Several months ago I started getting the urge to have another horse. I don’t NEED another horse. I have 3 already. Well, 2 and 1/4 (Fred, a 17yo TB gelding, Tom, a 24 year old TB gelding, and Peanut, a 38yo mini mare). They require plenty of attention and make plenty of manure for me to clean up. There was no reason for me to get another horse. Lack of a good reason has never stopped me before though.
So I went and got 2. This is their story, as it unfolds.
If I’m going to have a horse I don’t really need, it might as well be a horse who needs me, so I decided to be a foster home for a rescue. I have the space and the means to take on a “fixer-upper” so I figured, why not? I’ve owned horses long enough to have some idea of what I’m doing, and I’ve got plenty of feed (being married to a feed dealer helps!) and lots of hay. I decided on Another Chance 4 Horses (www.ac4h.com). They got rave reviews on a bulletin board that I frequent – The Chronicle of the Horse (www.chronicleforums.com). Ok, enough name-dropping.
So I applied to be a foster home and am in the process of getting approved when I happen across a black pony stallion, approximately 8 years old, said to be a Percheron/Haflinger cross. That’s going to be a tough one to place, I thought, so I offerred a home. Sure enough, a private home didn’t come through for him, so I set out to pick him up 9-29-08 from the infamous New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania.
The New Holland Experience
Most horse people have probably heard of the place, especially if they live anywhere nearby, which I do. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I pictured the worst: rows of emaciated horses, covered in flies, bite and kick marks. That’s not what I found. Amazingly, 80% of the horses I saw had nothing outwardly wrong with them. Mosty had shiny coats. Nearly all were in good weight. Several with neatly pulled manes could have been saddled up and ridden into any show ring. Sure, plenty of them had big ankles, scrapes and bumps, but the vast majority of them didn’t. I was suprised to say the least.
Once I got there and located Christy from AC4H, they already had Bill (the name I’ve given to the black pony) out in the parking lot. He was walking in circles around his handler (Rick, Christy’s husband) but not in any particular hurry. He seemed to be a little nervous but was behaving remarkably well considering the distractions. Rick didn’t even know he was handling a stud. Bill has fresh rub marks at his girth and a really crummy shoe job, but otherwise looked pretty decent. I was so nervous on the way up, wondering what I had gotten myself into, getting a black stallion and all, but Bill wasn’t breathing fire….just dripping snot. He went on the trailer willingly (another thing I had worried about) and as we were tying him in, Christy says she has another horse for me to look at. Of course she does. 🙂
Dan was the bag of bones that I was expecting to see at the auction, you know, with the hipbones you can hang a hat on. He was tucked away in an inner pen. I dialed my husband’s number as they told me what little they knew about him. He had been run through 2 weeks prior, and the dealer who had him didn’t want to be stuck with the skinny horse. According to the NH vet Dr. Holt, he looked worse now than two weeks ago, not suprisingly. My husband told me to do the right thing, which I knew he would. I looked to my friend Allison, my “voice of reason” who I brought along to talk me out of taking any “extra” horses home, but she didn’t even try. She has known me since gradeschool and knew it wouldn’t do any good. And besides, she felt as sorry for him as I did.
I’m calling this one Dan (I like simple names for horses…maybe I’m a simple-minded person?). Dan walked briskly (and soundly!) through the parking lot and loaded on the trailer like an old pro. At this point we were just waiting for the coggins and health certificates so we could hit the road. Going through the auction today was a gorgeous chestnut saddlebred with a blaze and socks (fancy enough that you could see peoples heads turning to watch him go through), a TB reported to have raced 9-4 and with lifetime winnings approaching200K (with 3 big ankles and some very definite soreness all around, along with the kindest eye and one of those faces that just tugs at you), an adorable gray TB with a friendly personality and a big ankle, about a dozen of the cutest ponies. Lots of horses and not a lot of buyers seems to sum up what I saw. A thin paint mare going for $260, a registered arab with champion bloodlines for under $200. Surely even meat prices are higher for a horse? At one point my friend alerted me to a herd of unrestrained alpacas stampeding my way. Loose horses were pretty frequent, and there was some fighting, but not as much as I expected considering they had 5 horses crammed into a 15×20 pen. So I guess the best way for me to summarize what I saw at NH was that a lot of what I saw, I expected, but I also saw plenty of the unexpected too.
They day was not without tragedy unfortunately. As a shipper was loading a bay TB (who had been rescued by a woman who specializes in TBs) onto a trailer, a horse who was already loaded started kicking it up and the TB flew back off the trailer, snapping a hind leg. Fortunately and mercifully the vet was there in an instant drawing up that pink solution into a syringe. Watching that horse fall so heavy to the ground and then lay there lifeless brought the tears on, and I cry now thinking about it. Freak accidents like that can happen at any time, to anyone.