Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Finding the Middle

Calling it Quits on a Horse - Horse Collaborative

I'm going to start you right off with another link.  Read both articles, then we'll go on.  This one is about Keeping Horses and Owners Together.

This pair of articles are two sides of the same coin.  In the first, Denny Emerson fields a question about failed horse projects he's undertaken.  We've all seen those or had at least one.  If we hadn't, we'd all still own our first horse.

A failed project doesn't have to mean a horse was injured or died or was so incredibly mean and dangerous it had to move along to a new home.  Look at Mr. Emerson's list of reasons for a horse-human pairing not to work in his part of the horse world.  He's competitive at the very highest levels, so naturally he would need the highest level of athleticism, talent, and mind in his horse for it to be a successful pairing.

How many people reading this fall into that category?
Not average by a long shot.
Definitely not me.

That's what I figured.  None pretty much covers it.  If there are Olympic-grade riders reading my blog, you're in the wrong place.  Mr. Emerson covers that base nicely by explaining that there are many reasons for horse ownership, and some have nothing to do with competition.  Just having a horse is enough reason for some people to do so.

So what constitutes a FAIL for the rest of us more lowly horsemen?  Well, if we're low on funds and really like to ride and even compete at low levels, a horse we can't ride might be considered a failed partner.  I've heard lots of rescuers opine that just being in the presence of a horse is sufficient.  They  mostly aren't in the presence of anything but a computer keyboard.  For most of us, there has to be a reward at the end of the effort period to make it worthwhile.  If we're pumping the mortgage money into keeping an animal, we'd better be enjoying it.  Riding, driving, breeding, training...those are the reward for the majority of horsemen.

That takes us to the second article.  David Ramey, DVM, is a great vet and popular blogger and social media personality.  He's all of that for a good reason:  he knows his stuff.  If nothing else, his article will give you a few smiles.  It's hard to imagine comparing owning a horse to owning a snake, but it's a worthy comparison.
Also not me, but closer.
My daughter eventing at a moderate
level.

If you have a snake/owner relationship with your horse, you're not likely to keep him around indefinitely.  That's not a real high investment in time and energy or even money, but it is an investment.  This is likely to be that animal lounging in the paddock behind your house with the run-in shed you clean once a month whether it needs it or not.  You like showing off Fluffernutter to visitors, put the occasional child on his back for photo ops, but you're not ever going to ride him again.  That could be because one of you is lame, sick, broken in some way, or just disinterested.  You don't get his feet done except under duress.  A dentist?  Do they  have those for horses?  He doesn't need shots, you figure, because he never sees other horses.  Just rabies in case the neighbor's dog bites him.  The reward is as minimal as the investment.

If you have a dog/owner relationship, you're in it up to your earlobes.  Dogs are a lot of work--more than horses, in my opinion, since horses walk themselves--and can be expensive.  There's nothing like a picky eater dog to make an owner's toes curl.  You can't just throw the dog a flake of hay and be done with it, nor can you turn him out in a field and let him fend for himself.  This equates to those high-end, high-maintenance horses (and owners) who can't be turned out without adult supervision, who need special feeds and medications to keep them upright, and who are finicky about which other horses (and owners) they'll  negotiate with over space and attention.  The mare who runs the fence line for hours when her owner is riding another horse falls into this category.  The shoer and vet have a room at the barn where they just wait for the next disaster to befall this horse.

But in the middle is the average horse/owner relationship.  We ride when we can.  We don't overpay for boarding at fancy establishments.  We don't think "lesson" is a verb.  If we have a goal, it's to get through another day at work so we can go to the barn and hang out with our equine partner.  Keeping those owners with their horses isn't as hard as it would appear.  What's needed is common sense and a decent attempt at a workable budget for both time and money.  It can be done.
Back-yard horsekeeping at a mid-level
farm...mine.

Last week I wrote about horse-keeping on the cheap and said there is no such thing.  I stand by that.  The owner/snake option above is the closest to cheap horsekeeping, and it still requires  enough land for the horse to graze without the addition of grain or hay, weather good enough to continue that year-round, and a stream or other fresh-water option that doesn't require electricity or manual labor.  I called that a $1200/year horse experience.  That's pretty close to accurate.

From there, we go up the financial scale until we squeak.  I appreciate Dr. Ramey's advice to vets to help their clients stay with their horses by moderating, as best it can be moderated, their financial burden.  Getting only the vaccinations that are applicable in the are where the horse is living helps a lot.  Not suggesting high-end treatments and being realistic in discussing the animal's workable future are more important.  Being willing to suggest alternatives, whether it's a different barn that's cheaper that the vet happens to know about or a trainer who seems especially in tune with horses in his/her care would be helpful.  Horse owners are short on resources of the informational kind even more than they are tight on the financial side.
This reason for horsekeeping

So read the articles, and find your middle ground.  It's there somewhere.  Expectations are a lot easier to change than a failed experience will be after the fact.

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