Horse Money

The abandonment of horses in times of crisis

Horses are one of the animals most frequently found in mythologies, religions and folklore, equally as a symbol of power and freedom; so much so that many men and women establish an emotionally totalizing relationship with them.
Horses are also a status-symbol, so much so as to be often considered as tangible assets in the event of foreclosure.
The recent economic crisis has led to serious difficulties in supporting individuals and businesses caring for horses which were, consecutively, faced with grave economic problems (European Parliament, Strasbourg. March 14, 2018). Since 2018, as a result of the economic crisis, the phenomenon of horse abandonment is widening and this year it has been calculated that about 8,000 horses have disappeared into thin air.
The abandonment of horses is the fourth stray animals phenomenon in Italy after that of dogs, cats and turtles.
This project inquired into the link between the abandonment of horses and the economic crisis, documenting the conditions of the horses population, but also those of the men and women who abandoned them due to negligence or foreclosure. The type of abandonments covered in this reportage are that of horses left behind, of the failure to guarantee for their care and of their loss due to economic fallout.
The type of abandonment covered in this reportage is that of the horses left behind, the failure to guarantee for the horses’ needs and the loss of these animals due to economic defaults.
All of those associations that are responsible for ensuring the horses well-being ask to write a European law that better protects the fate of a horse through an evolution of the social consciousness, heavily taking into account the interdependence between humans and animals within their own ecosystem.

IHP (Italian Horse Protection Onlus). Volterra - Italy. October 10, 2019.
A horse saved through a judicial forfeiture by the non-profit organization for the protection of horses and brought to their shelter to provide it physical and psychological treatment.
An abused horse can develop a depressive state characterized by apathy, non-reactivity to stimuli and anxiety (Investigating attentional processes in depressive-like domestic horses. Equus caballus by NIH National Library of Medicine. March, 2016).

Bracciano – Roma. October 4, 2020.
Demonstration over the disappearance of six horses, most likely stolen for slaughter or illegal racing. In the Lazio region, 80 horses have been stolen in six months. The phenomenon of disappearing horses is linked to that of abandonment for economic reasons, as horses are used to achieve financial gain through illegal practices. Horses used for illegal racing are then killed or abandoned.

Bonnie (61). Calenzano - Florence - Italy. December 30, 2019.
Ever since she separated from her husband, Bonnie has lived on a piece of land where she has a wooden shack. She lives in extremely poor conditions and leaves her horses roaming free because she can’t afford to feed them. This has led to many problems with the inhabitants of the city where she lives and many of her horses have been confiscated.

Calenzano - Florence - Italy. May 4, 2020.
Bonnie's objects along with a photo with her family of origin when she was a child. Bonnie comes from a rich family, but has spent all her money on buying and raising horses which she can't longer keep, because fall into poverty.

Rome - Italy. October 24, 2018.
A horse kept in a small enclosure and in a state of neglect.

Rome - Italy. October 24, 2018.
Following a complaint, a horse that was kept in a state of extreme malnutrition and neglect is taken away through a judicial seizure. The horse is brought to an animal protection center.

Claudio Paolini (57). Cesena - Italy. November 4, 2019.
Claudio was the head of an association providing social and health services. For a long time the association thrived, afterwards, due to problems related to the loss of procurements, it went bankrupt. During the foreclosure of the house he hid his horses so that they would have not been confiscated. Horses are in fact considered a tangible asset and can be seized.

Former Riding School. Romano di Lombardo - Bergamo - Italy. November 5, 2019.
Abandoned stables currently occupied by the homeless population, some of whom were former employees of the riding school that used to be there; amongst them Giuseppe Messina who, on October 28, 2019, died in the fire that started from his camping stove.

Valle Lepri - Ferrara - Italy. November 14, 2018.
About fifty horses have been abandoned in the countryside of Valle Lepri in North Italy where before laid a riding school; subsequently closed due to bankruptcy. Of those fifty horses about twenty are believed to have died here, mostly drowned in the canal that they approached to drink.

Valle Lepri - Ferrara - Italy. November 27, 2018.
The risk of the horses abandoned in this place was to fall into the water and die drowned, because in some places the soil of the embankment gave way. These horses were discovered precisely following the discovery of a horse carcass in the waters of the Po.
Horses abandoned in the northern Italian countryside. Many of these horses died, others entered a recovery program of the NGO Horse Angels which gave them up for adoption.

Piazza del Campo - Siena - Italy. May 7, 2020.
During the covid-19 pandemic, an abandoned horse was adopted by the Municipality of Siena and donated to a local bed and breakfast by the mayor. Many animal rights associations deemed this action as a political move to reduce the controversy related to the mistreatment of horses during the Palio.

Pisa – Italy. March 6, 2019.
Horse impounded after complaint of malnutrition. The horse's owner had lost his job and could no longer meet the costs of maintaining the horse.

Chiara Nava (46). Scandiano, Ferrara - Italy. January 29, 2019.
Chiara owned a riding school which she managed following an ethical approach focused on the relationship and respect for the horse's well-being. Her school went bankrupt and the horses with which Chiara had established a strong emotional connection were seized. Since then she suffers from depression and lives with dogs from which she draws comfort to her pain which, however, persists. Animal protection associations have been fighting for years to ensure that the horse is not considered an asset, and therefore be seized in the event of bankruptcy, but a pet.

San Lazzaro di Savena, Bologna - Italy. June 9, 2019.
A horse in a state of neglect after the failure of a riding school.

Bonnie (61). Calenzano - Florence - Italy. May 4, 2020.
Bonnie comes from an upper-middle class German family who lost all of their possessions. However, she is not interested in accumulating goods, so much so that she says - "my mother attempted suicide three times and yet owned properties and jewels"-. She separated from her husband years prior and has contacts, albeit conflicting, with only one of her two children. She shows me the only jewel she treasures: a bronze medal engraved with a horse to which she attributes a talisman value.

Calenzano - Florence – Italy. May 22, 2020.
Horse abandoned in the woods because the owner has no economic resources to provide for its care.

Veterinary Clinic. Siena - Italy. January 9, 2020.
This horse is a thoroughbred and must undergo surgery on a testicle that does not allow him to run competitively. Horses’ lifespan could be very long, up to 30 years if ridden in relation to their natural growth process. In 90 percent of cases however, horses are exploited for competitive races and their average life span is 12 years, while their career lasts over 4 years. Once their competitive career is over, they are frequently abandoned, because not only are they no longer profitable but they become a very expensive cost to bear.

Bonnie (61). Calenzano, Florence - Italy. May 15, 2020.
During the Covid-19 emergency, an order was issued to take the horses away from Bonnie, who is unable to face even the minimum subsistence expenses. She has always lived in poverty and her horses roam free in the Florentine countryside in search of food. In this period the problems have worsened since she cannot receive the little help that was previously offered her by volunteers.

Valle Lepri - Ferrara - Italy. November 13, 2018.
Horse abandoned on the River Po’s Delta, presumably excluded from the herd because of an illness.