By Debi Metcalfe, founder of Stolen Horse International, Inc.™
Everywhere I go, I hear people say, “You can’t give a horse away,” which is almost always followed with “So why would anyone steal a horse?”
This results in a long conversation with me explaining how the people who are giving the horses away are not living in the same world as the people who are stealing them and the two worlds don’t even cross. Unless of course the people who are stealing the horses see the free horse ad and mosey on over to scam the free horse off of the unsuspecting owner who is trying to find a good home for their beloved animal.
We get calls every week from people who find out that their horses have not ended up where they thought they were going. They may have meant for their horse to be in a good place, but when you give away a free horse you might as well be hanging up a sign that says, “All scammers welcome.”
We knew when our daughter Cory graduated college that she could not fit her darling Skeeter into her Charlotte apartment. If she could have she would have! He was too good of a horse to leave standing in the pasture. Although we had many people who wanted to buy him, knowing what we know about what happens to many horses when they get old, we could never sell him. We had to make sure he was taken care of for the rest of his life. He took care of our daughter, and we were going to repay him with lifelong care.
We had another pony, Charliehorse, that was under a “free lease” at the time we needed to find Skeeter a purpose in life. Now it seemed it was time to do the same for him.
If you have a horse that you love and you want to make sure as much as you can to make sure the animal is cared for, why not consider a free lease agreement like we have.
A free lease means that the horse is leased to someone without any payment to the owner. When you have a free lease you retain ownership and control of your horse but your horse, in best case scenarios, is still cared for and loved. Everyone wins. The owner has good care for the horse they love. The lessee has a good horse they do not have to pay for but they have with them as if they have their own horse. The horse is cared for, loved and if all goes well will not end up in an abusive situation, horse auctions or slaughter facilities.
Depending on the contract, the person leasing the horse assumes all care including board, vet, farrier, labiality, etc. Free leases sometime come with specific wording, as in my case, what happens in the event my horse dies? My lease states that I or someone acting on my behalf have to see the body of the horse before burial or disposal (a picture or a phone call alone will not do); it stipulates reasons for my removal of my horse from the lessees care; I can go on the property any time day or night and check on my horse and remove the horse if necessary; as well as where the horse is located (my lease agreement states that I would have to notified before my horse is moved to any other location permanently.) However, the actual terms of the lease will vary from owner to owner and from horse to horse.
The way you carry out these quirky terms may also help you enforce your lease in court if that moment comes. Make sure you have each point initialed so that there is no misunderstanding that everyone understands the terms.
Sign a new lease each year. When doing so take pictures of you, you and the horse and the person with you and the horse that is signing the lease. It leaves little doubt that the lessor was present at the time of the lease signing.
Remember, with a free lease you are likely to get your horse back at some time in the future. If you do not believe your life’s circumstances will warrant the horse’s return then a free lease is not for you.
Taking all of this into consideration, be aware that even if you have a contract you are not guaranteed to have a happily-ever-after for your horse, but in my vast experience, your chances are better when you ask someone to sign on the dotted line. Your chances are better still if you add to that someone you know, trust and who lives just down the road. That person is hard to find, but if you have the time to look for that special person you may get lucky like my family did.
I count my blessings every day because my daughter’s horse Skeeter is a little over a mile from us with such a loving woman. He has been a blessing to her life the way he was to ours. When she sends us pictures and stories I feel such pride, almost like a proud parent. I quickly send everything to my daughter so she can see how her boy is doing, too.
I received the following story from the wonderful woman who loves Skeeter. I hope when you read her story that it will inspire you to work a little harder to find someone to lease your horse to instead of “giving” your horse away and regretting that decision later.
In The Vast Pasture
by Marianne Miller
“Mr. Skeeds” is what I call him. His eyes are the kindest in the world. His ears are the sweetest and most attentive. He arrived a few years ago after my friends’ children had grown up and could no longer enjoy him. He needed a friend, and so did I. I had no idea just what he would come to mean to me. I know now for sure that it was not my friends, but God who sent him to me.
I had taken care of my father for years. I was a “Daddy’s Girl.” So his dying was very sad for me. Mr. Skeeds came into my life very shortly after my father passed away. I found comfort in his soft and kind eyes. He would always listen to me as I wept. He healed me. Very shortly after my father died, my brother, who lived in the same house next door to me, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was divorced with no children, so I would end up being his solitary caretaker as well. At the same time, my daughter was becoming a teenager. I was overwhelmed to say the least!
Sometimes at night, when the moon lit the sky, and the stars shone brightly, I would go out alone to visit Mr. Skeeds in our vast pasture. We have six others horses, but Mr. Skeeds would always seem to know I needed him and come to me. Even in the dark, with him being black as night, I can always tell that he is heading my way because he has a few patches of white that seem to glow. During those tough times, I would sometimes sit, or simply put my arms around his sweet neck, and it was as though he were crying with me.
Two years ago, after struggling to live, my brother passed. Of all the people and loved ones who were there for me, there was no love, except the love of God, which would equal the love that I felt from Mr. Skeeds. It was his loving eyes and peaceful presence that healed me once again out in that vast pasture.
He will, as does God, continue to help me deal with life. No advice, just love. “Come sit with me”, I hear him say. Once again in the vast pasture with the moonlight and the stars shining above, my horse, God, and I tackle this world together. We tackle it with love and compassion, for love, even in the form of a horse, truly conquers all.
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