dilemma”

  1. This is very close to some things that I’ve been reading about recently about upcoming food shortages in North America for people – grim, scary stuff.

  2. Mary, it seems like you had to make a bittersweet decision and I’m sorry you had to lose something so sentimental. From what you said, you made the right decision.

  3. Sorry you had to sell them Mary. It’s hard parting with things that are valuable both financially and emotionally. My DH a week or 2 ago had to part with his truck (his baby!) that was all done up and he had before we even met. But you gotta do what you gotta do when you have a family to care for right?

  4. Gosh, I had no idea this was going on? It must have been hard to say goodbye to your horse, but I agree your family should come first before a horse.

    I hope something works out for you all and soon.

    Leticia’s last blog post..Have you ever?

  5. Thanks, Beck. Yes, we’ve been feeling this shortage already in corn prices…since our main source of heat is an outdoor corn stove. We’ve got to figure out an alternative fuel to burn in it. Before next fall!

    Julie, that is exactly what I prayed, and Colleen, I feel good about it, I really do. We should have sold them sooner probably.

    Thanks, Geri. But I am looking out at our horse pen with relief, thinking that at least the hay will go further. I’m sorry your hubby had to part with his truck, we’ve had that happen here too, it’s hard on the guys, especially when they’ve put so much of their identity into their transportation! And you’re so right, family comes first.

    Leticia, I appreciate it. Hopefully we won’t always be in this hard spot, but I don’t know if the horse market will ever recover!

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