Please join me in welcoming Piper to The Backyard Horse Blog. Piper is a bay, twenty-year-old Racking Horse (unregistered) gelding.
I first met Piper earlier in the Summer after seeing his ad online. I test-drove him and liked him, but I wasn’t quite sure he was the horse for me. I chose not to buy him. But as I continued my horse search, I noticed that he was still for sale with his price lowered. Then lowered again.
Eventually, I saw that his ad had been updated with a note that he would be sent to auction if someone didn’t pick him up soon. Apparently, if you want me to buy your horse, “going to auction” are the magic words.
While there are horses bought at auction who end up in good homes, there are also horses who end up in the slaughter pipeline when purchased by dealers. Those horses move from auction to auction if not sold privately by the dealer in the mean time, eventually being sold to slaughter houses in Mexico or Canada when no other buyer comes forward.
Lots of sound, healthy and trained horses end up in the slaughter pipeline simply because there was not a private buyer to purchase the horse on whatever day the horse was presented at auction.
During my horse search, I had actually been hoping to adopt from a horse rescue. But I was having difficulty finding the type of horse I wanted within reasonable driving distance. Then when I saw that this horse that I had met earlier in the Summer might be sent to auction, it occurred to me that perhaps here was my opportunity to potentially keep a horse out of the slaughter pipeline.
Piper has many good qualities. He is a handsome fellow who is in remarkable shape for an estimated twenty-year-old horse. He was well-cared-for and seemed quite happy with his long-time owner who had kept Piper sound, trained and in good condition.
But at an auction, I was concerned that he would be passed over by potential buyers due to his age. Whether or not he really would have ended up at an auction, bought by a dealer and sold for slaughter? I have no way to know. It is conjecture on my part. But I like to think I kept him from that possible fate.
So once I had Piper vetted, I picked Piper up at his former owner’s place and trailered directly to the boarding barn close to my house where I take lessons. They had a stall opening and kindly let me keep Piper there for a week. It was a good way to get to know him initially without the added drama of integrating him immediately into my home herd.
Piper wasn’t used to being mostly stalled, so I visited him twice a day to let him out to graze/do groundwork/ride in either the indoor arena or the outdoor track. At the barn, I got to experience how he handled moving around a new-to-him place with me, his new-to-him human. I appreciated the opportunity to see how he navigated a busier environment than my backyard. And I liked what I saw.
As of this writing, Piper has now been in my backyard a week and a half. From the get-go, Piper made it very clear to Bear and Shiloh that there is a new sheriff in town. It is an adjustment with everyone feeling various degrees of upset at times.
Fortunately, I am seeing signs of Piper slowly feeling more secure. Bear and Shiloh also seem to be more accepting of the new arrangement. I can see some calm being restored. But all adjustments take time. We ask a lot of our horses when we suddenly take them away from everything they have known and drop them into a totally new experience. Ditto when we subtract from or add to a herd.
As we start our journey together, I reflect on what an interesting experience it is to get to know a new horse. I have lessons to teach them. They have lessons to teach me. I am trying to show them the ropes of their new place by integrating them into my established routines and expectations. At the same time, I am trying to learn their individual needs and preferences so I can make appropriate accommodations.
On that note, I share excerpts from author Anna Blake, taken from her own Relaxed and Forward blog. You can read the full post here https://annablake.com/2021/09/17/calming-signals-and-why-the-second-times-a-charm/. Her words so often reach me right where I am at, reminding me of guiding principles that orient me as I navigate my way through this horse life.
“Being with horses is about creating tendencies of behavior over time . . . Problems die when starved of attention. Ignore what you don’t want, ask a better question next time, be consistent and affirmative. . . When we get our next horse, they’ll be confused and disoriented when they arrive. Things don’t start well because we forget how it was in the beginning with the last horse. Trust that time is on your side, trust that one moment prepares for the next. Then let the conversation begin . . .” – Anna Blake