Unfortunately, we were not able to get the level of horse business that we needed to keep the farm afloat, nor was I able to refinance due to filing a loss on the farm taxes last year.
Word of wisdom to those out there that claim your farm expenses on your taxes — if you plan on financing anything for TWO years, you won’t want to file a loss on your taxes even if you work a steady full time job because it will negatively impact your debt to income ratio and even if you have a ton of equity in your property, decent credit with no other debt, the banks still will not finance you.
So, we’ve put the farm on the market with River Rock Realty. Located just 36 miles from Knoxville and 7 minutes from I-75, it’s 20+ acres of pasture, woods with riding trails, and a creek. There’s also a large metal horse barn with 5 stalls – 12×12 stalls – and run in sheds. The house is a doublewide with three bedrooms, two baths – one with a jacuzzi garden tub – and a sunroom, and fenced back yard. The farm is listed for $175,000.00 and is a steal at that price. Tons of potential!
Although the farm was a life-long dream I’d had ever since I was a little girl, if you can’t enjoy it because you’re stressing too much over finances then is it really worth it? No, it’s not – especially when you’re a worry-wort like myself.
This last year has been a year of tremendous ups and downs and a time of evaluating what happiness means to me, why I do what I do, and what I want in my life. So, I plan on downsizing quite a bit to get some financial freedom, and will be focusing solely on my own four horses, writing, and eventually giving lessons on a very limited basis.
Although at times it feels like the death of a dream still, I have to believe in the long run that I will wind up better and happier for it – and that’s what I’m focusing on!
Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled “A Solution To The Slaughter Issue“, in which I proposed the rescues start a “Rescue Registry”. In my blog post, I suggested that they could not only limit breeding to a certain extent, but also provide an incentive to rescue by offering large events with a pay back. Basically, they could offer a nationals and a “Mustang Makeover” type event for rescued horses.
Although I covered a lot of territory and offered at least a partial solution, I didn’t completely reveal the rest of my solution for the hot topic of horse slaughter. A couple of weeks ago however, I was reminded that I need to write the next blog post!
On a Sunday afternoon I was headed with a friend to a Cattle Sorting practice in Resaca, Georgia a couple of hours away. As we drove along I-75 South, just a few miles north of Chattanooga, we were passed by a red full size semi tractor-trailer truck with a Stanley Brothers Farms logo that was pulling a single deck semi livestock trailer. We could tell it was full of horses.
My first thought was maybe they were transporting draft horses since the trailer was a little larger than most, but my gut told me something else. I had seen the exact same truck and trailer headed north on I-75 just two afternoons before. My friend got on her smart phone and looked up Stanley Brothers Farms. Sure enough, she found an article where Animals Angels had done an animal cruelty investigation on Stanley Brothers, which is basically a horse slaughter feedlot.
As Stanley Brothers is located in Arkansas and Louisiana, I had to wonder why in the world they were in east Tennessee, basically 12 plus hours away. It didn’t make any business sense for them to drive at least 12 hours in the opposite direction to purchase horses for slaughter when there are a lot of sale barns much closer to their part of the country, and on the way to Mexico. Additionally, even if they had driven that far to purchase horses, I-75 is not the quickest route back home, or to Mexico.
So what are they doing in east Tennessee? Do they have a secret farm close by that no one is yet openly aware of? All their other farms have gained a lot of bad publicity, which I’m sure impacted their ability to purchase horses from unsuspecting sellers.
With illegal slaughter houses being busted in Florida, it sure brings up a lot of possibilities of why they’re here. There’s got to be a reason for their being in east Tennessee because it makes absolutely no business sense for them to be transporting here. Sales in this area wouldn’t support the volume needed to drive 12 hours, so there’s got to be another reason and someone needs to investigate that.
On to the rest of my business idea for at least a partial solution to the over population of horses and the slaughter debate.
I think that horse slaughter should be turned over to the horse rescues to monitor and to profit from. While that might seem like somewhat of a radical, perhaps even crazy idea, I honestly think it needs to be considered because it’s ultimately a win for both the rescue and horses.
The rescues could be in charge the actual slaughter, which means they could make sure that it was done in the most humane manner possible, and in the most humane environment – on site. They could also regulate which horses were put down, and which ones were salvageable which means that a good number of horses would have a second chance.
While we all like to dream that you can save every horse, the cold hard truth is that you just can’t. Even Buck Brannaman, the biggest horse advocate on the face of the planet, conceded that the stallion in his documentary should be euthanized because he was too dangerous. The fact is that some horses are just too much of a danger to themselves and to others, and the only possible solution, the most humane solution, is euthanasia.
The problem is that a lot of horse rescues do want to save every single horse, sometimes at the cost of being able to rescue more horses. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t try to help a horse if it needs it, but they need to do it within reason. If the option is doing a surgery that costs $10,000 or putting a horse down, I’ve seen rescues do the surgery. That $10,000 could have fed a lot of horses!
In order for the rescues to regulate slaughter, they would have to adopt a more practical and business like approach, and keep the bigger picture in plain sight. Are they going to rescue one, or are they going to rescue many?
Currently, practically all horse rescues depend on public donations to operate, and they’re always short on funds. One plus of the rescues regulating slaughter is that they could at least become partially self-sufficient from the sales of horse hide, horse hair, hooves and whatever else they could sell from the horses that they slaughtered.
While some might worry that a group might operate under the guise of a rescue only to slaughter every horse that comes in, that could be easily remedied by requiring every rescue group to have a board of directors without a conflict of interest. Additionally, they could be required to keep detailed records that are also available to the public.
I’m sure horse slaughter will continue to be a hot issue. The problem is that there are no easy answers and I think in order to find an answer of some kind, people need to start thinking out of the box. If enough minds work together to find a solution, one can certainly be found with enough effort and input.
This year I haven’t ridden nearly as much as I should have due to some overwhelming events coupled with some soundness issues. When it looked like I might be able to finally haul to a horse show, I jumped at the chance. I knew ahead of time my horses weren’t really ready to show but for me it was just an opportunity to get them out and hopefully have some fun. We both needed it!
I decided to take our green mare that’s been hauled a few times but never shown under saddle and one of my geldings that’s done everything from sort cows to extreme cowboy races. Neither had been worked a whole lot but I figured we’d make the most of it. If we all survived, I’d be happy!
The morning of the show we happened to get the first frost of the season. Needless to say both horses’ energy levels were through the roof! We were able to get to the show about an hour before and let them see everything. Fortunately they kept their snorting and upturned tails to a minimum.
My husband showed the mare in In Hand Trail first. Although she’d never even seen a trail obstacle let alone navigate one she managed the ‘L’ shaped back through and the other obstacles beautifully well.
Next my husband showed my gelding in the same class. Now, this horse can pivot with the best of them but he tested my husband through every move and at one point had all four feet off the ground as they trotted over the course.
Since I know the gelding very well, after seeing that little display of attitude I knew he was going to be even worse under saddle and I had two classes before it was my turn. I decided to use a nearby paddock to get the buck out except he managed to crow hop, buck and rear a couple feet off the ground. Although entertained with the show he put on, I think several of the pleasure folks were a little mortified at his rodeo ability. For him and I it was just par for the course! I’ve kind of gotten used to his antics over the years.
Our first Trail class he practically eradicated the trail pattern. If they had given out an award for most destructive trail pattern of the day, we would have won it! Of course, I was still on a high from the bronc ride I’d just taken so I’m sure my nerves didn’t help any at all so I can’t blame it all on him.
The second pattern he didn’t settle too well either but at least we left some of the elements intact. But the last three obstacles it was like I was on a totally different horse. He settled and handled them like the horse I know he can be at times.
The last challenge was to rope the calf dummy. He side passed in to pick up the rope like a pro and then stood perfectly still while we roped the dummy and then recoiled the rope. Then he calmly side passed to put the rope back. Where had this horse been the whole time? Or, maybe he just wants to be a rope horse. The jury is still out on that one!
After that I tied him to the trailer and I looked up a little while later and he had all four feet up in the air. He wasn’t pulling, just bucking away. Some terrified soul came and untied him but had he been at a barrel race he would have stayed there all day, which is what we normally do.
The mare, on the other hand was a totally different story. I rode her in two walk/jog pleasure classes. She wasn’t as finished as the other horses and she broke a time or two but she trafficked well and didn’t look at anything. Considering we’re still working on being able to walk a straight line, she did incredibly well.
In her walk/jog Horsemanship class, she kept a nice little consistent stride and gave me one of the smoothest stops I think she’s done so far. I couldn’t have been any happier!
The next weekend I judged for the folks that ran the show. They gave me a bottle of wine and a sign that read, “Ride Your Best Horse First”. We all had a good laugh over that one and I think we all know who my best horse is after that last show!
I had worried all week about the green horse and what she might do only to be outdone by the horse that had the most experience. I had played all kinds of crazy scenarios in my head about what the mare might do but in the end it was the gelding that gave me the most to worry about.
I should have remembered a clinician that I went to see a few years back – Josh Lyons. He said he worried all the time about riding young or tough horses. He imagined all kinds of crazy “what ifs” just like I’d done. His dad told him he was over thinking- there’s always only two things to worry about– staying on or falling off.
If you stayed on, there was nothing to worry about. If you fell off there was only two things to worry about – not getting hurt or getting hurt. If you didn’t get hurt there was nothing to worry about. If you did get hurt there was only two things to worry about – living or dying. If you lived….you get the picture.
Nerves and a crazy imagination can certainly get the best of us. Maybe if I hadn’t been worrying about more than two things my nerves would have been a little calmer and I might have had at least a little better ride on that gelding.
What are some of the things that you’ve worried about when it comes to riding your horses? How often have they come true? How has your nerves impacted your riding or horse’s performance?
I’m 44 this year and still one of my most favorite things in the world to do is break colts.Now, most of the horse folks I know my age or even younger wouldn’t touch a green horse with a ten foot pole. They don’t want to get hurt and they think I’m nuts for still wanting to take the challenge on. Maybe I am.
I know I’m not the only crazy one. I’ve got a friend that’s almost ten years older than me that still loves breaking colts as well even though he’s been banged up a lot more than me the last few years. Too, one of my biggest mentors, Marty Green, was still breaking colts in his late 60’s. There’s just something about taking a young horse that knows nothing and teaching it something valuable that it’ll use in life and then seeing that learning process happen right before your eyes. There’s not another feeling in the world like it.
I don’t get to train full time as I work full time in the healthcare industry and have a barn full. I’m hoping however that in the new couple of months we’ll have a slot open up and can re-organize my pasture set up so that I have a lot more time to ride instead of doing stalls!
At the moment I’m working my step-daughter’s horse, Kiwi Brigadier’s Bar, also known as Mo. I got a handful of quick rides on her last fall and gave her the rest of the time off. This summer I started her back and even managed to haul her to two barrel races to get her first rides off the farm.
I always try to put in enough ground work and time so that the first rides go without incident. Just like anything else, first impressions either make or break a relationship. Horses aren’t any different. How they are broke out decides their attitude on riding for the rest of their life and I want it to be a good one. I get a little radical when it comes to breaking colts. You see, my thoughts are that how their trained can ultimately cost them their life. The slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada are full of horses that have training issues and poor training put them there. That’s why I take it as a serious responsibility.
Over the years, I’ve learned that if you’ve done the proper groundwork and taken your time, it’s not the breaking you have to worry about at all. It’s usually the later rides. My saying has always been, “They get a little older and they get a little bolder.” It’s true. They get a little more size and learn to handle their feet, that’s when just like a little teenager they have to try the boundaries.
Mo is one of those horses that loves petting. She’s also one of those mares that’s not so sure of herself. If you love on her however, she’ll try her heart out for you and if she’s not sure it’s the right thing, she’ll ask in her own way. I don’t think I’ve ever had a mare quite like her and she’s taught me a lot about wading in when asking for something and being patient in giving them time to figure it out.
I wonder if in the end that’s what the draw is on breaking colts? Maybe it’s not just the reward of seeing them grow but maybe seeing ourselves grow as well because they have more to teach us than an older finished horse that’s a bit jaded.
I’m curious of those reading this blog, what have you learned from your horse lately? Is it patience? Did you learn something about your horse but about yourself as well?