Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"They're not machines"

One of the best pieces of wisdom I've ever gotten from a riding instructor is, "They're not machines." I harken back to this any time I get frustrated with my riding and with Riley. I repeat this to myself and it brings me back to the reality of the human/horse partnership. We're not on snowmobiles, we're not in cars, we're not on hang-gliders. We're working with  a living animal.

Poetin, the remarkable mare that made headlines with her spectacular gaits and potential, is lost to us. A charitable way of describing the circumstances of her death might be that "mistakes were made." Mistakes such as...

  1. Horses-treated-as-assets. Poetin was hidden from creditors. A horse-in-hiding is a horse stabled at some out of the way a place, away from folks who might recognize her. Maybe the people caring for her did not know her value, or know how to care for a horse. The owners were bankrupt, so who knows what they could afford? At any rate, she got injured, somehow, whether by accident or negligence. Original owners, FAIL.
  2. Corporate ignorance, corporate greed. You might think that the German police rescued her from bad circumstances, and that the bank would be in a position to manage her care. That now she'll be okay.  Instead, EPIC FAIL.  Some hired horse manager,  some bean-counter, some business exec smart guy decided that steroids would fix the lameness problem for purposes of a quick sale.  FAIL. Steroids never fix anything.  I  betcha I could have kept Poetin alive, and that's not a big brag.  Probably any pony clubber with a few years under their belt could have done better by this mare.
  3. New owners can't write the check fast enough. Wow. Crappy circumstances, paying $3M for a horse than many observed was lame at the walk at the auction. The mare was lightly shown to buyers because she was "out of shape." The highest bidders didn't see the signs, or overlooked them in the auction atmosphere.  They took a chance, bid their money, only to have a very sick animal come off the trailer. Whether they showed good judgement or not in the purchase, they look like the freakin' heroes compared to everyone else. They tried to help Poetin, tried to salvage her for THREE MONTHS, and when it was clear she was to be lost,  they preserved her bloodline.
  4. The law is an ass. I'm sorry the new owners lost the lawsuit--for so many reasons--but mostly because the people who mistreated this unique, beautiful, injured horse got the big win, $3M, and suffered no ill consequences for the harm they caused.
Netherfield mom, I'm sorry this post is such a downer. I guess the bright spot is that  so many of us (and I'm thinking of the BTB readership here) care for our horses as if they are  $3M horses -- or rather we care for them like they are irreplaceable. To us, they are.

RIP Poetin, you were a good girl.


  1. I agree the people who purchased her were by far better than the others mentioned...but...who pays such a high price for a horse and doesn't get a vet check(maybe they did but wasn't mentioned). I'm afraid the people who bought her had dollars signs for eyes as well..thinking that even if she were lame they could still use her as a brood mare. Still one can only hope that her final days were not too full of pain.

  2. Her story fills me with so much rage and sadness all at once. :(

  3. You got that right, Stacy- My old man is absolutely irreplaceable to me, and I know that the love, time and money lavished on my horses ( yeah, dogs and kids too) are somehow attempts to balance out the horrible fails taking place every day to a thousand others less fortunate. We assume responsibility, we have control, we have choices. They do not.

  4. Poor Poetin.

    I quit my job at a lesson barn, because I watched the horses treated like machines and when I spoke up about it, I was threatened: shut-up or we will fire you. So I quit. This was not really a situation where the ASPCA could step in (no outright abuse or neglect), so I felt like I was abandoning the working horses, but it was also made perfectly clear that I was helpless to change their situation. I just cannot stand the business end of the horse industry.

  5. At times I think we all need to be reminded that "they are not machines." Even as a horse loving ammie, I sometimes take my horse for granted and become frustrated by our lack of progress, a bad ride, or an inconvenient vet bill.

    It's humbling to realize how lucky I am simply because my horse is still here.

    Thank you for posting the information about Poetin. I was not aware of her plight until your blogpost yesterday. It saddens me to think that a fellow horselover would admonish you for not keeping your posts upbeat and task you with keeping their day cheerful. Knowledge is probably the only thing that would have helped Poetin.

  6. Dear Anon: Lack of knowledge isn't what killed Poetin. And all of us being sickened by what happened to her will not change anything. I'd much rather read about Stacey's horses, cats, Rolex, paint saddlebreds who have boingy jumps, or Harv's limo driver than any more stories like Poetin. I have more than enough "knowledge" about the dark side of the horse biz to last a lifetime. Obviously Stacey can post whatever she chooses. :)

  7. Hi, I took no offense whatsoever from NM's comment about "bad news." I try not to carp and complain or fingerpoint too much--it's not good to focus on the negative stuff that is in abundance in the horse world, and there is plenty of that on the internet. I do think it's a story worth telling. Thanks for indulging me.

  8. "I guess the bright spot is that so many of us (and I'm thinking of the BTB readership here) care for our horses as if they are $3M horses -- or rather we care for them like they are irreplaceable. To us, they are." So very well said - gave me a lump in my throat and made me want to go right back to the barn and give my boy another hug!

  9. I'm all over that Danish Proverb: "Care, and not fine stables makes a good horse."

    Since some of ours are rescues and one a former big lick horse, I have a pretty clear mental picture of just how "the other half lives", and it breaks my heart.

  10. Comment here about "The law is an ass."

    Here in my hometown, the local zoning board was challenged to decide whether or not a family could keep a horse on their undersized property. The land was located in a very rural area, but one of the neighbors complained about the horse--too noisy, and a little pasture next to his property. The land had had horses on it before, but the lot was subdivided and no longer met the 5 acre requirement.

    Fair enough for the neighbor to challenge. But, the complete lack of knowledge about horses and horsekeeping on the part of the zoning board given the power to make the decision was incredible. The protesting neighbor complained about flies--he lived on the edge of a swamp and the flies were woodflies and greenheads. The protesting neighbor brought in a long list of horse diseases which he claimed the animals would transmit to him and his family. The protesting neighbor claimed the horses were noisy, and he could not sleep because they woke him up all night long.

    Fortunately for the horse owners, a good number of horsemen from the area showed up to support them. We all offered a number of solutions including manure management, fly predators and moving the horses away from his property line. As for the noise....well, come on, what's a whinny now and then. The flies? From the swamp, not the horses--stable flies are a different issue, but controllable. And the diseases? Heck, every one of us would have been long dead if any of that stuff was true.

    Fact is, not a single person on that zoning board knew anything at all about horses and horse management. The horse owners got a very restricted variance--don't know how it ultimately worked out--but how ridiculous to have people in authority give the power to make decisions in complete ignorance.

    The law was indeed an uniformed ass.

  11. "Probably any pony clubber with a few years under their belt could have done better by this mare."

    So freaking true.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.