Monday, September 28, 2009

The Gift Some Call Insanity

I start most days with feeding and caring for my horses with remainder of the day revolved around teaching, training, exercising, grooming and the health care of the horses under my charge. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. We all know that the life choice of horse ownership is not an easy one. In addition to the loads of physical work, there is the endless commitment – rain or shine – and the always looming potential for heartbreak. Colic, lameness, and injuries – I am sure that all of us have endured many of these situations. Plus there is the financial commitment that is ever growing. I once added up the percentage of my disposal income that went to horse stuff rather than luxuries like vacations, new clothes (non horse related), jewelry, and new vehicles (other than horse trailers) and well, lets just say I chose to never do it again.

So why do we do it? Are we all a little nuts? Perhaps, but we are also all a little healthier for it. I can’t speak for anyone else but I can tell you that I can’t imagine my life without being covered in horse slobber. For me the simple act of kissing one of my horses on the nose puts my life in balance and the world in better perspective. In spite of the increasing loss of open space, Southern California boasts some of the highest per capita horse ownership in the United States. Why do you suppose that is??? Even if you are lucky like I am to own a small bit (4 acres) of horse property, horse ownership in Southern California is not a cheap proposition. Rates for board in many suburban areas are as high as $700 to $800 a month and that does not count training, veterinary cost, or any of the extras. I have had horses come into my barn for rehab from an injury or after colic surgery where their owners continue to spend thousands of dollars on an animal that may not survive long term or that they may never be able to ride again. Why? It certainly does not make sound financial sense. My answer is – it is for the simple miracle of unconditional love.

In today’s overly busy, overly competitive world of personal agendas our horses simply love us with a purity that mere humans can rarely find elsewhere (except with our dogs and cats). I feel that we now live in a world that puts endless demands on us. Someone always wants something. Some one is trying to sell us something; we are trying to balance professional lives with family and personal commitments; we are trying to balance finances; keep our households running and somewhere in there find a little bit of time for ourselves. There are so many details to every minute of the day; we spend half of our time on sensory overload. But when you have a horse, for me at least, everything slows down and gets simpler for the time you spend riding or just being in the barn, and being in the company of your horse. You focus in that moment on only a few things, your horse, your ride, the beauty of the day, your tack, your stall, the smell of horse sweat (yes, I am a little weird, I like the smell of horse sweat) but it is all very basic compared to the other complexities of our day.

And our horses primarily have one focus – us as either the deliverer of food, attention and a good scratch. But it brings us all back to those rudimentary basics of food, warmth, and shelter which is truly all our horses ever expect from us. I also think that this return to the fundamentals help keep most horse owners more grounded. Face it, most humans have egos that can run a muck and easily distance us from reality. We can easily build over inflated senses of our selves and forget that is not just about what we achieve for ourselves that matters but it is more about the lives that we touch along the way. Horses don’t care who we are or how important we may think we are. They just care if we are kind and provide them with their basic needs. Horses are also not judgmental and have an amazing capacity for forgiveness. Both of which are traits that are sorely lacking in many people.

So in my opinion, horse people may be a little bit crazy to the rest of the world, but I actually think we “get it” better than most. We know that by staying in the company of horses we can stay in touch with the basics and with the benevolent traits that are often lost in human nature - unconditional love, forgiveness, and openness.

What keeps you committed? What is it about your relationship with your horses that keep you coming back for more? What basic human need do horses fill and what are the greatest gifts we all derive from it? I look forward to your input. Whether you compete or have horses for pleasure, professional or amateur, beginner and someone with years of experience; I think that we all come to it and take from it the same basic element – Love.

What do you think??

I'd love to hear from you.



Enjay said...

There's so much about horses that speaks to so many different aspects of me that it's difficult to single any one out. I think what appeals to me most overall are those times when you are so in tune with each other that it's as though you are one being.
I also really love touching them. I had several very rough, incredibly stressful years and I used to spend time just leaning on my old gelding, listening to his heart beat, moving with the rise and fall of his sides, being warmed by his body. No expectations, no demands, he would support me no matter what.

Anonymous said...

For me, the joy and delight of horses is that they are fully themselves, and fully present here, now. I think in many ways they are more fully alive and aware than we are, with all our business and preoccupations. I feel calmer, and more present, when I am with them - I'm more fully aware and alive but less concerned about the "me, me, me" that so often fills my mind - things I have to do, random thoughts, all those distractions from the real deal. Horses are the real deal, and I'm able to absorb some of that from them and with luck carry it into other parts of my life.

Maryannwrites said...

There is a wonderful quote I read in The Dark Horse, by Craig Johnson --- There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a person. May be paraphrasing just a bit, but that is the essence of it. This morning as I was cleaning the pasture, my horse, Banjo, came up to me and sniffed my back then blew his warm breath on my neck. That's what keeps me committed. :-)

A.K. Alexander said...

I agree--it's LOVE. The way my mare rubs her face on me (not to show dominance, but just to say, "Hey, Mom.") puts a smile on my face, or when she seems to notice when I'm down and puts her face in my chest and rests it there wanting me to scratch between her ears.

The way, my daughter's pony nickers and bangs on his pipe when he hears her voice--all of it is the essence of unconditional love.

At the end of the day, it is my horses who ground me, who I know no matter what always love me. It's who they are and I am so grateful to have them in my life. I have no problem making the decisions like--fly spray or eye cream, accupuncture for Krissy or me?, a winter blanket or a new jacket? Hands down the horses win everytime and I wouldn't have it any other way.

OneDandyHorse said...

I've been around horses pretty much all of my life. At one point, I had no horses in my life and it just so happened that it was the most difficult years of my life. I battled a great depression and I nearly lost to it. Makes me sad to think that I wouldn't have been there for my mare and that a 2 year old that is untouched and untrained does not make it far at auction (especially when going to a beef auction). After I had her, everything in life seems lighter to carry. I can't wait to get home and see her, hear her running towards me nickering, always being there to support me and listen to me. My presence calms her down and her presence calms me down, she is my partner and we are one. She is my joy to ride and have around. I only ride about twice a week (I have horses just for fun, but I did take lessons and am serious about seat and aids), the rest of the time, I spend caring for them directly or indirectly and I spend a good amount of time just petting and brushing them. I don't know what they have that is so magnetic, but I believe it's their overall personnalities and forgiveness. I don't think I could live without them.

Gayle Carline said...

About 11 years ago I told my husband I wanted to write and he got me a laptop for Christmas. A year later, he got me horseback riding lessons for my birthday. When I bought my first horse, I started writing.