NeedHelpWithaHorseFilter: Inherited a horse in Vermont. What to do?
August 20, 2014 6:13 AM   Subscribe

I inherited a riding horse when my father died a few years ago. Until recently I was able to provide for it at a relatively low cost, but that is changing and I am in a dilemma as to what to do. Looking for possible solutions, especially from resident Vermont Mefites.

The horse is approximately 20 years old and is a Paso Fino that my father used to ride. She has a few years of light riding left in her according to those in the know, and could possibly live for another 8 or 9 years.

I'm left with a bit of a practical and emotional dilemma:

Practical: It is hard for me to justify the indefinite expense for the horse (which will soon go up to approximately 2-3 thousand a year). Unfortunately noone in my family inherited the desire to ride, and even if this were the case, we live nearly 2 hours away (across state lines, which makes horse transport slightly more complicated).

I'm not even interested in getting anything in return, and would give it away for free, but see the next paragraph for qualifiers.

Emotional: This was my father's horse and so I care where she ends up. A complete stranger is out of the question unless I had evidence that it was a good situation. So placing a Classified or Craigslist ad is ruled out for now, filtering out that noise is not something I want to do.

Relevant details: My family has some connections in the horse world, so transporting her to some location in Vermont is also something I could provide for free. I hesitate to consider a location outside of Vermont, mainly because of the distance and the need to order a test for transportation across state borders,(although this area is in Southwest Vermont so certain areas of Mass and NH could be fine in the right scenario.)

Things I have thought of but have not explored in depth: 1.) Because the horse has some riding left in her and is in decent shape for her age I have thought of contacting riding camps, she probably would be great as a first horse for someone, but not sure where to start. 2.) Apparently "companion horses" are a thing. People bring older horses onto their pastures to keep their younger horses company. 3.) Animal rescue. Have only heard of this in passing, apparently there are organizations that will do this, but again not sure where to start.

Any ideas appreciated!
posted by jeremias to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Vermont has more than a few horse rescue groups.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:33 AM on August 20, 2014

Do you have any kind of local horse-world magazine or message board that has classifieds? That could cut down on some of the noise and make any potential new home easier to vet.

Similarly, as you have connections in the horse world you could get it out on the grapevine that there's a light-ridden or companion mare available. Where I live this seems to be how many horses are moved between owners.
posted by mymbleth at 6:35 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be VERY careful with rescue groups. A lot of them are hoarders in rescue's clothing.

There are old age retirement homes for horses. Why not send her to one of those? Yes, it is an ongoing expense, but kinder than having her end up on a meat truck to Canada.
posted by Nyx at 6:43 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Check your MeMail.
posted by carmicha at 6:45 AM on August 20, 2014

Therapeutic riding centers often get their horses as donations, so you might see if there is a local one looking for a horse. That said, it takes a pretty special horse and they may be unwilling to consider a horse that *hasn't been regularly ridden, isn't up to date on vet care, and may or may not have the required physical ability and temperament. But, it's worth a shot and if the horse is appropriate s/he would be going to a great cause.

* I assumed this based on your description of the situation (<$2k/year for care, no recent coggins test, etc)... I apologize if my assumption is incorrect.
posted by jshort at 6:50 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you considered a free lease? I'm not in the US, but here in Australia free lease situations are pretty common.

You basically give the horse over to someone for either a fixed or indefinite period, where they agree to look after the horse and cover its costs (feed, agistment, vet bills etc.) but you retain ownership of the horse.

These types of arrangements are often mutually beneficial, because the leasee doesn't have to stump up to purchase the horse or commit to owning it for the rest of its life, and you can still keep it while not having to worry about the day-to-day aspects of looking after it.

If the horse is fairly quiet and easy to ride, you might be able to find someone for whom a free lease is kind of a first step into the world of equine ownership, where they take it on for a couple of years before moving on to their next horse.
posted by RubyScarlet at 7:02 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

We just had to re-home my daughter's horse a few weeks ago as she is now 1000 miles away attending college. Check with your local 4-H horse clubs. That is how we found a new home for our horse. My daughter's 4-H leader knew somebody with a farm and an interest in a well trained, kid friendly horse.
posted by COD at 7:13 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Was coming to suggest Free Lease too. You retain ownership so you can make sure the horse is cared for correctly etc Not sure if it's something you guys do in the US. But in Australia we did it with horses we ended up with.

One ended up in an amazing setting where he was spoiled rotten by a lovely older lady and very lightly ridden. Our second one was a lovely mare who was leased out to the family of a doctor with 5 kids, she loved kids and each and every one of them learned to ride on her as they came of an age to start. Once all the kids graduated on to more advanced horses they were going to return her, but the kids put up such a stink she basically lived with them for 10 more years until she died of old age.

We didn't have anything other than a verbal contract, but reserved the right to go and visit the horses to make sure they were kept in good conditions etc. Which we did pretty regularly.

If it's not a common set up in the US, it might still be workable and I am sure a lawyer could draft up some sort of paperwork if needed.

If the horse has the right temperament "Riding for the Disabled" or the US equivalent might be interested.
posted by wwax at 7:35 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Finding a therapeutic riding center is a great idea -- I just want to mention that a Paso Fino could be a particularly fantastic match for these programs if the temperament is a match, given that they have a unique smooth gait that would accommodate many people with special needs. Because the work can be very light (frequently kids on leadline at a walk), they might be able to use her for many years. They are wonderfully transformative programs for the participants, and the ones I've seen treat their animals very well.

Apart from that, 4-H is a great idea too, as is a free lease arrangement.
posted by susanvance at 8:08 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much everybody, slowly working through some of the leads mentioned here. Still welcoming suggestions and ideas!
posted by jeremias at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2014

A friend recently got a horse that the owner was trying to find a home for. She got wind of it because the original breeder was involved, and she has horses of the same bloodline - the owner was delighted to send her mare to live with her "family". If you know the breeder (or trainer, or anyone else who was involved with the horse) they'd be good people to touch base with.

My girlfriend is also in the process of putting her beloved-yet-spooky-and-not-super-safe mare out to pasture, and after a tedious search got in touch with the mare's breeder, who is retired but keeps a pasture and was happy to add Feather back into the herd. It's a good situation - breeder gets a nice horse for free, and my gf knows it'll be the best possible home.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:05 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk to the owner of the boarding facility where the horse is now and your dads old horse friends about finding her a spot, they will know who is trustworthy and who is not. There is a reason there's no old folk saying "as honest as a horse dealer!" and you don't want her sold down the road from her new "good home"

I'd personally pursue either a long term free lease to a vetted private party who trail rides or hunts that allows you to take the horse back if conditions are not met or donation/ lease to a theraputic center if her temperament is right. The current stable manger can tell you that right now. Pasos are kind of a specialty breed, being gated. 4H and Pony Club kids probably aren't going to be interested in a gaited horse, they are mostly used for trail riding or hunting in the US. But they can be great for theraputic riding clubs because their gaits are smooth. 20 is not old, a lot of therapeutic riding places will use horses well into their late 20s. It's very light work.

You are going to have to get her a Coggins test to move her anywhere, no matter what. NO responsible facility will let her step foot on the place without it. You should go ahead and have the vet come out, give her a once over and get all her shots up to date. It'll make placing her a lot easier. Also I hope you've been having her feet and teeth done regularly? Please say yes. If not you need to do that asap too.
posted by fshgrl at 9:51 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that your first point of contact should be the people you already know - the owner of the facility where she is currently kept, and your family connections. Most horse business is conducted the old-fashioned way, so having an "insider" who can ask around and who knows the local community is your best chance of finding her a good home.

The easiest option would be to find another cheap situation for her somewhere else. Even if they have no interest in riding, would any of your family members be willing and able to contribute a little to the horse's upkeep in your father's memory? fshgrl is correct in saying that any movement of a horse will require a current negative Coggins. The test should not be too expensive ($25-60 usually), but the call-out fee for a vet might be - see if you can find out when the next regular vet visit to the property will be, so that you can split the call-out fee.

A free lease or sale to an individual or a riding school are probably your next-best options if she's beginner-rideable. Get your contacts to ask around. It's also possible to pay a trainer to find a placement, but that could be complicated (memail me if you want details).

Companion horse: This is indeed something that people do, and is certainly an option if you can find someone trustworthy to take her.

Rescues: Most horse rescues are either good and nearly always completely full, or disreputable - I would not pursue the rescue option except as a last resort, personally. There are some horrible people masquerading as "rescue" operations who pick up unwanted horses and ship them to slaughter instead, or sell them on, or run other scams.

Therapeutic riding centers: These have incredibly high standards that mounts must meet, and most receive offers of free horses regularly. I would hold off on this route unless you know for certain that this horse is 100% bombproof and well-trained. This also might require a transfer of ownership, meaning you would lose control of the horse's fate.

If you do find someone to free lease the horse to, have someone you trust help you to draft up a written agreement outlining responsibilities of each party. You don't need a lawyer for this, in my experience - it's more to make sure everyone knows who pays for what. Some free leases stipulate that the owner pays for vet care, for example, while others place all financial responsibility on the lessee.

This is a hard thing to deal with for many people with older or less-sound horses, but it's not a hopeless situation at all, just one that needs some thought in order to minimize wasted effort. Horses occupy a strange limbo between "pet" and "livestock," because of the expense associated with keeping them, and it makes for some difficulty in providing for them responsibly. I'm glad you care about where this mare ends up, and I wish you all the best in finding a good situation for her and for you! (Sorry for length. And if you have any pictures, I'd love to see her!)
posted by po at 4:58 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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