A Horse, Of Course

Don on Sheza

Don on Sheza

It’s crazy, the way we horse owners behave with our horses.

No doubt it’s a love affair. A love affair of the heart, but not often a love affair of the mind. But then, seldom does a love affair have anything to do with rational thinking. Love affairs are crazy.

And what is crazy?

Crazy is mentally unbalanced, deranged, foolish, wild or fantastic.

That’s the description of a horse owner if ever I saw one!

I guess what I’m saying is we often act crazy because we act with the heart without thinking about our actions. Our intentions are good, but you know what road is paved with good intentions.

Thought and actions we consider rational are certainly not the thoughts of our horses, and not often what they respond to as rational.

First of all, we reason; horses don’t. We consider and make judgments as to whether or not a thing is good or bad. Our horses instinctively know what is good and what is bad. (Eating grains and tasty roughage is good—being eaten by a predator is bad. Being comfortable is good. Being jerked, spurred and worked like crazy for 2 hours, then put away for three weeks is bad. And so on and so on.)

When do we start being crazy about horses? When we first fall in love with them. (A very easy thing to do.) And from then on, the craziness increases almost as rapidly as the number of horses we own.

We are, almost every one of us, crazy when we negotiate to buy a horse. A horse, I understand, is worth what someone will pay. It’s impossible to establish a price when it comes to a crazy love affair. But no matter how in love we are with the horse, we still have to haggle about the price. We want the price reduced, slashed, cut.

The price you pay for a horse, you already know, is the smallest amount you are going to spend. You are going to spend more for feed, equipment, shoeing and training and veterinary care of the next few years. So what is the big deal about $100 or $500 or $50,000 more?

If you like the horse, buy him!

From the moment you buy him, it’s going to get crazier.

Most first time horse owners (and a lot of old-time horse owners for that matter) don’t know how or what to feed a horse. They don’t have any idea of how many mega calories of digestible energy per day the horse is getting, or when to feed fat versus protein.

But they love buying supplements, coat conditioners, energy boosters and energy reducers. They don’t know what they do, but mixed together and in twice the amount suggested, it’s got to be good for the horse. Now that’s crazy.

What about bits and saddles and leg wraps and spurs? What about leg cues and weight shifts and direct and indirect reins?

It’s crazy to buy all that equipment and put it on a horse and try to ride him and not have a clue about how any of it works, of if it does work. Horse owners will spend $5,000 on equipment (a lot more if they get half the chance) and not $2 on education. In a recent survey more than 75 per cent of the respondents who called themselves professionals had never had any formal education—they failed to correctly define a snaffle and a curb.

Shoeing is crazy. We talk about shoeing as if it were a good thing for the horse. In some cases it is, when the shoe protects the hoof. But the instant you put a shoe on a horse, it’s all downhill from there in regard to hoof health. And too many owners leave shoeing to the horseshoer. That’s crazy! The responsibility lies with the horse’s owner. Don’t blame the shoer if you don’t know about correct hoof balance.

Am I crazy, or just in love with horses? Am I crazy to think anyone in love with horses ought to make a commitment to know as much as possible about everything which concerns their horse?

Is it crazy to spend 12 to 16 hours a day working with horses, 365 days a year? Is it crazy to spend a rare day off at a horse sale, horse show or horse races?

Is it crazy to be learning something new about horses every day?

Boy, am I lucky to be so crazy!

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