As many good horse stories go, this one starts out with the best of intentions, and ends with a shot of tequila.
First of all, I must note that we are really at capacity at this point- I have a waiting list of three horses. Realistically, due to time and money, we do not have the ability to take another horse on. Knowing this, however, doesn’t change the impossible situations we are put in on a regular basis.
The afternoon started out with a cancellation to see one of our horses- life changes, nothing to do with our horse, but disappointing nonetheless. I decided that a trail ride would balm my frustration, and looked forward to the early evening, when I could forget some of the tedium of the world. I saddled Tamahome and was about to mount when I received a call from a woman in the canyon who told me that there were two teenagers walking around with a two year-old Thoroughbred stallion. Seriously, they were literally wandering about the canyon. The story is long and drawn out, but the end-all is that they were evicted from the place where they were keeping the horse, and had no money to board the horse. Or feed the horse. Or geld the horse. Or vaccinate the horse. Or train the horse. Or… you see where I’m going with this? I looked at Tamahome, saddled and bridled and waiting for me, and sighed, clipping the lead rope back to the tie rail. “Wandering around the canyon with an untrained two year-old stallion?” I asked.
“I thought maybe they could keep the horse at Hanaeleh,” she suggested.
No. Hell no. Not just because we are already at capacity, mind you, and not because I didn’t want to help the kids (what are they doing wandering around with a stallion? I kept thinking). Stallions, however, are a very different ballgame altogether than geldings. The last stallion we had on the property wasn’t even a stallion- but he didn’t know that (it takes a while for the hormones to dissipate). While he had been gelded a few weeks before, he was so intent on getting out and getting to the mares that he literally thrust his head through the pipe corral and dragged it, bending the pipes that were cemented into the ground. Not to mention the mare in a nearby paddock was about ready to leap out or through the six-foot high fence. So the answer to bringing the horse to Hanaeleh was a definite negative.
But the conversation kept going back to what were some random teenagers doing with a stallion, wandering around the canyon, and what was going to happen to the horse if we didn’t help. Who would like a stallion? Who would like a stallion? I brainstormed for a few minutes. I came up with nothing. Unless it was a Friesian colt, it was pretty much homeless. “What type of horse?” I asked (couldn’t hurt to ask). “Thoroughbred,” she said. So, no, no one wants the stallion.
Finally I said I could help if they would be amenable to relinquishing ownership, and she said she would ask them, and hung up.
So I waited. And Tama waited. And he asked me why I was neither riding him nor feeding him, which are really the only two reasons in his mind for my existence.
I waited about ten minutes, and no phone call came, so I figured I was safe- my heart lightened at the thought that they had found a place for the horse, and it was no longer my problem. I got on Tamahome, turned on the “Map My Ride” app on my phone and we cruised down the street. I could almost taste the wind that would fly past us as we galloped up Live Oak Trail. Yay, no stallion to worry about. Yay, I get to go on trail.
Until the phone rang about two minutes into the ride. It was the teenagers, who said that they decided they would relinquish ownership of the horse. Grr. As they were a few minutes up the street, I rode Tamahome over to see what I had just gotten myself into.
There was a group of teens around a dark bay horse, who was eating out of a purple bucket. He had bright red halter with a stud chain wrapped around his nose. “He doesn’t like other horses!” they warned me as I walked up on Tamahoome. Groan… of course he doesn’t. Tama danced a bit in place. I don’t like him, Tama said. Chill out, I told him. I just need to talk to them.
Tama grumbled a bit, but for the most part stood nicely. My mind raced first of all, wondering if the girls even owned the horse. “How old are you?” I asked the girls who identified as being co-owners of the horse. “I’m 18,” one said. “I’m 16,” said the other. Thank God one is 18. I told them to take him over to one of our neighbors which was just around the corner, and walked Tamahome over to the neighbor.
Yeah, I didn’t have permission yet to put him there. My mind was wheeling with other possibilities if she wasn’t at home. Where else can he go where he’ll be safe? Where can I take him to exercise and train him? When can I get him gelded? Has he had his shots? Why was he so thin? When did he have his feet done last? Why was I apparently more stressed over these things than the owners appeared to be?
I walked up to our neighbor’s house dismounted, dragging Tamahome up to the front door.
Please be home, please be home, please be home, please be home.
She was home. And, thankfully, willing for us to keep him there for the time being. One of the difficult parts about living in the canyon is that we do have a lot of horses who are in need here. On the plus side, we are lucky to have some really wonderful neighbors who are willing to help us out when we need it. I told our neighbor that the teens would be back and to keep them there (all I needed was for them to dump the horse there and then take off without signing anything). I rode Tamahome back home, finagled a bale of orchard and a bag of Timothy pellets into the bed of our truck (not an easy feat with a bad back), and drove back to our neighbors.
The horse was in the stall, and… the teenagers were gone. Crap, crap, crap.
Thankfully, they came back a few minutes later, and I wrote up a bill of sale for the guy, and got the basic story. The owner bought him from a woman in Norco, but did not think that it was important to have a place to keep him. The co-owner was going to put up a pen sometime in the future in her yard, but that hadn’t happened yet. This was the second place they were evicted from, and they had no money to board him.
Yeah… that’s an important part about having a horse, you know.
I really wish an adult had stepped in and helped these young ladies about a month ago. First of all, they should never have gotten this guy, nor had to pay money for him- he is not papered, not trained, not gelded, needs his shots, feet done, teeth done… this guys is going to cost us a few thousand dollars just in medical issues alone. I’m not sure how people can live with themselves knowing that they are doing a disservice to the horse and to the new owners by allowing such a mismatch, but in looking at the condition of the horse, I don’t think the previous owner cared much about the horse in the first place, and was probably happy she found some gullible teen to sell him to. The horse was in Norco, and I know that there are low-cost gelding clinics up there, so there was also no reason not to geld this horse save for just sheer laziness. But I also wonder where the parents of these young girls were- why did they not help guide them to make good decisions about the horse? Why did they not help the girls create a manageable budget? One is 16, and the other is 18 and unemployed- how did they think that they were going to afford to keep the horse? Parents are supposed to help teens with large issues like these, not just allow their kids to fail and say, “I told you so.” Because now the girls just feel angry and bitter, and now I have a stallion I didn’t want.
I asked the girls to tell me everything that they could about the horse, and I found out he is about two, hasn’t had his feet done in who knows how long, is thin (obviously), and will nip (hopefully that will cease with being gelded). They argued a bit over his behavior (he pulls back and was rearing- no, he never did that with me- he nips- I’ve never seen that- he kicked out- he’s always been good for me), but I think that gelding him and getting him some basic training will solve most of those issues so that is the first order of business. He will get his feet trimmed this week, and we will worm him tomorrow. It will cost us $400 to geld him as long as there are no complications or unforeseen issues.
The girls said goodbye, gave him a pat, and walked off with nary a tear. In fact, the teenager seemed more concerned about making sure she got to keep her halter. In all honesty, I think I was more emotionally drained than the girls, and when my neighbor offered me a drink, I gladly took her up on her offer (she first offered me a beer, but since I am gluten-free, she kindly gave me a shot of tequila instead).
I made sure the guy had his food, gave him a quick pat goodbye, and drove back to Hanaeleh to take care of the rest of my herd. It was twilight by this time, and I had sheep, chickens and cats to feed along with the horses.
What the hell? Tamahome asked when I returned (he was pretty annoyed when we turned around instead of going out on our trail ride). I gave him a hug. “It’s a long story,” I told him. O.K. he said. I would like my grain now.
I fed him his grain, and thought about what the hell I was going to do with a two year-old stallion, when I realized that Hanaeleh started with a two year-old stallion. Well, it really started with Cleo, but it was in 2004 that we rescued a two year-old Arabian stallion I named Cesar (because he was in love with Cleopatra). His owner wanted to reduce his herd, so told the trainer to get rid of the stallions, either by selling them to individuals, or taking them to slaughter. The trainer called me, and said he was out of options. I said I could take him if he was gelded. Cesar was dropped off a few days later, oblivious to the fact that he was not a stallion, but he became a very sweet boy and is living a wonderful life in Orange Park Acres with another one of our rescues, Annie.
In recognition of Cesar, and of our ten-year anniversary, I have decided to name this guy Brutus, and I am hoping that he turns out as sweet and loving as Cesar. We would definitely appreciate any donations to help pay for his medical and feed bills, and I have a feeling they are going to be hefty indeed; he cannot be gelded easily- he will need an invasive operation as one of his testicles has not dropped. This means a difference between a $400 operation an a $1400 operation. In addition, his left knee and ankle are swollen, so the vet will have to check that out as well.
I foresee more tequila in my future… or maybe a gluten-free beer.