I have been working with Scooter this past week, a damaged haflinger gelding who arrived a week ago at our farm (read “The mystery of Scooter” for more info). Scooter is healing physically but has proven very difficult to interact with; hiding in the corner of his stall, flinching when looked at, tense and scared. Actually, he has reminded me more of my wild mustang Whisper than any older trained horse. Of course I now know why; Because he is a wild horse! Scooter and Star are untrained.
I tracked down the last owner on his registration, who was happy to fill me in on the mystery of Scooter. Turns out, he owned Scooter and Star both for most of their lives. He has many haffies and they were a small part of his farm. A few months ago, an older gentleman client wanted a driving team, but wanted them cheap. Trained driving horses aren’t cheap, so he picked out two horses from the field who were NOT trained. Scooter, a handsome 11 year old roan haffie, and Star, a sweet blonde 8 year old mare. Neither trained. Scooter was driven about five years ago a few times, but since has been living in a field, fairly wild. He bucked when they tried to ride him, so that wasn’t pursued either. Star wasn’t trained beyond halter; altho’ apparently sweet, she wasn’t used. They were living what was probably a pretty happy horse life, in large fields with run in shelters and other horses, for many years untouched. Until sold, for $800 for the pair. Just four months ago.
So neither was trained to ride, nor were they trained to drive, either solo or as a team. But around Christmas were sold to someone who wanted to do this with them. I am guessing it didn’t go very well, which isn’t really surprising since Scooter is now 11 years old and hadn’t been touched in the last five. It sounds like they have been passed around a few times since then, as many owners as months, people trying to ride and move them, etc, until they were sold at the New Holland auction to a kill buyer. You can imagine the stress and misery that these horses endured over the past few months, each time getting worse, and sinking quickly. The loss of their lifetime family and freedom surely came as a blow, especially to the proud Scooter. It’s not surprising that they ended up in a kill lot, ready to ship to slaughter in Canada.
This kill buyer has a relationship with a horse rescue, which helps pull horses out of the lot for ‘adoption’ fees which are not so cheap, but it is a chance to save them. Scooter and Star were about $1,400 after all fees, plus shipping. A video was made showing the two being ridden, and told that they drove as well. It’s amazing that the two behaved as well as they did in that short video, considering they hadn’t been ridden before January! They were bareback and Scooter tried several times to bite his rider on the leg, but they did ride briefly. So with their registration and with this description as a trained pair, they were bailed out by Rosemary Farm’s friends and by Scooters breeder Kathi.
They were delayed in shipping because they got sick. All that transport, moving, living in stalls, pressure to perform, took it’s toll. When they were finally released to come to our farm they were sick, Scooter much sicker then Star, with a full blown case of strangles. Angry, confused, pressured, and mis-trustful, they got off the trailer a week ago, to begin their recovery here.
So who bears the blame for these horses sad plight? For the sick and damaged horses that got off the trailer here? The original owner seems that he was honest in his sale. I think that other horse dealers may have seen this sale as unkind or unwise for the horses, but it was legal, and to the right person it could have turned out differently. The second owner knew what he was getting; I don’t know his side of the story, but I know that he sold the horses soon after getting them. They were probably too much to handle. I don’t know who initially tagged them as ‘trained to ride and drive as a team’, but it does seem irresponsible for anyone to say that unless they know for sure. It’s irresponsible to the possible owner, and to the horses mostly. The horses who didn’t ask to be in this situation, who’s lives have become equated with dollars, and who are paying for humans greed. So I am a little angry and little upset and very sad for these two. This is another version of a sad tale being told week after week in the kill pens.
At least now I know the Scooter really is the wild horse that I perceived. And that his trust is rightfully damaged. That his training has to start right at the beginning. He was a vibrant sassy colt from all accounts and I know that horse is in there somewhere. I can only hope to find the skills to help him.