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Free horse: Finding a good home for your horse

by Susan Konkle, Article donated by the mane points horse resource center.

I'm one of those people who thinks acquiring any animal is a lifelong commitment. But I had to give away my 16-hand chestnut thoroughbred gelding when I was getting divorced and would no longer have my farm.

The new farm where I would be working and living could house one mare, but that left two mares and one gelding in need of homes. Rather than selling them, I opted to give them away to good, permanent homes.

The first person I asked was a friend who still owned a horse I had given her years before, when physical problems limited the horse's career as a show hunter. She's kept him through marriage, divorce, remarriage, children and expensive colic surgery -- his, not hers.

"Want a horse?" I asked. "I'll take two," she replied.

That was easy. But finding a home for my unsound, basically unbroken thoroughbred gelding was more difficult. Time was running short, so I decided to run an ad.

Just before the ad came out, I got a call from a woman who had heard about my freebie. Her horse was having surgery at the Marion duPont Equine Medical Center, Leesburg, Va.

I explained that he'd had only some basic walk-trot work before he was diagnosed with hock disease. He would need to be restarted and only ridden lightly to give his hocks a chance to finish fusing.

"If you can do this, you may end up with a sound horse," I told her. We talked for an hour, and she persuaded me to not place him elsewhere until she had a chance to see him.

I hauled him to Leesburg the following week. Her first words were, "I want him!" (Did I forget to mention he's very cute?)

A week later he was on his way to his new home in Kentucky with his new owner and her other horse. She calls once a month and sometimes sends pictures. He and I were both very lucky that he found such a good home.

I didn't realize quite how lucky until I started answering phone calls from my ad. Some of the callers obviously were not the knowledgeable owners I had been seeking.

A few were downright scary. "Hock problems? There's something you can give for that, but I forget what."

If you're thinking of running an ad to find your free horse a home, follow some guidelines.

Ask lots of questions. If this isn't the right owner for your horse or the right horse for that owner, neither will benefit. The horse may suffer by being passed along to someone you definitely would not have chosen.

Ask for references. Ask where the horse will be living, and visit the farm. If the horse will be used for riding, invite the prospective owner to your farm to ride. See how that person gets along with the horse.

Consult a lawyer and get a contract. Be suspicious of anyone unwilling to sign a contract. My contract states that my horse's new owner must return him to me if certain conditions are not met.

Check on your horse periodically to make sure he's safe and happy in his new home. There are people out there who value horses by the pound. If you cared enough about your horse to find him a good home, take the time to make sure it really is.

Finally, go by instinct. If you have a gut feeling that it isn't right, don't do it. Have patience and wait for the right person for your horse.

Finding a good home for your horse:A thousand words
Susan Konkle successfully found a new home for her "cute" gelding even though she didn't indicate his attractiveness in her ad. If you're trying to find a free home for an attractive horse, or especially if you're trying to sell one, you might want to mention that comeliness in the ad -- and prove it with a photo.

Tradition works best; take the standard conformation shot. That is, generally, of the near side, the horse standing square and balanced, with the off legs slightly closer together so that they are framed by the near-side legs.

Depending on the horse's overall physical characteristics, he might look better with his head up, looking off in the distance, or extended and slightly down.

You can get the first look by having someone stand 20 or 30 yards in front of the horse, perhaps shaking a feed bucket or otherwise getting his attention, and getting his ears perked. For the down and extended look, have the person holding the horse hold some grain or a treat about waist high, just out of the horse's reach.

Read the next horse rescue article on Several ways to adopt a horse.
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