I don’t sell horses, I don’t trade, I don’t give them away. My horses are my friends, they are part of my very being. If they cannot work due to lameness or disease they simply stay with me until they leave this life. I am honored to take care of them and joyed to enjoy my time with them whether they can work or not. They are not used cars, they are beautiful beings. So when I tell you this story you’ll understand the difficulty of my decision.
Horses bring so much joy to those of us fortunate enough to have them in our lives. And in turn, I’d like to think that most horse owners also want our horses to be content and enjoy life. Allowing the horse to be a horse is a great way to start. Time to graze, a herd to socialize with, shelter from the elements are so important to the horse’s mental and physical well-being. These basic needs are obvious, but going beyond the obvious is something not all horsemen do. What may not be obvious is whether or not your horse enjoys his time with you, whether he likes his required “job,” or whether he is compatible with his pasture mates. Simply because a horse can do something does not mean he should.
I recently made a very difficult decision to let a horse go back to his original owner. Ace came to live with me through a student four years ago. When the student decided to move on to another horse and no longer wished to care for him, he was offered to me.
I thought he would be a great lesson horse for my students without their own to learn on. I was wrong. He is a very bright, athletic horse. His mind is active and he is easily stimulated, which is what he loves. As time went on I started to see signs of his dislike for his work. Using him for beginners means lunge line lessons, very slow work, and for him it was very boring work. He has never been used more than 5 days a week, and generally 3; only an hour each time. He certainly is not overworked. His riders all adore him, but he is quite simply bored! He was previously an endurance horse, and going around in circles is just not his cup of tea. At times he would express that displeasure in very clear terms.
For quite a while I kept thinking that it wasn’t too much to ask of him in trade for the very cushy and pampered life I give to him. But in my heart, I’ve been troubled by his unhappiness. If he were happy living here I would have happily allowed him live a life of leisure. But he also does not fit in with the herd. When I look at him, I see a horse who just is not where he’s meant to be.
Still, I held back, since I know that some of my students truly will be sad to lose him. But the universe again stepped in, and I finally was led to the decision to talk to his original owner about taking him back. I was so pleased at her instant enthusiasm to do so. She originally had to give him up due to life circumstance, but always has missed him. She adores him and expressed the desire to do some endurance with him again, which I do think he will come alive and enjoy.
So, my lovely, beautiful Ace will be leaving soon. Laura will be smiling in anticipation and I am heavy in heart. But it’s the right thing to do. As much as I wanted to see Ace happy here, it was not going to happen. The wonderful thing is he will go back to live with one of his old pasture mates that he enjoyed. Laura and I have an agreement that if she ever needs to let him go again, he has a home waiting for him back with me.
If we are going to use horses for our pleasure, they should be happy with their life… but in this case doing the right thing is bittersweet.