When I saw a recent article in The Oregonian newspaper about the rising tide of abandoned horses (search for it on Google by typing the title, "They abandon horses, don't they?"--including the quotes--into the search function), I wasn't at all surprised. I think we'd better brace ourselves, because more and more of this is bound to occur as long as hay remains scarce, sale barns cut back on auctions due to slaughter-plant closures, and grain prices continue to rise. (Example: The pre-mixed feed that sold for $10.99 per 50-lb. bag last spring is now $18.99 at my area feed store.)
Think you need to be living out West, near BLM rangelands, for you to become the unwilling recipient of an abandoned horse? Think again. It's happened to me, and I even saw and shook hands with the abandoner, face to face. Here's how she pulled it off:
One stormy night, using the Yellow Pages number she got for our stable, a woman claiming to be on her way to a new job in a neighboring state called to ask if we had room to house two horses for a night or two, until the weather cleared up. We accommodated her; that's what you do when you board horses for other people. She unloaded the horses, paid in cash for two nights, and, charming as all get-out, left us with name-and-contact info that turned out to be false.
We never saw her again. Not only did we get stuck feeding and caring for them at our own expense, but we also had to jump through some maddening legal hoops before a state brand inspector came and took the horses off our hands.
Needless to say, we no longer accept horses from people we don't know well. But that doesn't mean I (or you) won't wake up one morning to find someone's discarded horse tied to the mailbox.