Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some observations from a younger reader of the blog

This was sent to me and it's well worth sharing with all of you. See, there is hope for the next generation - and a huge thank you goes out to those of you who are doing your part to train the next generation.

While I don't personally have a problem with rehoming rescues, I firmly believe in contracts and reference checks to ensure that a horse hasn't gone "out of the frying pan into the fire."

Overall, a good and well-written guest blog that really does prove that responsibility and age are not synonymous. There are many 18 year olds that are a better home for an animal than many 40 year olds. I've seen rescuers get prejudiced against adopting to college-aged kids on the grounds that they're unstable, but you know what, some of them aren't. Some of them are going to be more reliable, responsible homes than you could imagine. Try to evaluate on a case by case basis.


I have noticed in my time reading your blog that a lot of people much older than me are not much smarter. I have to believe that these people haven’t bothered to take the time to really learn about horses, to read book after book and bum around the barn mucking out stalls and tacking up horses just for the simple privilege of being around horses and other people who share the passion. So here is a little essay about what I’ve learned in ten years of never having enough money for more than one lesson a week, starting from the first day taking a lesson.

For every one thing you know about horses, there are about 10,000 things you don’t know. Read books. Talk to people around your barn. Ride with several different trainers. Attend clinics. You can always be learning something new. There will always be someone who knows more than you. It is one of the really amazing things about the world, that you can always learn new things. Take advantage of opportunities, and if ever anyone tells you that they know everything about hunters, or about saddles, or about feeding, listen to their ideas, but take it with a grain of salt. In your mind, constantly be evaluating your knowledge, adding new things and taking out what isn’t important.

Horses cost money. Horses cost a LOT of money. If you aren’t spending a lot of money, you’re doing it wrong.For people who don’t own horses, but ride regularly, this includes the cost of lessons, the cost of well-made attire and gear, show entry fees, trucking, etc. There’s not an easy way around it, unfortunately. Fortunately, if you don’t own a horse, you can pretty much always take a break to stockpile some more cash.Once you own a horse, unless you are very well off, you should never find yourself with a large surplus of money. You are now in charge of a living thing with very specific needs. Unless the horse lives at your house, you need to pay board. This can be anywhere from $100 a month for rough board to upwards of $2000 for full board at especially fancy facilities. If you’re shelling out a lot of green, make sure you keep an eye on your horse. Full board means you shouldn’t worry about whether his stall is clean or whether he’s getting good food. If you’re rough boarding, or keeping a horse at home, you’re going to have to pay for shavings, grain, and hay. For one 15-hand, 1200lb horse eating 4 quarts of grain and five flakes of second cutting hay a day and getting a stall change every day, it will cost about $150. Add more if you’re feeding a more specific diet, or timothy hay. Add more if you get horse cookies and carrots. Whether you’re doing full or rough board, your horse needs hoof care from a good farrier and vet care from a reputable equine veterinarian.

None of the aforementioned horse care expenses are negotiable or optional! There is absolutely NO REASON a horse should EVER go without food, without hoof care, or without vet care! Budget your money! Eat Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese for a week and save up for a hoof trim! If even cutting down on your own expenses doesn’t help net money for your horse, you shouldn’t have it. It's as simple as that. He is a living animal, and if you can’t provide for him, he can’t fend for himself.

You don’t know enough about horses to breed them. What’s that? You think you do? Well, you’re wrong. Now obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. But don’t kid yourself – do research, study genetics, go to college, talk to vets and reputable breeders, intern at an AI lab, or apprentice with a great breeder. If you find yourself head-over-heels in love with one specific breed, and all you want is to breed a few horses to improve the genetic makeup, overall conformation and longevity of the breed, if you have a significant amount of expendable income, time, and space, if you have the talent and desire to take the get of your horses to rated shows and win – if all of these things fall into place for you, you might be ready to breed. But never underestimate the power of a registered horse or overestimate the demand for your horses, or you’ll just be breeding food for Europeans like every other asshole with a stallion and mare.

Clean is never clean enough. If you spend enough time in a barn, you understand that they’ll never be truly clean. There’s always dust, cobwebs, errant wads of hay, broken tack pieces, etc., lying around. But you don’t have to live there – your horses do. So do your best. It’s not impossible to make it very comfortable and livable. No horse should ever have to lie down to sleep in his own poop (Unless it’s an otherwise clean stall and he’s just dumb). Horses’ stalls should be picked out every day – that means: take out all the poops, the pee, the wet shavings under the water bucket, the old hay. There should be several inches of clean, dry, shavings on the floor of the stall, and small embankments around the edges to make the corners okay for sleeping. Most horses will forgive you if you miss a day or two, but never make your horse stand in his own feces, it’s not fair to him and more often than not make YOU look stupid.

Not only should stalls always be clean, turnouts should be, too. There shouldn’t be any poop, big rocks, branches, tractor parts, old shoes, nasty rotting hay, or gopher holes in the place where your horse is going to run and play. If you’re keeping your horse at home and your yard is a mess, clean it and fence it. If you can’t afford a dumpster to take your trash or hot tape and t-posts, you should not be keeping horses. It just isn’t fair to the horse. The best thing you can possibly do for any horse is give them a forever home where they will never be bred, or sent to auction, or hurt intentionally in any way.

It’s really nice that you “rescued” that mare from the feedlot, but if you’re just going to resell her, what’s the point? Adopt a horse and keep it forever, making sure that for the rest of its life it has food, a clean stall, thorough brushings, and good friends. There is nothing kinder, and you will have a friend for life.

Like I said, I’ve taken lessons for ten years. My family is on the low end of the income scale, and I have worked very hard to be able to be a part of the horse world. I leased one horse for two years, and she taught me more than any other horse I’ve ever encountered. The second year I had her, my parents couldn’t help me, so I worked very hard and made enough money to pay for her board, vet, and farrier bills. It isn’t very hard to learn a lot of things about horses, including what is necessary to keep them healthy and happy. It drives me crazy to see people complaining about how “the price of hay has gone up” and using that as an excuse for their skinny-ass horse, because I managed to make $250 a month plus $90 for shoes every six weeks and $140 for vet bills, and I was seventeen years old, dealing with my senior year. It’s hard sometimes to make the money, but it’s not impossible. And there’s no excuse for not taking care of your animal. There just isn’t.