The Heat Goes On

It’s hard to express how a drought feels to people who haven’t been in one. It’s even harder when you’re in an area not known for a shortage of water. But here we are. The ground is now rock-hard, and the grass has turned brittle yellow. So far, my garden survives thanks to the hose and judicious watering morning and night, and one squash plant even has a blossom. I’m watering the puddle in the driveway, even, to the benefit of the swallows nesting in my open shed and the wasps who are looking for mud daubs. The dogs refuse to walk for any length of time, between the heat and the deer flies, and we encountered a box turtle (a land-dwelling species, but everyone needs to drink) making a long journey across the neighbor’s field. The crops are in trouble again–the fruit farmers are already doomed, as the summerlike temperatures in March caused things to bloom early, and be wiped out when normalcy reasserted itself in April and the hard frosts hit. Now the corn and soybean fields have irrigation systems going constantly.

At the barn, finding a patch of grass that’s actually green is a challenge. The clover flowers are all turning prematurely brown. Everyone’s hooves are dried and Lucky’s that has the split looks worse. They all stomp, constantly, because of the flies, and they don’t want to move too much because of the heat. I went out Sunday morning, earlier than I normally would, hoping to maybe lunge a bit, but wound up simply bringing him in, grooming, and giving him a bath. Maybe the tea tree shampoo from Finish Line will add that astringent cooling factor and feel better than just a bath. I didn’t even feel bad when he immediately rolled-dirt is just one more layer for the bugs to punch through. The heat on Saturday was oppressive in a way that’s hard to describe-not humid, not especially dry, but intense and constant and inescapable.

Today we lunged, briefly, and I remembered I had oil-based wipe on fly repellent. I swear, at one point in the crossties, when he couldn’t reach around, Lucky actually presented his hip so I could smack the horsefly chomping on him. He was cooperative, for him, on the lunge, though I kept it to walk, a bit of trot, walk, reverse and repeat. Today the weather wasn’t as hot, but there was just enough humidity to taunt. It was overcast when I arrived and while we worked, but by the time I left the sun was out and the promising clouds were gone. All day, the weather taunted me. I think I even heard thunder this evening, but Puff remains calm and the ground is still dry. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing dark clouds pass by and wishing it would rain, and then they pass by.

(Yes, I saw the Belmont anyway. I didn’t really care who won, still not a fan of Union Rags, and still want to know what on EARTH Guyana Star Dweej was doing in that race.)

Some Equine Pictures

Since it’s the holidays when everyone is stuffing themselves on cookies and peppermints, instead of any updates, here is some equine art:

Sir Richard Sutton and the Quorn Hounds

With a scent breast-high

Derby Day poster

Wall of Win!

Lucky's Allowance Win

Benny's ONLY Win!

Hot Dice

Hunting print of some sort

End of the Season–Do Your Holiday Shopping Now!

No, not my Etsy store (however, if you would like to buy something, the button is on the right! Click early click often! Lucky eats a lot of peppermints and of course there are the dogs to consider and the cats.) Nor is it time to shop for food. Some of us are still sleeping off the turkey and stuffing coma (the dogs, cats and I were at the parents’ for Thanksgiving, so Lucky got a weekend off.) No, the time to shop for your own Finger Lakes Finest is now!

Yes, there was a confirmed case of EHV1 at Finger Lakes. Please read here for further information. Right now, only one barn is under quarantine, and other barns are shipping horses. Of course, quarantine is always a good idea when bringing in a new horse anyway, so take precautions, but don’t let this stop you from considering a Finest for underneath your Christmas tree! (Well, assuming it’s a really big tree. Outdoors.)

Take March West, for example. Wouldn’t he look nice with a big red bow on? And since we’re all looking for a bargain this time of year, you don’t get any cheaper than free!

And there are plenty more who are now reduced in price, ready to move as the season ends. Lucky is ready for the Christmas season to start, and the snow that comes with it–he’s got a very fuzzy face now. Plus, once the ground is covered in that weird white stuff that looks like sand but is very cold, I can’t do much besides walk and a little careful trotting. Lucky is all in favor of that! Plus, horse Christmas cookies to fill the stockings on the stall doors! Cookies are always a good thing.

Lucky’s One-Year Anniversary

No, as observant readers of the blog will note, not of his coming to live with me. That’s next month. This week was the anniveresary of Lucky’s last start as a racehorse. It was race four on November 5, 2009, a five and a half furlong sprint on the dirt for a $4000 claim tag and $8500 purse forthoroughbreds three and up, non-winners of two this year . Lucky, the 2 horse, did not go off as the longest money in the field (that dubious distinction went to Chilling Judge), but he did carry the lightest impost of 112 lbs, the nearest horses spotting him seven pounds while most of the field gave him twelve. Lucky, according to the equibase.com chart, “saved ground and tired”, finishing ahead of precisely one horse, fellow seven-year-old Roscommon Express (who would go on to be a 2010 Finest himself), who reared and threw his rider.

This Monday, carrying . . . uh, more than 112 pounds and we’ll leave it at that . . . Lucky galloped a slow quarter mile on an otherwise-empty half-mile dirt oval in the middle of the hayfields in Michigan. To his credit, he jogged up and when I turned him around, did a fine leaping start. To his detriment, he blithely ignored repeated requests to swap and went around the turn on the wrong lead. But it’s not like there was anyone to worry about interference. We then went for a long walk in the woods. The trails have been raked, a lot more of the leaves are off the trees, and it’s starting to be more like winter than like fall. Personally, I’m ready for snow. We even had some Friday that stuck until Saturday morning. The previous week, we did a little jumping, though I’m slowing down on that in preparation for winter, when the footing will mean nothing too exciting. He did manage on Sunday to jump an X three times in a row without knocking anything down. Barrels continue to pique his interest, being one surefire way to get a canter out of him (at least on the last barrel–for those familiar, he goes right-left-left, and he very much enjoys digging in on that lasts barrel and at least kind of extending for home.) We also did a long, slow meander around the property one day, including a brief walk on the road itself.

Now, it being the end of the season at Finger Lakes, as it was last year, like Lucky quite a few horses listed are coming down in price or are being added as it’s clear that racing is just not for them. So for those who might like to jump, race barrels, take slow walks through the words, or play jockey on your very own Finest, here are some for consideration–see if you can beat the deal I got ($600, marked down from $1500):

Blue Ridge Guy: I find it hard to believe this handsome gray guy is not only still on the listings, but now with an asking price of $550. Contact (585) 455-8823

I’m Electric: I had an interesting experience riding Dino this weekend. The B.O. was holding him, and I decided to see if I could swing up from the ground (that just doesn’t happen with Lucky.) What a nice feeling, and if you take home I’m Electric for the negotiable price of $500, you can experience it, too. Shorter is sometimes sweeter! Plus, I never dismiss Tri Jet and his sire Olympia in a pedigree, as I’ve had two and they’ve never been a mistake yet. Trainer contact: (585) 313 – 1998

Dewanna Brushon Me: For those who like a pedigree predicting soundness, here is the piece de resistance. The clue is in the name as this is a grandson of the great handicap horse Broad Brush, making him three generations removed from the great Ack Ack, horse of the year and champion older horse (who also carries the highly-desirable sport lines of damsire Turn-To), himself grandson of the iron horse Armageddon. You want a pedigree that says longevity and soundness, a race record that says “I try harder” (73 starts, 7-3-5, $51,000) and a face that says “Take me home and love me”? Look no further. (No, please, don’t, I have no room for another horse. Buy now, save me from myself.) $500. Please call 787-310-3954.

Now for an update, with photos!

Hopefully, I’ll also be able to upload some video, as Dad filmed some video of the riding (and the jumping at least looks better when we’re moving.)

TBs Together: Lucky and his new roomie.

Me setting jumps. Not sure why Mom felt like taking this one, but there it is.

Dad meets Dino. Dino meets Dad.

The B.O. was riding when we got there, and asked if Dad wanted to hop on. It took some persuading, as he hasn’t ridden since my old OTTB, Benny, died. He’d taken a few lessons on him while my brother and I were both at college, but that’s it for a while. Now, Dad is not particularly short. Dino is not especially tall. But Dino is BROAD.

Lucky and Dino. I really don't feel THAT much taller.

We were just walking around, killing time while J. finished dragging the track. The day before it had rained and their friends had brought over their trotting ponies to work after the races they’d been headed to were called on account of weather. Once he’d finished grooming it, we headed out so Mom could get some good pictures.

Jogging wrong way round.

We jogged for about a quarter-mile.

WAY down...

And then we turned back.

WHEE!

I like how he cocked his right ear back to listen to me.

Believe it or not, my stirrups are on the top hole, which I punched in them. I think I need to add another.

This is actually after we stopped after the half-mile pole, jogged back, and went for a walk/trot/canter in the field to the left in the photo and spooked up a little bird that was either a woodcock or bobwhite quail. See the crazy OTTB who must never be allowed to run because that's just CRAZY.

Seriously. Lazy-butt didn't even break a sweat.

After that, we went back to the arena for some flat work and a little jumping.

Some groundwork.

Jumping, with funny facial expressions (because I'm clucking at him. A lot.)

Cat crossing.

Did I mention Nanook really wanted to help?

They will NEVER find me here.

And here is the OTTB running barrels.

Speaking of crazy. Do not try this at home (unless you have a horse as sane as Lucky.)

Seriously, don't try this. Aren't you terrified of OTTBs yet?

If anyone’s wondering, yes, I’m riding aside on the PDN, and yes, he’s listening fine with the stick on the right and my leg on the left. The bit I’m riding in for all of the above is the rubber mullen-mouth dee.

Lucky getting a nice hose down and liniment on his legs. Not that he wasn't bone dry under the saddle. Lucky doesn't break a sweat unless it's 90 out.

Mr. Biscuit has no time for your shenanegans. (And in case anyone was wondering why there's cat hair on the barn towels....)

Yes, see the terrifying OTTB, who cannot be trusted outside the ring. For the record: rubber dee bit, no tranquilizing agents (though given he probably did that 3f in something like :48, he might as well have been on them), galloping, open fields (the track and the hayfield have no fencing), jumping crossrails, trotting and cantering barrels, letting silly rider tool around side saddle. And as for me, I’m happiest that while we were doing flat work, as I argued about picking up the right lead (LOTS of circles and rebending and trying it again) I lost an iron when we finally got the correct one and decided not to fuss picking it up and risk losing the canter. I stuck it so well my mother, the one who’s watched me ride for years, despite me passing less than three feet from where she was sitting with my right ankle at her eye level, didn’t even notice I’d lost it.

The Manner To Which He Has Become Accustomed

I’d like to know who started the myth that thoroughbreds at the track get no individual attention and are largely ignored when they’re not being worked. Lucky probably spends a good deal of time wondering why, precisely, he is not worked for a maximum twenty minutes, they bathed, poulticed, wrapped, hand-walked, and put in a stall with straw up to his knees and a full haynet 24/7. He’ll take being turned out on grass, don’t get me wrong, but there are times I suspect he’s wondering about this whole no-frills thing.

He is slowly getting the hang of jumping, or at least he appears to. However, while he’s going forward without stopping as much, I do notice a trend: he’ll clear each “fence” (6″ and 9″) on the first pass, and the second time he’ll go ahead and knock the rail down. He is CAPABLE of picking up his feet, but it’s as if he decideds “Nah, it doesn’t hurt enough hitting the pole to make it worth more oomph.” Considering, though, that he is now by and large not screeching to a halt before each pole, carefully examining it, and then leaping from a standstill when no alternative option is provided, I’ll consider it an improvement. We even had a little cantering after the rail, which is nice. And Sunday, he picked up the canter from the walk on the left, and hit the lead, and with a minimum amount (about 1/4 the ring, which is minimum for him) of huge trotting he picked up the right. It is not a slow round canter, but it’s a three-beat canter that keeps going forward. Improvement.

Monday, because I found a bite or rub of some sort just back of where the girth goes (it’s not a spur mark; I don’t wear them) I decided let it heal up, so instead Lucky had another spa day. Since the B.O. had Show Sheen and detangler around, we decided to do Lucky’s hair, or at least, make it all clean and shiney. Since I’m not braiding any time soon, who cares, right? He seemed quite pleased with his detangled tail–it makes a much more efficient fly whisk that way. The Show Sheen and detangler were on hand because Lucky is going to be missing his roommate for a few days. Dino is off to the county fair to be displayed as an example of his breed. I’m sure he won’t let this go to his head.

OT Day: A Rant From a Rerider

Yes, this is a rant post. Nothing to do with Lucky, who is still fine. I’m tempted to rant about the cat (whichever one it was) that peed in the living room. However, that happens.

No, instead, this is triggered by a rash of posts lately on Chronicle Forums of people “outing” owners whose horses end up in kill pens, demanding registration papers from a breeder on a yearling filly purchased as a grade quarter horse who turned out to be a freeze-branded Standardbred given away unpapered by her breeders, and general attempts to form lynch mobs based on horses bought from brokers as ‘rescues.’ Strictly speaking, they are saved, as the brokers can ship to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. And obviously, the brokers didn’t pluck these horses out of thin air.

But I’m not tying up the noose. I’m not ready to string up old owners or create blacklists of trainers or march on the breeding farm demanding papers.

Brokers: I don’t hold their jobs against them. I’m not prepared to keep every horse forever, pay for euthanasia and safe disposal of a barbiturate-contaminated body for every horse that doesn’t have a home. And I certainly don’t blame brokers for marking up their horses when they’re selling them to would-be rescuers. They didn’t put the horses in an auction where anyone can bid on them, and most do not get into massive bidding wars–if someone else wants a horse and is willing to pay, they bid on something else.

Owners and breeders: As far as selling at a low-end auction–no, it’s not something I’m likely to do. Certainly not Lucky-he’s the kind of horse a private buyer would buy. And I would hope that if I did have a horse that no one wanted and I couldn’t keep, or who was genuinely dangerous, I would have the cojones to put him down myself or find someone with a humane killer. But I don’t own every horse in the world (thank God; I don’t have that kind of money.) I don’t want people coming into my barn and telling me what I can and cannot do with my own horse, and therefore I’m not going into other people’s barns doing likewise. I wouldn’t chemically euthanize if at all avoidable, either–I’d rather have a body that can be safely buried, composted, or fed out. Some people think that’s horrible. Some people probably think it’s horrible I don’t use boots or polos to ride, I don’t have six blankets for every possible weather condition, and that I’ll use a bit stronger than a Dee ring if I think it’ll get me better results. When they’re paying me to ride their horse, their opinions will matter. Likewise, if I’m buying their horse, their means of selling it is my business, but if I’m not putting my money where my mouth is, my mouth stays shut. And who am I to DEMAND that a breeder register every last horse that hits the ground? Because the horse ‘deserves its identity?’

Bull. Shit.

(It’s my blog and I’ll swear if I want to.)

The situation, for those who don’t want to prowl the forums: a person purchased a horse from a broker lot long-distance. The horse was auctioned, advertised, and purchased as a suspected Quarter Horse with no papers. When she arrived, she was freeze branded, and turned out to have come from a Standardbred farm. The new owner informed the breeders (I assume politely) that they’d bought the horse from a ‘kill buyer’ and traced her via her brand, and would the breeder provide the registration papers. The breeder (also politely, I would assume) replied that they have given the filly away to someone who had apparently sent her to auction, and no, they would not turn over the papers. The new owner’s friend posted on the forums seeking a way to circumvent the breeders, saying that the purchaser is entitled to the papers so that the filly might be trained to race or bred. When it was pointed out that first, the USTA will provide ‘pleasure papers’ to horses in precisely the filly’s situation (something I don’t think any other registry does) allowing the horse to be sold or shown as a registered Standardbred, but not raced or bred, and second, the filly probably did not end up being given away because she was a promising broodmare or race prospect, the story became that the horse was entitled to its identity, and that having papers would “protect” it in the future.

Two things about this hacked me off. First, there is often a call for breeders to be responsible for their horses. People who have never been commercial or race breeders insist that there are too many Thoroughbreds or Standardbreds rescued, that the breeders must be responsible for and prepared to “take back” any horse they ever bred that falls on hard times, no matter where or when. They breed too many, those horses gets raced and broken down, they should be responsible. Well, this breeder apparently tried to be responsible by culling a filly that for whatever reason they not only didn’t think should be raced, but was not a good candidate to be kept as a broodmare. Or maybe they simply couldn’t afford to keep a yearling, pay her upkeep, until she was old enough. In any case, they opted to give her away without papers (and so far there isn’t any indication the papers exist any more). Now, could they have done a better job “rehoming” her? Apparently. But I don’t see people lining up at breeders’ doors for horses that aren’t quite right for the track. I do see breeders getting rid of excess stock being told they just breed too much. Since I’ve never met a horse who lived free, what exactly were they supposed to do if no buyers came calling? The old practice of taking the culls out behind the barn with a shotgun slug isn’t exactly a fan favorite, either. Was the “moral” option to try and sell a horse that they didn’t believe in as a racehorse to the racing market anyway, likely setting her on the road to a low-level career and being sold off after she’s broken down? Yeah, she was given away to someone who turned out not to have her best interests at heart. But shy of running a background check on every person interested in one of their horses, what should a breeder do when no one turns up with cash? Or there’s nowhere to advertise, or no one is biting where they do? How many cheap craigslist horses get passed over until they are in broker lot, marked up from their craigslist price with a week to go until they ship to Canada, when suddenly they’re a cause? What’s a breeder with culled stock supposed to do if there’s only interest once the horse is on the proverbial Death Row, and someone else is pocketing the money?

Second thing that hacked me off was the idea that the filly herself “deserves” her papers, and that somehow having papers in hand will protect her. The more I think on it, the more problems I have with this argument. The smallest and easiest to address is that in this case, this horse DOES have an identity. It’s branded on her neck for life. It’s obviously easy to trace as they found her breeders. Second, almost as easy to address–just because you have papers in a auction office that supposedly go with that horse, how do you know? If it’s not a TB or an STB who’s been tattooed or branded, how do you know this “Bay Quarter Horse Mare” is the one the broker is selling you? There are stories of brokers tossing papers in trash cans, keeping a set they use over and over for trips across the border where the named horses are long gone, and at least one case turned up on Another Chance For Horses where AC4H was fairly certain the papers that had come with the mare weren’t hers. Third, if you are not planning to breed or race, what exactly do you need those papers for? The Jockey Club requires they be handed on without charge to owners, but sometimes papers are lost, left in a track office, sitting in the wrong file. If you aren’t breeding, and if you are buying horses out of auction pens chances are you aren’t or shouldn’t be for a variety of reasons, and you aren’t going to race them (and horses who make profitable race horses and are likely to KEEP making money generally don’t get sold per pound–they are being dumped because they are no longer cost-effective for whatever reason) what does that paper do?

Fourth, and the more I think the more horrible this argument is, is the idea that simply having papers ‘protects’ the horse. I can’t even begin to describe how many things are wrong with this argument. The most glaring is: that horse you pulled out of a kill pen who had papers? WAS IN A KILL PEN, MORON. Having papers didn’t keep him from ending up there in the first place. Second, it assumes that horses ONLY have value if they are a purebred with papers to prove it. Performance and utility mean nothing without that little slip saying they can trace their parentage to some foundation sire or other. I grew up riding grade horses who were by and large not purebred anything and whose parents weren’t even known, they were so far removed from their breeding. That didn’t make them worthless–my friends and neighbors had them to ride, to have in the backyard to keep the grass down, to cross on a donkey to get a nice-looking mule. They had value because of what they DID, not who their sire and dam were. Not as much as, say, a warmblood bred from imported semen and a branded, inspected mare, but the people who owned them weren’t going to buy a $20,000 horse in the first place. And it’s not just backyards–my brother currently lessons at a very nice barn in New York, where one of the horses he routinely rides is a good old-fashioned American Mutt, as far as they know. He doesn’t look like a warmblood, he doesn’t seem to be a thoroughbred, he might be a quarter horse cross of some kind, but as he was seized by the SPCA, he didn’t come with papers and a life history. What he did come with was a love of jumping fast! Does he have value? Well, he’d probably be for sale for the right price, but it’s not a price I could ever afford! Is he unprotected because he has no papers? No, because he is a trained horse who is valuable because of what he does.

Conversely, by the standards of those who think even setting foot on a track (because horses only break down from racing, donchaknow, and race owners don’t care about their welfare at all) is putting the horse in danger, and hey, claiming ranks, anyone can take him home, is Lucky safe because I have his papers? Because with those papers, I can race him if I want to (until he’s old enough the stewards won’t allow me to restart him, at any rate.) If he were intact or a mare, I could breed him as many times as I wanted for sale–he probably wouldn’t produce much of note, but there’s a market for low-end racers, at least until they need to be moved on and no one wants them until they’re a rescue. If I didn’t have his papers, it wouldn’t matter if he was able to breed–they’d be unregisterable. I couldn’t race him.

And also–isn’t the assumption that the person who is buying that horse out of a kill pen does not want that horse to end up back in the lot and on the truck. So, exactly what sort of protection does the horse need? If they are indeed a cheap grade horse, is this new owner going to sell him to anyone who shows up with cash? Do they care less about the horse because it doesn’t have papers in hand? If I bought a horse, it is MY RESPONSIBILITY. Whether it has papers or not, if I care about that horse not ending up someplace less than pleasant, be it a kill pen, a barbed-wire pen, or turned loose to starve to death in a state park somewhere, I have to be responsible. If I am the “forever home” and I will never sell, I need to plan for that, including what to do if I am no longer able to care for him. If I sell him, I need to know who is buying him. I need a bill of sale showing how much they paid and where they came from. I need to check on where they’re going to keep him, see for myself that references are real. And then I need to acknowledge that once I do sell, I no longer have control, and I have to accept that. Maybe, if the horse doesn’t have papers or isn’t even a purebred anything, I don’t get quite as much money. But if I wanted to sell horses for huge profits in specific breeds, I would be going out looking for proven animals or well-bred ones. If I am reselling a horse I “upgraded”, from craigslist or a kill pen, I am presumably doing it mostly to give that horse a chance at a better life. A horse without papers is not less deserving of that courtesy.

I got a snotty reply that don’t I have papers for Lucky? Yes, yes I do. They’re in the same muddy envelope Jared put them in when he sold Lucky to a buyer seven hundred miles away on the basis of a few phone calls and an overnighted check, who’d only known the horse existed because FLTAP provides a means for trainers to shop these horses to buyers not in the Farmington area. They were handy for checking his tattoo against his papers (mixups do happen, and one bay 16hh TB can look a lot like another!) and I haven’t had any call to need them since. Did I want his papers? Sure.

Here’s the difference: I was purchasing Lucky To Cope, a 2002 bay gelding by Lucky Lionel out of Copenqueen by Copelan, foaled in Florida, last owner and trainer of record Jared Schoeneman, last start on November 5, 2009, at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, Farmington, New York. That was the horse advertised by name, examined by a vet for me, whose personality and behavior I inquired about. Did I want the easiest method of making sure the horse my hauler brought off the trailer was in fact the horse I paid for? Of course, and checking his tattoo against his papers is easier than checking it against the tattoo search.

I was NOT purchasing a bay gelding, presumably a thoroughbred, tattoo says a 2002 model, number might match a horse named Lucky To Cope, but those ARE hard to read, out of an auction back lot where the broker has no idea who the last owners were or why he’s there. If I call up Camelot or Enumclaw or the intermediaries at AC4H and buy hip #101, I just bought a bay thoroughbred. He might have papers. They might be sitting in a track office. They might have gone in the auction garbage can. If I can identify him and if some previous owner is found and IF they have the papers and hand them over, that’s nice. If the tattoo’s unreadable, if the last owner is dead or moved to Argentina or just never returns my calls…I still own that horse. I’m still responsible for that horse. The only one who is going to guarantee he never ends up in a Canadian feedlot is, guess who, ME. Not his breeders, not his old owners, certainly not the broker who’s just making a living off horses no one else wanted to buy when anyone could buy them, but me, the one who plunked down the cash for an unknown quantity. Just the same as if he was sired by shipped semen from an Olympic gold-medal-winning stallion with an embryo transfer from a Rolex-winning mare with papers for three registries, I am responsible for protecting him, even if he’s a Cremello Arapintapalaloosa Spotted Walking Pony with donkey ears who has no value except as an object lesson in why you shouldn’t breed it just because its genitals are functional. I bought it, I am responsible for its welfare.

The best way to be responsible for that horse? Make it the best citizen it can be. It might have all the papers in the world but if it kicks the crap out of you for coming in its stall or trying to saddle it, if it can’t be ridden except by the lab-created offspring of George Morris, Alois Podhajski and Julie Krone and then only if that uberrider is having a REALLY good day, if it is just a bad-mannered, poorly-trained horse, you might as well shred those papers yourself because the horse can’t be used, and no one in their right mind or who cared about a breed would want it to reproduce itself. Conversely, it might only be a plain bay backyard-bred quarter/paint/whatever grade horse, but if it can jump a 2’6″ course neatly, pack the little lesson kids around, or handle an all-day trail ride with phlegmatic aplomb and will even forgive the new guy in the barn brushing his hair backwards and mixing up the fly spray with the Show Sheen, that horse has value. Lucky is never going to make little racehorses, he’s never going win money at the track (unless we move to a state where on-line gaming is legal and he learns to hack my TVG account), but you can put a little kid on him. You can float his teeth without a tranquilizer. You can gallop him in a field and then ask him for an even trot in an arena. I’m not selling him, but if I wanted to, he has value, not because of what his papers say, but what he does.

You want to save horses? Give breeders, owners, and trainers ways to market the horses that don’t suit their purposes BEFORE it’s the last day of the season, they have nowhere to go, and nowhere to winter the horses. Do not tell them what horrible people they are and tell them you’re “saving” their horse from them. Go to an auction and outbid the kill buyer. And when you have that horse, teach him to be useful. And don’t sell him if you aren’t comfortable with where he’s going. The papers aren’t going to save the horse from future disaster. You are.

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