I’ve been fostering horses for a few years now. I can honestly say it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in the horse world. I’ve done a little bit of competing, and I’ve won a few ribbons (nothing very impressive), but all of that pales in comparison to the feeling I get when I watch a horse transform from skinny and neglected to fat and shiny and happy.
The first question people always ask me about fostering horses is how I manage not to get attached to them, and how I can watch them go on to a new home. Don’t I want to keep them all? My answer is no, I don’t want to keep them all. If I were going to choose a horse for myself to keep forever, it would be most likely a gray, and some kind of draft or draft cross. That’s my idea of a dream horse. The foster horses aren’t necessarily my idea of a dream horse, but they are someone’s dream horse. It gives me an immense amount of satisfaction when I am able to play matchmaker for a person and the horse of their dreams.
As for getting attached, I love all of them as if they were my own during the time that they’re with me. They get the best food, the best care, and the same amount of attention as the horse I own, sometimes more attention because they’re high maintenance. I love them fully and unreservedly while they are with me, but I am just as happy to watch them go on to someone else.
My personal horse, Baron the thoroughbred, is a high maintenance horse. He is expensive to feed. He requires a lot of personalized hoof care. He’s doing really well now, but he has had times where he was not sound or rideable. I made a lifetime commitment to him. Whether I can ride him or not, he will always be my horse. I will have him until the day he dies. I will hopefully be with him when he dies. I have promised him a good and dignified death. I can’t make that promise to every horse I meet. It’s a huge commitment to keep a horse until the end of their life. Fostering gives me an opportunity to prepare a horse to go into a home that will make a lifetime commitment.
I’ve also been asked why I’m attracted to these pitiful, neglected horses. I could buy healthy, sound horses for cheap on the Internet and then resell them for a profit. Since I enjoy working with horses, why don’t I just become a flipper and make money instead of spending it?
The answer to that is that I care about every single horse that comes through my barn and I want to keep up with them pretty much forever. I don’t ever want a horse that I owned to end up on a slaughter truck to Mexico or Canada. The only way to ensure that doesn’t happen, and even then it isn’t a guarantee, is to work with a recognized non-profit rescue. Their horses get adopted out with legally binding contracts that can be enforced in court, something that I’m not able to do on my own, as I’m not a lawyer. That doesn’t mean that every now and then I won’t take on a free horse that somebody wants to give me to re-home. But I prefer to have the backing of a rescue.
The second answer to why I don’t flip horses, and why I have given away horses that could be sold for thousands of dollars, is that I’m starting to have an ethical issue with making money off of horses. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore. I’m not saying it’s wrong if you do it, and I understand that’s what makes the horse world go ‘round, but for me it’s taken on this whole other philosophical layer where these horses are my friends just like people are my friends. I can’t sell my friends.
I spend money on them, and then I give them away. It doesn’t make sense until you realize that I have exactly what I need exactly when I need it. I’ve had very good luck in finding places to keep my horses, in finding affordable board, in having things given to me and provided for me out of the goodness of someone’s heart. I believe that’s because I have an attitude of giving when it comes to horses. I never have to worry about having what I need because I give. God or the Universe (or whatever you want to call it) takes care of me. That attitude is applicable throughout all areas of life, not just horses. Giving is a good habit to get into.
I didn’t get to be around horses very often when I was a kid. I never had a pony. I didn’t get a horse until I was 29 years old. I’m making up for lost time. I am really in my heart just a horse crazy 12 year old that wants to hug all the ponies. Fostering allows me to hug all the ponies!