The Heavy Burden of Ownership
This thread entitled: ‘Should you OWN a horse’ seems to have touched a few raw nerves. The word OWN implies cost and previously I have tried to hint at the relatively high monetary costs incurred by OWNERSHIP. Some of the viewers have taken the fundamental message of the thread to mean that a good reason for denying them the pleasure of OWNERSHIP of a horse is that they might not be able to afford vet’s bills or some of the other little bills which pop up unexpectedly now and again. To a certain extent this is true but in fact money is not the only crucial issue in OWNING a horse. Knowledge is an essential cost element as is Experience of handling horses.
Now at this point I am not talking about how to ride a horse or even how to train a horse, I am talking about how to manage both the horse and the environment in which it lives. Knowledge and Experience cannot be bought instantly over the counter, unless of course, you are rich enough to be able to hire a professional stable manager. Expertise can be acquired only from knowledgeable horse ‘handlers‘. Think of the ‘handler’ as a trainer who doesn’t necessarily serve his purpose in the training arena. Now if this expertise is available within the family or at the yard where the horse is kept - then great but the acquisition of that advice has to be costed in - even if it can only be accounted for in units of time and not in dollars. However if you live miles from any other horse owner, handler or trainer then you cannot hope to gain access to Experience. This Forum is great for chatting and the exchange of ideas but nothing will ever replace a set of vocalised hands and eyes. A pair of Experienced eyes can often see what novices to OWNERSHIP can’t.
The other probability is that you will not have ‘Judgement’. One day the need will arise to make a decision on some important aspect of horse welfare but you won’t have the knowledge, experience or wisdom to make the right choices. It is not always knowing what to do which counts; sometimes it is all about what not to do.
An OWNER is responsible 100% for the well being of a horse. He/she will have the power of life or death over another living creature and for sure at various times he/she will be asked to make a Judgement call. The question then arises whether he/she can make the right call - with or without outside advice. Too often a horse will suffer for the OWNER’S unwillingness to accept the pain from making the right decision. Emotion can be a powerful barrier to good Judgement.
As an example of what I am try to say is to be found on another post. A seemingly caring young lady has recognised that a horse is in deep trouble. If the scenario is indeed exactly as she has described, then in view of the circumstances the best thing for the horse would be for it to be shot and as soon as possible. In some parts of the world bullets are cheap and they represent a very cost effective way of bringing a miserable life to an end quickly. However I did not express this opinion to her. I chickened out. I cannot possibly presume to judge a horse’s predicament over the internet. I told her to call out the vet and to plead for on the spot advice. Luckily the young woman is not the OWNER, she has no power of life or death and in this instance I am very pleased she doesn’t. It is not incumbent upon her to make the choices. Maybe one day she’ll be ready and perhaps this episode might help her be a good OWNER. I do feel her anguish but I can‘t help from the other side of the world.
Tonight closer to home, I watched a beautiful shire mare be shovelled into a deep hole in the ground. Just a few hours ago I was feeding her carrots, washing her face and combing her hair ready for the big event which, thankfully, she did not know was to be her ‘funeral‘. She too had been caught in fencing wire and the obscene wounds on both hind legs had long turned septic. She had developed a condition akin to gangrene. The caring OWNERS had spent $12,000 trying to save her but it was all in vain. In hindsight she should have been put down weeks ago. Over the intervening weeks, I could feel the horse’s agony as she stood on three legs in a stable. Oh My, did that Girl exhibit stoicism. She took her Bute in her feed and then took the pain of supporting her hindquarters on two fast decaying legs. If she had gone down in the stable, we would never have got her up. The key decisions were never mine to make, for I was not the OWNER. She, a very nice woman, just didn’t have the experience to make the call when she should have done. She put her faith in the expertise of the vet and her earnest hopes for a miracle. Her husband, did a marvellous but inevitably futile job in changing the bandaging each day. He too believed in persistence. The four boys had stood by and watched. The obscene wounds were raw, bloody and smelly. To me, the writing had been on the wall from a few days after the accident. I, an old man, confess that I cried at the ’funeral’ when a tractor dug a hole and nudged her lifeless carcass into it. At least she did not wind up as dog‘s meat and her bones will lay in that grave for ever.
I won’t need to take the carrots up tomorrow.
What I am trying to hammer home to all the prospective horse buyers out there who may be reading this thread is that there is more to OWNING a horse than knowing how to ride it or even having the money to support it. If you take on OWNERSHIP then you take personal responsibility for a living creature until either you sell it or it dies or you have it put down. And that is no light burden to take on. At times you’ll need all the help and support you can get.
The big question must be: Are you ready for it?
Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 05-24-2010 at 05:23 PM.