Dr. Emily Weiss shares a happy ending for a Horse With No Name.
I wanted to share a story with you. It starts with two horses, skinny and scared, huddled together in a holding pen at an auction in the Northeast. This particular pen at the auction is known as the kill pen, as it is the pen where horses are sold based on their weight and are then likely shipped to be processed to meat. There are some kind folks who frequent the pen to look for opportunities for live outcomes for the horses within.
One of those kind folks saw the two pals huddled together. She checked for identifiers and found tattoos under their lips, except one of the boys’ tattoos was unreadable. After looking up the tattoo number for the one that could be read, she discovered the horse came from a track down south, and his name was Stan. She then called Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care (Florida TRAC), a rescue group committed to retraining and rehoming racehorses that raced at the track where Stan was from. This kind woman asked if TRAC could take not only Stan, but Stan’s pal, too. TRAC pulled strings to bring Stan, as well as the Horse With No Name, back down to Florida.
The two buddies left the pen and were brought to a barn nearby to get ready for the trip south. The next morning it was clear that Stan was ill. Turns out he contracted salmonella somewhere on his recent journey—and it is there that it ended. Stan passed away.
The Horse With No Name continued his way down south—and it is there, several months, good care and many pounds of weight added later, where I met him as a volunteer riding for TRAC. Here the story may become more familiar. I fell for him during my first interaction with him. To me, he was an incredible horse. Dropping his head and leaning into his bridle, eagerly engaging in a ride, pressing his head against me as I scratched between his ears, readily participating in target training. I fostered him and learned his full story. It all seemed such a fluke—him finding his way up north, in danger of slaughter, buddying up with Stan, who sealed his fate, landing safely at TRAC and then my meeting him… The next 2 chapters: I failed at foster. Meet my new horse, Fluke!
Over the past couple of years, we have been researching risks to homelessness in horses. Research in the field is still young and there is much to learn. Interestingly, we have found some themes regarding adoption policies and criteria for horses similar to those we have found for dogs as cats. Certainly the challenges for housing and caring for a horse are different from dogs and cats, but still we see opportunities to examine policies and give those who find their match in a horse a chance. Over the next few months, we will share with you some of what we have learned in our research regarding risks and opportunities for horses.
I am so excited about the launch of the Right Horse Initiative, which aims to rally the expertise of those in the horse industry, equine welfare professionals and advocates together to promote adoption as the preferred method of finding a horse. This initiative—for which the ASPCA is proud to be a partner—is bound to increase the number of Flukes involving just the right homes for just the right horses.
Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB
ASPCA Vice President, Research & Development
Dr. Emily Weiss’ work at the ASPCA involves developing programs and processes that focus on impact on animal welfare. In her previous work as a behaviorist, she developed training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. She has also developed assessment tools for shelter animals, including the SAFER assessment and Meet Your Match Canine-ality, Puppy-ality and Feline-ality. Dr. Weiss is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, and has published and lectured extensively in the field of applied animal behavior.