Email Subject Line: “Do I Want a Horse?”

wm-winter-night-feed

February 2nd, 10 pm, 12 degrees. There was dense fog all day. We didn’t see the sun and the temperature stayed in the teens. My barn is full now, with three fosters visiting, on top of the usual herd of boarded horses and my family horses.

It’s time for the night feeding; double socks in my muck boots, sweats over my pajama bottoms, coat zipped to the very top, and two layers of hats and gloves. The dogs come with me as I carry two buckets of warm mush. One is for the elderly toothless donkey who can’t stay warm by chewing hay all night like the others. There’s some of her supper frozen in her feed-pan; she’s a slow eater. The other bucket is for two of the fosters who could use just a bit extra on such a bitter night. Everyone else gets extra hay, a flake of alfalfa, and a visual once-over.

I’ve fallen hard enough on icy ground that I’ve had to catch my breath and then crawl to a safe place to stand again; I swear, icy nights are more dangerous than horses. So, it’s small steps, testing my boot cleats as I go around the barn to throw hay in the back pen. I want to put eyes on everyone, but now my headlamp is flickering. A bit of whacking and head-shaking works and when I’m finally satisfied everyone is okay, I head back to the house and un-peel. My boots and coat are off when I remember the water. There’s one tank that I should have topped off. The layers come back on and I waddle out the back door again, with fewer dogs this time.

My barn hydrant has been frozen all week, so I’ve rolled out hose from the far side of the house. I can’t stand the thought of hose-wrangling on this night, when the frost is as thick as snow, so I walk a pair of five-gallon buckets instead.

Here’s why you should particularly not feel sorry for me. Right about now, I set the buckets down, pull my phone out, and take my gloves off. It’s so beautiful that, even in the dark, I take a few shots. It all looks night-vision green in my view finder and my eyes are too cold to focus. Then as I deliver the water, Edgar Rice Burro exhales a staccato series of heavy breaths, his precursor to braying, and I give him an extra scratch before going in for the night.

Thursday is blog night, these last seven years, so the dogs and I go to my studio to start writing. If there’s anything less romantic than below-freezing trips to the barn, it’s pounding out a blog past bed-time. Feel no sympathy for me; I’m hooked.

I’ve been thinking about an email I received from a stranger. The subject line asked, “Do I Want a Horse?” What a silly question, of course, you do.

The email was from a woman of a certain age, who has taken riding lessons every week for a couple of years but dreams of having horses at her home. Her husband and family think she shouldn’t; she thinks I might be impartial since I don’t know her. Really? I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. Even now, I’m haunted every day by the desire to have a horse.

It was a serious question and I gave her a serious answer. Keeping a horse at home is ugly work, not just for the weather. It’s constant fence repair and mucking and less time to ride than you imagine. I reeled off the numbers; cost of care, feed, vets, farriers, and all the rest. But the money is the easiest part.

Horses are somehow both accident prone and dangerous. They get hurt or sick and it isn’t always obvious until it’s bad. It takes years to gain the required knowledge and methods to keep them well. Then, she’ll need two; it’s cruel to own one horse. And she’ll need a truck and trailer and a safe place to ride. Or if she hauls to ride or have lessons, the horse left home might have anxiety, so maybe three horses are a better number. It gets complicated fast.

The heartfelt wish to have a horse is the selfish and easy part. I tell her it isn’t so simple to just get rid of them if it doesn’t work out. I give her the commitment talk. And of course, she must include them in her will to avoid them landing in rescue or on a truck to Mexico, if they outlive her. Then I urge her to make a list of what she’d be willing to give up if push comes to shove.

Sometimes parents ask me about a horse for their kid (and none of us are much more mature than that) and I always say no, don’t do it. Instead, lease a horse at a barn. When we get it wrong, it’s the horse that suffers.

But if the kid (you) can’t eat, or sleep, and begs relentlessly for at least a year, then consider getting a horse. But only do this thing if you think you’ll die without one. Know that you will see ugly things that will haunt you forever and you’ll be terrified a good part of the time. It’s a lot to go through for the view of a horse outside your window. Then, take the leap, if you must.

I never candy-coat horse ownership, but what I don’t say (and what I really believe) is that there’s too much cheap talk about loving horses. I never think it’s about owning one. I think we need to own all of them–each one of us literally owning each one of them.

I wish it was all more absolute. Not just the conditional love of a personal horse, or loving a breed of horses, but accepting the old crippled ones, the babies that need care and training, and the ones destroyed by abuse and neglect. It’s about track horses and plow horses and horses past any kind of work. It’s volunteering at a local rescue or therapeutic program when you’re done at home. It’s taking in an elder in the name of a heart-horse you’ve lost. And when your barn is full, then get out the checkbook and spend whatever’s left there to support local riding programs and rescues. Show up and witness abuse cases in court; call your elected officials on horses’ behalf. Then hope to encourage others by your example.

Do I think you should you get a horse? No. You should get all of them.

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….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

117 thoughts on “Email Subject Line: “Do I Want a Horse?”

  1. Barbara Cohen

    I especially LOVED this one. The first part could have been me the past few nights. That made me smile. Plus, I agree with everything you said. Thanks for making my day.

  2. Howdy, neighbor of old,
    You nail it once again. Been there, still doing that. Hoping I can stay upright this morning as I head to the barn in the snow. Your photos are awesome!

    1. Well, what we now lack in speed and grace, we make up for by commitment, all these years since high school. I hope we are “still doing that” years from now. Thanks, Emily.

  3. AMEN … on behalf of the 17 Arabians, ages 7 to 32, and the 5 kill pen rescues who make their home in my pastures, THANK YOU! Naturally, I’m one of the kids who dreamed about horses every night, drew pictures of horses every day, read everything about horses that I could find, saved every penny “to buy a horse” & bought my first pony when I was 7. Now that I’m almost 61, horses are not optional for me, they are the biggest part of my life. The 7 adult years that I lived without them were miserable! Just knowing they are there makes me happy, & gets me out of bed in the morning. But I thank you for reminding me that it isn’t just about the ones I love best … the ones I bred & raised, or the other Arabians who need homes … it’s about ALL of them. Amen.

  4. Sally

    Amen is right! Dreamed of horses all day, every day all my life. Rode then gave them up for years when life was busy with other things. Finally someone said, would you just go get one, so in my 40’s I took partnership of the first of a bunch of OTTBs that were looking for that 3rd or 4th career. My current boy was a $1 kill pen rescue no one wanted, don’t ask what he has cost in money and years of work to fix what people did 🙂 He’s not fancy, but so special to me. It’s all about the journey and what we can create together.

    1. This is a fine truth, Sally. Bless you == as I discovered, when an OTTB gets in your heart, there’s no turning back. I was seeking a Hanoverian, but fell in love with this kind-hearted OTTB.
      we have been together for six years now and he’s more Teddy Bear than horse. But, when out in the 40 acre pasture, he becomes a race-horse again.
      Love, Nuala

  5. Lynell Abbott

    It’s all true…from subzero temps to having 3 is better than 2 to providing a home for the aged and infirm! And! It is as true for me today as it was 20 years ago when we finally adopted our first horses! My very first was a 30yr Morgan who we adopted from a rescue facility along with a 3yr TB Dover (now 23, still with us) . Hershey had lots of “issues,” but he kept going for me for another 2 years. As time passed, I lamented If I knew then what I know now, maybe he would have made it beyond those 2 years. But we continued with our equine collection, to include a 17yr Palomino, Sherlock, with suspected EPM. Our relationship with the rescue made us the # 1 pick to take this horse as he was very popular because of his stunning looks and sweet nature.
    When we moved to a place with more acres, “friends” came out of the woodwork with a horse that needed a home. And then along came PokeyMo and later our beloved Hank (son of Sherlock), each having suffered injuries that ended their fox hunting careers.
    After the loss of Cappy (29 yr app) to colic a few months ago, we were down to a very quiet barn of 2. I believe in fate. So as fate would have it, a vet I consult with (domiciled several hundred miles away) posted that he had some “free” horses he was looking to place so as to make room for his healing barn. These 2 newbies to our barn are not quite infirm but do have ex-racehorse issues! A real “healing barn” we are not, but I am a sucker for those “children of a lesser God.
    If I could borrow a phrase from the late John F. Kennedy as it pertains to horses, it would be: “Ask not what your horse can do for you; ask what you can do for your horse.” That’s how I see it.

  6. teresapeters2016

    Wow – I loved this. Thank you for staying up past bedtime on a Thursday night for our reading pleasure.

    Teresa @ LostMuleLodge.com

  7. Anna,
    You have a brilliant and uncanny way of churning up tears. I was just outside in the garden (3/4 acre only) wishing, as I often do, it was 8 acres for all the reasons you suggest. I cleaned up brush (it’s 39F in Virginia at 10:45 AM) and thought of you in the teens and fog. In addition to all you cover — owning horses in hard on the skin, hard on the joints (hands included) and at these ‘certain ages’ we don’t have the stamina and strength we had when younger. I met a gentleman named Holden at the local Tractor Supply; Holden used to work at race courses and he later trained off-tracker TBs to help rehome them. He said it was often heartbreaking work as many could not be placed. You take horses completely into your heart and suffer all the downsides and upsides you mention — but yet mamu of us change forever horse ownership becomes completely fulfilling — our hearts overflow in all directions. I took in one OTTB at 59.
    Now, at 64, I have three. You are right about the ‘three’, but I plan to rescue a donkey, too.
    And so it goes. I have few clothes now and I don’t even enjoy going out much — everything goes to the horses.

    Holden has back and neck problems and no longer has horses. When I saw him a few days ago he seemed sad. I asked him if he was all right. He said, “No, not really, I have no horses now, due to my health issues and I feel as though my life has less purpose.”

    I smiled, and said, “You have helped hundreds of OTTBs during your long career.”

    He responded, “Yes — horses gave me a reason to get up each morning.”

    David said, yesterday, “You didn’t used to look like that.”

    “Like what?” I retorted, with a grumpy face.

    “Well, like THAT!” he replied.

    I know what he means. Weather has not been kind to the skin, exactly. My hands look like a farmer’s hands now (and bless them all for what they do daily). My hair, constantly tied in a pony tail, is split and has lost it’s condition. I am often covered in dust or mud or hay. I rarely wear dresses or skirts now — only during booksignings.

    I suppose we become what we love.

    Your images here are breathtaking. We all need to realize that this IS our calling in life. Some of us have come to it later than others, but it is still a calling.

    If you plan to take in an equine partner, remember it will change your life forever — there’s no going back.

    Anna, thank you for being our partner, our mirror and being there for all of us when we need a little help — mentally, physically, inspirationally.

    With love,
    Nuala

      1. Anna,
        You look beautiful to me — and to many of us.
        Now, knowing you, we can’t manage without your words and wisdom.
        Remember that, on cold dark nights, and make sure you drink your Ovaltine, Horlicks or tea with honey.
        Nuala

  8. Maggie Frazier

    Absolutely great! There are sadly, so many people who answer YES I do want a horse, but have no clue to what it means to have even one wonderful creature dependent upon them. It is and should be, a lifetime commitment, but seeing the huge number of horses & burros that end up in auction pens, obviously a lot of people dont see it that way. I envy all of you who are still answering the “call” – I wish I still could. Keep up doing the right thing.

  9. Bitya

    Anna, thank you. After having boarded, having my own barn to boarding again, I took two years “off”. In 30 years, you bet- I’ve seen all kinds of things you can’t unsee (or forget), had my heart broken by what I’ve witnessed, both human and equine. A year with a friend’s schoolmaster was enough to let me know my life is incomplete without horse and even my miserly spouse, who often rants about the expense admitted as much.
    On facebook, of all places, I saw my PRE gelding- not thinking at the time he would ever be in my price range. I just knew I had to fly to go see him. I knew he was my horse. Turned out I could afford him- I bought this horse, who’d had already one episode of EPM against the advice of everyone, even losing a couple of friends in the process. As a trauma survivor (with no hair due to autoimmune just to keep me humble, I suppose), I felt that we were an excellent match of two imperfect individuals. One year later,we’ve seen the dreaded relapse, from which he has made a stellar recovery. I knew what I was getting into, as my son has lost a horse to EPM (and for him it was a worst case scenario) and I, in turn, have learned so much more, even about myself in the process. I do believe this is a calling of sorts. In a year or so, we plan to move farther south to have him at home, and yes, we’ll get a couple more horses.

    1. I had a rueful smile reading your wonderful comment. No perfect horses, and heaven knows, humans even less perfect. Maybe in the end, it always boils down to acceptance. Us, them, as we fail and try again. Thank you, Bitya.

  10. Barb Smith

    I can completely identify with your wonderful post! I have two horses that live in a barn about 50 yards from my back door. My boys are now 22 and 19, and we have been together for years. I no longer ride every day, but we still enjoy going out and riding the trails frequently. One of the great joys of my daily life is walking to the barn every night at 11:00 for bed check. They nicker to me as I throw them hay and top off their water buckets. They are comfortable, safe, loved and treasured. Yes, caring for horses at home can be time consuming and often isn’t easy. Especially, on cold winter days/nights, it can be a chore…but seeing them and hearing them every night before I climb into bed is often the most satisfying part of my day. I may be 68 yrs old, but the little girl in me still gets a thrill knowing that horses are a huge part of my life!

  11. Judy Shaub

    Great post. We do it because we cannot live without them, and we love them all. I cannot drive past horses without taking a close look to be sure everyone is ok. I cannot look away from a rolling horse in case this is not just a good body scratch but instead a fatal episode of colic. I too have had to suit up again because I don’t remember checking the water tank. My mind knows it is good but that little voice asks, “But what if I am wrong?” Eating all that extra hay is thirsty work. But we do it because we cannot imagine doing anything else. There is something magic about being outside with them at night. Sharing the night sky and the night sounds. I have an Arabian. He does not miss anything. He really seems to enjoy standing with me and just taking it all in. I know I enjoy his company very much. And I dream of adding stalls and inviting more.

    The leasing suggestion is a good one, especially for the first time horse owner. There is so much to learn and the horse is the one who pays for that education. Leasing at a good barn is a win win for a new horse owner. Also volunteering at a rescue. They can use all the help they can get and usually have jobs for every level of experience. The education is valuable and because you are not the sole caregiver, the horses are not at risk.

    I too appreciate so very much that you are called to put pen to paper for us, and of course especially for the animals.

  12. Suzanne in NC

    Absolutely spot on for so many! The only thing in here that didn’t match my experiences was that three might be the magic number to avoid the separation problems. It took 5 at my house – haha!!
    It is sooooo true that there is not much time left for riding – but you know – I’m beginning to groove on the “taking care of” activities just as much.

    Thanks again for giving us “retired” people something to reflect on! I enjoy it tremendously!!! It’s nice to have someone validate life events you have had too.

    1. Maggie Frazier

      Wow – those beat anything I’ve ever seen! No horse anymore, but my lab mix & I walk thru the field up next to the woods morning & night – lots of springs on this place & of course they freeze, thaw & re-freeze all winter long! So far – my snow sneakers(ll bean) & gaiters(ll bean) have done the trick (very few spills) but I’ll keep these little hummers in mind!!

  13. Sarah Jackson

    Love the photo and resonate with the words expressed here ( as always) . When I could no longer tolerate the drama and uncertainty of boarding my horses, I bought 3 acres last year, and now live with my horses. I don’t have the amenities of a boarding facility like arena, round pen, and such here yet and probably won’t anytime soon, if ever. . I commute 2 hours daily to work that pays me enough ( barely) to support this horse enterprise. I have far less time for riding or doing any sort of work with my two geldings now … but NOT COMPLAINING, I, too, enjoy the delights of mucking and just being with my “boys,” and doing the best I can to keep them healthy and happy .They don’t seem to mind that there is less riding or training going on ! We like just breathing together now and then I do sometimes stop and ask myself if I am crazy? AFter all, I’m 65 yrs old, and then I ask myself if there is anything else I’d rather be doing right this minute than rolling this wheelbarrow with poop, or dragging heavy bags of grain, and so forth ?? Anything? … and the answer is “no, there is nothing else this rich and wonder-full ” and thank god I found my way back to horses after a 30 yr hiatus. I love your books, your blogs, because they support my particular brand of crazy – Horse Crazy !!!

  14. Stacey

    That brought tears to my eyes this morning. “Of course you want a horse!”. I feel like my 10 year old self every time I bring another misfit horse home and my husband asks why. I can’t explain it to him in a way he understands. I love horses, he loves me and it works out. I now have 5 and am happier than ever. Thanks for the blog!!!

  15. Tina M Kuehnl

    Here, here. I have owned numerous horses, went 14 years without. Whined and moaned and begged for one. It’s a rescue, big boy, not in my back yard-being housed at a stable. But he is mine, financial and all!

  16. Rebecca Lippert Huber

    Well, shit. I had just been considering putting the cute OTTB with a sesamoid fracture out of my mind and waiting for a sound one, and of course second guessing all of my abilities and knowledge should I go forward with any OTTB. I’m still young, but by the end of summer I will have gone 10 years without owning a horse, and that’s unfathomable to me. It’s never been the right time, we’ve never had enough money… But as my husband said the other day, “oh just get a horse, who cares!?” (please note, it’s taken him about 6 years to actually accept how irrationally important horses are to me)

    No harm in looking right? (said my mom who came home with a puppy like 5 times) (said I who came home with a puppy twice, who in fact has turned out to be the BEST dog I’ve ever met, objectively speaking)

    1. Smart man! But I do have to say, after reading these comments, there’s nothing wrong with finding a sound horse, too. There’s plenty of other things that will go wrong even if you wait for a rideable one. (Teehee.)

  17. beckylippert

    Well, shit. I had just been considering putting the cute OTTB with a sesamoid fracture out of my mind and waiting for a sound one, and of course second guessing all of my abilities and knowledge should I go forward with any OTTB. I’m still young, but by the end of summer I will have gone 10 years without owning a horse, and that’s unfathomable to me. It’s never been the right time, we’ve never had enough money… But as my husband said the other day, “oh just get a horse, who cares!?” (please note, it’s taken him about 6 years to actually accept how irrationally important horses are to me)

    No harm in looking right? (said my mom who came home with a puppy like 5 times) (said I who came home with a puppy twice, who in fact has turned out to be the BEST dog I’ve ever met, objectively speaking)

    1. Congrats for preparing to take the leap one more time… good for you and good for your husband. Six years is a while, but some men never come around to understanding the “phase” we’re in. I don’t know your skill level or a thing about this OTTB, but if riding is important, no apologies needed. Lots of sound horses need homes, too. Thanks for commenting, Becky.

  18. Oh Anna, thank you so much! For loving horses (and all animals), for providing respite and food, water and care, for all the endless days and nights of work, for slogging through the ice, mud, snow, wind – whatever, and thank you ever so much for sharing your wisdom and your kindness with all of us who cannot imagine anything other than this chosen life. You are gifted, you have a huge capacity for love and kindness, and you just get it. You get me. And I love you for that. You have once again, made my heart swell and the tears fall…thank God for our horses, who save us every single day.

    1. And that’s about how often I need to be saved, so it works out. Just to be fair, friends would want you to know that “capacity for love” is challenged when it comes to my own species… but thank you!

  19. In this very moment,reading this collective love of the Horse is part of a deep process for me. For, these days, now five years living with 4 horses, I have been feeling quite done. But that is what the mud can do to your brain, never mind what it does to you boots and socks when you involuntarily step out of them! SO I am soaking in these words that come from the depths, and remembering… and trying to be reinvigorated too!

    thank you,
    Sabina

    1. Oh Sabina, I so understand your feeling of being done!
      We’ve just come off a week of my mare not being quite right, and me worrying myself into a migraine over it. In -30*C weather.
      *sigh*
      But, as we both come out the other side, slowly regaining our feet and health together, I come back to the realization that this is where I’m meant to be.
      No matter how hard, no matter how tired, no matter how scared of losing her I am…this is it. This is where I belong. Because the joys of mucking and poop removal, those little whickers of greetings in the dark, the boisterous whinny of greeting when I come home…makes it all worth the hard times. Even when the hard times seem like they come more often and stay longer than the joyous moments.

      From one horse woman to another, I send you lots of ❤ and heartfelt joy. To aid in the reinvigoration of your Spirit.

  20. Yes, I think I would die without a horse (and a dog). And yes, they break your heart, if not your bones. My 9-year-old has just been diagnosed with COPD, a new one for me in my long list of “horse problems I have lived through.”

  21. Dee

    I’m blessed to have 11 of “all of them”. I laughed at the serendipity of the will making, having done *just* that this week. Cue raised eyebrows of the lawyer who assumed I had “bloodstock” when I said I wanted to make provision for horses. Eh, no…. not bloodstock lol but none the less cherished for that. Lovely piece, Anna😬

  22. Keeping horses at home is definitely no easy life, and I have seen too many people try it and then give up … or worse, just begin to ignore the horse in the backyard. You’ve said in this piece so many of the things I have said to so many people. Horses are individuals with personalities, emotions, attachments … large yet highly fragile in every way. Over the years I have seen too many wonderful horses dumped when they no longer win, or become inconvenient … by owners who “love” horses! Like you, those words have become rather dull to me, in the light of what people who “love” horses are too often willing to do to them.

    I do what I can, knowing it will never be “enough” to fix all of the problems. But my horses live out their retirement with us, I support the causes I can afford to, and do what I can to teach others about the beautiful souls that horses are. Though my efforts will never seem sufficient, it truly brightens my day to know there are others, like you Anna, not only doing what they can, but urging others to do the same.

    And the other message I got from your post was … I am so glad not to live in snow country! 😉

    1. Maggie Frazier

      Speaking of inconvenient – I just heard last week that the Tennessee Walker who lived in the stall next to my horse (gone 14 years) was listed for free!!!!!!!! on Craigs List a while ago. He had been pretty much a pasture ornament for at least 14-15 years – owner bought him when he was 4 – rode him a couple years – then injured his back & stopped coming to the barn BUT continued to pay board until, I guess a while ago. I havent been back to my old barn (or my horses grave) for about 3 years – no excuse really except that it still hurts to see another horse in Chicos stall. But anytime I did go, always stopped & visited with Smokey (TWH). The idea of just dumping a horse that never did anything wrong seems even worse when you KNOW the horse. I apologize for the sad story – I know probably most or all here have heard many of those – but it just sticks in my mind & this is the place where its understood better than anywhere else!

      1. Yes, Maggie, most of us have heard or experienced many of these … but for those who care, that doesn’t make us hardened to them. Instead we share your sadness and outrage.

  23. Laurie

    Again Anna, you speak the absolute truth. I have found that my slapstick sense of humor has carried me through many a treacherous winter. You know, trying to kick a frozen gate latch free by standing on the leg with the artificial hip, because the other one won’t reach that high…..well you can probably picture how that ends. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for changing a fundamental part of my personality at the ripe age of 61. You see, I never was a joiner; I’m a bit of a loan wolf. I didn’t even want to be a Girl Scout in my youth. But you have changed all that; you have created a sisterhood that I enjoy and am proud to be a part of….thank you.

    1. Well, snort, you’ve come to the right place. I quit Brownies because they were sissies who glued macaroni onto construction paper. I’m frightened to think what else we have in common. Thanks, Laurie.

    2. Laurie,
      Hurrah for the sisterhood. We are all of very like minds and it’s most inspiring to enjoy the stories and comments from around the country and some beyond.

      Hopefully, Anna knows how much her writings mean to all of us.

      Warm wishes,
      Nuala

    3. Ha! So not a joiner right along with ya, Laurie! Got kicked out of Girl Scouts myself. Too many rules associated with the wearing of the uniform. Well, that and I might’ve called Poppy, the troop leader, Poopy.

      Well anyway…This post, Anna, was so perfect in describing the external and internal realities of caring for horses. Thank you. I will share it.

      My heart horse is a rescue from a previous neighbor, in way over his head. 10 years later I have Dodger home after building him and his mini horse friend the barn, paddock and pasture I always wanted, in a neighborhood that walks by just to stand and watch “Mutt and Jeff” be happy together. His stall is 30 feet from where I sleep.

      The dream came true. I love my reason for jumping out of bed in the mornings to nickers, and saying my good nights while listening to them eat…with all the water watching, mashes and feedings in between. Riding hasn’t even felt necessary since I got them home last May.

      1. I can see my runs from my bedroom window… but not ready to give up riding. I do think that when our relationship with horses becomes more multi-level, riding changes. Thanks, wonderful comment, and welcome to our Recovering Girl Scout group.

  24. “Even now, I’m haunted every day by the desire to have a horse.”
    So true. My own is now 21. And has been pasture sound only for nearly 6 yrs now. He is my 3rd “”heart horse”” I have been blessed three times.
    But, despite my husbands hopes. I will ALWAYS be haunted by the desire to have a horse.

    Every day, twice a day. 365. No matter what the weather. I drive a half hour one way, to see my boy. When he isnt there any longer. I will be lost.

  25. My lone horse seems to cope well in sight of another equine… (cannot afford another until the house is built and I can move out of the r.v. – affectionately referred to as the Shimmy Shack)

    Today was a relatively relaxing day, (after unloading and stacking 40 bales), culminating in this evening’s chores revealing an unfinished breakfast tub + a fuller hay bag and water tub than I’d like to see. The tub is brand new (yesterday) and still stinks of rubber. A rare day of blanketing due to wind, rain and wildly swinging temps may explain the hay and water…

    Favorite treat scarfed, and fresh manure witnessed, eased the anxiety, but I did double check the banamine supply…

    Wouldn’t trade it for the world 😀

  26. Mary Eckstein

    I just bought my first horse at age 64. I have wanted one all my life. I’ve taken lessons and leased. My daughter suffers from bipolar and lives in a residential home. I am not waiting any longer. I muck out stalls once a week for 10 horses just to help with the board, in all weather. And I find myself thinking, “maybe I should get another one…..”

  27. Anna,
    Off subject, but anyway: I sat down today to begin your delightful volume, Relaxed and Forward.
    I am just getting over this trachea bronchitis thing, so took one day off from the barn (friends there are watching over the three boys).

    I put my feet up, and had three cats on the sofa (one on my knee). I actually read several chapters aloud and the cats purred vociferously — so they, too, enjoyed your book.
    What a wonderful volume, full of great insight, humor and excellence.

    No matter what we think we know, your words challenge us to consider our relationship with horses more deeply. I thought of you in deep snow, cold and fog. We are complaining about 39F in Virginia; it’s not bad and you have much more to cope with there.

    I am just off to bed with your book now; the virus is causing chills and mild fever, so you feel cold all the time, but it’s on its way out, and I’ll be back at the barn tomorrow. Thank Heavens for great barn managers and great friends.

    Love to you from Captain Jack, Simon and Strider.

    Nuala

  28. Sharon Patterson

    In the Pacific Northwest, I used to live in a snow area where one year, we had 8 feet of snow before Christmas. Fortunately we lived in an apartment on the 2nd floor of the barn. I loved that living situation. My heart horse’s stall was below my bedroom. Now I live where snow is rare but did happen this year for more than a week. With no infrastructure to support snow, my work load went way up since the grass was covered by 12 inches of snow. Being 71 with 3 horses, I realized that if I lived in a real snow zone, I would not be able to live with my horses. One of many downsides to the blessing of living long. My horses give me so much joy. I’m grateful for the privilege of getting up in the morning to see them and care for them.
    Thank you for your wonderful writing. You have a gift to be articulate about things that so many of us horse crazy women feel. I really appreciate and relate to your acknowledgement of not necessarily being so good with our own species.

    1. You have my dream dwelling; second floor of the barn! I have friends who moved to warmer climes, but I like my pond… who knows. Thanks for the kind words, Sharon. Take care.

  29. inspiring life you are now leading, following your heart, Mary Eckstein. SOoooo joy-filled for you, even the mucking part! COngratulations on not delaying any longer on this calling…

    Nuala, get better soon, I am sure your cats have offered much healing and you will wake in the morning well on your way ( not sure to where, but probably the barn:)

    and Anna, can feel your support too, thank you, like I said this post has gone a long way in my labarythian process-as did all of your authentic comments here in the sisterhood.
    gratitude,
    Sabina

    1. Sabina, thank you so much — how kind of you. It’s mostly blown out now. I was at the barn today (we have 113 horses there, so you can imagine it’s quite a challenge for the managers at feed time, when so many crowd the gates to all the pastures. It’s very well managed and each horse slips through and knows the way to his or her stall. It’s like the running in Pamplona (but not with humans).

      My off-track thoroughbred was having a ‘naughty day’. He didn’t want to do much work in the large round pen and when I invited him to center to do some Parelli, I asked him to turn on the haunches and he kept going round as though doing circus tricks. Such a monkey today.
      He was ‘hanging out’ (parts) and making everyone laugh — a good sense of humor.
      I then took him into the large arena and removed the lead. he followed my every step, even over the cavalletti poles and small crossrails (at liberty). Then, I asked him to stand midships….
      I sat down on the mounting block at the side of the arena and waited to see what he would do.

      He watched me for a moment, unsure, then proceeded slowly in my direction, with head lowered, until his snout was at my shoulder — waiting for his kiss on the star.

      After a hard training day yesterday, with jumping, he was enjoying play today and he knew he could be cheeky.

      Don’t you just love them?

      Have an inspiring week.

      Warm wishes,
      Nuala

  30. Hello Anna and friends. Another brilliant post crowned by wonderful comments. And I hate to be the spectre at the feast, but here comes the “Health & Safety” warning. Horse people, even those of us of a certain age, tend to think we have an iron constitution, but don’t count on it!

    Last September I was turning out our two horses when I turned to check if they were following, heard an almighty crack and found myself on the ground with a leg bent back in an impossible position and eye-watering agony. The osteopenia that showed up on a bone density scan a couple of years ago had become so much worse that my bones are as brittle as Crunchie bars (similar to candy canes in US?)
    The hospital inserted a titanium rod down my shattered femur, held in place with screws, and, four months later I am still on crutches. We have no family save my husband’s brother on the other side of the world, no near neighbours and no financial means of buying in daily help or sending the “boys” to a livery yard, so although I do as much as I can, which is sometimes more hindrance than help, all the rest has fallen to my heroic husband, who was a reluctant late convert to horses. The same happened 5 years ago when I had two accidents in a year. Broke the same leg – tibia last time – in a fall, then, still insecure months later, stumbled and broke my jaw – and back then we had three horses for him to cope with. No wonder he groaned when he found me on the ground this time, and only a small part of that was sympathy for me!

    So before you take on another horse or even the first, not only is it important to make that will, but to give serious thought to a disaster back-up plan. Your horse care may only be as good as the person you can delegate to!

    Meanwhile, there are three of us hobbling round the place here; 62 year old me, our arthritic 30 year old skewbald with his turmeric-yellow nose and now my 16 year old PRE who has somehow injured himself, maybe slipping or rolling when we had hard frosts. The cats, bless ’em try to help, but you know what cat “help” is like, eg. hopping on to your lap to be a comfort and landing just where it broke!

    I look at those magical snow pictures, Anna, and now, with my present “invalid’s lenses”, worry about you slipping and falling as you carry those huge water buckets. The subject has got me motivated enough to maybe bring the blog out of retirement!!! KEEP SAFE all of you, your horseman’s luck may not always hold….

    1. First, so sorry to hear of your accident. We can never let our guard down; it’s always that kind of “ordinary” situation that needs our acute attention. I so agree; not just about the will, but about the need for more caution than ever. We are at a fragile age and don’t heal (I don’t need to tell you) as fast as we used to. It’s easy here because there are always new horses and I stay on my professional toes… harder, I think, with our familiar horses. We need a lot more than luck, our groundwork has to always be fresh. Again, so sorry… don’t mean to preach. Please go slow and recover well. If my Lear jet was tuned up, I’d fly to France and be your stable boy! (Look forward to your blog coming back!)

      1. Thanks Anna, but just to say that the leg-break had absolutely nothing to do with the horses! And, believe me, as groundwork is often all we have been able to do for long periods, we are pretty well practiced now, with a whole comedy repertoire of mutual mind reading. The Horse even picks up my crutch when I drop it!! I’m sure you as an equine professional have emergency help in place, but I just wanted to make the point to those thinking of taking on one or extra horses that they can never be sure when back up will be necessary and so to consider that the other half/family/friends may not be willing or able to fill in. Apologies for wires crossed there!

      2. Oh, my longlost hearing is back! You’re right. I’m traveling more for clinics now, and have barn back-up that saves me. Same thing after my foot surgery. Your point is well taken, so very right. Can I see a video of the crutch trick?? Iberian genius, I assume?

      3. Maggie Frazier

        I’d love to see the picture of the crutch pickerupper! Sounds like you’ve really had a rough patch – we (most of us) all are dealing with getting older – not easy! Only better than the alternative, right? Reading these comments either makes me laugh or sometimes cry – but it keeps me involved with horses even in a small way. And that gets more important every day.

    2. I’ve thought of you often … so sorry to read of your recent accident. (And how funny to “bump into” you here on Anna’s blog!) I miss your stories and equine adventures and I hope you are back on both feet soon. (Apologies to Anna … this is a former fellow equine blogger I used to follow for quite some time. Small world, huh?)

      1. Lovely to “talk” to you both too, much missed. I’ll see if I can capture Mr. Spanish Clever Clogs and post it (also picks up the skip I clean his feet in to, with mixed results; NOT so clever) maybe the inspiration for a blog post! Best wishes to you both (and time you got posting again too Cheryl!)

  31. Wow. Eloquently stated. And, yes, I own a horse at home. And you are bang on in everything you said. It’s muddy and messy and cold and wet and dangerous. But it is also unspeakably beautiful at times, this strange love for my mare (one of the broken and abused). I am also “of a certain age” and Taliesin might be my last horse. When I’m tired and hurting and broke I think she will be and then, when I think about my life without a horse, I’m not so sure. Thank you for your wisdom – always much appreciated.

    1. Wonderful… and again, there are so many ways that horses need help. A couple years ago I was at a town hall meeting about an abuse case locally, and the room was filled with women of a certain age, and everyone had something to say. Thanks Valery. Keep on mucking.

  32. lytha

    My first reaction to your blog title was if you have to ask, the answer is no. Like you said, unless you’ll surely die without one: )

    “Even now, I’m haunted every day by the desire to have a horse.” I’ve been playing with an idea in my head. If being horse crazy is an illness, would I take a pill to cure myself? Since horses terrify and haunt us, provide so much ugly work (I fixed fences in the snow yesterday), and injure us regularly, wouldn’t a cure be good?

    Hmmmmm.. I don’t think I’d like myself if I lost my identity. What would be left of me? Assuming you never miss what you never had, perhaps being normal wouldn’t suck. Agh, not worth the risk, I’ll keep the sickness.

    1. Great comment, Lytha. Don’t take the pill… if you get cured of this sickness, you might catch something worse. Like crocheting. Or wait, would you end up crocheting horse costumes?? Nah, don’t try. It could be worse.

      1. lytha

        I’d love your advice on my horse’s touchiness issue. I know you’re gonna say he’s just a baby but maybe there’s something else I can do to desensitize his danger-end.

        And isn’t crocheting the safest possible hobby!? When I cannot ride anymore, I hope to become an expert at crocheting. They say it’s a mindful thing to do. One thing I will never make – those ridiculous ear covers for horses. Oh, the indignity!

        http://horsecrazyamerican.blogspot.de/2017/02/hes-just-baby-dont-worry-said-willy.html

      2. I read your blog and I am just guessing. Without seeing the two of
        you, it’s just a guess! If he’s young, know you are setting a path for his future. It sounds like he feels a lot of anxiety, if he is unsettled and sweating that much. I’d start by making sure he isn’t struggling with ulcers. If he’s okay, my advice is to do work that engages his mind more than his body. Let the conversation with you be more rewarding than the spooky things… that’s the short version. Good luck.

      3. Anna / Lytha,

        I believe the very best you can do for your sensitive horse is groundwork, groundwork, groundwork. Gentle, bonding exercises. Plenty of in-hand work. There, you are on the ground with your horse and his partner — as he can see you, he feels safer. It greatly helps all work under saddle, too. If you have a friend, family member, to assist with the groundwork, even better. Make it fun and work with him!

        Nuala

  33. Pingback: I blame Anna ….. | Cavalière Attitude

  34. Cavaliereattitude:
    Hello, gosh I am so sorry to hear of your injury. The blog is definitely a good reminder. At this age (60s, anyway) the old responses are not so fast in some cases, the hands and fingers don’t always unclip gates so quickly and when there is mud and ice, double-whammy. Yes, I too, thought about Anna and whether she had back up. When you board at a large farm, such as the one we currently inhabit, there are many people to help in emergencies. The ‘romantic thought’ of having a farm of our own has long since left me, especially at this age. The younger ones are of great support when things go awry, snow prevents travel, or other duties call and there is a horse boo-boo, lost shoe, or other event.

    More horses? Yes, that’s a good point too. It’s so easy to desire more and before you know it, someone calls you, advising of a poor horse that needs a home, and your heart is lost.

    My husband is in his mid-60s, and his balance isn’t as good as it was. He, too, has come a cropper in the pasture in mud or wet conditions, his Wellies having stuck in the mud. Last week, a pole that had woodworm, gave way suddenly, when our little Tennessee Walker pulled him, and again he crashed down. Fortunately, he was unhurt, but now I make him wear a helmet, even for ground work or hand-walking.

    The last three injuries I have had were due, not to horses, but stupidity:
    1 – Dancing around in socks in the kitchen to The Chieftains (Irish Music), I feel on the tail bone.
    2- Skipping out to the garage too fast (again in socks) with the laundry basket; I slipped down wooden steps and slammed my back into the edge of one step. I thought I was going to die of that pain.
    3 – I tripped on an area rug (they are ALL lethal) while carrying laundry in (I shouldn’t do laundry at all) to the house from the garage, and fractured my fifth metatarsal bone, right foot. Eight weeks of pain and taped foot, terrified one of the horses would step on it and finish the job.

    I did have one injury to my hand, when the Tennessee Walker cantered out of the pasture into the paddock. I was trying to open the clip on the gate, but he reached me before I did, slid to a stop at the gate and slammed my hand into the gate post (accidentally, in his enthusiasm). Banged up blood vessel on that one.

    My editor sent word from New Zealand: “Nuala, be careful, horses are dangerous creatures.”

    Most injuries have been in the home == 90% of injuries occur in the home, according to statistics.

    It’s a thin line working with our equids, but what would we change?

    Nuala

  35. Oh wow!! You literally could not said this better. When I left home for my first real job out of uni there was no question in my mind that my mare was coming with me, and despite the fact that mum and I had owned horses for over 15 years, i didn’t fully appreciate what I was getting myself into. I didn’t realise the stress of the hundreds of seemingly tiny decisions such as do I put the heavy winter rug on or just the sheet, is she loosing condition, does she need a bit more feed, is that leg a little swollen. But the joy that horse brings me makes it all worth it.

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