We’ve all seen the pleas, about to ship, this horse needs saved now.

I know there are pitfalls and a definite dark side to the slaughter horse industry. Setting that aside for the moment, what if you decide that you can’t let the horse go? How do you decide to take the chance and pull that horse? There are many reasons horses end up in kill pens. Lameness and behavioral issues are two big ones. There are also many good horses who end up there through shear bad luck. What are the odds that a pitiful looking horse you only get to see a few bad grainy pictures of could actually work out for you?

This is one place where whorls are put to perfect use. They aren’t always visible in those bad pictures. When they are, it is likely the only clue you will get as to what that horse will actually be like. I’ve seen a few of those ads where the whorls made me sad. The whorls on the horse made it unlikely that the horse could be rehabbed to a happy life. Maybe it would be better to put the time and money to use on a horse with more likelihood of a positive outcome.

Other times we can see a horse who is overlooked because of plain coloring or homely looks. The whorls and head show a willing, steady horse who would likely make a dependable mount for someone lucky enough to search out things more important than looks.

Looking at the whorls before purchasing any horse can help avoid heartbreak. A dressage or reining prospect with uneven body whorls will have a hard time reaching the upper levels. A hopeful child’s mount with a diagonal double whorl could make life miserable for both of them. When we are buying horses on the regular horse market though, we will be given much more information, a history, video, the life story. Kill pen horses come with none of that. They are a gamble. We need to do all we can to stack the cards in our favor.

This is my kill pen horse. Young and ugly at the time. He did come with the warning that he ran people over. With that lovely bit of information, these pictures, and, because he was lucky enough to have been sent to the sale with his papers, knowledge of his good bloodlines, I took the chance. Would knowing what the whorls were on him have changed anything? Not in this case. I was lucky to get a high double whorl. He lives up to everything we would expect from those. With training and care he learned not to run people over and is now practically perfect.

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