A viral rumor that 52 (or alternately, 58) horses in Ohio need homes reappears every so often on social media.
It is true that 52 purebred horses needed homes — but that was in 2011, and all the horses had homes in a matter of days.
The rumor re-emerged on Facebook in December 2015 and again in January 2019, sparking a viral outpouring of support for the 52 purebred horses (or 58 horses, depending on which version you saw.) The post reads:
PLEASE PASS ALONG! Dr. Stearns, DVM from Barnesville, OH passed away and his son wants everything liquidated immediately, leftover horses go to slaughter this Saturday (Feb. 5) – currently out of 52 horses there are still 23 mares some with babies on board – stud is 16.3 TB Stud Conley (misspelled Colony) Key. All free and papered. Friend is helping coordinate call 440-463-4288 the address is 57882 Wright Rd., Barnesville, OH.
The tale of dozens of free horses that were otherwise bound for the slaughterhouse unless they were adopted out was true — when it first surfaced way back in February 2011. The situation unfolded when horse breeder Daniel Stearns died at 89, leaving 52 horses — fifteen of which were pregnant — unattended at his Harmony Hills ranch.
Harmony Hills Manager Bob May told reporters that within days of Stearns’ death, all of the thoroughbred horses had been accounted for, and that none of them would go to slaughter:
“All the horses went to good homes as far as I know,” May said. He said many horse rescue groups were involved and names, addresses and phone numbers were obtained from those taking horses. May said the horses went to Virginia and Michigan and some were later being sent to homes in Nevada.
He said the trainer at the track where the horses went to be trained when old enough, took those horses. Students from Lake Erie College who had project horses at the farm took those horses.
May said he received 200 calls on Jan. 30 alone from as far away as Germany.
The story keeps returning around the same time of year; it appears that many people are simply passing along the information just in case they can help.