A viral Facebook post about 52 free horses is a repost from 2011

12th Jun 2020

Claim

52 free horses need rehoming in Ohio because their owner died of Covid-19.

Conclusion

They don’t. This is a repost of a genuine appeal from 2011, following the death of a horse owner.

A Facebook status, claiming that “52 thoroughbred horses need homes” has been spreading on Facebook. These posts have been shared over 80,000 times.

The posts say:

“FREE HORSES!!!! 52 thoroughbred horses need homes. Will go to Sugarcreek this Sat. for slaughter. Gentleman died due to COVID-19 and his son wants nothing to do with them. Most broodmares are broke and some are in foal weanling, yearlings, 2 yrs. and 3 yrs. old most are gelded. FREE and papered. Friend of the deceased is trying to find homes.(732) 618 8243 Fairhill, Md.

Please copy and paste this on your status

I would hate to see all these horses put down. PLEASE someone help they are FREE and papered!!!!!!!!”

The appeal is not a real one. Similar text reappears online occasionally, according to several equestrian publications, sometimes with new contact details. This time, the post specifically mentions the “former owner” died due to Covid-19.

The post stems from a genuine appeal made in 2011, after the owner of dozens of horses, vet Daniel C. Stearns, passed away in Ohio. A friend of his put an appeal on Facebook, saying a number of horses were destined for “Sugarcreek”, a local livestock auction, and listing a phone number for anyone interested.

All the horses were soon rehomed.

The fact checking organisation Snopes reported that in 2012, a version of the appeal circulated again, with a UK phone number attached that would charge the caller a high rate. The post has appeared with a number of different phone numbers attached over the years.