The Fantasy of the 'Forever' Home.
by Holly Peterson
These days, when reading through the sales ads, most of them are looking for a 'forever home', 'forever home only', 'not for resale' and/or 'no-auction contract'. I have to shake my head at these.
Do these sellers really believe they are going to find the one "perfect" home that will keep their baby forever so they will always have contact with their "Special" horse/pony? Well good luck with that, because while this all sounds lovely and sweet, these ads are a fantasy.
The reality is you are SELLING that animal. Once you have sold them, you have no say whatsoever in what happens to that animal. No-auction contracts and no-resale deals are only as good as the paper they are written on. They rely and depend on the honesty of the person you’re selling the animal to. Their willingness to work with you and stay in contact is key.
While some may follow through, there are just as many that don't. The possibility of finding that one home that's going to keep them until death-do-they-part is rare.
You have obviously chosen to sell the animal for a reason, be it personal, professional or financial. Wrap your head around the possibility that once they load that trailer to leave, you’ll most likely never see them again.
The reality is:
- You have no say in what happens to them once the deal is done.
- There are no guarantees on any deal even if it's 'in writing'.
- Not all horses click with their new owners.
- The horse can start to develop habits not seen on trial or when first purchased that the new owners aren't willing or able to deal with.
- They just don't get along.
- The horse isn't working out as hoped in the arena they were intended for.
- The rider moves up in skill and needs an upgrade.
- They decide the horse is too much to handle.
- They out grow the horse, be it physically or ability wise.
Let’s be honest- if you outgrew ‘Pumpkin’ chances are so will the next kid you sold them to.
- They run into financial issues.
We’ve all been there. Some of us squeak through and are able to hold onto our animals. Not everyone is that lucky.
- They intended to sell the horse from the start.
There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there that will get horses free or on the cheap for resale or auction.
The list goes on and an, and anything can happen to change the circumstances of the new owner. They may or may not choose to contact you if that happens. You can ask for No-Auction Contracts or First Rights of Refusal and anything else you want in the contract and many people do. However, even if it’s signed and notarized (making it legally binding) these contracts are next to impossible to enforce. You can only hope that the new owner will honor them.
Recently, I was talking to a friend. She had been forced to sell her ‘baby’ due to family issues and moving out of state. She was so excited, as she thought she found him a great ‘forever’ family. She also thought she did everything right. She interviewed the perspective buyer, had them try him on her farm, told them all his quirks, inspected their farm, and made a verbal agreement with witnesses that he would be returned to her if they couldn’t keep him. They agreed and promised to stay in touch with her. That lasted exactly three months before they stopped contacting her or returning her calls. Eight months after she lost contact, she happened to make a comment about missing him, so I asked how he was. She proceeded to tell me her story and how she now feared they had sold him and were now refusing her calls. Using the power of social media and the kindness of his new-new owner, we found him. Thankfully, he landed in a great home but not before being neglected by the people she had entrusted him to before they sold him on Craigslist.
The recent starvation case in Colorado, that included the well known Quarter Horse stallion 'Dual Peppy”, shows that bad things can happen at all levels, even to the ‘expensive’ horses.
Do ‘Forever Homes’ exist? Of course they do. If they didn’t we wouldn’t be looking for them. It’s what many of us are hoping for.
I’m still in contact with the breeder/seller that I bought my ‘baby’ from 27 years ago. She’s ecstatic that, in this throw away society, I still have him. He’s now 30 years old and will be with me until he dies, but she never expected me to have him this long. Most people would have sold him for an upgrade years ago.
Is it realistic to believe that you are going to find the one true place your baby belongs? Not really.
According to the American Horse Council, there are 9.2 million horses in the United States and only 2 million people own horses. That’s an average of 4.6 horses per horse owner. That’s a lot of people and horses to sort through to find “the one”.
I vet all prospective buyers for my horses, asking what they are looking for, skill level, use of the horse… If they didn’t mesh, I said thank-you and continued looking for the ‘right’ person/home. To my knowledge, the last three horses I’ve sold are still with the people I sold them to and doing well. I think I’ve been lucky, but I am also willing to walk away from a sale to ensure the horses well being.
Do you truly want them to have a forever home? Are you honestly looking for the “right” home or are you just out for a sale? If it’s a forever home you seek then, it starts with you!
All those cutesy little quirks you love so much- someone else might not appreciate. For example, forgetting to tell them your horse likes to run at you at full tilt and come to a sliding stop when you go to catch them in the field.
Give the horse a fighting chance at, not only, a good home but staying in that home, by teaching them some basic ground manners!
-Being able to catch them in the field or stall, without having to chase them or having to wear protective gear.
-Being able to halter them, without it being a wrestling match.
-Leading, preferably without having to surf behind, drag them along them or getting yanked off your feet as they go for a grass snack.
-Bonus features are always a plus, like loading, preferably without it requiring a few hours, drugs, whipping, brooms or any other loading ‘techniques’.
These simple things make them so much more desirable!
You don’t want them to end up at auction? Don’t teach them ‘tricks’ like pawing, bucking and rearing….. unless of course your training circus ponies; then by all means buck-away.
Don’t Lie! Don’t try and cover up or hide issues. Be honest about what the horse can and can’t do, health issues, maintenance, ect. The more lies the new owner uncovers the less they want to keep them.
This concept of a ‘forever’ home is really unrealistic but if it’s going to be a reality, then take some responsibility for helping them stay in the home you find for them.
If knowing what happens to them or being able to control the: who, what, where of their lives, for the rest of their lives, is that important to you; then maybe you shouldn't be selling them in the first place.