Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Bad- Sending a Horse to Auction

This morning I received a comment on my post "Look In On Old Horse" from "notimpressed" expressing her opinion on sending horses to auction and, as politely as possible, criticizing my decision to do so (I had written: "Of the eight horses I've owned in the past decade, only two have slipped through my fingers- the crazy horse that ruined my knee and a crazy old mare I bought from the auction and returned to the auction a few months later.... good by and good riddance to them both!")

Here is the reply. I post it here not to defend my actions but because I think she (or he) did an excellent job at expressing the very reason why I would never send a horse to auction again and why I hold such regret over having done so in the past.


- "Sad to hear of the mare who went back to auction when she didn't work out for you. I know for some people that is a realistic choice, but having saved one slaughter-bound horse and looking forward to more in the future, it never will be for me. If I can't deal with a horse's behavior problems or the cost of getting professional training to make it saleable, I'll have it euthanized myself rather than ever risk an animal I took responsibility for ending up on the long, cramped, hot trailer ride to slaughter.

I had hoped most other responsible horse owners felt the same, but this post made me uncomfortably aware that there are still people--and people who take good care of the horses they own--who don't shudder at the thought even of a rank, ugly horse being crowded into a double-decker trailer for 16 hours to face the captive bolt gun. Or perhaps people think that only completely worthless horses end up at slaughter? If my kind and athletic gelding was headed that way, a "crazy" horse unwanted by her owner likely didn't escape that fate.

I'm trying to rationalize this--maybe you meant a sporthorse auction, not the kind that attracts kill buyers. I hope that's it. But if it was the other, more common, sort of auction where you sent a horse whose behavior issues you couldn't handle, for shame. The beautiful filly your mare produced could someday, after the wrong sort of treatment, be someone else's "crazy" horse who they felt deserved nothing better than the kill buyer's trailer."

My reply:

I agree with you completely. And I am ashamed of my decision to send that mare back to auction. I decided not to get in to that whole thing in this post in an effort to stay focused on the horses who's new owners I had spoken with and because I try, as much as possible, keep my blog light and positive. The very reason why I have stayed in contact with each of those owners is, in part, as a result of the lessons learned from that mistake. I cant go back and change it but I can do differently today (that was 8 years ago when I was 19 or 20)...and I do.

Yes, I did say "and good riddance to them both" as that was my true in sentiment, as much as I might feel I made a huge mistake in sending her back to auction I wont pretend that I regret selling her.... I HATED that mare and it had nothing to do with being particularly dangerous, she was just the biggest bitch you've ever met. As for putting down a horse that is unfit for sale- two years ago I did just that. It was a VERY difficult decision but I know it was the right one.

Thank you for your comment, sincerely... It is people like you, who express their opinion without attacking the author, that help others keep and open mind towards a different way."

Too often horses have to pay the price of our mistakes. I wont hide behind excuses. I could tell the story of that mare, of what I was going through in my life at the time, what I did to at the auction to ensure she didnt go to a kill buyer, what her issues were and if they were or were not "fixable". The story doesnt matter. No matter the circumstance, I will never sell a horse at open auction again.

As horseman, I feel it is our duty to do our best to evolve in to better patrons for our horses... to admit mistakes and learn from them and to, most importantly, do differently so that the horses that have had to suffer our mistakes did not do so in vain.


  1. Chelsi, that was very well put, and I admire you for your honesty, even though it puts you in the line of fire.

    All we can do is the best we can do. Who among us has not made at least one really bad decision in our past that shames us today?

  2. Thanks Leah, I guess the only thing I cant stand up to is if anyone questions my sincerity... which I think if I were in their shoes I might as I made such a flippant comment in saying "good riddance to them both"... I remember when I wrote that post I went into this indepth explanation of what happened with that mare and what I was going through at the time and how much I regretted it etc. but then deciding that the whole post had become about the issue of sending horses to auction instead of my intended topic... so I deleted those paragraphs and replaced it with a sentiment that almost entirely applied to the gelding (who hurt my knee) and very little to do with her. Admitting the mistake is easy... I just wish it were that easy to go back and change it:(

  3. Very well put C! And I think notimpressed did a nice job of making her opinion known without coming off like a fugly. But it was still an attack on a single sentence in a very nice post.

    I have to say, when it comes to horses going to auctions, I do take into consideration the person who said they sold the horse at one. LOTS of very nice horses are bought and sold at auction without fear of ending up on a killer truck and I think way too many people have bought into the fugly mentality that all auctions are good for is dumping horses that automatically end up on a kill truck. Knowing you as I do, it never even crossed my mind that you would just haul a horse to the sale and dump them in a loose pen because they didn't suit you, which I highly doubt you did, so you really have nothing to feel guilty about.

  4. Well said!!
    I agree with Lea and BEC...Sometimes things just are what they are and we can only learn from our past decisions. And not every auction is a kill buyers market.
    I'm an glad you tell us everything, it helps us to understand who you are in more than one dimension.

  5. MoreImpressedNowJune 27, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    From the formerly "NotImpressed" (I've modified my name to reflect my feelings about this posts) thank you very much for this. I'm actually very impressed that you chose to respond to me--I was feeling down on the horse world last night after seeing the mention of the auction on your blog and reading news about yet ANOTHER "rescue" that is nearly as much of a death sentence for difficult or ugly horses as an auction would be. I figured my comment would be ignored or at most I'd get a "how dare you judge me" response--I'm used to the parts of the horse world where "the only thing two equestrians ever agree on is that the third is wrong!"

    In any case, I'm on the younger side of 20-something myself, but I benefited from a lot of opportunities to volunteer for GOOD rescues as a kid and teen and had seen enough auctions and kill buyers' trailers packed with horses by 16 that I knew before I bought my first horse that I'd sooner hold a horse's head for the vet's euthanasia needle than ever send it to auction. But for many people those experiences don't come early in life, if they do come at all, and many people grow up considering animals property, profit-generators and products (sadly, I believe the presence of some people like that is necessary in order for the horse world to be accessible to people other than the super-rich).

    It means a lot to me that you responded, acknowledged the mistake and that you regret it, and that you welcomed the criticism and my attempts to offer it in an empathetic way. Good on you. Learning from a mistake can't change that it happened, but there are thousands of horse owners in the world who've made the same mistake over and over and will never, ever learn from it.

    To BEC--I did mention that there are sporthorse auctions that kill buyers don't go to. But at your average auction, a mean, crazy horse isn't likely to find a good home even if she's ridden through the ring, rather than dumped in a loose pen. Perhaps other states are different (I live in an area with both ranching and racing, hence MANY auctions) but here everything except the fancy sporthorse auctions is attended by kill buyers who pick up anything fat and cheap. I've gone along to plenty of these myself with a bridle and a helmet to jump on horses in the loose pens and pick out a few for the rescues I worked with to save. The worst is when some 12-year-old shows up with a parent lying to their face and telling them the horse they can't afford to keep will go to a good home as they drop her off and leave before the kid has a chance to see otherwise. The rescue I was with saved one of those, but not before the kid's dad had beaten the crap out of the mare and given her a severe concussion trying to get her in his trailer to get to the auction. He of course sent the kid away while he "taught" the horse to load in a trailer, and her face broke my heart when she found out her mare was at a rescue recovering from a concussion inflicted by her father.

    The loss that still aches for me is an Arab mare, skinny skinny skinny, who was spirited off to auction in the middle of the night even though I'd offered to buy her... the owner found out I was a rescue volunteer and got scared that I was going to report her for cruelty, and dumped the horses at auction before I was scheduled to pick the mare up. I still say a little prayer once in a while that she was too thin to catch the kill buyer's eye and ended up snapped up by someone with a nice pasture who took pity on her and turned her out to fatten up for a while.

  6. Very honest post - it's hard to look back and see we've made mistakes that can't be fixed. I've got a few things in my horse past I wish I could take back, but all I can do, all any of us can do, is to try to deal as honorably and honestly and carefully with the horses we have now who are entrusted to our care.

  7. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to own up to a mistake, and I absolutely applaud your doing so, as well as your willingness to rethink the matter (those are both mighty rare occurrences in the horse industry).
    I have had to unlearn and relearn an awful lot of things since I re-entered the horse world as an adult but I'm slowly "getting there", according to my horses anyway (and theirs is, after all, the only opinion that truly counts - IMHO :o)
    And kudos to Impressed for the kind response. Pompous Know-It-Alls and nasty nah-nah fights are two of about a thousand reasons I don't hang out with the horse crowd offline (they scare me).
    Terrific post!

  8. BRAVO for posting all of the thread. You are a positive influence on all of us to keep it real!
    I have sent horses to auction, I have bought horses from auction. Since the world at large has largely rerouted unwanted horses into such auctions,I make no excuses. Some horses are too wicked to live, and a lot of people don't have the resources to put them down humanely.Blah blah they shouldn't own horses in the the first place and I agree!
    I would not send a horse to auction of that sort any more, but I refuse to apologize for past behavior. Now if I have to get rid of a horse, I would euthanize it also, never passing the problem on to another.
    Do keep in mind though that there are still many zoos and wild animal parks and a few circuses that need to feed meat, horse meat, to their big cats...a very acceptable use for such horses and other unwanted livestock. Because horses are still livestock and should remain that way. It is a slippery slope we tread when we call them 'pets' or 'friends'. That just opens the door for other people to tell us how to treat and raise our animals. And I don't know about you, but I don't want anyone telling me what I can or what I cannot do with my horses or any other livestock.

  9. Intersting post. I have never been to one of these auctions so I only know what I have been told. I have a mare here who is a rescue from such a situation. I knew if she went there she would look crazy when she wasn't and probably end up with the killers so instead she came to live with me.

    That being said, I have made my share of mistakes that my horses have paid for. Before I'm done I'll probably make more even though I would rather not. Unfortunately we humans are fallible no matter how hard we try. Hindsight is always better than the hear and now.

    Sometimes I think I am on the right path only to find out that's not been the case. The best I can do is shift gears, try to fix things if I can and learn from it so my horses don't have to be the brunt of my mistakes. Really, that's all any of us can do.

    As long as we're trying to get it right and dealing with our mistakes, instead of covering them up and denying them, we'll be doing the best we're capable of for our equine friends.

  10. Chelsi, we all grow from our mistakes. And many of us have experienced those "demon" horses. I have also sent a horse to an auction. Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Never. But knowing what I knew then it seemed a fair and just alternative.

    We can't change the past, but only move forward and hope we can use what we've learned to be better people (and horse owners).