Twisted Heiress, ApHC, CRHA, ASHDA AC and her filly Psuperstious Twist, ApHC, AHA, CRHA
We hear it a lot. "You can't ride papers. Papers don't make the horse. Papers don't matter. I don't need to paper my foal, it's just for me. I don't need to transfer a horse, I'm not gonna show it." Well, guess what? You are part of a cycle that allows good horses to fall through the cracks.
We get a lot of messages, phone calls, and emails (as do other popular farms, I'm sure) about Appaloosas in kill pens, on craigslist, at auction or in need of rescue. There's a lot of reasons a horse can end up in a bad situation, which means that sometimes a good quality animal turns up in a Kill Pen. The problem? Most of them don't have papers. For whatever reason, either they were born grade, breeder was too cheap or lazy to register them, or a buyer didn't feel like keeping track of them, or even the person selling didn't want their name associated with a horse in a bad situation. Horses without papers have a harder time getting out of these places, it's just a fact. Papers tell you the horses' history and accurate information, they tell you pedigree (which can be researched for points both good and bad), they tell you who has owned the horse before, they allow you to find out more information such as if the horse has any foals on the ground, their breeder, if they have show points.
All of these points from a horse's papers can be lifelines, extending out all over the place. A breeder who doesn't know a foal from their program is in a bad spot may want to take them back (we certainly would!), a previous owner may want them back, someone who leased them or even just knew them for a time, even someone who owns a horse related to them. Show points attached to their name prove at least some ability in a discipline. The horse may have genetic testing you can gain access to. All of that and more from one set of papers.
This is why we are sure to paper EVERY foal. It's why we push buyers to transfer them so they have a paper trail if they are ever sold again. It's why we never produce grade foals, and don't cover outside mares that can't produce papered foals. Because we've been the person, sitting on the other side of the screen going, "I just can't take that sort of risk on a horse with no papers". And there is a lot of risk in getting a horse out of a bad situation: health issues, mishandling, genetic defects, not to mention the kind of stress and sickness that just comes from setting foot in a kill pen. How many hundreds, even thousands, of people might have also clicked that back button?
We're a breeding farm and every horse here works double and triple duty to promote our breeds, even the geldings. An unpapered horse, even a super nice one, just isn't useful to us. We won't breed an unpapered horse. We can't take them to breed shows or enroll them in breed-specific programs. And it's an economically poor decision to invest money in a horse that can't help promote your program. Which means those horses in the kill pen or at the auction yard that can cost as much as a good papered horse from a private seller are horses we have to just pass on by, even if visually, they check all the boxes.
Don't get us wrong, the kill pen industry is a scam, pure and simple. Horses are bought for a song and their prices are jacked and threatened with slaughter to prey on the panic response of the public. It's a broken and messed up system. But, it isn't going away anytime soon. And because it isn't, every breeder and owner needs to take every precaution they have that if one of their horses is ever posted on a kill pen page, they won't be passed over because they don't have papers. There's a lot more you can do to take preventative measures, but papers are a solid first step. We also freeze brand all of our personal stock and any foals we retain after around 18mos-2 years, so that even if their physical papers get lost, they have a line back to us. Microchipping is also becoming popular. And, of course, simply breeding high quality horses on a small scale so you don't have to dump off your excess at horse sales helps too.
As owners and breeders, it's our job to send our foals out there with as many lifelines as possible. Breed for the best foal you can and do your dang paperwork.
Trinity Appaloosa Farm
Trinity Appaloosa Farm