Recently, I saw a TV news show that told about retired police horses being given away by Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury. N.Y., where in their younger days they were used to control crowds of bettors. The raceway is not the only organization trying to unload excess horseflesh. A program under the direction of the Federal Bureau of Land Management periodically captures wild horses to thin out herds roaming Nevada's Palomino Valley. The animals are available to almost anyone willing to pay for the horses' transportation, although prospective owners may have to wait eight months to two years or more before putting a halter on their freebies. However, with the tame and well-trained horses from the raceway, all one had to do was write a letter and. if a horse was available, you could go to the track and pick it up.
An incurable horse maniac, I had spent my childhood reading and rereading Son of the Black Stallion. In between, I plagued my parents to buy me a horse, failing to understand why one could not be accommodated in a city apartment. I was determined to own the equivalent of Trigger, and the news report of free horses recalled my childhood longings. I wrote a polite letter to Roosevelt Raceway, foisting myself upon them as a kindly, conscientious adoptive parent.
Combing the cut-rate horse market while waiting for the track to respond, I discovered something about horse maintenance. Caveat emptor and all that. Horses are like real estate—it isn't the initial investment that hurts, it's the upkeep. Horses are fond of eating, and hay costs $80 to $100 a ton around New York. A horse can chew up that much in a couple of months. Horses have to be shod about every 30 days, and a set of horseshoes costs considerably more than Hush Puppies. Stable rent runs high, and if the beast is ailing, the veterinarian may charge more for a barn call than Dr. Feelgood.
The response to my letter finally came. Luckily for my checking account, all the Roosevelt horses had been snapped up the first day in spite of the fact that one of the horses was 38 years old—surely one of the oldest living nags in the U.S.A. What do you want for free—Secretariat? But there are still those wild horses of Nevada. I just might write Adopt-a-Horse, Bureau of Land Management. Washington, D.C. 20240. They send three brochures, no doubt extolling the virtues of wild horses, and an application. Back in the prospective saddle again....