Do Safe Beginner Owners Exist?

Posted on July 31, 2017

Do Safe Beginner Owners Exist?

Beginner owners often reach out and ask us if we have beginner safe horses.  We often do.  As of this writing, Celie, GoGo, Buddy, and Cash are all on a list of horses that we consider to be beginner safe.

But let’s turn the table.  Are you, as a beginner owner, safe for the horse?

2017 for us has been a year where we have had more adoption re-intakes than ever before. Either from adopters asking us to take their adopted horse (and sometimes other horses) back or we have found care to not meet our guidelines in our follow ups post adoption and have required a return to rescue.

We take each of these circumstances very seriously. In review of each unique case, we have found that more than 90% of these returns have been directly tied to the adopter’s lack of experience. Horses are not puppies. They are not golf carts. Herds have dynamics and as humans it is our responsibility to seek training to learn to be a herd leader to safely interact with horses.

Horses are 1200 pound prey animals who will always have herd members who exhibit flight tendencies, food dominance, and other behaviors when they don’t have the right handling and experienced leadership from their humans. Horses are as unique, if not more so than humans in their far reaching metabolic ranges that makes every horse’s nutritional needs different. Like a child jacked up on twinkies and Mountain Dew a horse WILL have side effects of too much sugar–behaviorally, founder, weight gain. This is why we have an approved feed list in rescue and we expect adopters to follow an appropriate feeding protocol for their adopted horse–which never includes sweet feed.

We hold people responsible for learning these things. Good intentions do not equate to good horsemanship. We were all beginners once and we make the choices of what to devote time to learn. If basic horsemanship is not a priority then horse ownership also should not be a priority. Going forward, a Safe Harbor horse likely will not be an option for a new to horses owner who is not willing to spend time in a horsemanship learning environment prior to adoption.

We love our adopters–but our first duty is to our horses. Their care before adoption and after is paramount and we are dedicated to assuring that from this day forward a lack of knowledge or sheer ignorance of the nature of horses does not create a perilous situation for our sweet babies.

Have you thought through the details of horse ownership;

  • If you are going to have more than one horse do you have a way to physically separate them for feeding (not just line feeding)?
  • Do you understand the basics of equine nutrition, or do you just plan on buying whatever is cheapest?
  • Do you understand body scoring, and know that being overweight can be fatal to a horse?
  • If you are boarding, do you think that absolves you of responsibility for your horse’s care?
  • Do you know who your hay source will be?
  • Are you committed to the HIGHER level of care required when it is 105 degrees out, and also when it is 10 degrees out?
  • How will you get your horse to the vet in the event of an emergency?
  • How will you evacuate your horse in the event of a natural disaster?
  • Who will YOUR trainer be?  If your horse is beginner level that doesn’t mean that you, human, don’t need training.
  • How much weekly time do you plan to devote to educating yourself on equine welfare and horsemanship?

As a beginner to horses if you haven’t thought these things through, then it probably isn’t the right time for you to step off the ledge of loving horses to owning horses.  Take a step back, re-evaluate, and come up with a plan.  Talk to us when you are ready, and we’ll also have a plan to help you get off on the right foot with your adoption–however, we aren’t just going to blindly place a great horse with an adopter however good intentioned if they don’t know how to care for the horse.

On Tuesday our board will meet, and our new policy on beginner horsemen will be drafted. Stay tuned; as we are working on a plan that we hope will be transformational and helpful for those questioning whether horse ownership is right for them—or who are sure it is but don’t have any basis to really know.