I spent a few days in Austin for training a couple of weeks ago. It's only an hour and a half drive, but having been gone for two days, already, all I was thinking about when I finally turned onto our road that Wednesday afternoon was getting home, getting comfortable and finagling YOF into taking us out for supper. We don't get much traffic on our road. It's very short, only about two miles from end to end and we're about a mile from each end. There are three or four mobile homes on the right as you first turn onto our road. As I turned down the road Wednesday, I noticed what I thought was a pony grazing in one of the yards. I didn't think much of it other than he was cute. It was late afternoon and I just wanted to go home.
YOF and I went into town for supper and returned about an hour later to find a strange truck in our driveway. Turns out it was a neighbor from up the road, near where I had seen the pony. We had not met him before but everyone on this road knows we have horses and he said the little pony was running loose. He and his wife thought it might be ours. We assured him it was not, all of ours were staring at us over the fence by now, wondering where their supper was.
About an hour later, we had fed all of our animals and had just retired to the house for the evening when YOF's cell phone rang. It was our neighbor next door, asking if we had a new horse and was he loose in the neighborhood. While YOF was talking to that neighbor, there was a loud knock at the back door. It was yet another neighbor, come to tell us about the pony running loose. We told him too that it was not ours.
Long story short, the neighbor adjacent to us put the little guy in his small grass pasture to keep him off the road. That worked for two nights but when I went out Saturday morning to turn our horses out to the pasture, the little guy was in OUR pen with the mares. He's only about 35 inches at the withers and our shortest mare is at least 56 inches at the withers, so I wasn't too worried about an unplanned foal crop for next year but it's still a hassle. As I said, size does matter ...thank God!
Our neighbor that had penned him up two days earlier said you couldn't get close to him and he was real skittish. This was about 5:00am when I found him in our pen. He didn't look all that skittish to me so I walked up to him, put two fingers in his halter and led him to a stall. He leads good. I turned all the mares out then led the little stallion from the stall to the front paddock where he would have access to water and some grass. He seemed well mannered and well cared for and I figured somebody had to be looking for him. So I called the Sheriff's office and reported that we had him and started putting out feelers.
I don't know that much about miniature horses, but you can tell this little guy is well bred and he's been well handled. With registration papers and a little grooming, he would be a high dollar horse. He probably has a high dollar name too, but we just call him Shorty.
I sent an email to a friend of mine who has miniature donkeys. She spread the word and I've had an onslaught of offers to take him all day. We were able to track down the owner and the guy does not want him back. He's had him about a year, never had a horse before and didn't have the first clue about having a stallion ...so he's just washing his hands. One very nice couple came out to look at him last Thursday evening. He and his wife are both veterinarians, both retired from Texas A&M. They have a few miniatures and train them to pull a cart. They liked him fine, but after examining him, said he would not be suitable for pulling a cart as he has sticky stifles. The stifle on a horse is the big joint about midway up the rear legs and is equivalent in function to our knee. Ever known anyone with a loose knee, it kind of slips out from time to time? Sticky stifles is the same situation in a horse. But the rear legs are the motor for any horse, so asking Shorty to pull a cart would be too much strain on him.
Shorty had managed to get tangled up in our electric fence tape sometime during the day Thursday and had effectively disabled it. It will have to be repaired but there would be no point in spending money to repair it until we found someone to take Shorty off our hands.
Thursday evening, I sent an email to all who had contacted me about him and said basically that he had to be gone this weekend, one way or another. If he was still here on Monday, I would call the Sheriff's office to pick him up and they would haul him to auction barn. No one (including me) wants a horse to go to the auction barn these days ...most of them end up on a European dinner plate. But we are not in a position to take in another mouth to feed, especially one that was already costing me fence repairs after only a few days. I was shocked at several of the responses I received. Emails from as far away as Oklahoma, telling me I had no heart and why couldn't I keep him and didn't I know what would happen to him if he went to auction.
I know very well what would probably have happened to him if he ended up at an auction, but I also know what my own limitations are, financial and otherwise. I emailed the first one back and said, "Do you want him? Please?" The response was "No, I can't take him, but you should keep him." Yeah, right. Judge me. But when you're asked to step up, it's no way.
Shorty's story has a happy ending. A very nice lady from Bellville called me Friday and if she could find someone to keep him until he was gelded (neutered), that she would take give him a home. When I got up this morning, there was an email from a lady in Weimar who said she would have him gelded and keep him until the lady Bellville could take him. Two very nice ladies.
Times are hard and only going to get harder. Even when times aren't hard, people dump dogs and cats out in the rural areas ...hoping someone takes them in, but not really caring either. If times get hard enough, people will start dumping livestock too. It happened during the Great Depression and I already hear some stories of it happening now. According to the Sheriff's office here, Burleson County still has the old free range laws on the books. You have a responsibility to keep your livestock IN but also to keep other livestock OUT. If an animal does show up in your pasture, you can't just turn it out ...mere possession of it within your fence makes you responsible for finding it's rightful owner or finding a home for it. Go figure. So we're investing in some padlocks for our three gates on the driveway this weekend. We're doing good to take care of the animals we have. I don't want to find any surprises in my pasture.