Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Caretaking

In the comments on the post "Horse Injuries Don't Take Holidays Part II", Gordon, from A Political Glimpse from Ireland, left the following:

"There's a reason why, despite the romantic lure it has for me, that I don't keep livestock. I miss the rewards, but I think I might not be the best caretaker."

I wish there were more people who thought like that.

Equus Caballus holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many American's. They are majestic, intelligent animals, and were an integral part of the "taming of the west". Prior to the invention of the internal combustion engine, they were the automobile, the semi, the tractor, and the postal jeep. Even today, the power generated by man-made machinery is measured against the "horsepower" standard.

I have two consistent grievances with my fellow horse owners. The first is willing failure to properly care for the animals (I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for these people). The second is lacking the common sense to educate oneself. Which in some cases can lead to the first condition. Many of these people are well intentioned, but are either too stubborn, or perhaps too stupid to do a little research.

Make no mistake, owning a horse is vastly different from owning dogs or cats. Their digestive systems are complex and sensitive. Sudden changes in diet, too much grass, or too much grain can lead to serious illnesses, and even death. Consistent hoof care is required, and is not inexpensive. Like children, they're accident prone. Injures can, and often do, require constant attention. There is no equine 911. You must be capable of triaging injuries, and rendering immediate first aid. If you are fortunate enough to have a vet that will answer the phone 24/7, there is still a finite period of time before they will arrive on site.

Five years ago, had you told me that I would own horses, I would have recommended you seek medical attention for your obvious head injury. Therefore, bear in mind that, as horse people go, I'm still a newbie. I do not have the decades of experience that real cowpokes do. I can only envy the knowledge and skill that comes from those years of experience, particularly in light of the things I've been through in my four short years of my horse ownership.

I've spent a long cold night in the barn with a colicking horse. Helped wrestle the corpse of a dead mare out of the stall where she had to be put to sleep following a severe stroke. Shoveled tons of horse puckey in the driving rain. Vaccinated horses.

I've trudged back to the paddocks on dark snowy nights, to catch a sick mare who did not want to be caught, for the purpose of giving her penicillin shots and forcing an array of medicine down her throat. That she did not want to take. I was mixing the medication in applesauce that was freezing as quick as I could pour it. She felt like hell, and was as tired of being caught and medicated, as I was of catching and medicating her. Yet every night there we were, performing the "medicine dance" in the barn.

I've been bucked off, reared off, fallen off, and jumped off. I've not yet been kicked, but not for lack of effort. I've stood my ground to prevent a running horse from getting past me. I've progressed from being afraid to let my horse trot, to enjoying a pleasure and freedom which can only be experienced while riding a horse at a dead run. I went through periods where I was convinced that learning to ride a horse was not something I was capable of.

I've learned patience. Trust. Balance. The art of keeping the horse between me and the ground. Found that brains can in fact overcome brawn. How else could a 170 lb man push a 1000 lb horse around on the ground?

I suppose, after reading the above, one might conclude that I am trying to discourage horse ownership. To the contrary, I have at times wondered how I went through the first 39 years of my life without realizing what I was missing. But, I do believe that things happen for a reason, and only when the time is right. I would not trade one single experience that horses have provided me. Well, maybe I could have done without the second dirt landing after being reared off twice in two minutes. Even in that, there was a life lesson.

Whatever you choose to do in life, educate yourself. Delight in and learn from every experience. At the risk of sounding cliche, life is short. You might not be here tomorrow, and, when you are standing in line at the Pearly Gates, there will be no place for regrets, and limited odds for a a second chance.

8 comments:

Kate said...

You are so right about people who just don't care - they shouldn't have animals of any type IMO - or who fail to educate themselves and assume someone else will watch out for their horses and take care of things. Good thoughts for the New Year!

Gordon said...

A lovely piece, BR. And a good confirmation of my thoughts. It's not that I couldn't do it...it's that I don't want to take on the obligations that go with it. I like spending time with horses, but it's better for me and the horses that I'm the friendly neighbor.

Rude1 said...

Wonderful post! I'm linking to it!

Buck said...

...when you are standing in line at the Pearly Gates...

Wait. You have stand on line? Ah... yet another reward for the ill-spent life! I'm sure there's no waiting where I'm headed...

Back on-topic... It's very apparent you're involved in a serious labor of love and you're dedicated to it. I'm with Gordon, though. I loved my dogs to death (literally - they were all with me until they died of old age) but I haven't replaced them because I can't make the commitment a dog requires.

Daphne said...

That was beautifully written, Buckskin.

I like it when you show me rather than tell me. I just followed you in this piece and that was a good place to go.

Jessica said...

Very well said, and it matches my experiences (and frustrations with other horse owners) in a rather uncanny way. :)

Buckskins Rule said...

Kate: Absolutely right. I see too many people who think that boarding their horse absolves them of direct responsibility for the care of the animal.

Gordon: Thank you. The difference between you and many others is that you realize and accept your limitations.

Rude1: Link away, my friend!

Buck: I'm personally hoping there's a speed line, with honorable mention for military service. You are dead on, it is a labor of love. It's far too much work to do it if it wasn't fun.

Daphne: Glad you enjoyed this. It took several days to write this post, and I still wasn't 100% happy with the final result, but I didn't want it to become long in the tooth.

Jessica: I think that those of us who truly care about the animals will always experience these same frustrations. Sad, isn't it?

Laura said...

I miss having horses : (