I totally understand the desire to want a horse. As a young girl I was born obsessed with horses. I had pictures, statues, books, tee-shirts – all things horse were good with me. I even kept little pieces of hay in my pocket to remind me after I had visited a farm or something. Some of us are just born horse nuts.
After many many years (decades) of training, schooling and living on a variety of farms through the summer, I got my own farm. The old farmer where I had been keeping my horses said to me the day I told him i was moving to my own place
“nothing can ruin your riding more than getting your own farm”. I protested vehemently. Not me! I was a rider! No one would mess with that.
Except that he couldn’t have been more right. Not in a bad way though – my relationship and understand of horses has so exponentially grown that I don’t have the same need to ride.
I love horse work. Its hard. Frikking hard in the winter – tolerably hard in the summer. But I was lucky. I started with my own horse when I was 19 and sort of just grew up in boarding stables. Really except for a few “bleak horseless years’, where I was busy procreating and raising the results of that – I have always had the responsibility of a horse. It keeps me grounded.
Allot of people tell me they want a farm, with horses. And I have to tell you that secretly in the back of my mind I think
“nooo..you really don’t. what you want is a movie and a horse in your yard for like um…a week or something”.
They tell me how lucky I am and they tell me how they would “do anything ” to have the life I live.
I dont think so.
Journal entries.Flashback to….
2am January 2: It’s -42 outside, my arm is up Sebastiana’s ass to my shoulder because she is dying of colic and I need to get her to shit.
March 17 2007 …KABOOM!
Our arena falls under heavy snow.
3 am – 14 horses are panicking running everywhere. The barn is flooded up to my knees.
March 18, 19, 20, 23
2am calls to the barn to muck stalls. We muck 3x a day – heavy wheelbarrows full of flooding water. The horses are depressed. I can’t feel my legs.
July 14 – Lily arrives – broken leg.
First rescue off the truck limping. Have to put her leg in a bucket of water four times a day for 20 minutes. have you ever tried to get an 18 month old horse to stand in a bucket of water?
I have to admit – in all my years I have seen and done things that have elevated me in a big big way. I have managed to get through things that if you would have asked me, I would have said NO WAY.
But, Do I think most people are up for this? Nope.
WHAT WE THINK IT WILL BE LIKE….
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE…
I am inordinately lucky to have a life, a community and partner that fully understands what is required here and supports this adventure. This is not something one does alone. I must admit that even in the worst floods, amid broken legs, crazy horses running me over, broken toes, frost-bitten hands and feet, I have never thought “Oh god I wish I wasn’t doing this”. Never. Its my happy place. So, I don’t mean to denigrate my beautiful life, but I know the reality of it – and I guarantee you that 90% of the Black Beauty reading horsie nut childhood obsessed adults I know would be shocked at how much consistent effort and heartfelt dedication is required to develop a good relationship with your horse.
But most horse loving folk will find themselves somewhere in between, wanting a horse and not able to get a farm, so they board at places like mine.
OWNERS BEWARE – everyone be realistic!
Problems occur when adults enter into horse partnerships without knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into. I can relate to the love of horses – but I can also tell you that i have loved farm work and all of the labour that is involved in the care of horses for as long as I can remember. Whether you are boarding or have your own place or especially if you are a prospective first time horse owner – here’s what I have learned.
FOR THE PROSPECTIVE FIRST TIME OWNER:
1- Getting a horse is not expensive. Keeping one is. Consider your budget for vet, blacksmith, feed = average 500/month in eastern Canada.
2- Your time is no longer yours. If you have free time – it belongs to your horse. You cannot put your “dream come true” into boarding and visit it once a week. The stable’s job is to feed and house your horse – not train or rehabilitate physically or emotionally – that’s yours. Consider in your schedule you will need at the very least 10 hours for the barn every week.
3- Forget Black Beauty and all those books you read. Horses do NOT think like humans. Their bar is MUCH higher. Horses speak clearly all the time because they don’t have an ego. Before you learn to ride your horse – learn to understand what she is saying.
5- Do not let anyone handle your horse for vet or blacksmith but YOU. It’s part of the development of your relationship and is important for the accurate dissemination of information regarding your horse from whatever professional is working with them. In other words – it’s not the barn owners job to hold your horse for shoeing or vaccinations.
Another option for those of you considering a horse is called a “half lease” – where you can be part owner of a horse – to try and see how it fits into your life BEFORE you make a 25 year commitment to a living breathing being. half leases can be very inexpensive (from $150.00 a month up to lots more) and can include blacksmith and vet or not. Make sure to talk to the horse owner about those details.
The bottom line here is that the care of anything alive happens on many levels – but horses most especially are not animals to be left at a barn like a long term daycare for errant children. Become part of your barns environment and decide on a schedule that works to dedicate a good portion of your time to your equine companion. Trying to find a balance in our relationships with the horses and the barns where they are kept takes effort and commitment.