met a nice, shiny-new horsewoman the other day when she came to my farm to pick up something I was “freecycling”. We talked for a bit about what we were each doing with our farms, and she made the comment that she had quickly gotten tired of the boarding business when the first horse person dropped off the first horse at her barn and not one board payment ensued. There’s a legal process here for dealing with that situation, and it doesn’t benefit the barn owner in any way. She said something to the effect that these people (and the folks who made the legal process of dealing with them so onerous) didn’t get what it takes to take care of a horse.
That got me thinking. There are, I’m positing, five levels of horse involvement.
|Horse riders, Horse lovers, Horse owners, and |
folks who just like to tailgate
1. The Horse Lover
Horse lovers are wonderful people who may or may not have ever actually touched, smelled, or been run over or dragged by an equine of any description. They love horses mostly from a distance. They love horse-centered movies, horse-themed décor, horse farms dotting the landscape, books featuring horses, but have probably never had the full-immersion Equi-sperience. These people are a danger mostly to themselves. They’re the ones who will be likely to donate to spurious charities and write letters to Congress. We need them for their letter-writing skills and because they buy our books and our art, we just need to aim them properly.
2. The Rider
This includes adults who loved pony rides as kids, people taking lessons on lesson horses, and those who used to ride but don’t anymore because something happened to end the fantasy…like contact with Real Life. If you get on a horse astride, aside, or abaft (I’m borrowing that nautical term to refer to riding behind a horse in a carriage or sled, or covering ground at the end of a rope after an ill-fated “ground driving” effort—those folks need love too), you’re an official Horse Rider, as it tends to be called on insurance forms. We need you because without you and your dreams, the rest of us would have nothing to do all day.
3. The Owner
Anyone who has now or ever paid for or adopted an equid of any kind can join this group. Even if you share a horse with three other people, you’re welcome. It’s the owners who pay the freight for the rest of the clan, so we definitely need them. Not all owners are created equal, however. The one who dropped the horse at my new friend’s barn and never came back is a Bad Owner. The ones who get their horses shod and vaccinated and make sure they’re in safe environments and pay their bills are Good Owners. It’s a spectrum.
4. The Caretaker
If you own a farm, have horses in the backyard, or work somewhere mucking stalls, this is your group. These are the least-understood, most-maligned of horse people. The first three groups may think they know about horses, but until you’ve been up all night keeping watch over a barn roof during a blizzard, you don’t know about horses. You don’t really know about bedding, feed, hay, or brands of stall fans until you’ve run up a tab buying them and tossing them out. And you don’t know what it means to dump your horse at “the barn” while you go on vacation until you’ve had a sleepless night or two listening to odd noises that could be predators in the pasture or thieves in the night coming for the dumpees. These are the true Foot Soldiers of the business. We are necessary, and we are to be commended. Without us, your horses would be living in your garage and everything you own would smell like horse, which sounds lovely in small, controlled whiffs, but not as a full-time affair.
5. Miscellaneous Horse Professionals and Artistes
If you do anything else with horses from brokering them, to shipping them, to slaughtering them, to shoeing them, to giving lessons and training them, to disposing of carcasses, to looking up their noses with your cute little flashlights and sticking needles in them, this is where you belong. You are the moons that control the tides of the horse business. Sometimes you’re the rocky shoal against which we crash. But you are ultimately important to the horse world. Keep that in mind, know we appreciate you, and be careful how you roll. You have the power to sink us.
So, who are you? And how much do you know about the other horse people in the other groups? And are you willing to learn?