Saturday, October 15, 2011

Announcing the Maryland Hay Bank!

In times such as these, many horse owners find it increasingly difficult to find the finances required to properly keep a horse.  They may move their horse to self-care field board, where before they had access to full care and a nice comfy stall.  They may stop going to shows, and they may stop giving their horse expensive treats and massages. They eat boiled noodles for every meal, and would starve for a day if it means they can buy a bale of hay for their horse.

But what is a horse owner to do when they cannot actually afford to keep their horse? I mean they cut all hard feed (grain) and are hoping there is enough grass to last through winter (which there never is), and if they are able to buy hay, it may not be good enough for horses and could make them sick.  At this point, options are limited.  It usually comes down to either giving the horse up, or the horse suffers neglect, which can come in various forms as lack of farrier or dental care, no veterinary care, and eventually starvation.

Sadly, many owners wait as long as they can, hoping they're about to hit an upturn, and before they know it the horse is a rack of bones with slipper feet.  At this point, actually before it, the situation has become a crisis.  If the horse does not get the proper care before this point, chances of finding a new home and recovering are slim to none.

Several years ago, there would have been room at rescues to take such cases in before they even got to such a state.  But every rescue is operating at or beyond capacity (very few people can afford to adopt and take on another mouth to feed) and having to turn away horses who are not in dire circumstances, and even those sometimes end up being a situation where the rescue will fund the humane euthanasia of the horse, as opposed to death by starvation or horrific end in a slaughterhouse.

No one is safe from the economic downturn, and just because someone cannot afford to feed their horses now doesn't necessarily make them bad owners.  If they are truly good owners, they will explore all options possible for finding their horses good homes before it comes down to "Rescue my horse or it's going to slaughter on Tuesday."  When owners have a deadline and have bills to pay, it is very hard to resist less-than-humane ways for getting rid of their horses.

To help people have just a little more time to find a good home for their horses, get a job that can cover the cost of horse ownership, or even come up with money to humanely euthanize their animals, Gentle Giants has created the Maryland Hay Bank.

Applicants who are accepted will receive (for FREE) one bale of good hay per horse per day for one month.  The catch? They have to come up with a plan (and act on it before the month is out) to rectify their situation (i.e. find new homes, get another job, or even euthanasia).

The hay, in essence, is not a handout, it is a handUP.  We give them a hand up to get them back on their feet.  They may not have their horses at the end of it, but it keeps the horses safe and off of European dinner plates.

For the Rescue's groundbreaking program, ABC2News interviewed Christine, and wrote a lovely article about it:

Maryland Rescue Offers Free Hay to Save Horses

We have received numerous applications already, and hope to help as many horses as we can.  They don't have to be drafts, either.  They can be ponies, minis, Arabians, Warmbloods, even mules and donkeys, etc.

Everyone always talks about the issue of horse slaughter, and how there isn't much anyone can do about the problem.  THIS is our answer!  We help legitimate people network and buy themselves and their horses some time before EVER considering that option.  No horse deserves to end its days on a cramped, hot trailer and being butchered and ending up on someone's table! 

One can only hope every state will begin such a program, and we are willing to help people outside of Maryland connect to get hay or new homes. 

Maybe, just maybe this is the beginning of the end of American horses being shipped to slaughter.


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