The term “Adoption” has baggage to say the least. In humans there seems to be an age discrimination. Unless you’re an infant, you’ve automatically been assigned a long list of “troubled” stereotypes. The same goes for our Equine friends. It’s rough enough to be advertised as up-for-adoption in an industry run on monetary status (by no means am I critiquing, I love everything about equine sports). The reality is that people expect to get what they pay for. If a horse is listed as discounted or free, we assume that there must be a flaw. Add 20-years-young to the description and the steady stream of stereotypes just became a rushing geyser. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought these myself over the years. It’s difficult not to jump to conclusions, especially when we’ve encountered those few horses that have been so betrayed, or in most cases neglected, by humans that they’re past the point of regaining trust. As I said however, those are FEW.
I was 10 years old when I got my first horse (yes, I was one of the lucky ones). My mom and I drove out to the desert to look at a 17-year-old, grey Appaloosa. It wasn’t a love at first sight moment, in fact I was a little put off by the horse’s appearance. Tied to the side of a trailer was a 15.2-hand, flea-bitten grey bag-of-bones. He was a bit awkward looking. He had a large head, thick neck and frail body. I got on for a test ride, and my 10-year-old legs (pretty frail themselves) couldn’t even get the horse to trot! From my point of view, this was an immediate deal breaker. Thank goodness my mother saw more in this horse than I did, because this bag of bones turned into a star jumper, dressage horse and most importantly a loyal companion.
As it turned out, Kip (whose name was apparently “Kid” but the desert wind relayed slightly different phonetics) had been in pasture the majority of his life. His owner was down on his luck and could barely afford to feed himself, let alone a 1200-pound animal. The woman we bought him from would drive by the property every day on her way home. One day she finally had enough of seeing this helpless animal waste away, knocked on the man’s door, and said “you need to feed your horse.” After a conversation of excuses and self-justifying, the man finally told the woman to just take the horse. So she went home to get her trailer and did just that!
I am thankful for this woman every day of my life. Because of her action, I am blessed with my four-legged companion. I can say with confidence that I would not be a fraction of the person I am today had Kip not found his way into my life.
We think we are doing the horses a favor by giving them a second chance. As I found out, as I’m sure anyone who has adopted will testify, we are in fact the ones who are saved. Through all of the trials and tribulations of life, my horse has been the one consistency. He is truly my sanity.
This spring, Kip turned 31. Although his showing days ended quite some time ago, his place in our family will remain forever. He has taught me so much over the years and for that I am forever grateful. Driving back to school one day, my college roommate asked me why we didn’t sell Kip, since he was too told to show. To this I replied with what I thought to be a logical response, “you don’t sell your grandpa.” My friends would refer to this response as a typical “Zeschia” moment. The point, however, I am firmly sticking by! Family is family, whether two-legged or four. There might be a little “hitch in his giddy up”, but his spirit and excitement for life are still there. I am thankful every day that I get the chance to throw on a saddle pad (and only a saddle pad) and ride away the chaos and stress of the work day with my old friend.
To anyone looking to adopt, I say do it! With the help of someone knowledgeable about horses, be it trainer or friend, a lot can be accomplished. There are so many horses out there who have had unfortunate events completely disassemble their lives, at no fault of their own. They need our assistance to give them the opportunity to reach their full potential and regain the quality of life they deserve. We’re living in hard economic times right now, and in many cases, the horses end up in these rescues because their previous owners had larger hearts than pocket books. We can’t single handedly save them all, but we certainly can do everything in our power to contribute. Even if you’re not in a position to acquire a horse of your own, there is certainly need for volunteers as well as donations to support these horses until they find the author of their next chapter.
If you are looking for a horse, whether show jumper, dressage, western pleasure or trail companion, consider your local equine adoption organization. If you’re as lucky as I was, the right one will find you.
About the Author
Zeschia is a recent graduate of the University of California, Riverside. There she received her B.S. in Biology and worked in an animal-behavior lab. Horses have been her lifelong passion and obsession. She currently balances the worlds of biology and horses by working in her family’s greenhouse business, Booman Floral, and teaching horseback riding lessons at Hayden Show Jumping. She loves parasites (reading about them, not acquiring them), long walks on the beach (especially with her Blue Heeler, Milla), patching up her accident-prone Thoroughbred (Gunner), and ending every day possible with a moonlit ride on her favorite Appaloosa (Kip).