The Horse

OCT 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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28 October 2018 The Horse | TheHorse.com showing horses and end up as hoarders," she says. "Sadly, I've seen a few too many." The equine industry needs rescue facilities and sanctuaries to house, rehab, and rehome horses in need. Sometimes, however, a good thing goes bad. Let's take a look at the psychology behind rescuing or hoarding animals and how people get in over their heads. An Inherent Need to Help Over the past five to 10 years, the word "rescue," as it pertains to acquiring a horse, has almost become a fad. I "res- cued" a horse off the track. I "rescued" a horse from auction. Williams says people often come to BEHS saying they want to rescue one of the horses there—horses that might have come from bad situations but are now healthy and safe and available for adoption. "People like that word," she says. "It makes them feel good. In their mind, at least, they helped a horse." Katy Schroeder, PhD, is an assistant professor in companion animal science and the director of the Equine-Assisted Counseling and Wellness Research Lab at Texas Tech University, in Lub- bock. A lifelong equestrian, Schroeder is also a professional counselor and holds certifications with the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horseman- ship International as a therapeutic riding instructor and equine specialist in mental health and learning. She studies human- companion animal interactions, with a special focus on the human-equine bond. Recently, she's been helping the Texas Tech Therapeutic Riding and Therapy Center staff look for horses to join their therapy herd, browsing online listings and social media posts. In the process, she says, she's discovered many Facebook groups in which people have come togeth- er in an organized effort to rescue horses headed to auction, where they're at higher risk of being purchased for slaughter. "I think that many people are con- cerned that a horse is immediately destined for trauma and death if they go to auction," she says. "People will do ev- erything they can to funnel horses away from that scenario." While horses at auction could ulti- mately fall into the wrong hands or into the slaughter pipeline, Williams believes a horse truly in need of rescue is one in a potentially deadly situation. "I see (rescu- ing) as taking them out of a situation in which they're starving, suffering, and could die, and getting them the help they need to recover, and either putting them into a sanctuary where they spend the rest of their lives or finding them new homes." It's not buying a horse from your neighbor because you don't like its living conditions, she adds. "We can't be involved in rescue unless we have a great passion for it, because it's really hard—emotionally, financially, even physically," Williams says. "But I think sometimes something overrides that, and you become convinced that you're the only one that can help." In Over Their Heads Individuals who do believe they're the only ones who can care for animals are often on a slippery slope to becoming hoarders. In recent years researchers have created a preliminary classification system to describe three categories of ani- mal hoarding behavior, says Schroeder. The overwhelmed caregiver is typically someone who initially took proper care of their animals, but financial problems or other life stressors caused them to no lon- ger be able to provide that care, she says. Their decline in animal caretaking capac- ity can be gradual, and they are more likely to be aware that a problem exists. They also may be more willing to accept help from others to reduce the number of animals under their care, Schroeder says. "You're in a place where you can afford 20 horses and take care of them, but then something happens," says Williams. She describes, for instance, one case in which a woman and her partner had 60 healthy horses on their property. When the woman lost her partner, things began to fall into disrepair. Yet, despite receiv- ing offers to help or buy the animals, she wouldn't let them go. Like many individu- als that fall into this situation, she had a very strong attachment to her horses. She also sees this scenario when people acquire a pregnant mare or a mare and stallion that continue breeding un- checked. "We've gotten those cases where we go to pick up 15 horses, and they're horribly inbred because someone got two pregnant mares 10 years ago, and they've bred and bred and bred," says Williams. "It's a gradual increase in numbers and decrease in care." The rescuer might also start with adequate resources, but the number of animals gradually overwhelms his or her capacity to care for them. According to Tufts University's Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC), this GOOD INTENTIONS GONE WRONG Most hoarding cases are characterized by a gradual increase in animals and decline in care. Many of the Lindale horses, such as this one, were extremely emaciated and suffering from a variety of ailments, including overgrown hooves and parasite infection. COURTESY KATHY MILANI/THE HSUS

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