This is the first part of a podcast interview with Dr. Jennifer Williams, the Executive Director of the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in Texas.
Welcome to the second season of the Senior Horsemanship Podcast. Sharing information for better horsemanship during our senior years and better senior years with horses. I’m your host, Paul Sherland. We have a very special episode to kick off season two. Joining me today is Dr. Jennifer Williams, the Executive Director of the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society here in Texas.
Jen, will be talking about the top four reasons why you should consider adoption instead of purchase when you’re looking for a new horse as a senior. Under Jennifer’s leadership, Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society is celebrating 18 years of success by helping more than 1300 horses. The Bluebonnet adoption process is particularly well-suited to aging with horses, as she will explain in the podcast.
Bluebonnet has also helped countless horses and their owners through education programs, owner assistance programs and disaster recovery assistance. So without further delay, here’s my interview with Dr. Jennifer Williams.
Jennifer, welcome to the Senior Horsemanship Podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you here. We’re going to be talking about the top reasons to adopt a horse from Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society if you’re a senior.
Jennifer Williams: Thank you for having me here today because this is a topic I could talk about all day.
Paul Sherland: what would be the number one reason for a senior or for someone else to adopt a horse from Bluebonnet?
Jennifer Williams: I think the number one reason is that we do our very best to evaluate every horse who comes into the organization and make sure you know what we know. We get them healthy if they’re not. We have their vet work done, their annual vaccinations, Coggins, and dental work, we get that up to date. If we see any health problems, we have those checked out.
And as an adopter, you get all that information so you start off ahead of where you might be if you purchase a horse. Because you’re not having to go right to the vet.
All of our horses are in foster homes. The foster homes often get to know the horses really well. So you get to talk to the foster home, find out, uh, maybe this, this horse doesn’t like being out with geldings or this horse hates being in a stall.
Or this horse will stomp dogs or chase them down or, you know, whatever the, the horse’s maybe idiosyncrasies are. Whereas if you go out and buy a horse, a lot of times you get home and you have to find all that out. Um, my caution with that is, of course every horse is a little bit different in every situation. So I’ve had a, I have a very top of the herd mare and um, and in another pasture, she was not. I was sure she would be, and she stayed with a friend and she was not top of the, the herd.
So, you know, different situations, horses can be a little different, but I’ve not seen one say who chases dogs suddenly stop chasing dogs. You know, there are things like that that are gonna hold true. We also either try to evaluate the training level of each horse or have the horse trained depending on finances and time and each horse’s needs.
And so you get to learn about that. If the horse has been to a trainer, we’re gonna give you the, with the trainer says, and if a trainer takes the horse and says, this horse is gonna need a whole lot of work, you know, he is had, uh, maybe he hasn’t been handled until he was 12, or he’s had some bad experiences in his life, we’re gonna tell you. We don’t want that horse to go home with a novice because we want our adopters and our horses happy.
And so we have a stake. Um, our reputation is at stake if we’re not honest with our horses. And, and also, our love of horses and our, our desire to see them in good homes, good matches, happy people. So I think that’s a real benefit to adopting, is you get all this information. Um, when someone comes to look at one of my horses, I always say, here’s the good, the bad and bad just may be he doesn’t like, hay, or, you know, he’s not good in a stall. Doesn’t necessarily mean anything horrible. And the the neutral. Just facts because I want you to know. I don’t want, I don’t want my fosters or any of the horses to come back really. Um, you know, I want them to have good homes and happy people, and I wanna hear great stories down the road that they’re loved
Paul Sherland: And you don’t turn off the phones after the horse leaves the foster. so you’re there to, uh, to answer questions. And if there are questions about feed or something that, um, has come up with the adopter, you’re there to provide that information.
Jennifer Williams: Our goal, I think this is another reason to adopt, is we’re here to support those horses for their lives. So we’ve had adopters who’ve had to move to new areas and they don’t know how to find a vet. We don’t always know a vet in that area, but if we do, we’re happy to share names or ideas on how to find vets or ask, poll our membership and say, Hey, does anyone know a veterinarian in this area?
Or if you know, three years later, the horse suddenly starts misbehaving and you just don’t know what to do. We’re there with ideas, suggestions, and maybe connections to trainers in your area. If we know people and we have a, we have a Facebook group for people who foster and adopt for us, where we can discuss issues and, you know, help each other solve problems if they come up, we are there to cheer on your victories.
Um, you know, I wanna know if you took that horse on a trail ride and it was the best ride you’ve ever had. Or your kid got a blue ribbon at the county fair, we’re gonna cheer you on. You know, you’re, you’re adopting into a group of people, you know, you’re not just getting a horse, you’re getting all of us and our support and, um, our ability to help.
And there’s a whole lot of expertise in Bluebonnet, and so, you know, we can help solve a lot of problems.
Paul Sherland: And your network extends Texas wide. It’s uh, you know, there are some rescues that are located in one specific part of Texas or one specific region of Texas, but uh, Bluebonnet is statewide. Is that right?
Jennifer Williams: We are, we don’t have a lot of foster homes at, in far West Texas or far south. Um, but we’re always looking to expand and, um, a lot, if we don’t know someone we may know someone who knows someone, so we can still get. We do our best to get recommendations.
Sometimes in some areas we might struggle to find a farrier recommendation or, um, but normally if nothing else, even if we can’t find, um, a recommend, a good recommendation, I can find names on the internet and give people ideas on how to choose a good farrier or a vet or find a feed store. So
Paul Sherland: One of the things that uh you know, you’ve talked about a little bit, uh, is that, um, the adopter has, um, support if the horse is not working out. Um, and oftentimes you can, there, there’s a fix or there’s a, there’s a, a solution to the problem. Uh, but if, if the. the adopter gets the horse home and for some reason it’s just not working out.
Uh, Bluebonnet is still standing behind that, that horse and that adopter, I guess, is that right?
Jennifer Williams: That’s right. So I think we have two ways that we do that. One is that into our adoption contract, we have a built-in 30 day trial. So you take the horse home, maybe she doesn’t act the same way she did at the foster home, you know, different situation. She doesn’t get along with the hor horses and horses in her herd or a behavior crops up that we didn’t know about, you know? And you can’t deal with. That horse can come back to us and you’ll get your adoption fee back. So the goal there is that when the horses go to homes, they get good homes, they get to stay in. And if they’re not working out, we don’t want people to be miserable and we don’t want the horse to be miserable cuz there’s another home somewhere that that horse will fit into.
So that’s one way also if anytime, anytime throughout the horse’s life, the adopter can’t keep the horse. Life changes. You know, people get ill, they have to move. There’s job loss, whatever, it doesn’t matter. We will always take our horses back. In fact, we built into our adoption contract. We want them to come back, and that means we’ve taken in horses back from adopters 10 years later.
You know, because they, life was good, things were rolling along and. One recently they had multiple horses and the husband got really ill, and that just was too much. You know, they couldn’t take care of the horses on top of dealing with the illness. And they came back to us and we found them new good homes. You know, and as, as a, as a horse person whose family is not horsey, it is a comfort to know that if something were to happen to me, whether it be illness or if I was to pass away, all my husband has to do is call the rescue, and they’re gonna make arrangements to get almost all of our horses, you know, all of our adopted horses and, and take them back.
And then I know too that they’re gonna get good homes. Someone’s gonna screen you know the homes to make sure they’re good so that the horses I love dearly will be safe.
Paul Sherland: I know that’s, really different from, uh, buying a horse. on any kind of market. once you take the horse, once the horse is loaded in the trailer, that horse is, is yours, uh, for better or for worse.
Jennifer Williams: That that is very true and it’s, you know, I have one horse now that didn’t come through either Bluebonnet or have one other who came through another rescue and, um, she actually came, I inherited her when a really good friend passed away. Um, other than that, all my horses come through Bluebonnet now because I wanna know that they’ve got a place to go.
And I see so many people where, uh, I mean, they reach out to us family members or neighbors that somebody has passed away and their horses have no place to go, or somebody’s in the hospital or they’re, you know, very ill, or they’ve lost their job or have to move and what’s gonna happen to their horses, and so I don’t have to worry about that.
Paul Sherland: If, if you could, Jen, if you could just, uh, talk a little bit about the adoption process, uh, that, uh, y’all have Bluebonnet.
Jennifer Williams: Sure. So we have, um, , our first step to adopting from us is to fill in an application. And sometimes that application word sounds scary and intimidating to people, but we’ve tried to make it very basic and not scary. Um, we are looking to get a little bit of information about you as an adopter, what you want, what your needs are, what your experiences experience is, so that we can help find the right horse for you.
And then we ask for, um, a little bit of information about your property. So we make sure. The horse again, is going to someplace safe and right for him or her. We do not look for fancy. I have lived in lots of different properties now. Um, I don’t live in the Taj Mahal of horse properties, you know, or, or the perfect spot, or a show barn.
But we want horses to be safe, to have shelter, to have fences that are in good repair and enough space for however many horses are there. Sometimes that might mean two acres for somebody who adopts a couple minis or a mini in a full sized horse and are gonna manage the property. Sometimes it means a lot more space for somebody who has a lot more horses.
Um, but we try to look at all of those on a case by case basis. Our adoption coordinator. Reviews everything. If she has any questions, she reaches out. Sometimes she may say, Hey, you know, we’re a little concerned about, uh, that one fence line that’s only three feet tall and you want this 16 hand tall horse.
Here’s my suggestions on how to best improve that without having to spend a fortune. It is rare that we even make suggestions just once in a while. We, we almost never turn anyone down. I. Has been a time or two in the distant past where somebody applied to adopt in their horses that they already had were in really poor condition, but that’s really rare.
So we have an adoption process. We wanna get to know you a little bit. And then, um, once you’re approved, our adoption coordinator reaches out to you and lets you know you’re approved. And if you have a horse that you’ve been following on the website, or some of our horses have Facebook pages. She, she’s gonna meet, set you up to meet that horse. So she’ll introduce you to the foster home that gives you a question before you even go out to visit the horse, to talk to the foster home, get more information about the horse that maybe didn’t make us make it to the webpage or is new, or answer any specific questions.
And then you get to go meet the horse. For horses who are trained to ride, we prefer adopters ride the horse before they adopt because you know, You don’t always click with every horse, and we want you to make sure you have at least a test ride under your belt. But when you go to visit the horse and ride or handle him or her, if you like him or her, we have an adoption contract.
You pay an adoption fee and you get to take the horse home that day. We don’t make you come back. We don’t make you wait. We don’t make you have multiple, uh, visits. We let you go then.
Our adoption contract says, of course, that you’re gonna take care of the horse. Uh, we don’t allow breeding of our mares and we geld all the, uh, stallions and jacks.
The reason for that is a lot like animal shelters with dogs and cats. There are an endless supply of horses coming to us, and then we don’t wanna add to that. Um, our adoption contract also says that we do a couple home visits and, um, that if you can’t keep the horse, either he comes back to us or the new person who’s gonna take the horse fills out a adoption contract with a adoption application with us and gets approved and has a contract.
That way we can track and follow our horses. So you, you, uh, sign your con, you’d sign your contact, take your horse home in a couple months, we’re gonna reach out and schedule a visit. It’s again, low key. A volunteer comes out, takes a couple pictures of the horse, might ask a question or two and leaves. Um, I can do a home visit in five or 10 minutes if we don’t start chatting about horses, which of course often cuz we’re horse people, we start chatting about horses and it doesn’t last five or 10 minutes.
But, and then we’re gonna follow up a couple more times. And as I, you know, as I already said, we’re always here for questions. We wanna make sure everyone’s happy, and if something happens and you can’t keep the horse, he comes back to us and we start this all over again.
Paul Sherland: And one of the, um, big adoption events is that Bluebonnet has, is the, uh, Expo and Training Challenge, and that’s coming up on October 7th, I think. And. And, uh, maybe you could, if you wouldn’t mind, talk a little bit about what happens there.
Jennifer Williams: Sure. So you’re right. October 7th at Williamson County Expo Center in Taylor, Texas. We have a, a one day, where, we cram in as much horse fun and knowledge and education as we can, so we have clinicians who come talk about different training or healthcare issues for horses.
We have tack for sale. We auction off saddles and sometimes horse trailers, and we have somewhere between 50 and 70 horses up for adoption that day. Um, the bulk of those horses, most of them are in our Training Challenge, and that is where, um, professional trainer will take a horse who’s not broke to ride or one who has behavior problems and work with them for four months.
Amateurs and kids take horses, a horse for four months, either one who’s already been started under saddle and they keep riding them, or one that either ha hasn’t been, or maybe like a miniature horse who’s too small or an older horse who can’t really do much riding, and they work with those in hand.
They have their four months. They get to work with those horses. They get to know ’em really well. They have Facebook pages where they post about how the horse is doing, which I always find really inspiring. I watch those Facebook pages and then I’m like, I need to go out and work with my own horses. Um, you know, and I don’t, cuz that’s, we’re in that hectic, uh, Training Challenge Expo season.
But I, I try to afterwards, but then they come to the event, they show off, we call a freestyle. A lot of times they dress up on costumes and they have music and they get pretty much free rein to show what they’ve taught the horse. So those who are ridden are probably walk, trot, cantering, um, sometimes jumping, or I think we had one dressage horse last year.
Um, they might go over obstacles. We’ve had a wide range of horses and abilities, and then they go into an obstacle course, which is. Um, we have a variety of obstacles. Normally a cowboy curtain or something dangling, they have to walk under, normally a bridge, poles, maybe something they have to do, a serpentine around.
So the, the goal, the freestyle is to show off whatever the trainer’s taught the horse and how the horse responds. The obstacle course shows you how a horse might act out on trails or when they see something new and in a new environment. I always tell everyone, if you want to adopt and you can make the Expo, it is a perfect time to see a horse because they’re in a new place with a whole bunch of other horses.
They’re gonna show you their worst. And if you see their worst, and that is great for you, um, then that’s a good horse, that’s a good fit. And I’m not saying that they’re out there, you know, running and bucking and bolting across the arena, but maybe one of them’s spookier at a new place. And you need to know that you’re not confident with that.
Or you know, if you wanna do a lot of trail riding and obstacles and you watch this horse and you just won’t go over anything, maybe that’s not the right horse for you. And the nice thing is the trainers have had the horses for four months. So you get to talk to the trainers at the, at the Training Challenge and find out what the horse has been doing and what kind of adopter they think is right for that horse.
And then you, if you’re approved already and you find the horse of your dreams and, um, you’re not, you’re not beat out to that horse by somebody else. That is, um, one of our, you know, there’s only so many horses and a lot of times maybe you come to look at, um, oh, Blazen Beauty, one of my fosters, and she’s not the right horse for you, or somebody else was already on, you know, above you in the line.
And you end up walking the barn aisle and you see, um, somebody else, you see Easter and you fall in love with him and that’s who you adopt. So, um, a lot of people come looking at one horse and they take somebody else home. Sometimes they come to look for one horse and they take two horses home. Um, and sometimes I don’t, I’m not thinking they’re gonna look at any horse and end up adopting.
It’s a great time to come look at them, meet them, you get to adopt and then you take at them home from the event and, you know, adoption, there’s a contract and fee. Um, and normally our adoption fees at the expo are half price. They are some of our higher adoption fee horses normally, cuz they’ve had a lot of training and they’re, you know, in a good spot to take home and start riding
Paul Sherland: You mentioned the clinicians and, and some of the other folks that are, who are there. And also you have a, just a great tack sale there
Jennifer Williams: We do, we have folks donate, gently used, um, and sometimes new tack and horse equipment. I think last year we had a Priefert stall, um, that went through our live auction and a horse, a hay steamer that went through the auction.
Um, so we have. A sale area where just there’s a set price and we also have an auction where we auction off some of the bigger items and a lot of saddles and you can get some great deals. All the tack you buy, the proceeds go back to helping more horses. Um, so the money you spend this year will probably help enable the horses who show up next year.
And um, it’s the people who donate, you know, you can donate and get a tax write off cuz we’re a 501c3 for your, your unused tack. We have people who every year clean out their tack room or we have people who are getting outta horses who give us, you know, a barn full. We’ve had barn fulls. Pull up with a truck and trailer and just load tons of stuff up and it all ends up at the Expo.
We sell it, we raise money to help the next set of horses. And like I said, you get great deals so you can come, even if you’re not ready, if you don’t have all the horse equipment you need, you may adopt a horse and take home a bucket full of horse stuff to be ready.
Paul Sherland: I’ve been there. It’s a, it’s a great event and, we’re looking forward to the event in October, and that’s October 7th in Taylor, Texas.
Jennifer Williams: That’s correct.
Paul Sherland: And folks who are interested in adopting or looking into adopting, um, can take a look at the horses that you have available right now at, uh, at the website.
And that’s Bluebonnet Equine, um, dot org,
Jennifer Williams: That is correct. We have every horse in the rescue has his or her own page on the website, and so you can see who’s up for adoption right now. Also, you can see who’s in rehab. So maybe the right horse isn’t there yet, but you look and you’re like, Ooh, what? I really like to look at this other horse. And you keep an eye on him or her.
And once we start assigning horses to the Training Challenge, they will be listed under Training Challenge, so you can see everybody who will hopefully be competing. And we also post on our Facebook page, which is Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society. Um, I try to post when horses come in, when they go up for adoption, if something special happens.
And then I, every horse who’s in the Training Challenge will get his or her own Facebook page. So if you, um, are looking for a new horse and you know, you want something that’s broke, broke to ride, you can look at all the pro horses and the, the ones that are in our non-pro under saddle division and follow their pages and see all their progress.
Paul Sherland: Okay. Well that, that sounds like, uh, there are all kinds of wonderful reasons for, for seniors, um, who maybe have a little bit more time now and, um, maybe, uh, a little bit more discretionary income
to, to make that horse dream a reality. And, you know, adopting a horse from Bluebonnet is, is one way to get into horses, and doing it in an open and above board way um, so I, I really appreciate your time.
Jennifer Williams: Definitely. I’m just gonna add one thing for your listeners is that I know some rescues don’t let first time horse owners adopt. Um, we have a lot of first time people who get their first horse through us, partially because we provide support. So, um, we’ve had people who’ve never had horses before who come to adopt and ask a million questions and everyone had to start somewhere.
and not everybody has the, the luxury of having gotten to grow up with riding lessons and horses and all. So, um, if you’re just thinking about getting into horses, don’t let, um, fear or nervousness stop you. There are good people if you’re not in Texas, uh, there are, there are people elsewhere, rescues and individuals elsewhere who will help you get involved, and it’s an amazing thing to have a horse, especially to be able to walk out your front door and hear them nicker at you. You know, for food. For food. Cuz that’s what they love.
Paul Sherland: That, that’s, it’s, it’s maybe food being may be part of it, but I’m sure affection
is part of it too.
Jennifer Williams: So I have, I do have one that we call my stalker horse because he follows me everywhere I go. And he definitely, he likes his food, but he, yeah, he, he would stand there and um, probably lick the skin off my hand if I let him, cuz he just wants to sit there and lick my hand and touch me. So yes, you’re right. They knicker for food, but they also like us, most of them
Paul Sherland: That’s right. Well, I really appreciate it, Jen. Uh, appreciate your time. And, uh, again, this is the Senior Horsemanship Podcast, and this is an interview with, uh, Dr. Jennifer Williams who is the Executive Director of, uh, the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society here in Texas. Thank you very much Jen.
/ So in summary, there are four good reasons why you should consider adopting from Bluebonnet if you’re a senior living in Texas.
Number one, you get an honest health and training history of the horse you adopt. Anything Bluebonnet knows. You will know. Based on my 35 years of horse ownership, this honest disclosure is rare in the usual horse purchase process.
Number two. You get a 30 day period to try the horse at your barn. And if the horse doesn’t work out, you can return the horse and get your adoption fee back. I purchased a horse once where I had a 30 day trial. But my option was to return the horse for another of the horse dealer’s horses. There was no refund.
Number three. If your circumstances change and due to finances or health or any other reason, you can’t keep your horse, Bluebonnet will always take that horse back and find a new good home for it. I’ve never heard of a horse for sale with this guarantee.
Number four. You get the support of Bluebonnet members throughout the state of Texas. If you need a farrier or a vet or you need help with a behavior problem, Bluebonnet will try to find the information you need. Again, this after adoption support is unique to Bluebonnet.
If you don’t live in Texas, Jennifer has described what you can look for in an equine rescue to help you adopt wisely wherever you do live.
We will have more information about what to look for in an equine rescue in a future podcast. We will have a link to the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in the show notes. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Senior Horsemanship Podcast.