by Laura Crum
I’ve written a few posts with this title, I think, but it just keeps coming back up. I’ve got too many horses. I care for ten horses—I just don’t need that many. Even though I have them arranged such that it works, I sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking to end up in this position. And then, when I add it up another way, it makes perfect sense.
I’ve been owning horses non-stop since I was sixteen—and I’m about to turn fifty-three. Naturally I have a few old horses (since I didn’t dump them when their working life was done), and a few that got hurt and aren’t ridable. Should I abandon them? Then there are two horses I took on because no one wanted them—one very old, one crippled. Should I jettison them? Then there is my son’s horse and my trail horse—both very much loved, valued and enjoyed—don’t want to get rid of them. And then there are my boarder’s two horses—both very sweet horses that I love to ride myself—and my boarder pays for the feed that makes my horse program possible. Uhmmm, don’t want to get rid of his horses, now, do I? So, I’m back to square one.
Realistically, the only horse I could sell is Sunny, my palomino trail horse, who is sound, useful, not too old (ironically, I just got an offer for Sunny—almost twice what I paid for him). I could ride my boarder’s young horse, Smoky, who I already do ride a lot—simply because Smoky needs riding—he’s six years old and currently lives in my one smaller pen (a fifty foot round pen with a fifteen by fifteen run-in stall). This pen isn’t meant for a permanent resident, its meant for temporary use—a sick or injured horse. When Henry was recovering from colic surgery, I used pipe panels to enclose the stall, and then later, when he could have more space, Henry was kept in the small pen. As soon as he was well, he went back out in a big corral where he could run around. But my place is set up for four saddle horses. When my friend Wally insisted on buying Smoky (over my protests, I assure you) there was no place to put the horse here but in the small pen. So Smoky must be exercised at least three days a week—it isn’t fair to him otherwise. Thus I am riding Smoky rather than Sunny a lot of the time. So, I could, theoretically, sell Sunny.
But I love Sunny. I love riding him. I love looking at him. I get a kick out of interacting with him. Sunny lives in the biggest pen I have and runs around a lot. He is frequently turned loose to graze when I don’t have time to ride him. He seems happy. Should I sell him? Even though I don’t want to? Seems silly. Completely reliable bombproof trail horses are hard to find.
But there are times, like yesterday, when I shake my head at myself. I wanted to ride. But household chores are always there and must be done if life is to be pleasant. And then I had to go out and have a look at my retired, pastured horses. This took another hour or so. I rubbed on thirty year old Gunner, who is fat—I have my fingers crossed he doesn’t founder (he never has—knock on wood), and had a close look at thirty year old ET, who has rebounded once again and is healthy and shiny and a decent weight. I’m pretty sure ET is almost completely blind, but he is once again content seeming, so I’m leaving well enough alone for the moment.
When I came home it was in the low 50’s—chilly, gray and drizzling. I did not want to ride all that much in the drizzle. So I started turning my saddle horses loose to graze (my son was also a wimp and did not want to ride in the drizzle). My boarder had hauled his two horses off to a team roping. I turned my son’ horse (Henry), my old horse (Plumber), and Sunny loose to graze one at a time. This took a few hours. I groomed Henry, who is prone to dandruff in the spring when he sheds out. Then I saddled Sunny. The sun never did come out. It was chilly and gray with a brisk wind that made me shiver, even in a jacket. In the end I had a twenty minute ride, and Sunny was, for him, a butt head. I didn’t really blame him, since he’s had two weeks off, due to lousy weather and me riding Smoky. And Sunny’s version of being a butt head is pretty mild, just some uncooperative balking and a few jiggy moments. Still, it wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had on a horse. I got off feeling put upon. Even keeping horses in the low maintainance way that I do (see my previous post “Horsekeeping Simplified”), the whole day got eaten up with horse chores. I am just not riding nearly as much as I used to. I have too many horses, I told myself. I don’t need all these horses.
And then I stopped and asked myself, “What part of this day did you not enjoy? What part would you change?”
Well, that was easy. I wanted it to have been sunny and 70 and I went for a two hour ride on the ridge and Sunny was mellow and cooperative. OK. But given it was what it was, what part would I change? And at that I remembered my happy horses grazing on green grass, and the fact that every horse got rubbed on and every saddle horse was out of his pen and given attention, and that I had, in fact, enjoyed most of it. And despite being somewhat annoyed at my less than ideal ride, I understood perfectly why it was what it was, and that it was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Sunny days will come again. Sunny the horse is a steady trooper—his version of “feeling good” is just not that hard to cope with. I can be grateful that he’s not prone to violent misbehaving. We’ll get back out on those trails together and be back in sync soon enough.
I thought about other horse blogs I’ve read. We all cope with some adversity. Weather, horse keeping conditions, bad backs and other health issues, lameness and health issues in our horses, lack of time and/or enough money, fear issues….the list goes on. Do I expect my life to be the only one that is all sunshine and perfectly behaved horses? When I thought about it that way, the answer seemed obvious. I suddenly felt lucky and blessed.
So, once again, I’m back to working on my mindset. Because maybe I don’t have too many horses. Maybe my life is just fine exactly how it is. I simply have to learn to see it that way. Even on the gray days.
How about you guys? Do any of you struggle with the too many horses dilemma? And do you have any tips to offer on how to keep your perspective when your horse program seems more like work than fun? I could use a pep talk right about now.