It’s a fact of life that while most of us would regard selling our dog or cat in the same light as selling a two-legged family member, horses often have several homes during their lifetimes.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of business and buying and selling is part of most professional riders’ working lives. There are plenty of valid reasons why ‘private’ owners may need to sell a horse or pony, too – a child may outgrow a pony, a rider may have ambitions beyond the scope of his or her horse, or circumstances may change to make horse ownership impossible.
But what’s really worrying is that it’s becoming increasingly acceptable, to some people, to treat horses as disposable objects. The number of adverts for “project horses” – a term used by sellers to tempt those looking for a horse to re-sell at a profit or by buyers looking to do just that – is increasing rapidly.
It’s fair enough if the horse really does stand a chance of being educated correctly and so hopefully be in a better position of finding a good, long-term home. What’s worrying is the number of social media online auction pages that have sprung up and the amount of people whose latest hobby seems to be sitting down with a glass of wine and bidding on an unknown quantity.
Every case is different and I know there are people who take on horses and accept the responsibility for them, even if the animals turn out to have problems. But what about the woman who advertised a pony for £75 because she’d bought it from a friend and decided she didn’t like its colour? Unfortunately, I’m not making that up.
Then there was the girl who snapped up a free ex-racehorse and then posted a request for a free rug because she couldn’t afford to buy one. If you can’t afford the basics, you can’t afford to care for a horse to the minimum acceptable standards.
If you know someone who thinks buying and selling horses is an easy way to make a fast buck, tell them to ask any reputable dealer how difficult it is. Remind them, too, that anyone who sells an animal with the intention of making a profit can be classed as a dealer by HMRC. If they make a profit, which might not be as easy as they imagine, they should declare it as taxable income.
Above all, remind them that while a horse is usually a working animal rather than a pet, he deserves to be treated with respect. If you can’t guarantee that you can improve or safeguard his future, find another project – preferably one without a heartbeat.