Some people view Facebook as little more than a communication tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. But people on Facebook can really make things happen. In fact, we’ve probably rescued the same 52 thoroughbreds multiple times over. Most horse friends have seen the original message,which was posted to Facebook for the first time in February 2011. The claims in the message were true, but according to credible reports on both Facebook (by the woman who placed them) and several horse related forums, all 52 of the horses were rehomed, with most going to family friends of the deceased owner.
Lynn Boggs was the caring woman who originally posted the message on Facebook to find homes for the horses, who were displaced after her friend Daniel Stearns, DVM, died on Jan. 27, 2011. Sterns was a longtime fixture in the Thoroughbred racing community, having worked as a track veterinarian before founding the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners. He also served as president of Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association and was an active Thoroughbred breeder at the time of his death. According to his son, the Dr. had been breeding and racing Thoroughbreds since 1950. He was also for a long time the oldest living owner racing horses at Thistledown Racetrack in Cleveland.
The message Lynn posted on Facebook gained international attention within hours, and all of the horses were placed in new homes within five days. Other social networks, horse boards, and pet forums picked up the urgent request, which noted that all the horses would be sent to Sugarcreek auction if homes were not found for them. The message asked recipients to call one of the listed phone numbers if they could help. Boggs even had a posting on Mike Smith’s (Zenyatta’s jockey) Facebook page. The effort of Boggs deserves much credit, as apparently there were originally more than 100 horses in need of a home after the passing of Dr. Stearn, upon whose farm they roamed. Boggs really was the driving force behind spreading the word of his horses.
The horses went to several new homes, some in groups and others one or two at a time. There’s also rumours about where they went, including Frog Pond Farm Drafts, Canter (apparently not true) and Drafty Barn Rescues, which no longer seems to have an internet presence. But two horses went to live with Eventing Nation’s Jackie Smith, of Ohio, who writes about their adventures from the horses’ perspective on her blog.
Long after the horses were rehomed, a second variation of the message began circulating. The new version falsely claimed that the horses were located in Scotland and listed different contact details. Apparently some other messages were crafted to trap callers into calling long distance numbers and racking up huge bills. I saw the posting pop up a few times last year, and now in February 2014 the original plea is still circulating! And like other rumours, it may circulate for years.
It’s not that we’re gullible people, but this story circulates because it feeds our anxieties and emotions. Most of us get pretty anxious when we hear about the possibility of entire herds of horses going, within mere days, to an auction where there are kill buyers, especially when someone (the Dr.’s son) doesn’t seem to possess the patience to allow new homes to be vetted in a reasonable amount of time. But lots of emails and pleas slip under my mental defences too – I’ve had to pause and re-read several phishing messages I’ve received, because they can be quite convincing. I lost a friend because I asked her to stop emailing me with urban legends about stuff such as needles attached to gas pumps and Proctor and Gamble’s ties to the Church of Satan. I’m also pretty sure that Liz Claiborne also didn’t tell Oprah that black women shouldn’t wear her clothes either. When hurricane Katrina hit, I remember various stories being told that couldn’t possibly be true, such as sharks coming ashore and attacking people. FEMA doctors even showed up at the Superdome with a refrigerated 18-wheeler to cart away hundreds of bodies that were alleged to be dead after the Mayor spread a rumour about armed gangs seizing control of the Superdome (or at least, that’s what I’ve heard).
The original plea circulated beyond anyone’s wildest dreams – people from the EU have called Boggs, as did a Hopi Indian from North Dakota. Can you imagine getting 4,000 phone calls, at any hour, along with a few hundred text messages – in the course of days? Now imagine trying to screen people so that you could prevent horses from being sent to slaughter? And apparently she is still getting calls! Boggs said she was overwhelmed with the support she got, so she encouraged the people who weren’t able to take one of the 52 to find another horse to adopt:
“I’m getting 1,200 calls a day and there’s a horse out there that needs to be rescued. There should not be a horse in the U.S. that would need to be rescued or die of starvation or go to the killers if everyone just stepped up like they did for these horses. … Even if it’s not one of these horses, unwanted horses are all over the Internet.”
Apparently, whenever this starts to re-circulate, Lynn has trouble using her phone. I think I would have gotten a new number by now!
Lynn also created a page on Facebook page to let everyone know that the horses had been placed:
DR STEARNS HORSES
by Lynn Boggs on Monday, January 31, 2011 at 9:40pm