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I just saw a comment online complaining about “four or five page” rescue contracts and how that was just too much to expect anyone to agree to.  So I’ve decided I’m going to write a brief series on Mondays about why certain provisions are in those contracts. I suspect if anyone reads through the series, they’ll understand why all of this language is actually pretty reasonable and sensible!

What the contract says

“Except as otherwise provided in Paragraph I.C. above, the Horse should be fed 3-4 flakes of high quality, mold and weed free alfalfa, timothy or orchard grass hay daily, unless sufficient pasture is provided instead. “Sufficient pasture” is defined as pasture lush enough that a horse will ignore hay when offered and, on which, no horse present is at less than a body condition score of 4.

Grain is not generally required and is at the discretion of Adopter and Adopter’s veterinarian. ADOPTER AGREES TO INTRODUCE ANY GRAIN GRADUALLY, NO MORE THAN A HALF POUND DAILY TO START. __________________ (initial here)

Why that needs to be in there

1.  It’s often unclear to owners how much hay a horse actually needs.  And while it’s more precise to say a horse needs X pounds of hay per day, I can’t think of a single barn I’ve ever boarded at that had a scale.  So just saying 3-4 flakes will generally assure that the horse will not be starving. I might edit this, for example, if we adopt out the Galootasaurus, as he requires 5 flakes a day to stay round and happy, but for most of our normal-sized polo ponies, 3-4 works.

2.  Types of hay are specified because you will not keep a Thoroughbred looking good on any kind of local grass hay, or bermuda.  Again, I might edit this portion if we adopt out Coda, as he’s an Arabian and they generally do well on bermuda.  When you just say “hay,” someone who isn’t super experienced might think local grass hay for $5 a bale will do the same job as alfalfa for $18 a bale. It won’t.

3.  Sufficient pasture!  How many times have you been to someone’s pasture and seen that some horses are fat, some horses are just right and some horses are thin?   Or seen a horse who is thin because “he just came back from pasture.”  It’s not okay for horses to become thin at pasture; it means there isn’t enough pasture and supplemental hay should have been provided.  Or that particular horse needed more than just hay (or needed his teeth done, deworming, etc.).  So, I put in a definition of sufficient pasture that should not confuse anyone.  Throw out hay – if they sniff it and walk away, congratulations, you have enough grass for them to live on.  If they attack it like they haven’t seen food in a week, your pasture is probably getting eaten down and they are hungry, even if they haven’t obviously lost weight yet.

4.  Introducing grain too fast can, of course, lead to both founder and colic.

And crazy teleporting horses.

Much like sugar when you have toddlers – proceed slowly, in minimal amounts and with caution.  :)


World's biggest ex polo pony at his first show.  Check out McCoy Boy in our adoptable horses!

World’s biggest ex polo pony at his first show. Check out McCoy Boy in our adoptable horses!





Works well, doesn't it?

Works well, doesn’t it?

Horse Rescuer 101: A translation guide!

Posted by poloponyrescue. Comments (15).

We read a lot of discussion on Facebook and message boards about what people feel a horse rescue should or shouldn’t do. Frequently this is accompanied by accusations that horse rescuers are mean, unhelpful, and have no people skills. Today, I’d like to write a little bit on this topic that might help you understand why horse rescuers say things that you think might be mean, unsympathetic, unhelpful or rude.

Call from the public: I have a 27 year old warmblood who used to be my show jumper. He is the best horse ever but now he is blind in an eye and has ringbone so he can only be a pet. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH and I want him to have a great retirement home but I got a new 5 year old horse from Holland and I need something I can show.

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Wow, he sounds great! When can I pick him up?

Actual rescuer’s response: I can give you some suggestions for good retirement boarding farms. If that’s not an option, I suggest putting him to sleep.

Translation: Clearly you do have the money for retirement board (typically $300 month or even less) if you are buying warmbloods from Europe. Also, if you are showing, you are an able bodied person who could acquire a second job, if needed, to afford a few years of retirement care for your old partner. If you truly love your horse, pay for retirement board. If you don’t, at least euthanize him so that nothing bad will happen to him. You may think there are a lot of great homes for pet horses out there, but they are, in fact, almost as rare as unicorns. If you don’t love him enough to provide for him after he won you a room full of ribbons, why do you think a stranger will? We have all dragged someone’s high level show horse out of a kill pen, a livestock auction, a barbed wire pen behind someone’s mobile home in the high desert, or the county shelter. We fatten them up and get them sound and hop on them and are stunned at the level of training they possess. It happens all the time. We know that you don’t want your horse to suffer like this. That’s why we gave you the options that we did.

Call from the public: I am looking for a horse to adopt. It needs to be no older then 7, safe for beginner riders, and jump a 3′ course. Can’t be a mare and has to vet check.

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Sure, no problem, I have three here to choose from and the adoption fee on each is $500.

Actual rescuer’s response: If you’re looking for a horse safe for beginner riders, I have a selection of great horses in their twenties that you will be able to trust. Since they’re beginners, they won’t be jumping 3′ for a long time, so why not adopt an appropriate horse now and save up for that future show hunter when they are ready for him, years from now? Sure, you may have to do some maintenance to keep them sound, but they are great teachers!

Translation: There are few, if any, beginner safe horses under 7 years old. There are even fewer that can jump a 3′ course. The ones that do exist can be found at your local hunter-jumper barn with a price tag of $10,000 or more attached. What you are trying to do, and it is not very subtle, is get something for nothing. Young, sound show horses are not a demographic that end up in rescue often, if at all. Rescue is a great place to find a hunter-jumper prospect IF you are an advanced rider who can train one from the ground up or IF you are willing to spend thousands having the horse professionally trained. If you are, by all means, come on out and we’ll hook you up!

Call from the public: I’m from out of town and going to be in your area in 15 minutes and my kids want to stop by to pet the horses.

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Sure, come on out! We’re here all the time!

Actual rescuer’s response: Sorry, that won’t work out. We can schedule another time for a visit, if you’d like.

Translation: We might be at work (yes, most of us have outside jobs). We might be at our child’s school. We might be at the doctor’s. We might be on a date. We might be grocery shopping. We might be at the feed store. We might be nose deep in a grant application that has to go out in today’s mail. Whatever the reason, none of us are available 24/7 to supervise visitors. That’s why the gate is locked. Please don’t climb the fence (true story, heard it from another rescuer). That’s called trespassing and yes, we really will call the police if you do it. None of this means that we don’t appreciate and like our supporters – it just means that we all have lives, too, and stuff to do, and can’t hang out at our rescue 24/7.

Call from the public: My neighbor’s horses are starving. Please do something. I can’t do anything because he’s in a gang and I’m scared of him. I’m in Dirtbag City, I think we’re about 560 miles from you.

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: No problem, I’ll be right over with a SWAT team to arrest your neighbor.

Actual rescuer’s response: You will need to take photographs and document the neglect, then go to your local animal control or police station and file a report. We cannot do anything since we aren’t a witness to the neglect – you are.

Translation: The law is the law. We really can’t do anything. We don’t have the time or money to travel around documenting abuse, and that isn’t our job as rescuers. You are going to need to cowboy/girl up and report the abuse yourself – file an actual police report. If the police blow you off, go to the media – news reports tend to light a fire under slow-moving law enforcement entities. If the horses are seized, we’ll be happy to help at that time, resources permitting.

Call from the public: My neighbor has to get rid of his 29 horses. He’s willing to give them up. Otherwise he’s taking them to auction! I don’t know what they are. I think some are stallions. Can you come get them?

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Give me the address and I’ll send our air ride semi over right away!

Actual rescuer’s response: Can you get details such as age, sex, height, papers if any, training if any and good photographs? I’ll network them around.

Translation: Almost none of us have the resources to take in 29 horses at once. If you don’t know why, ask yourself how much you have personally donated to a rescue in the last year. We are under the same constraints as private individuals with regard to stall/pasture space, stallion appropriate housing, money for hay, money for vet, money for farrier, etc. Sure, sometimes we can get a grant to help with a large seizure, but if the horses don’t adopt quickly once rehabbed, no more money will be forthcoming and now we have 29 more mouths to feed. We are not being mean or unhelpful by requesting details – we are trying to figure out if these are horses we can place if we rehab them, and/or identify breeds to contact breed specific rescues that might help us shoulder this burden. If you are as upset as you sound about the neighbor’s horses, you should want to help us out by going over there and getting details and pictures.

Call from the public: I rescued this horse from the Fallon feedlot, but he’s not what they said he was. He’s 15 years older, not very sound and he bucks when we try to ride him. I can’t afford a vet or a trainer. Can you take him?

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Of course! Wow, you are such a wonderful person for rescuing him!

Actual rescuer’s response: Have you considered putting him to sleep?

Translation: First of all, you had no business “rescuing” anything you couldn’t afford vet or training for. If you get read the riot act – you deserve it. Secondly, you know how you don’t want a lame 25 year old that bucks? Guess what, neither do our adopters. If we take in that horse, we may be able to make him sounder and we may be able to fix the bucking, but he is unlikely to ever find a home. Quite frankly, we cannot remain in operation unless the vast majority of the horses we help are horses that are likely to find new homes. The amount of permanent retiree space any of us have is limited, if it is there at all. Euthanasia is not cruel. You may feel sad about it but the horse doesn’t. He gets a shot and goes to la-la land very quickly. If you choose this option, you have done the right thing – the horse did not go to kill, and did not suffer, and probably enjoyed his time in your care. Now, please consider waiting to acquire another equine until you can afford veterinarians and trainers.

Call from the public: I want to adopt a horse, I’m a really great home. I used to have a horse but my husband took it to the auction when he was drunk and mad at me. I would never have done that! I love horses and I’m totally anti-slaughter!

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Oh, you poor thing. Come on over and we’ll set you up with a new horse.

Actual rescuer’s response: There are many horses available on Craigslist and you can also check your county shelters. Good luck in your search.

Translation: You might be the best home ever, but your taste in men has disqualified you from adoption. We go through a lot of effort to rehab our horses and place them in the safest home possible. If we find out something about what happened to your previous animals that leads us to believe a horse won’t be safe with you – even if you’re not the family member who was the problem – we’re not going to give you a horse. Fortunately for you, horses are easy to come by and we’ve provided you with other options.

Call from the public: I have to get rid of my horse because I’m pregnant/going to college/getting a divorce/losing my farm.

Response caller anticipates from rescuer: Oh, you poor thing. I know how hard those things are! We’ll be happy to pick up your horse.

Actual rescuer’s response: I can recommend a great place to pasture board your horse affordably until you’re ready to ride again. I can hook you up with a barn near your college, and an affordable hauler. I can refer you to a terrific divorce attorney. I can find you a great boarding barn near your job and new apartment so you don’t have to give up your horse. I might even send you a month’s worth of hay while you start your new job, if you’re been unemployed and you can document that.

Translation: I will help you any way I can but please don’t dump your horse into the rescue system or worse because of temporary life complications…the rescue system is filled to the brim and we just can’t help them all. Please help your horse yourself by taking the actions YOU can take to keep him safe and in a good home. Believe me, MANY of us have been in the boat you’re in…we made it work and kept our horses safe and fed. You can do it too!

As another rescuer once said, and I wish I could remember who, horse rescues exist to help horses. Horses in true need – those at auctions, in kill pens, and in animal shelters. Not personal horses that have become lame or developed a behavioral issue. (Bear in mind that many of us do welcome the legitimate situation where an owner donates a horse with a substantial donation for care so that an experienced rescue can find it a good home, without the rescue being financially burdened by the process.) When you have truly put forth a good faith effort to help an animal and solve the problem yourself, you will find that rescuers become a lot nicer. The person who provides us with pictures and details on the 29 homeless horses next door gets a lot better response than the person who calls us and rages that we ought to do something, while being unwilling to do anything themselves. Remember that your local horse rescuer is most likely working a schedule that would kill an ox and in a constant state of frustration over the seemingly endless amount of human irresponsibility when it comes to animals. Donate or lend a hand, be courteous about visits and phone calls (if it’s 5 AM, send an email – come on, folks, common sense!), describe what you have tried to do to solve the problem, listen to and actually take our advice, and you’ll find the horses win every time!

If you spend any time on horse message boards or social media, you’ve read stories about horses that were sold to someone as “beginner safe” and then, within a few months, started offloading their riders regularly, became hard to handle, stopped doing things they used to do peacefully, etc.  Frequently the new owner posts to complain that the previous owner must have drugged the horse, because they don’t understand any other way that the calm, mellow “packer” they tried out has now turned into a nightmare.

I’m not going to say that the drugging of sale horses doesn’t go on, but it is more rare than all the stories would have you believe.  (Here’s a link about how to tell if a horse is drugged).  But, generally, this is what happens when a very mellow calm polo pony (or any other kind of horse!) is sold to a beginner home and things don’t go well — and the only drugs involved are the painkillers the New Owner ends up needing to take!

1.  New Owner changes the horse’s entire lifestyle.  He was living in a pasture in Wyoming, and now he’s living in a box stall in Los Angeles.  He goes from eating unlimited quantities of grass and plentiful hay to the typical boarding barn’s 2 or 3 flakes a day.  Then, when he starts to lose weight, New Owner compensates for the lack of hay by adding more and more grain.  Doesn’t really matter what kind – oats, corn, sweet feed, even senior feed can and will crank up a horse’s energy level. Also, lots of grain and not enough quality forage combined with stall life can cause ulcers to flare up.

2.  Old Owner had horse on a serious exercise regimen.  The horse got ridden most days, hard enough to work up a sweat.  As a result, anyone could hop on him with a lead rope and pony four more without issue.  New Owner doesn’t really want to pay for a groom or exercise rider and thinks he can just ride the horse himself, but he misses Wednesday because of Lisa’s birthday party and Thursday because he has to work late, and Sunday because his buddy comes to town unexpectedly.  And so on… Because the horse is boarded, the horse stands in a 12 x 12 box getting progressively more irritated.

3.  New Owner comes out to ride.  The horse doesn’t want to pick up his foot, so after a struggle, New Owner decides that hoof does not really need to be picked.  The horse starts to get pushy to lead, because he’s been in the stall for 2 days and he’s eager to move.  New Owner permits the pushiness; the horse stops leading nicely and starts circling around New Owner or dragging him around like a kite.   New Owner goes to tack up the horse and cranks up the girth tight all at once, something Old Owner, who was more experienced, knew better than to do.  Horse flies backwards and breaks the cross ties.  Now New Owner starts to become fearful of the horse. New Owner goes to get him out of the stall and the horse swings his butt to New Owner and threatens him. New Owner gives up and leaves and the horse sits in the stall yet another day.

4.  When New Owner finally does manage to get the horse out for a ride, New Owner doesn’t understand why the horse has become pushy and resistant.  New Owner doesn’t start by turning the horse out or longeing; he just hops right on.  Maybe he pokes the horse in the side good and hard with his toe as he mounts, or kicks him in the butt accidentally with his right leg, either of which can lead to a wreck before the ride has even begun.   If he gets on successfully, the horse is a whooooole lot more horse under saddle than he was when he tried him out, due to the confinement and diet changes.  New Owner doesn’t call Old Owner yet.  Nor does New Owner consult with a competent trainer in his discipline.  New Owner allows himself to get advice from everyone he doesn’t have to pay, including the boarding barn’s official busybody who likes to give everybody unsolicited training advice, a couple of Natural Horsemanship followers who think all of these issues can be solved by playing games and, of course, everybody on his Facebook.   The end result is that New Owner buys a $150 bit and $300 worth of training videos.

5.  But none of that helps. In fact, the $150 bit leads to a new behavior – rearing!  Now New Owner is good and scared but not willing to quit just yet.  He is going to ride that horse.  The horse, on his part, can sense New Owner’s fear which of course scares him (Horses are not capable of perceiving that they are what’s scaring you.  Horses feel your fear and perceive that perhaps there is a mountain lion nearby which you have seen and they have not – so it might be a good idea to freak out and/or run like hell to get away from it).  The behavior gets worse and worse until New Owner, quite predictably, gets dumped and gets injured – possibly seriously.

6.  New Owner, from his hospital bed, writes vitriolic posts all over Facebook about the sleazy folks who sold him a horse that was not beginner safe and lied about it and probably drugged it.  Old Owner fights back, pointing out that his 6 year old kid showed the horse and was fine.  Everybody else makes popcorn and watches the drama unfold.  Bonus points if everybody lawyers up.  Meanwhile, the poor horse gets sent to slaughter by New Owner’s angry spouse.

I’m not even making any of that up, although I did combine elements of different situations to protect the guilty.  It’s a scenario that gets played out time and time again.  So now, let’s look at a constructive direction to go with this:

How do I keep my beginner safe horse beginner safe?

Here’s your answer:

1.  The vast majority of calories should come from forage (grass, hay or hay pellets)

2.  Never ever let him sit in a stall for 24 hours.  Think about it – would you like to be locked in your bathroom for 24 hours? It’s just not fair.  If you can’t get the barn you’re at to turn your horse out, you need to make arrangements to have him ridden or ponied daily.  Yes, you may have to pay for that. The ideal is pasture life but I know it’s just not an option everywhere.  Just do the best you can and be fair to the horse.

3.  Beginner horses should be “tuned up” by a competent, experienced rider at least twice a month, if not more often.  Lesson barns know that they have to have their advanced students, or the trainer, ride the school horses periodically in order to fix beginner-created habits like stopping at the gate, refusing to take a canter lead, and cutting the corners of the arenas.  Learn from this.

4.  A bigger bit in beginner hands solves nothing and creates a variety of dangerous behaviors.  Avoid any solution that involves a thinner bit, a bit with a twisted mouth, or one with longer shanks/more leverage.

5.  Learn the difference between abuse and discipline.  None of us wants to be the idiot beating his horse – but that doesn’t mean discipline is always wrong.  If your horse’s ground manners are melting down and he does not do things he used to do (like picking up feet, getting into the horse trailer, bridling) or has started doing things he didn’t used to do (like kicking at you, biting, trying to smush you against the wall in the stall), please get help from a competent trainer.  It may be that your body language is all wrong, but it also may be that you’ve established yourself as, well, a doormat and need to learn when it is appropriate to re-establish yourself as the boss.  This involves a lot of timing, correct body language and feel – none of which you can learn from your friends on Facebook or a training video.  You need an actual trainer or other very experienced horseperson to work with you, hands-on and in-person.


Truer words were never spoken!

Truer words were never spoken!

The better you ride, the better horses will behave for you.  

7.  Call the vet and make sure the horse is not simply trying to tell you he has a pain issue.  Horses can’t exactly text you and say “hey, dude, my back hurts.”  They will simply resort to things like biting you when you tighten the girth or bucking when asked to canter in a desperate attempt to convey the message.

8.  If you’ve changed a lot about the horse’s lifestyle, try to change it back and see if that fixes the problem.  Find a barn where the horse can be pasture boarded, for example, instead of stall kept.  If you started feeding a lot of grain, replace it with hay pellets.

9.  Don’t keep a horse you are terrified of.  If the behaviors are truly scary or you’re hitting the dirt regularly – the horse is just not for you.  You’re not in the running for the PRCA bronc riding and no one cares if you look cool or not. It’s probably more important to remain uninjured and able to, like, work and pay your mortgage, right?  Turn the horse that is way too much for you over to a competent trainer to sell.  Yes, this may cost you some money up front but it’s the right thing to do and once he’s sold, you are free to buy a more appropriate horse.

10.  Increase your odds of not having these problems in the first place by (a) buying a horse who is regularly ridden by beginners, like a lesson horse; and (b) buying a horse that is a lot older than the one you think you need (we play polo on plenty of horses in their early 20′s, so don’t think a horse of that age can’t possibly hold up for your easy trail rides and beginner lessons), and bear in mind that appearance should be your LAST concern when shopping for a beginner horse.

But he’s so PRETTY! And they’ll let me make payments! (Photo courtesy of Tammy Ferin, Ferin Arabians – and used only as an example of a rearing horse, horse in question may be a sweetheart under saddle!)

Keep in mind that a lot of sellers don’t know how a horse will behave with a beginner because they simply have not ever had a beginner ride the horse long-term.  So they weren’t maliciously trying to mislead you – they didn’t know.  The world is absolutely packed full of horses that ride beautifully for experienced riders and turn into utter broncs within 2 weeks of being ridden by beginners who bounce on their backs or have inconsistent hands.  Some horses are not very tolerant!  Call the seller!  Have them come out and ride the horse to see if they can figure out what’s going on.  Many sellers will take a horse back or help you sell it – give them a chance, don’t assume every seller is a sleazy used-horse salesman who has taken your cash and run with it and couldn’t care less what happens to the horse.  (Yes, some are – but like I say, give them a chance).

And remember, if you want to buy a horse that will act the same every single ride and never act up with anybody, you can buy them on E-bay!

Won't buck no matter how windy or cold it is!  Guaranteed!

Won’t buck no matter how windy or cold it is! Guaranteed!

What do you feed them?

Posted by poloponyrescue. Comments (2).

We get asked this question a lot, because horses who come into our care cease to have any problems keeping weight on, usually within about 3 months time. So I’m going to share the program!  This is for horses who don’t look great.  It is not for severely emaciated horses. If you get a SEVERELY emaciated horse in – they look like this – then you follow UC-Davis’s Refeeding Plan.

Before picture of Grace - August 2010

Before picture of Grace – August 2010


The plan was followed perfectly with Grace by her rescue, Strawberry Mountain Mustangs, (the pan you see is soaked alfalfa pellets, which we generally substitute for hay in starved horse cases) and this is how she looked just three months later.


Fat Grace - just three months later!

Fat Grace – just three months later!

But most of you don’t have a “Grace.”  What you have is one polo pony in an otherwise good looking string that looks like hell.  Or a new OTTB that just will…not…gain.  Or an elderly horse you picked up from a less than great home that doesn’t seem to be responding to your feeding program.  So here is what does work!

Phase One (works on 90% of horses)

1.  Float the teeth

2.  Feed quality hay 3x a day.  Anywhere between 3 and 6 flakes depending upon the size of the horse and the size of the flakes. If they are finishing a meal faster than an hour, they probably did not get enough to eat.  Feeding lunch helps a lot.  You must feed a skinny horse separately – they aren’t going to gain if they’re being chased off of food.  If teeth are bad, or missing, you can substitute hay with hay pellets, well soaked.

3. Twice a day make this up for them:

1-2 scoops (a “scoop” is a typical three quart plastic scoop from the feed store) alfalfa pellets – substitute low carb orchard  grass or timothy pellets if the horse has a founder history or Cushing’s.

1 quart Triple Crown Senior.  TC is the best – it’s low NSC.   Low NSC feeds help prevent metabolic issues, plus encourage healthy hooves.

1 measure of a daily dewormer like Strongid C.   You will hear 10,000 different opinions about deworming and you will hear that daily dewormers are bad. I only use it for the first month. I love the stuff, especially if the horse hasn’t been dewormed in a long time – it’s mild yet thorough. No, it won’t get every worm on earth (see Phase Two).

1/4 cup of psyllium.  If you can get plain old psyllium, it is a whole lot cheaper than commercial sand remedies.

Measure of a probiotic supplement.  We use Probios.

You can add a quart of rice bran or a splash of flax seed oil or cocosoya oil if you want a shiny coat  :-)  We do!

SOAK THE HECK OUT OF THE ABOVE.  You want it the consistency of sloppy oatmeal.

None of the things I just listed are optional. Put them all in there. You are cleaning the horse’s gut out of sand, worms, and ensuring it starts functioning at peak efficiency.

4.  Stop working the horse.  Horses are just like people – if you are burning off the calories you eat, you won’t gain weight.  A thin horse needs to be at rest.  You can pony him a little at the walk & trot if you don’t have access to turnout, but don’t make him sweat, and stay off his back.  It is simply not true that your horse looks like crap because of a lack of muscle. Your horse will look better with muscle after he has proper weight on. If he’s 200 pounds underweight, work is not going to help him. It’s just going to prevent him from gaining.  Lay him off.

You should see very noticeable improvement within 60 days. If you don’t, it’s time to move to Phase Two

Phase Two (works on all horses except the horses the vet finds have cancer or some other physical reason for not gaining weight)

1. Keep doing everything you were doing in Phase One.

2. Give the horse a Panacur Power Pac course of dewormers.  Two months later, hit him with a Zimecterin Gold to get tapeworms.  Buy the multi pack and treat your whole string/all your horses with ZG because it’s the only thing other than Qwest that gets tapeworms, and I personally know someone who lost a horse to tapeworms.  It’s sadly not that unusual!  The reason I say ZG instead of Qwest is that a lot of people seem to have problems with horses having bad reactions to Qwest.

3.  Call the vet and run a basic blood panel (CBC) to see if you have a thyroid problem or other issue preventing weight gain.  While you are at it, do an overall check for pain.  Many horses in chronic pain won’t look good, no matter what you feed. If you cannot resolve the pain and make the horse happy to be alive, it is probably time to say goodbye humanely.

4. Treat the horse with a course of Abprazole to resolve possible ulcer issues.  Sure, you can have a horse scoped. But by the time you pay for that, you could have bought the Abprazole, and Abprazole won’t hurt a horse that doesn’t have ulcers.  So it’s your call.  Some signs of ulcers are: poor appetite, dull coat, poor performance, loose stools, “girthy,” sensitivity to being brushed on the belly or flanks, cranky disposition and chronic mild colic-y symptoms.

A list of things you should not, under any circumstances, do:

1.  Feed sweet feed.   Sweet feed includes wet COB, “all stock” feeds, Omolene, etc.  In general, if it is cheap, it is probably not good for your horse.

Courtesy of Laura Holmes. We couldn't agree more!

Courtesy of Laura Holmes. We couldn’t agree more!

2.  Feed corn or corn oil.  I know this was the historic wisdom but research has shown that corn is not a good thing for horses (or dogs, or cats).  We have better oils now (cocosoya, flax).

3.  Buy low quality hay and think you’ll make up for it with grain. This is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing.  Hay should be as high quality as possible and generously fed.  You may find you don’t need any supplemental feed when you up your hay quality.

4.  Throw a skinny horse out on the lushest grass pasture you can find.   You can kill them by doing this.  Instead, introduce grass slowly – let them out for 15 minutes, bring them back in, let them out for 30 minutes the next day, 45 the next, and keep going until they are out 24/7.   Sure it’s a pain.  Laminitis is a much bigger pain!


This horse was in his late 20's when we rescued him.

This horse was in his late 20′s when we rescued him.

Bottom line, the only reason a horse won’t put weight on, properly fed, is that he’s suffering from something serious, like cancer, or he has some other disease that has thrown everything out of whack.

The program I just described costs me approximately $175 per horse per month to implement, in Los Angeles.   Odds are, wherever you live, it is even cheaper.  This doesn’t break the bank – it works and it is affordable.   Give it a shot, and send us your before and after pictures – we’d love to see them!

Which PPR Horse is Right for You?

Posted by poloponyrescue. Comment (0).


Third Career Status: SUCCESS!

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Justa Smidgen – Born in New York, raced, polo, traveled cross country and now teaching little girls to ride in California!

This is what we do here, and it feels GREAT!

Justa Smidgen - Good at everything she does!

Justa Smidgen – Good at everything she does!


If you have a polo pony who is ready to retire, e-mail us. Whether we take a horse into our program or not, we are always willing to assist you with screening homes, background checking, putting together a solid contract and other steps to help ensure your horse will not be in danger of anything more than too many carrots!

There is a school of thought that believes you should never name the people responsible for sending a horse to slaughter, for fear that they will find a way to send horses more discreetly to slaughter, and there will be no way to intervene.

There is another school of thought that believes you must name the people responsible for sending a horse to slaughter, so that those horse people who do not want their horses to go to slaughter can keep their horses safe from those people and also, refuse to do business with those people so that they suffer financial consequences for their actions.

We believe in the second approach.  Anyone who disputes the story posted here is welcome to post and tell their version of the story.  However, from everything that has gotten back to me, and believe me, I have heard this story from numerous people now, the story is extremely consistent, with the only disparity coming from whether or not one party knew what another party would do.

I am NOT a sandwich!

I’m NOT a sandwich!

The so-far-undisputed facts:

The owner of Tamara, the gray mare we bought at Mike’s Auction on March 8, 2014, outbidding the only other bidder, a kill buyer, for $250 absolutely did not know her mare was taken to the sale.  I am not going to name this person, she can name herself if she so chooses, because I am 100% convinced of the truth of her account of the story. She discovered her mare had been sold at auction when a friend of hers sent her the pictures of the mare at PPR a week later and her shock was completely genuine.

The nature of polo is such that people often play polo in locations very far from their actual homes.  The backstory on this mare is that she was in Indio, on pasture board.  The owner, who had gone home to her own country after the season, had authorized the pro player she employed, Victor Soto, to find the mare a good home as a broodmare or companion horse. She anticipated and had discussed with him that the mare would go to someone in the polo community, so she would know where the horse was and how she was doing.  She loved this mare. She had spent a lot of time working with her and feeding her carrots and convincing the mare that people were a good thing.  Since Tamara is an imported Argentine mare who was a fast, handy and highly valuable pro’s horse most of her life, she was a great candidate to at least try to breed.

(Weird small world coincidence:  Tamara came in from Kansas several homes ago with two other horses. She is the only one of the three I never rode while owned by that previous home, so I didn’t remember her.)

The mare was not an easy placement otherwise. She remained hot and quick on her feet – not a horse who could be a pee wee polo horse or a trail horse for an average rider.  She couldn’t retire to a lower level of polo because those people couldn’t ride her.  She was not unsound but she was 20 and had enough wear and tear that it was time she had an easier life. That easier life is what her owner wanted for her.

Here is the timeline as best we can piece it together:

Sometime on or prior to March 8, 2014, Tamara was given or sold by Victor Soto to Jose Garnica.  Garnica is a polo farrier who is well known as the “go to” guy if you want your horse to disappear.  He routinely runs horses to auction/slaughter.

On March 8, 2014, Garnica took this mare and the dapple gray gelding to Mike’s Auction in Mira Loma, California. Despite what other sources have reported, the dapple gray horse is indeed a polo pony and is not 17 hands tall.  We know, for sure, who he is. He flunked out of polo for rearing and we are still trying to learn his whole story.  He was purchased by Auction Horses Rescue.  They have been advised of his past behavioral history.

We purchased the mare for $250. The only other bidder was a well known kill buyer. We were outbid on the gelding.

On March 9, 2014, we picked up Tamara and posted a zillion photographs of her, documenting in a way that cannot be argued with that we had the horse in our possession. There are multiple witnesses and photographs showing the mare at the auction as well as showing that we picked up the mare at the auction yard.

On March 12, 2014, Victor informed the owner that he still had Tamara, but that someone was coming to look at her for a companion horse that coming weekend (March 15-16).

On March 15, 2014, the owner discovered we had Tamara and called me.  To say she was shocked was an understatement.

Throughout the past two weeks, this story has been pieced together from multiple sources in Indio – none of whom had a different story.

Now here is the sole disputed fact, to the best of our knowledge and information at this time:

Victor, when confronted, told the owner he did not know Jose ran horses to auction/kill.

The following graphic contains an editorial opinion about that statement.


It is up to the owner whether or not she will choose to take legal action.  We have mutually agreed the mare will stay with PPR for placement in a carefully screened home, on contract, and I have reviewed in detail the steps that have to be taken to ensure things like this don’t happen to the owner’s other horses.  A major part of our purpose here is to educate.  We understand that the main reason horses wind up in bad places is not because the owners wanted that to happen, but because the owners were (a) too trusting and (b) didn’t really understand the legal steps that must be taken to up the odds that a free/cheap horse will stay safe and sound in a new home.

Can anything guarantee a horse won’t be taken to an auction or sold directly to a kill buyer?  No. But a contract provides you with a basis to make an action like that an expensive mistake for someone, and that discourages it from happening, in the same way that hefty seat belt fines cause me to wear my seat belt no matter how unpleasant I find it.  Background checking a new home and doing your research can also greatly reduce your odds that you will give a horse to the wrong person.  You can’t ever guarantee someone won’t turn out to be a bad person, but you can reduce your odds by being smart – the same reason you background check your kid’s nanny or your elderly parent’s caretaker.

I understand that some people will read this who do not think horse slaughter is wrong.  Even if you don’t – do you respect the right of a horse owner to determine what is done with their property?  I hope so.  I don’t know how you can disagree that lying to owners and converting their property is 100% unacceptable.  Someone pocketed the money from the sale, sure as heck wasn’t the owner of the horse who thought she still owned the horse.  How do you defend that?  How do you give that person your business?

And I keep hearing stories from others about how they got cheated and defrauded in polo.  Horses sold by pros that the owners were never paid for.  Money given to pros to pay for expenses that was pocketed, leaving the bill intact and the owner on the hook.  Crippled horses drugged up and sold as sound to novice players who don’t know that they should vet check.  Why does this go on, with so few lawsuits or other consequences?

(I do understand that some people are afraid the person will take our their aggressions on the field and I know it happens but that’s a whole other blog about the need to bring in non-local umpires so that local pros aren’t having to call fouls on the clients who pay their bills.)

There are many, many people in polo that you can put your horses with that are trustworthy, honest and reputable. It’s a small world. It’s easy enough to find out who those people are.  It may cost you a little more to put horses with wonderful people.  It is your decision.

From my previous blog post:

“If you can prove you have been lied to, for heaven’s sake, stop patronizing the person who lied to you. The world is full of trainers of all disciplines. You don’t have to line the pockets of people who have no actual love for horses if you don’t want to.”

Your money. Your choice.  The most powerful tool you have in your possession to affect the lives of animals is your wallet.  Use it wisely.

Tamara in the auction pen on 3/8/14.

Tamara in the auction pen on 3/8/14.

The Farm

Posted by poloponyrescue. Comments (2).

When I was about five, we had a dog named Buffy. Buffy was a great dog – just your typical awesome, friendly yellow lab. But Buffy had a habit of eating just about anything. Tin cans, clothing, didn’t really matter, Buffy would eat it. This necessitated more than one vet visit.

One day, Buffy didn’t come back from the vet. My mom told me she had gone to live on a farm. Being a little sharper than your average five year old and already showing signs of the stubborn desire to get at the truth that I still suffer from today, I refused to let that drop. I wanted to know WHOSE farm, WHERE the farm was, WHEN we were going to visit the farm. And I was persistent. I didn’t actually let it drop for many years. I would bring up in arguments how no one would ever take me to the farm to see my dog. Finally, in the middle of a screaming match with my mom when I was around 13, I pointed out that there was no farm and that my dog had been killed and I had been lied to about it. And she confessed.

HA. I knew it! I had known at five that something was very wrong with the farm story.

Sure, I got suckered, and I’m sure my mom would argue I got suckered because she was trying to protect my feelings. In her defense, I was five. Now the question is, why are so many of you buying the exact same story even if you’re 20 or 30 or 40?

Here’s the scenario: You go out and you take lessons or you rent Buffy the horse for chukkers. You really like Buffy. Buffy gets carrots, you ask to use her all the time.  Then Buffy goes lame, you can’t use her for a while, but you still bring her treats every time you come.  Then you come out one day and…no Buffy. And, like my mom, your trainer or the club pro gives you the line about the farm.

“She was getting old, we sent her to live on a farm with some kids.”

“She went to pasture. She’s eating grass and enjoying the good life.”

“We donated her to a kids camp. She’s living on a farm.”

And if you try to get some details, like where Buffy the Horse is so that you can visit her, or if you say that gee, you wish you had known because you would have taken Buffy, then you might hear the runaround start. Suddenly Buffy is at a farm with people who don’t want visitors. We have to respect their privacy. And they’re not on Facebook. They don’t have the Internet. It’s really far away. Or the trainer says he will get you the name of the people, even though he gave Buffy away yesterday and it shouldn’t be that hard to remember – and then he hopes you’ll forget and not bring it up again and evades your questions when you do ask again.

You know, THE FARM. She went to go live on A FARM.

You know, THE FARM. She went to go live on A FARM.

C’mon folks – you’re not five anymore. If you’re getting the runaround, the odds are that Buffy is already in Mexico being sliced and diced. And that’s a fact. Every year, more school horses than you think – from polo clubs, from hunter jumper barns, from kids’ camp – go to slaughter. Every year, some of the proprietors of those establishments show up at the kill buyer’s place with a full load. It’s happening now. It’s happening here in Southern California, despite our alleged no-slaughter law (you know, the one that no one enforces, ever).

A few years ago, a bunch of trail string horses showed up at the local low-end auction, an auction at which virtually every old horse is on a one-way trip to Mexico. But thanks to the wonder of the Internet, their pictures got posted and some people recognized them and where they came from. They didn’t all get saved, but some did. It was pretty much a miracle. The horses were meant to disappear. The trail string was none too happy about the bashing they got on Facebook. Ironically, many of the riders would have bought the horses in the first place if they’d been reasonably priced, but the old, crippled horses had gone overnight from being for sale for $2000+ to selling at the auction for $100.   Why?  Why?  Why?  Because there are a lot of people in the horse business who don’t care about horses, and because customers don’t pay attention and keep them in business no matter what they do, that’s why.

Generally, if a horse is picked up by a dealer, there’s about a one-week window to save them. The trucks don’t leave until there is a full load collected. So when you see a horse that you ride and you like disappear, it’s really up to you. If the story sounds lame and you can’t go visit the horse and verify it is okay – take action. Any local rescue will tell you who the kill buyers are and if you can intercept a horse.  You can find out who to call who can check and see if a horse matching Buffy’s description is there. If you can prove you have been lied to, for heaven’s sake, stop patronizing the person who lied to you. The world is full of trainers of all disciplines. You don’t have to line the pockets of people who have no actual love for horses if you don’t want to.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to go look at an old lesson horse. I’m pretty sure a lot of people love him. And if all goes well, he’s going to be heading to a farm that really exists. A farm with a web site and a Facebook, a 501(c)3 charity sanctuary that posts regular pictures of their horses so that no one who ever loved them has to wonder how they are doing. I’m going to do my part to make sure that the only farm he goes to is a real one. Will you do as much for the horses who are teaching you (or your child) to ride or play polo? Think about it.

“I always thought someone should do something about that, then I realized I was someone” ~ Lily Tomlin

Shortcake, on a real farm, that really exists, that you can visit if you're in Eastern WA! Just email us for info.

Shortcake rehabbing, on a real farm, that really exists, that you can visit if you’re in Eastern WA! Just email us for info.

UPDATED: The old lesson horse is heading East – a former trainer stepped up for him! :-) Now that’s the kind of person you should take your business to.

It’s easier to adopt a child!

Posted by poloponyrescue. Comments (8).

Every rescuer has heard that line.  Lots of people balk at rescue applications, contracts and requirements.  I recently had a conversation with a friend who was shocked at how many rescues (ours included) have a strict adoption contract that includes cash penalties for major breaches.  I can understand the initial reaction of someone who hasn’t worked in rescue. Until you have, you tend to think that most homes are good, and that people who love animals will therefore take good care of those animals.

…and then you get involved in rescue, or you work for animal services, and you see the things that you see.  Things like (and all of these are real life examples):

- A former professional athlete with a horse whose founder had gone untreated until his coffin bones protruded through his soles. The owner believed the horse lied down so much because he was “lazy.”  He was euthanized.

- A wealthy Southern California couple whose 17 hand ex-racehorse was 300 pounds underweight and nearly dead.  He lived at their home and they looked at him every day.  He was rescued and recovered.

- A family who were to have been the retirement home for a high level dressage mare.  She and a yearling warmblood were found in their yard, skin and bones.  Plenty of hay on site that wasn’t put out for the horses because “they had grass.”  It was wintertime and the grass was eaten completely down.   They were eager to tell us how much they LOVED their horses.  The mare was euthanized, the yearling survived.

- An elegant show barn that adopted a lesson horse, failed to feed the horse as instructed and denied noticing the horse had dropped 200 pounds.  The horse was returned to the rescue and recovered.

- A wealthy man who was known as a “big name” at the racetrack who had starving horses at his home farm. Six had to be euthanized. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

ALL of these homes “looked good on paper.”  In reality, they were terrible situations in which horses died or almost died – not because of any intent to harm the horse, but because of a lack of knowledge or just plain carelessness.  In the last case, the man blamed the situation on workers at his farm – but the court held him responsible despite his excuses.

In short, there are a thousand things that can go wrong and bottom line, after we drop off the horse with you, we are all a little bit scared.

We are scared you won’t watch your kids and we will see him on Youtube being jumped over a picnic table…after we adopted him fully disclosing that he was arthritic and limited to flat work.

We are scared you will be taken in by some charismatic trainer who is abusive to your horse behind your back.

We are scared you won’t maintain the same level of cleanliness and horse care that we see on drop-off day.

We are scared you won’t notice a big, fat tendon and will continue to ride the horse on it.

We are scared you won’t notice your western saddle is sitting on the horse’s withers.

We are scared that, while we saw you ride and love you, you will let someone else ride the horse who has no judgment and will override or abuse the horse.   A friend had a rescue horse come back 200 pounds underweight and, for good measure, he had been taught to rear.

We are scared that you will simply move the horse, ignore our attempts to contact you, and we will not know if the horse is alive or dead.

We are scared that you will totally change the feeding program and then dump the horse when it has a corresponding change of behavior.

We are scared that you don’t know what mold looks like.

We are scared that you will let the kids feed to “teach them responsibility” and never check to see how much has been fed or if it has even been done.

We are scared that you will move to a property with barbed wire and figure it’s okay to turn the horses out because, hey, it’s a big field and what are the chances they’ll get hung up?   (A rescue friend just took in 2 horses, badly injured from barbed wire…one was dragging a useless hoof behind her.  A young mare whose life ended today because of fencing.  The other may pull through.)

We are scared that one day, we will be one of the rescues that has learned one of its adopted horses went to slaughter.  We are scared we will be that rescuer who has to spend the rest of their life beating themselves up for making the wrong decision.  These two horses were sold to a kill buyer by their adopter in Texas.  They could still be alive.  Right now, no one knows.

Rescuers make adoption decisions all the time based upon an application and one or two meetings. You might be the best home in the universe, but we don’t know that – and please don’t hold it against us if we try to verify that by talking to your references and checking you out.   We understand it seems invasive to agree to a criminal check but please put yourself in our shoes. We simply can’t take your word because the bad people lie just as convincingly as you tell the truth.

Rescuers understand that you don’t think it’s fair that you can’t have your old horse back after we pulled him out of a kill pen.  But we want a home for him where there is no risk of that happening.  We have an absolute duty to keep that horse safe to the best of our ability for the rest of his life.  This isn’t a shoe store where the goal is to move inventory along to make way for more.  The goal is to put horses into homes where they will never fail to receive proper care – ever – and will be euthanized by a vet or keel over from natural causes at a ripe old age.

Why do we ask for ID?  Because we personally know of people who have been banned from animal ownership by the courts who are on Facebook with fake names, trying to adopt animals from unsuspecting rescues.

So when you read our contract, or any rescue’s contract, bear in mind that if you are the good home you say you are, you will never be reminded you signed that contract.  You will tag us in your Facebook pics and show us how the horse is doing.  We might stop by once in a while, with notice. And if you’re awesome, we will sing your praises from the rooftops!  You will get plenty of credit for being awesome. If your circumstances change and you need to return the horse, we will take the horse back cheerfully and do our best to ensure that he finds a new home equally as awesome as you were.  But if you starve the horse, or you take him to an auction, we are going to sue you.  And we are going to tell the world about it.  You need to know that up front.  We have a life-long open door policy for returns and a zero tolerance policy for people who won’t use that open door policy to return a horse they cannot afford to keep or simply do not want anymore.

If it seems like adopting a child – well, it is.  We take the responsibility of making the right placement just as seriously.  If you don’t want to sign a contract, buy a horse.  If you like the idea of having lifetime “technical support” and knowing that the horse always has a safe haven to return to if your circumstances change, adopt from a reputable rescue.   The choice is yours!

This is Coda. He is 28.  Fat, sound and happy.  We are still hoping his perfect person will come along!

This is Coda. He is 28. Fat, sound and happy. We are still hoping his perfect person will come along!