with Horse and Hound

Guilt by Association

nodh.klmWe recently ran an article by Anne Hambleton titled “Thoroughbreds: Kings of the Hunting Field.” The article received many enthusiastic Comments and was posted by readers through the social media. Yet despite all the enthusiasm and warm feelings the article generated for this majestic breed, one Thoroughbred retirement organization may have lost the support of an important donor.

Anne wrote about some famous race horses—Steppenwolfer, McDynamo, Lonesome Glory, Private Attack, Buck Jakes—who found second homes in the hunting field. Those horses loved foxhunting, and their riders, sitting atop a fleet, supremely athletic, and bottomless horse that moves like a cloud would have it no other way. Anne made a case for the breed, and she also encouraged foxhunters to look at some of the wonderful candidates available at the many Thoroughbred rescue organizations.

One major retirement organization mentioned the Foxhunting Life article on their Facebook page and proudly told of some of the racetrack retirees they have successfully re-homed for second careers as field hunters. They received several positive responses, then heard from a long-time major donor who left a negative comment about foxhunting being a cruel sport and threatened to stop donating to the organization. Guilt by association.

The Fund Director asked if I had any comments that she might share with this donor to defuse his objections. I sent her some talking points, but what I really hope is that this donor will think hard about the essence of his philanthropy.

I would like to think that donations to equine retirement causes are expressions of love for the animal and a wish to alleviate suffering and possibly premature euthanasia when the animal is still capable of enjoying life. If the horse gets a second chance with a foxhunting owner who gives it the superb care that a field hunter requires, does it really matter to the horse what the owner does?

There are pitifully few retirement or re-homing organizations compared to the numbers of unwanted horses looking for a second chance. I sincerely hope that this or any other donor would channel their thoughts to the needs of the horses, focus on their quality of life, and not perplex the philanthropic process with personal prejudices about their new owners, whether they be based on religion, skin color, political party, sexual orientation, or…choice of lifestyle.

Posted February 27, 2013