How to talk to a friend about their equine situations...?
I've made friends with some very nice people lately. We became friends over our shared love of horses. We were/are planning on riding together sometime later this year... but...
I visited these friends to see their horses and was shocked. From the way they talk, their horses are loved and were very nice, but honestly... I was appalled at their living conditions and conditions in general.
My friends have four horses on their property. Three mares, a stud colt, and a jack. They have the mares seperated from the two studs... but their pasture is horrible, with junk all in it, and all of their horses are horribly skinny. I could see ribs, hipbones, etc through the very thick winter coats.
The horses have hay, but I don't think it's good quality. They also have access to a pond for water, and are each fed about a gallon of sweet feed daily.
I'm just concerned. My friends really love their horses, but they are so thin. I don't know how to approach them without upsetting them about it. I have made small, offhand comments to them when talking about horses, such as asking if they have wormed theirs (I asked after I wormed mine, and we were talking about me worming mine). Talking about what I feed mine, I mentioned that I fed a complete feed with fat supplements, etc... and enquired as to what they fed, etc...
Talking about having my farrier come out to trim mine, I learned that they trim their horses theirselves... Mentioning vets, I learned that their horses never see a vet, they doctor them theirselves, etc...
They do care about their animals, and I can understand that the stud colt isn't theirs so they can't geld him, but he is for sale and they want to buy him... to keep as a stud and breed to their mares to get foals.
I told them that if he was kept a stud, he'd prolly never be able to be ridden with mares and they were just like 'why not?'...
It's just frustrating... I want to educate them, help them... but I'm not close friends with them and am not sure if saying anything more would upset them enough to cut off our tentative friendship or not...
How do I talk to them? Or should I just leave it alone and keep mentioning it as I've been doing and hope they see from the way my horses look and act that theirs could be much better taken care of...?
I would have reservations about riding with horses that are not vaccinated properly. The risk of diseases and the cost of treating those diseases is so high. I don't know how you would talk to them/convince them to change their mind. If they are doing things this way because its a set habit as opposed to they simply don't know better thats different. You can educate but you can't preach. If they are not open to discussion it might be easier to walk away. Have you asked them about their horses weight? I just wonder if there is a reason as they see it for their horses weight?
As I've seen it said on here before-you don't know what you don't know.This could get difficult for you.
I would say it depends on your friendship with these people. Because you said "lately" I would say you haven't known them for very long so that bond and trust isnt there. If it were me? I would probably ask them if there was something medically wrong with their horses, if they say no and then proceed to ask why, I would tell them why I asked. But if you do that, be prepared for any backlash. I would also be prepared to walk away from this friendship. It sounds like it won't end on a postive end for you. However, I could be wrong and they could welcome the help. Its hard to say with not knowing these peopel.
If they don't see anything wrong with their horses, you're not going to change their mind. If they have food, water and shelter, no authority is going to touch the situation. If you bring the horse's poor condition to their attention, you're going to be met with hostility. You can always feel it out yourself but its been my experience that every horse owner is a self proclaimed expert and you can't tell anyone anything in regards to horse care.
You're just going to get more and more frustrated with it so you might as well just wash your hands of it now and leave before your temper blows. Theres not much you can really do. "Stupid" can't be fixed and the authorities won't do a thing.
Thanks for the replies, guys.
Yes, our friendship is relatively new. We actually both work at the same place, so that's how we initially met, though I know my coworkers sister from middle school (it's a small world).
The main horsey ones in their family are my coworker and her younger brother, who also works with us occassionally when extra help is needed. We are new friends, but it seems like, with a little time, the three of us could become great friends.
When I went to see their horses the first time, I did mention their weight, but not in an accusatory tone. I merely said that their horses were a bit on the thin side. They said it was because it was winter and cold (which, if I had met them a year or more ago, I'd have believed, because I used to think it was the coldness that caused my mare to lose so much weight and condition in winter, but after putting her on joint supplements and fixing her diet, I realized it was that that was causing her to lose weight, not the cold...).
I think a lot of it is that they just don't know. When I talk about my own horses and the things I'm going/giving/etc with them, they are interested, but I think they may think that I'm one of those 'over-obsessed/overprotective horsey women' (lol).Though, they have asked me questions, etc... and they have listened when I start explaining something...
I'm going to keep my friendship with them, as I really do like these people, and maybe speak with the younger brother about the horses care if he seems interested (and keep mentioning small things as they come up in a conversation), as he's really the one between him and his sister who is eager to do things such as going to the horse sales, going to the tack and feed stores, etc...
I don't know if this would help but perhaps you can start sharing magazine articles, books, etc., with them - engaging them in discussion and asking their opinion on the contents. This is with a view to "planting the seed" and working towards a little enlightenment on their part.
We VACCINATE all our animals ourselves, outside of rabies, which the vet does. Vaccines are easily purchased through TSC or online.
I would just flat out tell them, don't have to say it meanly, say it matter-of-factly. If they take offensive, oh well, who needs friends that keep animals in such condition and thinks it's ok?
I would be pretty frank about it as well. Your new friends sound a LOT like the farm that I work for as a volunteer back a year or two ago. Not purposely abusive, but definitely lacking in knowledge. If you're never taught, how can you learn?
I had a pretty crazy situation too. As I began learning about proper horse nutrition, health care, and hoof care (still working on that one xD) I became more and more aware of how negligent the farm was being. They fed Sweet Feed and All Stock even to their miniature horses, the hay was bad quality, they used barbed wire or high tensil wire to keep the horses in, and they rode in Mechanical hackamores, Tomb Thumbs, and twisted snaffles. The horse's feet were trainwrecks and they always had flies/were colicing. Most of them were ribby, and some were downright skinny. I was just a lowly volunteer though, and a young one at that. I couldn't just start telling the owners they were doing everything wrong!
So what I did, is I made myself a list of what I thought was most important that needed rectified, and I slowly began to inform them, in a tactful way, of 'new' ways that I had learned to do things, and I told them of all of the wonderful benefits that we would have if we did those too. For birthday or Christmas presents, I bought them horsemanship books/dvds, nutrition books, snaffles, and other such things. At first they only changed the feed and left everything else as it was, but once they realized how much the change of feed benefited not only the horses, but also their pocket books (higher quality feed can be fed in much smaller amounts than sweet feed and keep horses in even better condition) they quickly wanted to start changing other things.
Don't strive for perfection, but don't be afraid to be blunt if you need to be, especially when it comes to them being skinny. Offer helpful advice and benefits of changing, as well as specific brands and costs to them, and they might be more willing to try it. Be tactful ofcourse, and if they just flat our refuse to try, back off. You don't want to push them away. It sounds like in their case it is a case of just not knowing, not purposeful abuse. Be an advocate for their horses! ^_^
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