Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Muck Bucket Challenge!

Breathes there a man with soul so dead
That never to himself has said, 
"Shit!  I need to dump something on my head"?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the Interwebs and the press like a naked-booty-on-stage storm, and it has racked up over $100 million for ALS research.  So I got thinking that we could have our own challenge.

The ice water thing is so last night, so we need to step it up as befits crazy people with pets that need their own house.  I'm going to suggest that we horse people start dumping muck buckets full of...well, pretty much anything over our heads.  It doesn't have to be muck, though that would certainly make a statement.  It could be bedding or dirt or grain or cobwebs (we do tend to collect those, don't we?) or wads of horse or dog hair or pretty much anything else creative.  It could be bags of horse treats (that's a lot easier to clean up as we'll have ample four-legged volunteers).  We can post videos on Facebook (or if you're really, really old, MySpace), and ask for donations to some equestrian cause.  I like The Equus Foundation.  I like them because they are an overlord of charities.  If you donate to them, they use the donations to support smaller charities chosen based on a set of parameters having to do with how effective they are at using your hard-earned dineros to make the lives of unwanted (or even some wanted) horses better.  I especially like them because they recently chose two of my favorite horse rescue operations as grant recipients, which means they actually do make good use of the money.  Check here for a list of their 2014 recipients.

Post your suggestions in the comments section here or on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+, or just grab the idea and run with it, and let's see if we can get something going that's got enough legs to make some money and enough humor to be in keeping with the silliness that is the Horse Life.
That elderly special-needs horse might
make a great first ride for a child.
Sharing the fun and the burden can


Here's the real meat of this week's blog:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-happiness-project/201409/why-the-issues-we-ignore-often-come-back-plague-us

We horse owners, riders, caretakers, and aficionados are about as obsessive about our chosen sport and the animals that join us in it as any group imaginable. Maybe more so, since keeping horses is one of the most labor-intensive and financially draining of all hobbies available to the less-than-uber-rich of the world.

So why aren't we unutterably and unfailingly ecstatic with our lives?

Psychology Today to the rescue!  Read the linked article (yes, as usual you do have to read it), and learn that when we ignore our issues, they slink around like mice in the feed room sucking at our will to live.  Okay, maybe not that bad, but they do sap our strength.   And boy, do we horse folks have issues!

I spent 17 years caring for two special-needs horses along with the healthy ones that lived here on the farm.  "Why?" was the most common question I got during that time.  "Just put them down."  And my answer was always, "It's not that simple."

But why isn't it?  Guilt is the culprit.  Many humans have a very strong empathetic sense.  Remember sympathy is the ability to look at someone else's head wound and make little tsk! sounds while we swab it with a wad of gauze, ignoring the tears and imprecations of the wounded to "Stop!  That hurts!"  We know cognitively (in our clear-eyed though process) that the person is most likely in pain and probably unhappy with their plight, but we're not emotionally engaged with that.  We're just watching from outside, and, in the case of someone we're not particularly fond of, enjoying it just a smidge.

Empathy, on the other hand, is deeper.  It's that feeling that the injury somehow happened to us.  We can, on some level, feel the other person's pain.  We know in our hearts what it's like, and we hurt on their behalf.

Sympathy makes it possible for us to care about our horses. Empathy keeps us up at night if we fear that their plight is terrible and it's our fault.  Unresolved issues can creep in and cause anxiety and depression, so it's in everyone's best interests for us to deal with them as quickly and coolly as possible.

If your horse isn't doing well, figure out why and solve the problem.  Afraid it'll cost too much? Think seriously about your ability to own a horse and consider giving or selling him to someone who can afford it.  Are you in a barn where you have to turn a blind eye to certain management techniques, like filthy stalls or moldy, badly-stored feed?  You don't have the right to punish the manager, but you have the right to bring up the subject and, if it's not addressed to your satisfaction, move your horse somewhere else.  Can't afford a top-flight barn? Do what you can afford and commit to making up the difference through your own presence and efforts.  Horse stalled all the time for lack of turnout space?  Make it a point to get to the barn and hand-graze or ride or just hand-walk your horse daily.  Can't do that?  Find someone who can.

Possibly our biggest issue is that many of us are in over our heads financially.  How we got there is no one's business but ours.  How we get out is also our business.  And it's the major factor in depression and anxiety in our society now.  You rarely hear about folks committing suicide over a bad haircut, but bankruptcy is a frequent bottom-line cause.  And with the inability to afford what we're doing comes the overwhelming problem of what to do about it, especially when there's a living creature whose continued living is in our hands.

The best advice I can offer is to sit down and do the math that you've been avoiding and then put one foot in front of the other and work on your options.  They may be better than you think. Working off board, buying your own feed, half-leasing (or even full) your horse to another rider, getting a sponsor to pay for your competition expenses....there's a laundry list awaiting your perusal when you take the time to look.

Take the time.  If you don't, the stress will steal it from you anyway.

Are you Horse Bound?

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