Some people view Facebook as little more than a communication tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. But Lynn Boggs recently turned to the social media platform to find homes for 52 Ohio Thoroughbreds in need. The message she posted on Facebook gained international attention within hours, and all of the horses were placed in new homes within five days.
Boggs' close friend, Daniel C. Stearns, DVM, died on Jan. 27. Instantly, she faced the task of rehoming Stearns' 52 Thoroughbreds. 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.
After Stearns' son dismantled his father's breeding and racing farm, he gave Boggs and her boyfriend, Jerry Noss, a week to find homes for the 52 horses. He planned to send any unadopted animals to auction. Boggs, who owns 10 racehorses herself, posted a plea for help on her Facebook page, and within 10 minutes she had her first response.
Boggs' post spread like wildfire. Countless people reposted it on Facebook, tweeted it on Twitter, and e-mailed it around the globe. One post on Boggs' wall read "How great is Facebook. I am 'friends' with Mike Smith (Zenyatta's jockey) and he actually posted this situation on his wall."
The impromptu Facebook campaign was more successful than Boggs could have imagined–she received more than 4,000 phone calls and hundreds of text messages about the horses. "They were adopted out one here, and one there. A few people took three because they had room. The biggest lot was 11, and that was a personal friend."
She said that she was cautious of adopting out large lots of horses for fear they would end up at auction, which is exactly what she'd set out to avoid.
Four days later, on Feb. 1, the last horse left the farm around 10:30 p.m.
"I can't believe how this has spread on the Internet," Boggs said. "I had a girl from Germany call me and she said, 'I'll be in the states sometime this year, but I have a friend who is willing to take a horse for me until I get back.'" She noted that just this morning (Feb. 3), a Hopi Indian from North Dakota called her and offered the horses a home.
Although Boggs avoided mentioning "slaughter" in her original posting, subsequent posts by other concerned parties mentioned this as a possibility, should the horses not find new homes. "I didn't want to say slaughter; I hate that word," she said, noting she didn't believe they would have that end. She thinks the post gained even more momentum when the word "slaughter" entered the description.
Boggs said she was overwhelmed with the support she got, but encourages 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."
Update: For more information, read our latest on these horses at Ohio Veterinarian's Son Confirms 52 Thoroughbreds Rehomed.