Enough Horses? Or too many? Too Little?
How Do You Know When It’s Enough?
What is Enough? Too Many? Not Enough?
I get it. I really truly do! This is a sensitive subject and really pretty personal. Like many horse lovers, I struggle with what is the right number of horses under my care. We are heading into the time of year that many horses are shuffled about. We all have, for the most part, put winter behind us and see green pastures ahead! Yah!! It is tempting to take in more. I can. I keep my horses at home and have the resources to take in more. It is also tempting to downsize and really concentrate on some major riding, bonding, grooming time with fewer horses. I am torn, again with the temptations that go both ways.
We are heading into prime riding time and the thought of being able to hit the trails or just hop on and ride around at home is what motivates me all winter. I love grooming, bathing, riding and just hanging out with my horses. The care gets MUCH easier and the fun increases exponentially!! I love each one I have for all different reason. They are special to me. And the next one would become special to me. 🙂
I love the ‘forever home’ promise as much as the next person, just don’t think it is always a great promise to give since I don’t believe someone can know what circumstances they will encounter over the 35+ years of a horse’s possible lifespan. I do think a person must be committed to providing the best care to their horse and if they are in a position in which the horse needs to be sold or rehomed, to find it the best home possible. I have a horse that I have had since birth who is now 25. She will always be with me, if at all possible. It is a rarity I know, that a horse would only have one owner over its lifetime. I hope to offer that to Abbey.
I also have rescued many horses and was thrilled to do it. I can honestly say they were all better having been in my care and that gave me great joy. I cared for them and rehomed them with care. I feel I did right by all of them so have no regrets.
I have received free horses, kill pen horses, abandoned horses, and paid good money for horses too. I have had papered horses and grade horses from large to mini in an assortment of colors. I have a 26 year history of having horses on my property, for some of those years I owned and ran a 26 stall boarding stable.
I have had horses that have rarely had any medical issues and others that I have devoted many, many hours in special care to get them even pasture sound and comfortable. Its a crap shoot and also seems to go in cycles. You can be sailing along with nothing but blue skies and rainbows and then have one thing after another come up with your horse. Mysterious lameness or new bad behavior pop up and the money flies out of your wallet into the vet, the farrier, the supplement store as you try to set things right. New tack, new boots, new therapies are all waiting with out stretched hands and offers of help. It can become a financial vortex!
The idea of a horse that will fill a person’s fantasy – is often underlying the need/want/desire to get another horse. The next one is JUST what I am looking for!! Your heart skips a beat and your mind reconstructs this next horse into the fantasy horse of your dreams! This is a little bit like having a baby to keep your marriage together. You put a whole lot of pressure on the new one to live up to a fantasy they may not be able to do. That is not really fair though, is it?
So the struggle is?? Do I keep the horses I have and put my time and energy into them…. or get more with all the good and wonderful intentions I have?
What determines the best answer is considering what we all must consider. Do I have the time and resources to do what is best for me and the horse? There are so many darn horses out there for sale or at auctions. I could easily get more. Save more from kill pens. Throw another out in the pasture. Why not?
So how does one know what is the right number?
Money: Of course money is on the top of the list of considerations. If you board you are more quickly restrained (usually) from owning many horses. You could be independently wealthy with your own property with professional caretakers. Or you could have a piece of land and decide I will collect every free horse I can get my hands on. That’s a possibility. We all know that free horses exist. As far as ‘how free’, that can be debated. Horses are generally fairly costly to keep and care for but there are wide variables as to what each person feels is acceptable.
Resources: Resources could include shelter, number of stalls, pasture size, time to care for the horses, your personal energy or focus, your interest, age or health. No doubt horses take a lot of resources for their care and well-being. Is your life amendable to meeting their needs? This is the area in which there can be a wide fluctuation over a person’s lifespan. I know I faced that personally and more acutely when I was pregnant and/or caring for an infant. After the loss of a family member, a person’s stability and emotional health can take a hit. Employment status affects the decision, as does marriage /divorce. Often people have lots of time and less money or more money and less time. Or you may need to care for a sick family member. These things aren’t ‘planned’ events and can throw a good system for care way off.
I was recently told I was being ‘negative’ because I mentioned some concern over a friend acquiring another horse to her dozen horses even in the midst of recovering from a fairly severe horse-related injury and while still unable to walk unassisted. I thought I had spoken in love – concern for her well being (good way to get hurt AGAIN around horses is to be unsteady on your feet) AND concern for the new horse. I was chastised for my ‘lack of faith’ and overreaction because I was trying to put a more reasonable response to adding another horse to a rather large herd (of mostly unbroken horses). Yes, the next horse is worthy of rescuing…but the ones you HAVE are worthy of care and attention too. I also feel pretty strongly that if you have a young horse, you have the responsibility to get that horse under saddle. One of my first rescue horses was a full blooded arab mare, unbroken, in foal, that came from a barn full of pregnant, unbroke mares in a filthy barn. She was skinny, lame with no food or water in her stall. She was caked with dried manure that had dried like concrete to her coat – it is an experience I will not forget. This is not to say my friend has horses in this condition, but I have seen over the years that unbroke or unsound horses are extremely vulnerable.
If you have a young horse that is not trained, the most loving thing you can do is get them trained- THEN go rescue more. That’s just my opinion.
I know we all likely have seen a similar scenario play out in which someone, well intended I am sure, takes on more animals then they can realistically care for. Remember those rescues I rescued…. yeah, many of those came from well-meaning homes that got in over their heads.
When does someone cross the line from rescuing or collecting animals to hoarding? I remember watching episodes of Hoarding, Animal series, and the hoarders ALWAYS professed to love their animals but lost perspective along the way. The animals were acquired to fill a need IN THEM and it all got out of control. It is every animal lover’s nightmare to see hoarding situations. There but the grace of God go I. (Not I as in me necessarily….meaning we all have it in us to ‘lose perspective’.)
So why am I writing this blog post? I have been offered two adorable ponies…. lovely, ponies from a friend who needs to sadly rehome due to health issues. I am struggling because if I take the ponies in, realistically I should rehome a horse because I just can’t keep 3 ridden like I feel they should be. Pasture pets are great if the horse is old, lame and/or retired. In my opinion. I do hold on to hope – my adult daughter picks up riding again… or my potential daughter in law who loves horses actually becomes my daughter in law and possibly moves close to ride with me……That is hard. I have 3 grandkids and would love the ponies. But love the horses I have…this is so hard. I get it! I really do!
Writing this out has not made my decision any clearer. Ugh!
Update: As of Aug. 2018, I have held steady to my resolve to work with the horses I have and not acquire more. I am proud to say I have spent time with the ones I have and am putting more riding time on them and they are progressing nicely. Maybe with age, does come wisdom. 🙂
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