Thursday, September 13, 2007

An inconvenient truth...about horses

I know this blog entry is going to open up a can of worms and the comments will probably be more drama-filled than the last 2 hoochie mamas fightin' fo' they man Flavor Flav in the series finale...but I'm going to say it anyway, after reading the drama about the vet who doesn't make house calls and the broken down truck on the other thread.


To clarify: there are basically 2 kinds of things any of us pay for with our paychecks: necessities and luxuries.

Necessities are things like rent/mortgage, food, clothing, insurance, car payment if we don't have it paid off, gasoline to get to work or bus/train pass, tuition if we have kids in school, taxes, garbage bags, utilities.

Luxuries are everything else. A pumpkin spice frappucino. A bracelet. Shoes that don't come from Famous Footwear. Bags that don't come from Ross Dress for Less. Extra gasoline for five hour drive on the weekend to see a friend or family member. A playstation. Pokemon cards. Cable TV. Tickets to something. New towels for the bathroom because the old ones are ugly, not because the old ones are threadbare.

When we are short on cash, anything that can be cut out - that does not interfere with our actual survival is a luxury. Therefore all pet ownership, including horses, is a luxury. Luxuries are not just things like Vuitton purses. They are anything that is not a necessity.

When I say this -
read carefully now
, I don't want to read that I said otherwise - I do not mean that you must be wealthy to own horses. And I am not saying that wealth equals good horse care. We've all seen exceptions. However, you must have the financial wherewithal to provide proper nutrition, medical care, equipment and a safe, healthy and clean place for your horse(s) to live or you should not own horses.

I don't think that all horses must live on 40 acres of white-fenced beauty in Virginia. Sure, they'd
like to. I'd like
to live in a Malibu mansion, too. Horses, like people, are not all going to have A+++ standards of living, but some things should never be a compromise.

For example - if your horse needs the vet and the vet cannot come to you,
you must be able to get your horse to the vet, even if that means paying someone else to haul him. This is totally not negotiable
. If your budget does not provide for this, you are not providing responsible and acceptable ownership.

Another example - if you are going to own a stallion, you must have appropriate stallion facilities. While some stallions do fine in hot tape (some really do!), if yours does
not and has broken out, you must be able to provide something more sturdy, panels for example, to keep him confined. It is not responsible horse ownership to let him get loose and run around the neighborhood. What if he runs out in front of a car and the driver dies? You absolutely must be able to confine your livestock and the law requires
that you do so.

Extreme vet bills are a tricky topic. I really do understand someone choosing euthanasia over a $5,000 colic surgery. I do, and I don't judge that person. The horse doesn't know or care that he's not going to be alive next week. He is just not that advanced a creature. Euthanasia puts him out of his pain, and that's all he cares about at the moment. What I do not understand is
calling the vet, like that asswipe in Florida who tried to bury the colicking horse still alive.

Almost everybody who is not Paris Hilton will go through
some point in their life where money is tight. Maybe you lose a job. Maybe you get a divorce. Maybe you get sick. Life happens. There are OK ways to economize during those periods and still keep your horse and be responsible. Most horses can go barefoot. Most can live comfortably in the right pasture board situation, with safe fence and a herd that has been put together intelligently to minimize drama. No horse is going to die from the yearly tooth floating being 6 months late, or his hooves going 3 months instead of 2 between trims. It's not ideal care but it's not abusive. If you have to cut costs for a while until things improve, I get it.

However, when money is tight, there is absolutely NO excuse to produce more horses! For god's sake! They don't just fall from the sky!
STOP BREEDING and you won't HAVE so many mouths to feed and you won't BE so broke. ALMOST NO ONE MAKES MONEY BREEDING HORSES, in case you somehow didn't get the memo! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE THE EXCEPTION TO THAT RULE!

I am so tired of hearing the excuses about why you have to ditch all of these horses when you are the one who made them happen. And common sense will tell you that horses sell better in the SPRING, not in September. If you have any doubt in May that you will be able to afford hay all the next winter, put them up for sale OR get off your butt and get a second job while you still have time to earn the money. Don't sit on your butt and la la la keep letting your stallion breed everything on the property. Don't wait 'til October and then beg someone to buy them because you can't afford to feed them, especially when you have them BRED. That just makes me, and everybody else, want to clock you one upside your stupid head. (Yes, we understand it is not legal to do so. However, in my opinion, it should

The showing question is an interesting can of worms because I think everybody here agrees that showing on the breed show level or the A/B level is
extremely expensive. It IS. Training is expensive, good training is hard to find. Merely purchasing a saddle good enough to go to the breed shows with is several thousand at the very least. However, I've said before that showing isn't the only thing that counts to me. There are other forms of competition/performance/use that are equally valid. I'd rather breed to a stallion who cleans house at the open shows than one that isn't broke. Or goes to local team pennings or barrel races and comes home with a check. Or spends his days chasing cattle as part of the team on a working ranch. If you can't afford to show, what about a video of your stallion being ridden on your web site? Just something
that shows that he has a talent other than impregnating mares. You can do that, and it will not break the bank.

Everybody finds it challenging to balance their budget and horses are a very expensive hobby. If you are reading this and think other people just have more money than you do, it's generally not true. I'm a typical horseowner who has a decent income that is pretty much totally annihilated by my horse expenses. A big vet bill will send me to Craigslist to hunt down some freelance work. I can't remember the last time I only had my full time job and no other source of income. I'm not bitching - it's a choice
I make in order to afford horses. If I got rid of the horses, I could sit on my butt all weekend and shop for cute shoes and get my nails done. But, we all have our priorities. And no, I don't expect you to put your horses above necessities for your kids, but when I see people make those remarks, it proves my point that your budget is so tight that you probably can't afford horse ownership period, much less breeding. A lot can go wrong with breeding. Mares have bad deliveries - they tear, they have breech foals, they NEED the vet. Mares who are not ultrasounded may be carrying twins and mares are not designed to pop out twins with no problems. Something is probably going to die - could be a foal, could be both and your mare too. There's no excuse for that to happen. It's 2007, not 1807.

In closing, you don't have to make $200K a year to afford horses, but you do have to honestly look at the budget you do have. If you can't keep up with basic care - hoof trims, deworming,
quality feed, supplements as needed, safe fencing, adequate shelter - or if you can't afford to call a vet and have to just let something suffer, you are overwhelmed. You need to either sell some horses or increase your income by getting a better job/second job or cutting back on some other luxury like canceling your cable TV, and you absolutely need to STOP BREEDING.

This isn't being mean or elitist. It's just being realistic.

P.S. The other thing about some of you who refuse to admit you can't afford horses? You keep stiffing barn owners and trainers and farriers and hay suppliers and
that is just a shitty and unconscionable thing to do
. Those people are all working hard to earn a living and they don't deserve to have to waste their time chasing you for money and getting stableman's liens on your horses and taking you to court and trying to collect on a judgment when it's obvious that your assets consist of fifteen fugly, ribby, wormy, untrained Araloosatekes, a mobile home, a collection of velvet based works of art and a broke down 1972 F-150. Everybody in the horse business has had to go to CASH UP FRONT and a TRUST NO ONE policy because of people like you. You're ruining the business for everybody. STOP IT.

All right, those of you with no reading comprehension skills may now begin ranting about how I hate poor people, and I'm an elitist bitch, and I'm probably fugly and the reason I don't have a bunch of rugrats to complain about having to take care of is because no one would want to have sex with me anyway...have at it. :-)