Many years ago, I was known as the kid who read books. By the time I was through 6th grade, I had read every book worth reading in the middle school library. By the time I arrived to the high school, I had already read most of that library’s catalog as well. My father was a teacher, so after school while he coached sports I would head to the library, where librarian Mr. Markley would say, “Just close up when you leave.”
In the process of reading all these books, I found Jean Slaughter Doty’s classic called The Monday Horses. A girl’s beloved horse is injured on a trail ride, leading her to seek help from a local show barn. She begins to work with and ride the show horses at the barn, and in the process she is introduced into the world of high stakes hunter/jumper showing. The book is supremely well-written, and it shows a deep insight into horses and the horse industry.
One chapter talks about the weekly arrival of potential sale horses, along with the departure of horses to be sold elsewhere. The manager of the stables talks about the ‘Come from Far Away’ horses– the horses that are worth more just so that the new owner can say, “I brought him up from ~insert distant location~.”
Millie and Willy are certainly Come from Far Away horses. I really suspect that I could have found nice horses to rescue next door. Okay, not next door. Those belong to my friend and neighbor, and they are fat, sassy, and loved. But you get the point. I didn’t have to go ten hours away to find horses in peril. However, in our new global world, we read information and look at photos and videos of happenings around the world. I was linked to Robinette’s Facebook site by someone on another Facebook site, For The Tennessee Walking Horse. I looked at the two Walking Horses, who had been given the unlikely names of Millie and Willy. In the defense of Robinette’s lady saviors, they had named over 80 horses in six months, trying to find homes for all those unwanted at-risk equines. I think by the time they received two scraggly fugly Walking Horses, their inspiration for names was drying up. Besides, Millie and Willy were not inspiring.
Except to me. It had to do with Millie’s eyes. Yes, I’m sorry, I do look at their eyes, or their expression, or whatever you want to call it. There was a bit of gentle hope in Millie’s eyes, and of course I pretty well knew that underfed, undergroomed, not very pretty Tennessee Walking Horses just aren’t worth much in Tennessee. These horses weren’t going to make it.
I’ve been in the horse world since I was about 6 years old, and I’ve been in the industry since I was twelve. You learn to grow a thicker hide, because it’s impossible to save all of them. Still, I asked a few questions of the Robinette Farms people. How old? Sound? Any back story?
Then I asked a few more questions. More Pictures? Is a video too much to ask? Close ups of their feet? Do we even know if they are halter broke?
If you want to avoid buying a horse, then avoid asking questions about the horse. The more questions I asked, the more I became intrigued by Millie, and drawn to her.I really wanted her to make it.
After a host of answered questions, photos, two short video clips, and a couple of long conversations with Susie Lones, one of the Robinette saviors, I sent the checks and arranged for Susie to take Millie to quarantine. Unfortunately, no one was stepping up to help Will. Several texts later and a phone call, and Will was along for the ride.
I like to think that I didn’t do exactly what I always yell at others for doing; I didn’t see a picture in a folder and write a giant check to save that horse. I did spend the time to do my research. I did check my horses over carefully. So here is a basic checklist of how I purchased a Come from Far Away Horse:
1. You can not have too many pictures. All sides, close ups, feet, legs, any angle you can think of. Millie only cost me $175 in purchase price, and yet Susie and Hope and the others spent a whole lot of time taking pictures and sending them to me, so that I could make an informed decision.
2. Videos. Even phones can take videos now. Come on, I was provided two video clips on a couple of horses that were out loose in a 60 acre pasture, and priced at a little bit of nothing. Don’t get a horse long distance unless you can see it move. That used to mean seeing it in person. With the miracle of video, you can see it move from your own living room. Expect videos to be provided.
3. Vet check the horses. Vets often catch problems that normal people miss. If you are hauling them a long way, you will need a health certificate anyway, so spend the money to have the horses checked for obvious problems.
4. Quarantine, especially if you don’t have a history on the horses. A free horse that carries strangles will cost you the price of treating your entire herd, at a minimum. Make sure what you are getting isn’t going to cost you a fortune in medical bills. Note: I was able to trust Susie to find a reliable safe quarantine location. If you don’t have a Susie Lones on your side, find someone like her or don’t make the purchase. Without her honesty and reliability, I would have been completely in the dark about what I was getting.
5. Make sure you have a hauler. I contacted three different major U.S. horse haulers and they all told me they weren’t making that particular route. Jim Robinson came to the rescue and offered to help haul the horses to my home. Without him, I would have been driving 20 hours round trip to pick up the horses.
6. Last but not least, make sure you have a sales contract. It protects the seller, it protects the buyer, and it’s nice to have on hand for the hauler.
More later about what to do when they arrive.