by Laura Crum
Many thanks to Alison, whose post last month titled “Good Enough?” got me started thinking about this subject. I wanted to comment on Alison’s post but my comment rapidly became unwieldy as I thought of all I could say on this subject. So I turned it into a post.
The truth is there is more to say on this topic than I could ever cover. But I want to focus on one specific aspect. There is plenty in the horse world that is obviously not “good enough”—neglect and abuse…etc. There are also folks who keep their horses in more lavish style than I keep my child. Much more than good enough. And these are not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the in between.
Really, what I want to talk about is my own good-enough-or-maybe-its-not situation. Its easy to point fingers at others. But often its more realistic to evaluate what we are ourselves are doing or not doing.
So here’s my dilemma. I have a very nice situation for four horses at my home, and I keep my son’s horse and my riding horse, my recently retired riding horse, and one boarder at my place. Three out of the four horses are ridden regularly—they live in big corrals where they can run and buck and play, they have shelter, I feed them three times a day, the fences are good. All four horses seem happy.
Where’s the problem, you say. Well, the problem isn’t here. Its that I am responsible for five other horses. And these horses live at a property that is fifteen minutes from my house. All of these horses are pasture pets and have been for many years. Two of them are thirty-one. The other three are in their twenties or late teens and crippled enough that they can’t be ridden, though they are comfortable in the pasture.
And they live turned out 24/7. They are looked at every day and the two oldest ones are supplemented with senior food and blanketed during winter storms. Given their ages they all look pretty good. They seem content. The problem? The fences are not so good.
A lot of the fencing is OK. Some of it isn’t. The big field is forty acres and the smaller fields are five acres each, so we’re talking about a lot of fence. Over the years I have used every spare fence panel I had (over a dozen), fixing the bad spots. But there are places that really need to be re-built.
The pasture owner is unwilling to afford this. I am unwilling/unable to plow a lot of money into this property, and I don’t think the pasture owner would accept it if I was willing/able. Because there is a lot of feed in the pasture and no horses on the other side of the fence, we have just let things go. All the horses are very sedate; they don’t try the fences. They are all familiar with the field and know the boundaries. And I have been keeping horses there for almost fifteen years with no major disaster. Nothing worse than small cuts/scrapes that did not require a vet. (Knocking on wood here.)
Did I know it wasn’t good enough? Yes. But the solution eluded me. To be frank, most people would euthanize my five horses that live out in this pasture. Only one was my riding horse, of the other four, two are rescues, two are horses I helped train, who got hurt early in their working lives and had to be retired. They are living a very happy life and have been for many years—in the not-good-enough pasture.
Yes, I know we could put up “cheap” plastic tape and/or hot wire, but the cost of installing this stuff (with all the requisite posts…etc) on such a big setup is still more than I can afford to put out on property that is not mine—it isn’t fair to my family. My husband isn’t interested in horses, we don’t have money to burn, I’m already spending quite a bit of money to maintain my horse herd. It would be just plain irresponsible of me (financially) to put our money into this property. But it is irresponsible of me (as a horse owner) not to do something about this not good enough fence situation. Periodically I think I should go ahead and put the horses down (I don’t need them/they are a financial drain/I worry about them)—but they seem so happy. So I just go on feeding them as needed, keeping an eye on them, and hoping for the best.
Fifteen years is a very long time to go with no major problems. Yes, we have euthanized three horses during that time, but all three were to do with the maladies of old age, none were the results of accidents with the fence. Or accidents of any kind. Our track record in that not-good-enough field is actually pretty good.
And then….yesterday I got the call. One of the horses had gone through the fence and was hurt. Not one of my horses. The one horse in the field that belongs to the pasture owner was the one who got tangled in the fence. She was pretty badly cut up, but not lame.
Well, I helped the pasture owner get a vet and doctor the mare, who will probably be fine. And I told that vet that if any of my pasture pets were injured any more severely than this, that I would just put them down. I explained what they were and about the bad fences and the vet shrugged. “I’d do the same as you’re doing,” he said. “These horses look like they’re having a good life.” And he patched the old mare up.
So here’s my questions for today. Should I just put these horses down now and make sure they never suffer? Or should I let them go on living a happy life in that field and put them down when their time comes, bearing in mind it may come because they get in that fence? Because its not “good enough”? I am not going to be putting significant amounts of money into that property—does that make me a not-good-enough horse owner? I must confess, I do not know the answers to these questions.