Thanks for all the broken toys

I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

It’s a famously liberal, tree-hugging sort of community, where anyone who is anybody dutifully works their shift at the Food Co-Op in exchange for membership (I am not anyone) and there are still placards in the windows of million-dollar brownstones that say HOPE and CHANGE and SAVE DARFUR. There are tables set up on the street so that you can stop and change your electricity over to sustainable up-state wind-farms while you’re on your way to enjoy some locally farmed veg and eat a chicken who probably had a name and came when he was called. Yes, I live in Portlandia.

One of the fun things about Park Slope is the “All the streets are my Good-Will” mentality. If you have something you don’t want anymore, you put it out on the sidewalk, or your stoop, or hang it over the fence around your little garden. I’ve gotten many great books this way, including, interestingly, a hardcover of A Horse Around the House and a tattered paperback of Sam Savitt’s Vicki and the Black Horse, which will eventually be chopped up and used to decorate my already horse-centric apartment.

People put out everything. Clothes (I do not take clothes), furniture (I have a great book-case in my kitchen serving as a pantry/baker’s rack), and toys. Usually baby toys, but every now and then there are things a little more interesting, that catch the eye of my eight year old and myself…

We brought home Mouse Trap one night last summer. We were so excited. I told Calvin “Don’t bother playing the game part, just build the Mouse Trap. That’s the fun part!”

And it turned out, of course, that the Mouse Trap game was missing one piece. Just one piece, but a necessary one. The Mouse Trap wouldn’t work without it.

Thanks, I thought. Thanks for your sweet broken toy.


Every day, broken horses are put out on the virtual stoop.

They’re listed on Craigslist, they’re posted on Facebook, they’re put onto free classifieds ad sites. One thing they have in common? Their listings are always free. No use putting money into these broken toys.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say I’m tired of seeing horses offered cheaply, or for adoption, or for free, when they’ve been broken by someone else. Horses do not fall apart without warning signs; bodies do not give up without symptoms of stress. Horses speak up, but are frequently ignored. Things that should never be thought, but are anyway: Just jump one more course, just run one more race, just get through one more season.

Okay, says the horse. I will try.

And that’s the part that doesn’t break, the piece that never goes missing. The try. That’s the thing about these broken toys: when they’re put back together, they’re just as wonderful as when they were new.

Luckily, there are good people out there who can’t help but pick up a broken toy. There is something in them that makes them want to fix it. There is something in them that helps them see what else the toy can do.

Maybe it can’t be Mouse Trap anymore, but maybe it can be something else, and we can all still have a good time.

So hey, all you dealers and dumpers and shady traders and low-life trainers, from every discipline and every walk of a horse’s life: You’ll get yours.

But in the meantime…

Thanks for all the broken toys.

Rillo jumping, Canterbury

My first broken toy.



Filed under Retirement Options, Selling Horses, slaughter

7 responses to “Thanks for all the broken toys

  1. Christy Heffner

    I thank God for all the greedy stoopid people daily. They sure make our lives better 🙂

  2. Great post Natalie! I am one of those who can’t help but want to fix them. I’m a repairer, a salvager, an optimist. Our TB rescue has “broken toys” from various places and they are the loves of my life. I love that we get the opportunity to see what else they can become and to show the horses that they are loved and valued and that we cherish their “try”. So today I will be thankful for my broken toys too!

  3. Amen to that, our farm will always have broken toys on it, and we turn them into well loved toys!! 🙂

  4. Kitster

    I love my broken toy! He is all fixed up now and kicks bit against some very expensive toys!!
    I would much rather fix up a broken horse then go buy a new one anyday!!

  5. Love this post! This week our TB rescue got calls from our local track on 2 “broken toys”. One from the trainer leaving town as our racing season draws to a close in a month, and he was just going to put him down because “this is a business” (non-displaced sesmoid fracture and he’s already 3 months into his healing – 3 yr old gelding), and another from the track vet who was told to put the horse down but vet felt it wasn’t the right thing to do. (Still working on the getting this boy out). Unfortunately this is a typical week. And here in Phoenix our racing season ends in May so it’s only going to pick up over the coming months as stables are cleared out.

    “Broken toys”, yes maybe for awhile, but it’s rewarding to see them shine bright again, get the sparkle back in their eyes, and move on to better things.

  6. Danielle Metz

    Today we rescued a beautiful beat up, dehydrated, horse from slaughter. She has a tattoo and I looked her up. Come to find out her name is Splender Spender and she was a former racer. She would have been taken to go to slaughter today, but we saved her….Tomorrow is her birthday she will be 7. I cried when I found out we saved her. I only hope we can save her health. God is watching over her and we promise to take care of her.

  7. Beautiful post Natalie! I have tears in my eyes as I sit here thinking about Misty, my “broken toy,” a freebie because she wasn’t fast. (And love the picture too)!