Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tough Times

I hate it when what I dread/fear most, comes to fruition.

A mare I rehabilitated a couple of years ago, the day I picked her up.

It's started, and this is going to go on for a long time. The bad economy, the loss of jobs, the lack of opportunities, the overbreeding, and the drought have all led up to a depressing mess, where the innocent ones are those who suffer the most.

As I was driving to pick up my grass roundbales over the weekend, I saw along side the highway horses that are so thin that you wonder how they have enough muscle left in their bodies to hold their bones up.  I'd report them, except that a sheriff's car was right in front of me, with the same exact view that I had.  If they hadn't already done something they obviously aren't going to.  I have to tell myself over and over "I can't be responsible for what others have done.   All I can do is take care of my own."

And I'm barely doing that.  I have to feed dehydrated alfalfa that I buy for $15 a bale/bag from the feed store.  I did manage to find some regular alfalfa hay earlier this year that I bought for $10 a bale, but it was so full of stickers and weeds that 75% of it ended up in the burn pile, so I'm through with buying hay from strangers and getting ripped off.  At least the stuff in the bags is of a consistent quality.  I have been supplementing with beet pulp and some grain, when it's on sale, and other times with timothy pellets.  Thankfully since my horses are grown, I don't have to be overly concerned with balance like I would have to be with young horses.  Calories is the name of the game right now.

Fabian playing last night.

Thankfully, we're doing ok.  My horses don't look as good as they did on free choice quality alfalfa while on bermuda pasture, but they aren't going to, unfortunately.  Bambi seems to have an ongoing issue that I have to keep a close eye on, but she's not thin (the vet laughed at me when I said she had lost weight)--I am definitely not happy with the entire situation.  I pray that she has something as simple as ulcers and with time, her stomach will heal and we will get over this hump, but honestly, we don't know.  As my vet said, as much as we don't like it, it's just a try-this-and-wait-and-see sort of ordeal.   She's been eating everyday and she is alert and active, but the slightest change (like worming her this weekend) will send her into a lethargic period. Thankfully she recovered quickly this time, but I still want to see her back to her old, healthy self.

And it seems to be that way--wait and see--with everything right now.  All we can do is hold steady and pray that we can maintain things until life improves because things are sure tough now days, for us all.  I have three horses, two less than I did at this time last year.  I was buying alfalfa for a third of what I now pay.  My income was also four times higher. 

Yes, that's right.  My feed bill has tripled.  My income has been cut to a fourth of what it once was (and not by choice).  And I'm definitely not the only one--far from it.

I'm to the point that I have very little pride left, so I can easily say if it wasn't for my dad I'd be looking at euthanizing my horses.  I still buy most of my feed, but he has helped me out when I couldn't, and he has also helped provide the cushion for my horses in the form of enough grass hay for most of the winter.  The grass has zero nutritional value (since it was two years old when it was cut), but it is something to ferment in the horses' gut (what helps keep them warm through the cold days of the Kansas winters).  It keeps them busy and also keeps something in Bambi's stomach between feedings.  Their nutrition (calories, fat, protein, nutrients), comes from their twice-daily feedings.

I did try to place or lease my horses months ago, but no one I knew and trusted was able to take them at that time, so that's when Dad offered to help me stick it out.  Painted Prairie Farm also helped me out a great deal when Bambi got sick and even my vet, who knows I am on a tight budget and live an hour (and about $50 in gas) away has worked with me to try to have the things on hand that I might need, but that will save me money if the horses do get sick this winter.  Without these people I'd be facing a very difficult decision indeed....  I am so thankful, too, as bad as this sounds, that I only have the three horses left.  It wasn't that long ago that I was in over my head, during good times.  I could have just as easily been in an even bigger mess had the timing been just slightly different. 

Anyway, it's all very depressing right now.  There was a big horse sale last weekend locally and many, many horses went to kill because no one bid on them.  I saw a double-decker full (even though they are illegal) leaving down and heading south. I could report them, yes, but to what avail?  In good times the county sheriff did nothing to keep several horses from being starved to death, so I probably would have gotten laughed at.  They also had to drive clear across down as the sale barn is in the middle of town, so my call certainly isn't going to be the one to stop them, as frustratingly depressing as that fact is.

I was also thinking, though, the other day, that in my county (not the one the sale and double-decker were in), there is only 4000 people and our sheriff has absolutely no resources to do anything about starving livestock.  It's just not anything that is able to be budget for--period.  A few years ago our town mayor was a resident of the town's rest home.  There just isn't the capacity, in our area, to do much about people who don't take responsibility for their animals.  The larger town is different, but then again, when would the resources dry up?  The authorities certainly weren't any more prepared for this drought/economic situation as the horse owners were.  We can all point fingers and say "should" until we are blue in the face, but it doesn't change the situation any, does it?

There are also many, many "free horse" ads, one of which includes possibly 60 very well bred APHA halter horses (mostly broodmares).  In this case, they are going to do the right thing and euthanize them if they don't find homes.  That isn't a threat--that is the responsible thing to do.  My dad and I just had this conversation--with the way things are right now, there are VERY FEW people able to feed a horse right---VERY FEW.  There are a LOT of horses needing homes right now.  You don't have to be a math whiz to figure out that something bad is going to happen to many, many horses.  They will either be slaughtered, die of starvation, or the lucky few will be humanely euthanized at home. 

It is a sad situation all around, to be sure.  I certainly don't have any answers.  I absolutely love my horses, but I do feel guilty for having bred horses for a few years, the handful of foals I created, that added, even a small way to this problem.  I feel sorry for the owners who have made the same mistakes I have and now find themselves a situation with a lot of tough choices to make.  I feel even more sorry for the horses who take the brunt of our bad decisions, through absolutely no fault of their own. 

This post has really no point and no neatly-wrapped conclusion.  I was asked why things were so rough in our area right now and I got to thinking about things and this is what resulted.  I wish I had the answers, but we reap what we sow, don't we?  The reaping has begun, and while none of us can be surprised, I think many of us have learned.  At least I hope so.


Alan T Hainkel said...

The post may not have had a point, but it was still well done. Just wish there was something that I, as an animal lover, could do.

horsemom said...

It's a terrible situation that is happening all over the country, sadly. I am sorry you are in a tough spot but glad that you have help. I am thankful to be down to one horse this year. I bat the idea back and forth of selling her, but I know, even with her training and her breeding, that she could end up in a situation where she could be neglected. There are just too many people hurting financially out there. I know our horse rescues and the humane society are overwhelmed as it is so it is hard to fault law enforcement when they can't step in for every case. I know it's a touchy subject, but I wonder what it worse for an animal, starving to death or dying in a slaughter house when the owners simply don't have the money for euthanasia.