Yes, all of this takes time. But that is what stewardship is all about.
Friday, 26 October 2012
Heidi's Top 10 Stewardship Practises. I don't want to tell anyone what to do, or give out free "advice". But, I do want to encourage responsible horsemen to think more deeply. Many people do not think things through, and actually say or influence others with statements that are not accurate. If horsemen took the time to think things through, they may act differently in some situations. Perhaps, these practises which I strive to abide by, may help others develop their own top 10 stewardship practises. So, what does the responsible horsemen do to demonstrate stewardship?
Number 8 - Make the Tough Choices Yourself.
You have accepted responsibility of horse ownership. Swallow your pride when you are in a bind. We all hit the end of our ropes some times. But, we have an amazing resource of horsemen out there to draw from; trainers, riders and professionals in the horse industry. If you are having problems with your horse, get help. Don't let it go to the point where one or both of you get hurt. Hire a trainer, a coach, someone to evaluate your challenge. Get the problem fixed. If the horse is still not suitable for you, find the right person for that horse once the problem is fixed. Be honest. If the horse is indeed unmanageable and not fixable, euthanize it. A trainer told me when I was faced with a difficult decision once, ask five trusted friends, see what they think and then take responsibility. Make a decision in the best interest of the horse. Don't sell it at auction and "hope" someone else will deal with it. This most likely will not happen and the horse will suffer at the end. My philosophy is not to sell the animal to the slaughter industry either, our cattle ranching friends do not need the added disadvantage of an unfair playing field in the food industry. Horses are not raised for meat, they do not undergo the same level of inspections and restrictions the cattle industry has to contend with. And, if you value healthy, uncontaminated food source for people, you should not be supporting horse slaughter. An animal bred and raised for food, is for food. An animal bred and raised for sport and pleasure riding has been given all sorts of drugs and nutritional supplements, and this is not on their feeding record. That is why they should not be a food animal. Support healthy intentionally raised food, not horse slaughter.
Indeed, the horse slaughter industry will have us think we depend on them to help us "get rid of" our unwanted horses. Humanely euthanizing a horse at the farm, and disposing of the body has a cost, but it is about the same as some components of equipment we buy for our animals while we are working with them; I am thinking about the fancy winter blankets, or the memory foam saddle blankets. And frankly, knowing that I was providing leadership for my horse up until the last minute, gives me the feeling of being a professional. I do not want to experience the feeling of guilt that I would have lingering if I had passed my problem onto someone else to deal with.
And remember, ask 5 friends . . . and be creative, there are many ways to solve challenges with horses that do not fit the rider where the horse continues on to be a contributing partner in the right, but different situation.
Monday, 22 October 2012
Number 9 - The Right Horse
Choose the right horse for you and your family - many of us luck out with our horses, and many more fall to the fate of "bad luck". Don't leave your health and safety, or your horses life in the hands of luck. I think about my first horse. My mother, who did not have experience with horses, picked my horse from an ad in the local paper. She went to see the horse at a riding stable, looked at it in the eye and saw a gentle animal, and purchased the 10 year old mare for her 10 year old daughter. The horse was probably closer to 20 years old, but turned out to be the perfect child's first pony. This was pure luck. Honestly parents, in any other activity, do you rely on "good luck" when dealing with your child's safety?
Good advice to the first time horse buyer includes taking lessons on a school horse first, do your research, join a club, consult a coach, or a friend with horse knowledge, take your time finding the right horse for you, take the horse on trial if possible. Consult a veterinarian for a pre purchase exam. Take lessons right away and keep learning and having fun. This avoids painful lessons, injury, and potentially ruining a horse and destroying the potential of a young rider. A miss matched horse and rider may well be the root cause of many an unwanted horse. One can understand a parent "getting rid" of a horse that hurt their child. I am sure they would not care where the animal went, even though, if you looked at the whole picture, the horse most likely wasn't the cause. I like to think this way. There are people who want a long term relationship with a horse and folks who want the experience of owning a horse and learning and then move onto a specialized sport. Both are great opportunities for stewardship.
For younger riders a succession plan is a good idea if you are purchasing a horse. Riders need to develop their skills as a rider, then may want to specialize in an equine sport later, potentially needing a different or second horse. A good investment in the right beginners horse, is an opportunity to teach your young rider about following the plan, and what is best for their equine partner. I met a mother at a horse show and commented how amazing the little pony her young daughter was riding. She said, that pony had taught her older daughter first, and is now giving her younger daughter the confidence to become the rider she wants to be. Then, I heard from the mom, there is a line up of young riders waiting for the chance to buy the pony and learn from it. That pony has a waiting list of partners, at age 20. One valuable pony, and those riders the pony trained, now need a younger horse that can do what they want to do. The owners have a chance to work at selling the pony, but also making sure it continues to be cared for in a responsible way. Here is an opportunity to explain to a new owner, this pony made my daughters into the riders they are, and will now teach and take care of your child. Treat the pony right, I need you to make sure that one day that pony has a home where it can live out its days and simply be cared for kindly and with compassion.
I also have met older riders both experienced and new to the sport, who just want a reliable, sound and pleasant mount, maybe something fancy, but a horse that is ready to do the job. I like to think this way, if a person was 50 when they purchased a 5 year old horse today, they will be 70 years old when that animal is 25 - that is a long time to commit to an animal and that horse may live even longer than that! Ask yourself, am I prepared for that? Is there specific direction in my will for my horses? A little patience at first will eliminate the risk of riding an unproven or inexperienced horse when you are really looking for something different. Ask yourself, do I value my health and safety to the extent that I would spend the money required on a horse that is truly ready to be my equine partner for life? At 50, I will do anything I can to minimize having to spend time recuperating from a fall. Don't get me wrong, falls happen, it is part of the sport and I am willing to take it, even at 50. I am also smart enough to know how to minimize the chances of it happening, what horses to avoid, when it is safe to ride, when I need help and what equipment I need to keep me and my horses healthy. I cheap out on fancy going-out-on-the town clothing, the number of bathrooms in my house and other luxuries; I spend my dollars on good horses, good trainers and good equipment - safety and fun first!
Friday, 5 October 2012
Heidi's Top 10 Equine Stewardship Practises. I don't want to tell anyone what to do, or give out free "advice". But, I do want to encourage responsible horsemen to think more deeply. Many people do not think things through, and actually say or influence others with statements that are not accurate. If horsemen took the time to think things through, they may act differently in some situations. Perhaps, these practises which I strive to abide by, may help others develop their own top 10 stewardship practises. So, what does the responsible horsemen do to demonstrate stewardship?
Number 10 - Create a Business Plan!
A colleague told me his daughter had presented him with a business plan for horse ownership a few years ago. He and his wife were not horsemen, but they were exemplary planners and the daughter's case won their support. They had a wonderful 3 years with the horse she purchased and sold the animal to an equally good home when the time came to move on. Horse crazy kids trying to convince their parents they should have a horse, take note. Parents, what an opportunity for teaching life skills!
A good plan should include the initial cost of a horse trained to do what you want to do, additional training if required, the cost of board or feed, fencing and shelter at home, coaching, equipment required, and the cost of reselling your horse to a good home if that is your plan, vet and farrier costs, travel costs, membership fees, and the cost of competing in your chosen sport, and dollars tucked aside for unforeseen circumstances. As well, many people give lifetime homes to their equine partners. When the time comes to say good bye, a kind end on the farm without any transport to an unfamiliar place is in the best interest of the horse. Euthanasia by a vet at the horses home and transport of the body to a rendering plant, or even burial on the farm costs money - keep a few hundred dollars aside for this. Talk to any experienced horsemen to gather expense details for your complete business plan. And here is the clincher, if you can not really afford your own horse, consider a lease, or trade work on a farm for riding privileges. If you want something enough, you can make it happen, but take your time and make the best choices for you and your potential horse.
|We plan our rides into the backcountry, we should also plan for the horses we purchase. |
Photo credit: E. Eggert