2019 Readers’ Choice Awards: SmartPak Story of the Year

It’s time for the final Readers’ Choice Award: story of the year! Take a look back at our five most popular pieces and pick your favorite in our poll.

At the end of each December, we at Horse Nation like to look back on the year that was and highlight the articles, essays and videos that most inspired readers, triggered important conversations or had everyone rolling on the floor with laughter — and then let readers decide which one is deserving of the title of the Best of the Year.

These are our most-read stories of 2019: which one was YOUR favorite?

The nominees are…

Meet Molly: Journey of an ex-Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horse

Tawnee leading Molly. Photo by Kisa Kavass.

“Unlike Theo, medical professionals assessed that no more could be done for Molly. The Shelter Manager offered, ‘The best thing we could do for her was to humanely put her to sleep so that she would no longer suffer. She had no quality of life any more. The daily pain meds were not easing her pain and long term use could lead to other health problems.’

“Molly’s pain was ended on Friday June 21st.”

In this tearjerker from Candace Wade, we met Molly, a Tennessee Walking Horse who came to Horse Plus Humane Society with Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD). She was owner surrender and her body had been used up. The best that could be done for her was humane euthanasia. Read the full story here. 

Fact Check Friday: The 52 Free Thoroughbreds


“Autumn changes to winter; the snows come and go. And annually, the infamous ’52 free Thoroughbreds’ posts emerge from their slumber and start to make the rounds of the internet once again.

“We’re not really sure about the mechanics of how exactly this works — every year, it’s a brand-new post, dated just a few days prior, but with the same old copy:

FREE HORSES!!!! 52 thoroughbred horses need homes. Will go to Sugarcreek this Sat. for slaughter. Gentleman died and his son wants nothing to do with them. Most broodmares are broke and some are in foal weanling, yearlings, 2 yrs. and 3 yrs. old most are gelded. FREE and papered. Friend of the deceased is trying to find homes. 440-463-4288 Barnesville, OH.
Please copy and paste this on your status

I would hate to see all these horses put down. PLEASE someone help they are FREE and papered!!!!!!!!

“The most recent iteration was created on January 2. With a recent date stamp, to the unaware but well-meaning, this looks like an urgent, brand-new post with horses in need of homes RIGHT NOW. Likely, this has already been shared to you several times in the past 24 hours. It’s a bizarre phenomenon that this particular (fake) post, every year, goes truly viral… especially when there are horses in need of homes every single day.

“The truth of the matter is that all 52 of these Thoroughbreds found homes… eight years ago. The original post is from January 2011.”

In this piece, Kristen Kovatch discusses the original 52 free Thoroughbreds post, what happened to those horses and the dreaded recurrence of the post every year. She uses it as a chance not only to admonish those who keep sharing the out-dated post, but also as a call to action to encourage our well-meaning friends and family to make a small donation to horses in need. Read the full story here. 

The Academic Equestrian: 10 Horse Personality Types

Photo by Haley Ruffner

“For people who haven’t spent much time around horses, it can come as a surprise that each one has their own personality and that horses can be just as expressive (if not more than) dogs or cats. As someone who spends most of my waking hours at a barn with over sixty horses, I encounter more equine idiosyncrasies than I can recount. In addition to school horses, both of my two horses have more personality than I do. Even though horses have somehow garnered a reputation as being proud and majestic, (which, sure, some of them think they are) their quirks come out the longer you spend with them. Here are different personality types you might find at any barn.”

“3. The Princess. Approach her stall with a treat in hand or not at all. She is the most talented and prettiest horse in the barn and she knows it. She fully expects the royal treatment and will not tolerate anything less. She knows her worth, and uses it to get away with almost anything. The barn operates on her schedule. Wherever she goes, geldings follow her like lost puppies at a safe distance.”

In this article, Haley Ruffner looks at the different types of horses in the barn, and she hits the proverbial nail on the head. She pegs the horses that we see at our barns, from the prankster to the hangry horse to the boss (and more!). Read the full article here.

‘Though She Be But Little, She Is Fierce’: Meet Kricket, the Internet’s Favorite Endurance Mini

Snuggle time at Santiago Oaks Regional Park

“All Jen Joines was really looking for was a companion animal.

“‘There was only one other horse on the property where I kept my paint mare,’ describes Joines of Anaheim, California. ‘So when I took her out to ride, the other horse would panic, and vice-versa.’ Joines worked out a deal with the property owner in which she would get a miniature horse to keep everyone company and not pay additional board, and set out to find the right horse. She had just organized the adoption of miniature rescue Kricket from Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue when the other horse on the property passed away. ‘I couldn’t in good faith change my mind at that point… so Kricket came home.’

“While she was in the best physical shape of the three miniatures who had been rescued together, Kricket was still a mess: she was at a good weight but had no muscle tone, and didn’t know how to move faster than a walk due to a lifetime of confinement. It took four people to get her into the trailer for the ride home in October of 2016.

“Joines’ teenage neighbor stepped in to help, riding the paint mare while Joines slowly started bringing Kricket into work in-hand to get the horse out and moving. Joines has ridden a variety of disciplines, but most recently had started training in endurance; she followed the discipline’s principles to condition Kricket with long, slow, stamina-building miles.

“When the teenage neighbor expressed a desire to try an introductory endurance race in May of 2017 — which requires an accompanying entered adult to be within one minute of a youth rider — Joines scanned the rules, realized that there was no rule that explicitly stated a horse had to be ridden, and signed herself up as the accompanying adult… with Kricket.

“‘So we walked 18 miles in the mountains. And just like every other entry, we vetted in, did the ride, had our mid-race vet check and vetted out.’ Joines’ long, slow miles of conditioning had done the job, and while it may have taken them quite a long time to finish, Kricket did in fact finish.”

This story by Kristen Kovatch tells about Kricket, the rescue mini turned endurance mini and the story behind how she got started. It comes complete with the mini’s background, goals and videos and pictures that will make you want to follow along on Kricket’s journey. Read the full story here.

5 Things You Take for Granted When You Board Your Horse


“Under normal circumstances, I am well aware of how lucky I am to be at a boarding barn with a knowledgeable manager and plenty of pasture on which my horse can graze. However, the barn manager has been out of commission recently, which means a small group of us boarders have stepped up to help out with the daily responsibilities.

“Although I enjoy the regular interaction with the horses and having a more active role in my horse’s care, the added responsibility really drives home how much is done for my horse (by someone other than me) on a regular basis.”

“2. The horses have fresh, clean water. This seems obvious and relatively easy, but you don’t realize the effort that actually goes into getting said water to the horses until you’re responsible for it on a regular basis. I don’t board at one of those highfalutin barns that has automatic waterers in each stall or even one that has spigots next to each pasture (if only!). No, my barn requires connecting and schlepping hoses from the water room out to the pasture.

“In the warmer months, this is a pain, but when it’s cold, it’s downright miserable. First you have to make sure the hoses are properly stored so that they aren’t frozen and you can actually get water out to the pasture. Second, you have to scrub the troughs despite the frigid water. And, third, schlepping a cold, wet hose BACK to the water room and then recoiling it takes more leaves me huffing and puffing and thinking it’s time to hit the gym.

“When the horses aren’t in the pasture, that means hauling five gallon buckets to stalls or, again, a cold wet hose from stall to stall. None of this is fun.”

In this piece, DeAnn Long Sloan takes a look at the aspects of boarding that make horse ownership easier on owners who don’t have their horses at home. She also takes a moment to thank the barn managers and owner (who are worth their weight in gold) for keeping our equine pals healthy and happy. Read the full story here.