Chasing Stolen Horses

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This was in my home state practically ‘next door’ to where we live. It seems incredible to most people that someone would steal a horse, but they do-and, in many cases, they get away with it. Why? It doesn’t seem logical at first, but it really is very reasonable when you learn the facts.

  • Horses are surprisingly easy to transport and resale. There are supposed to be laws regarding this, but they are quite lax and easily worked around.
  • Most horse owners do not keep adequate records on their horses. By that I mean they do not keep bills of sale, registration papers, photographs, vet bills, Coggins, health certificates, farrier bills, show records, etc. organized and in one place. They can’t prove that a horse is actually THEIRS if their lives depended on it.
  • Owners rarely-rarely-do anything toward permanetly identifying a horse. I guess they think that they can walk out to a holding pen, point their finger, and say, “That’s my horse-give it back.” Nope-sorry, doesn’t work that way. Especially when somebody else is standing there holding a bill of sale that says that same horse belongs to THEM. Guess what John Law is going to do? That’s right-he’s going to side with the person who holds the paperwork. You lose.
  • Auction owners and managers do not know nor do they care where a horse comes from. What they care about is the consignment fee they get when the horse is sold. They want the animals run through quickly and get them off the property. That’s wonderful news for horse thieves, kill buyers, and horse ‘flippers’. Terrible news for horse owners. However-most of them will work with us. Being known as a place where this goes down is bad for business for the most part.
  • The public is genuinely unaware that this really does go on. Even law enforcement doesn’t have a clue on how to react or how to deal with it. We teach as we go.

Fortunately, in this case, the owners came to us immediately so we could get to work to stop the resale before they really got started with their plans. That is critical to making a recovery happen. They never got the horses more than about 100-150 miles from their home.

We blanketed the entire area with notifications on social media and emails. People were putting up that flier everywhere in Georgia and the rest of the Southeast. Auctions were being called. TV stations were doing stories. It became impossible for them to ‘move the product’.

Those horses disappeared on 9/21, but they were back home by 9/26.

What’s going on with the thieves? Don’t know-that’s a question for law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office as the case is still under investigation. Our job is finished.

Now-did we get paid for all this? Well, there is a filing fee of $25. That got them 3 unpaid volunteers working 10-12 hour days for nearly 5 days. I will let you do the math.

Satisfying? Immensely so. You can watch the videos on the Stolen Horse International Facebook page to see the pure joy and relief captured on the images there.

Atlanta Journal Constitution article

Henry County Herald

NetPosse YouTube

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All proceeds raised go to supporting Stolen Horse International, 501(c)(3) organization. 6 styles, 5 colors each $19.99-$34.99 Sale ends soon! Pay it ahead-support what we do. Victim support, horse recovery, education, liaison for law enforcement, valuable resource.

Be Careful About Talking To Friends

I met Ellen Thrall while still in the days of “I know everything there is to know about horses” phase. (Beware the person who thinks they know says the Tao-for they are the most dangerous-they know not what they do not know and they will refuse to learn.) I was working in a vet lab and calling back results to vet offices around the city. I called another office and asked for the vet tech (Ellen) before noticing that the animal was a horse-and I didn’t recognize the breed-Tarpan.

So I asked her-one thing led to another and I drove to her home to met the horse in question. It turned out that it was a recreated breed from Germany. She had gotten this horse’s sire and dam from the Atlanta Zoo some years before. As it turns out, that particular horse was dying. But she had his son and several mares for a small breeding program.

She introduced me to the North American Trail Riders Association-and took me to my ‘ride. Ellen was trying to get me to be interested in getting a purebred Tarpan of my own-but these horses obviously were having problems with the heat in the South. They are also smallish-12.2-13.2 as a rule. This is where she got me. I mentioned outcrossing to other breeds.

As it turned out, during the discussion we settled on the tried and true-Arabian. I didn’t think much of it-just two friends chewing the fat, both of us ‘horse poor’, and no Arabian mares in sight. So what was going to happen, right?

As it turned out-she didn’t tell me that she’d taken her stallion out to a friend’s Arabian farm-to breed her mare. The first cross turned out to be a filly-so she was dubbed Miss Stake. The second was a colt-then she called me. The mare was in trouble and getting skinny, so she pulled him early-and because of the size of the farm, he’d never been touched. When she called me to come over, I went to see a wild colt. I had no idea.

That was in 1987. I couldn’t turn him down. He was gorgeous, arrogant-and pissed off. He’d been grabbed away from his mama, stuffed into a trailer, stuck with needles, and he was going to have to kill somebody. That was my first clue-the boy had a temper. I took him home at four months old. We stayed together 26.5 years.  I know of marriages that don’t last as long. Suleimon aka The Stinker aka Tink was special. I still miss him.

Pebble In Your Shoe

Okay, so this isn’t about your shoes-or is it? You’ll have to decide.

Got to thinking-how often do you check the fit of the saddle? Oh, I know you do when you first get it, but after that? If you’re like most people, the answer-never. Why is that?

Saddles are to horses like a shoe is to us-they encase a sensitive weightbearing portion of their anatomy. They have to move and carry weight while wearing them. So do our feet. If the fit is off-or a pebble gets in there, major pain and everybody gets cranky.

For horses-depending somewhat on breed and individual temperament-you’ll get anything from a stoic, slight unwillingness to work, to snapping at you when the offending saddle is brought out and girthed up (oh, you thought the horse was just being ‘cinchy’? Think again),  to bolting and outright runaways, and sometimes rodeo bucking. If anyone is around who is at all knowledgeable-and, I swear to the heavens above, these people seem to be in woefully short supply, if they check the horse’s back and girth area, the edema, swelling, and tenderness will be readily apparent. Sometimes there can be even be raw open sores.
“But the saddle fit when I got it!”

Uh, huh. Heard that one before.

Lots of things happen. The horse was two then-and then matured. That means the horse grew-in height, width, muscle mass. The saddle didn’t change, but the horse did. Oops.

Or you were only riding one-two days a week at most when you got the saddle. Now you are riding  6-and usually 2-3 hours at a time. Your horse’s build has changed with the work. Things are very different now.

The opposite is also true-if you quit riding, the horse also changes shape-gets rounder and flabbier. They’re no different from us.

They also change with age. That back can start to sway a bit. Maybe you need to correct for bridging. Or there’s been an injury and there’s a crookedness now that didn’t used to be there. Perhaps your saddle got warped from sitting in a hot car trunk and you didn’t realize it and that’s causing problems. Have you checked?

And while we’re here-do NOT use your hand to check fit. When was the last time you rode with your hand under the saddle? I don’t believe I ever have. How should you check it? Nifty tool sitting in your kitchen called a spatula. The thin metal ones are best. They should slide easily between the horse and saddle. Too tight-problem. Too easy-problem. Nice consistent tension-just right.

Now check that girth for being really clean and go riding.

Learning the Right Way

This is something that, in my experience, 99% of people will not take the time to do. Oh, there’ll be those who will SAY they do and some of them will even do to the lengths of hanging out a shingle of being a “certified ___ level trainer of the ____ ” school of thought. I know, I know-there are a boatload of trainers out there and there are almost as many YouTube videos decrying each and every one of them because of ……….

Let me tell you my thoughts. A real professional doesn’t need to bad mouth anybody. They just don’t. It isn’t necessary. You find somebody who is trying to tear somebody down? RUN LIKE HELL. They have issues that you do not want to deal with and one of them is going to be ‘it’s my way or the highway’. They’re control freaks.

Look for somebody who takes lessons and who is humble enough to know that there is still something to learn-in equitation, horsemanship, horsekeeping, psychology, education of horses and people, nutrition, farriery, dentistry, massage therapy, etc.  Make sure that you check to make sure that the lessons have changed over time to reflect advances in knowledge. But also make sure that there is a deep respect for the ways of old that worked.

Just going with the clinician that is popular or the one that your barn favors may or may not be the best idea. I know it can be hard to be the only one who does _____ in a barn that does something else. I’ve been there. Remember this-you can teach them some new stuff-I know I did and started a number of them questioning what they were doing. It’s okay to do that.

Where did I end up? Parelli. I’m not totally on board with everything, but it comes closest to what I want. More later.

“I’m going to spook….”

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I have had some characters as horses. The Jackass was only the first. His idea of a ‘spook’ was a big swooping sideways thing. It was obviously designed to dislodge a less careful rider. As time went by, I learned that he telegraphed when he was going to do one of those things. It became a contest of sorts.

SJ: “I’m going to shy up ahead-are you paying attention?”

Me: “Don’t even think about it.”

SJ: “Too late!” Jumps sideways

The foxtrotter, Hickory, had two versions. He’d either drop and freeze in place (just suddenly lose about a foot in height-very disconcerting at first) OR , I swear his head would disappear from in front of me (don’t know where it went) and he’d do a 180 spin and scram. That horse was cutting horse quality on those spins. If I hadn’t had one of those old-fashioned bear trap saddles, I’d have eaten more dirt with him. Never knew what was going to set him off. I learned to sit deep and stick with him. Horse had more moves than a pound of Exlax.

Zhivago-the 13 hand Tarpan stallion-rarely shied. His attitude was always-“Is it edible or breedable?” If it wasn’t one or the other, he wasn’t interested. Except for one notable exception. Next door to where we rented was a 3D archery range. They’d gotten in some new targets for a meet-so we rode over to have a look. Usually they’d be elk, antelope, white tail deer, and such, but they’d gotten a new one. We came up through the woods and Zhivago came out from behind a tree to see a wild boar looking at him. He didn’t hesitate-he did a ‘bat-turn’ and was out of there. Horses and pigs do not mix and that primal instinct is still intact.

I’m careful about the de-spooking process with my horses. I want to manage the spook-not dampen it out entirely. It’s a protective mechanism for them-and for me. If it is a dog jumping at them or an attacker-I want them to respond. I just don’t want the big ‘fireworks’ that will land me on the ground hurt. Let’s be reasonable about it. Tell me the rattlesnake is there, but don’t dump me on top of it-that’s definitely rude to me and the snake.

Honestly-I know the “spooky” arab thing and it’s a truck load of manure. There are “spooky” individuals in all breeds and some of them are made that way by their rock-headed humans. It amazes me how many times the spookiness is the owner’s fault. But that’s a whole other issue, isn’t it?

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SAFE Act: S 1214/ HR 1942

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If you don’t know what this means, shame on you.

The S.A.F.E. Act (Senate bill 1214 and its mirror House of Representative bill 1942) is a piece of legislation that has been hung up by bickering and quarreling for a long, long time. It protects horses. It protects horses from being exported outside of our border for the purpose of slaughter. Those trucks that are hauling somewhere around 150,000 horses, ponies, mules, and burros to Mexico and Canada to the slaughter plants would be stopped at the border crossings.

Why are we having trouble getting this passed? Because the American Quarter Horse Association and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Showing Association among others don’t want it passed. Why? Because the kill pens are where they dump the weanlings, yearlings, two year olds, brood mares past their prime, show horses that aren’t winning anymore, the broken down, and the unsold. If they can’t sell them at auction, they’ll have to feed them. Rut roh.

These folks have massive breeding operations and training barns. If this passes, it is a massive finanical problem for them. They’ve bred (and still have pregnant mares with more to come) too many horses-which means the bottom falls out of the horse market like it when the PMU farms started closing 15-20 years ago.

I’m crying crocodile tears for these people. On the whole, the horses will win. Call, write, or email your people in DC. Tell them to support it. I am.