When to Speak Up: Red Flags & Warning Signs for Reporting Abuse

Identifying specific warning signs for an abuse or neglect situation is not always easy. Noelle Maxwell speaks with Friends of Ferdinand to provide this helpful guide for concerned horse lovers.

Photo courtesy of Friends of Ferdinand

The Thoroughbred rescue and placement group Friends of Ferdinand, based in central Indiana, recently became involved in a neglect case involving one of their former horses, among nine others. Friends of Ferdinand has stepped up to honor their commitment to this horse and advocate for the other horses involved by raising money, collecting donations, and coordinating everything with the vets and animal control workers. Friends of Ferdinand emphasized that all the credit should really go to Wells County Animal Care & Control. All ten horses seized from Chrissy Francies by Bluffton/Wells County Animal Care & Control had a body score of one. If you are interested in learning more about this case, you can access local news.

We caught up with Friends of Ferdinand to learn more about what individuals should do if they suspect neglect or abuse. The best thing to do is to contact local animal control or the sheriff’s department. As for red flags, Friends of Ferdinand stated that not every situation is what it presents itself as, so identifying specific warning signs isn’t always easy. However, there are certain things to watch for:

  • Horses without access to water.
  • Never seeing anyone caring for the horses or never seeing the horses eating; horses should eat for hours every day.
  • ALL of the horses look poor; i.e. visible ribs and spine, dingy coats, hooves appear to need attention, etc. For further information on equine body condition, view the Henneke Body Condition chart.
  • People who don’t seem to ride but are seeking free, inexpensive, or at-risk horses for riding or showing. Added to that, if the person seeking these horses is angered by additional questions, that in itself is a red flag.

On this note, the most important thing is to be involved in your local horse community and communicate; if you are concerned, someone else may be concerned, too. Talk to local feed and tack stores: if the horses’ owners don’t pay their bills, that can also be a red flag. In the situation involving Ms. Francies, Friends of Ferdinand added that they’ve seen a lot of people saying, “I knew, I had suspicions, etc.” but there were still people who were unaware.

“Awareness is key. One thing that everyone can learn from this is that we, the horse community, need to speak up.”

Friends of Ferdinand also offered one further piece of advice: never give horses away, especially on Facebook or Craigslist, as both can attract scam artists, hoarders or kill buyers. Particularly don’t give away horses that can be considered “high-risk,” as these horses are more at-risk for ending up in a bad situation. Higher risk horses include:

  • Horses with lameness or medical issues preventing them from being ridden.
  • Horses with little to no training.
  • Off-the-track horses with little to no off-track training.

If you do list a horse for free, especially a higher-risk horse, you need to take extra precautions when choosing a home for your horse. Friends of Ferdinand recommends staying in contact with whoever buys the horse and checking on the horse periodically, as well writing up a contract.

Friends of Ferdinand is taking a proactive approach in ensuring their horses have somewhere to go by launching a microchipping campaign. With the Jockey Club now requiring microchips in all registered Thoroughbreds beginning this year, Friends of Ferdinand has decided to microchip all of their horses with this year’s spring shots. The goal is that by microchipping the horses, should a horse ever end up in a questionable or dangerous situation, the authorities will be able to identify Friends of Ferdinand as the owner so the horse can return to the rescue’s care.

Finally, if you would like to donate to the care of the Bluffton/Wells County horses, donations can be made via the “donate” tab on the Friends of Ferdinand website, simply select the amount you wish to donate and type “Bluffton/Wells County” in the comment box, and the money will go to these horses; they’re also seeking donations of bedding and grass hay. For updates on the horses, you can follow Friends of Ferdinand on Facebook.

This article was contributed by Noelle Maxwell. Please visit Noelle’s blog at Alagnak Equus.

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