Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Being a Horseman and What It Means to Me


Our vet was here for a visit yesterday.  Nate who is a highly allergic horse with asthma had broken out in hives.  The vet administered medication that should make him feel better and he’s now on a program to get him through this rough patch.  Dusty was also checked out.  Her laminitis in her front feet is doing really well and the vet was very pleased with her recovery on that end.  Seems her left hind is still sore so the suspensory injury isn’t healing as quickly.  He’ll be back in three weeks to check her again and perhaps do another ultrasound to see if there is any healing going on.

Because of Dusty’s injury, which means less riding time, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I feel being a true horseman means to me.  Over the years, I’ve met some curious characters whose only goal with horses was to get the most they could out of them.  Seems when things got tough these “horsemen” just disposed of the horse they had and got another one instead of working with the horse they professed to care about.  The horse that gave all it had at shows or at home for its person was dispensable.  I’ve always wondered how people can trade away horses as if they were no more than a vehicle to get them noticed--or worse yet, garner them ribbons and fleeting fame.

To some, sending horses off to retirement is a way to rid themselves of unwanted medical/behavior issues that could be dealt with on some level if only they would take the time to help.  Unfortunately, these owners couldn’t find the time or patience to help their faithful friends.  There have been times I’ve seen horses sold to auction or even put down because people couldn’t deal with their personalities or properly manage physical issues.  These horses were branded rogue or crazy or lame when in fact the owners just didn’t have the know-how to rehabilitate a horse.  Other owners are just unwilling to adjust their own goals and ambitions to accommodate their horses’ health and well being. 

This has been my observation too many times to be coincidence, and I found it happened at nearly every barn we ever boarded with.  Obviously, I feel these weren’t true horsemen, but simply people who were ruthlessly competitive, liked the idea of being involved in the sport, the barn/show social scene, etc. for whatever reason, but felt the horses themselves were secondary to their goals.  It may be a little over the top, but I have no respect for individuals who treat horses this way. 

On the other hand, some horsemen who send their horses to retirement do it for financial reasons or for the good of the horse.  For many retired show horses, a good retirement farm presents them with their first opportunity to graze in a field, be out with other horses and just “be a horse.”  I also have no problem with horsemen who have outgrown their horses (or maybe realized they’ve got more horse than they can properly handle) and find them appropriate, caring homes in order to move on with their riding.  So it is a sword that swings both ways.  In my mind it is the reason that you let your friends go and how you go about it that matters.  Which brings me to my thoughts on Dusty.

Dusty’s injuries may heal completely or they may not, and she may be unable to be ridden except very lightly in the future.  At this time in my life, I can afford to buy myself a new horse if I choose to.  Will I trade her off for a new and improved model?  No, I won’t.  In my mind it would be unfair to Dusty to throw her by the wayside like excess baggage, especially while she is hurt.  To me it would be the same as putting one of my children up for adoption because they broke a limb or got sick.  She deserves my love and care because, when I take a horse into the barn, I feel that horse is my responsibility for the rest of his or her natural life.  It is my job to help her recover as much as she can and lead a pain-free happy life, regardless of whether she can help me reach my riding goals.  I owe her that.

This mare and I have traveled far in the last few years and our journey will continue in or out of the saddle.  She’s been a willing partner and friend and she has tried very hard to learn new tasks while enjoying herself immensely.  I’ve got to say she makes me smile quite a bit at her unconventional behavior.  Dusty hasn’t been the most affectionate horse, but she does appreciate the care and respect she gets from us.  Then again, with her personality she would settle for nothing less.  If there ever was a horse that could hold a grudge, hand out treats to someone else first and you’ll find out just how incensed she can be.

Even though Dusty will be recuperating for quite a while, I’ll still be able to ride Blue.  So far he’s not been as much fun to ride as Dusty because he’s a bit lazy and opinionated.  Blue also has the most bone-jarring trot and canter I’ve ever ridden.  But it’s one of those things I’ll have to get used to.  I’ve also decided that it’s time Donnie should start being worked on the longe.  We’ll do some clicker training too since he’s very smart and seems to like playing games.  Donnie loves attention.  If and when the time seems right one of us will actually get in the saddle and see if his bucking issues have been addressed satisfactorily with his new diet and exercise regimen.  One of these horses may make a rider out of me yet!

So, since this blog has been mainly about my progress with training Dusty, I won’t have much to blog about in the coming months, with her riding future uncertain and a long rehab ahead.  I don’t think I’ll be posting much, but I will see you all when I can.  

Good riding!

Until next time

Quote for Today
The love for a horse is just as complicated as the love for another human being....  If you never love a horse, you will never understand.

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