I can’t help but think that the relationship between a horse and their owner starts out a lot like a dating relationship. With the ‘starting’ of the relationship often the biggest hurdle. Maneuvering the ads on a site like Kijiji can easily be compared to finding that perfect someone on a similar human only site; because a human to Equine relationship often has all the same drama.
For example a sale ad that reads like this,“This great little horse has the potential to go in any direction you want to go.” Just might be code for, “I haven’t done a thing with this horse since the day I got her-but hey anything is possible.”
Not much different than a human dating site posted by, “An artistically minded man who writes poetry and loves his Mama is looking for the love of his life.”Just might be code for, “Can’t hold down a job, and still lives in his mother’s basement, but the good news is Mama doesn't mind if he has sleep overs."
The buying and selling of horses is a tricky business and like the first date attention needs to be paid to detail. Sellers who offer sound horses don’t visibly gulp and begin to sweat when you want to make the sale contingent on a vet check. And buyers who are offering to give your horse a home in which they will be well cared for usually don’t need to write you three hundred, ten dollar each, postdated cheques.
In dating and buying horses the same basic rules apply; if you are meeting a stranger, meet in a public place and if you are buying a horse take a seasoned horse person with you, even if you are a seasoned horse person.
Honesty really is the best policy rather you are selling or buying because just like the song says there really is someone for everyone, even when that someone is a horse.
An ad that reads,“Easy keeping, tall, dark, handsome been there done that kind of gelding is looking for a lady with soft hands, endless patience and unlimited financial resources,” could more honestly be worded this way,“Not so easy keeping gelding will require attendants; I will need a vet, a farrier, and a dentist. I will need to be de wormed regularly and inoculated annually. On a daily basis I will need to eat approximately 2% of my body weight in roughage just so that I can produce 8-9 tons of manure every year. Did I mention that I can easily turn, 10 to 12 gallons of water a day into 6-10 gallons of urine. And let’s not forget about tack, brushes, blankets, board, coaches, trainers and clinics.”
Will almost always be answered by a person like this,“Soft hearted horse lover willing to work hard to gain your trust, willing to face inclement weather and treacherous roads just to see you. Willing to forgo any special occasion with family or friends if you should have any veterinary needs arise. (Or if the sun is shining and I would rather go for a trail ride.) I have two jobs and available credit.”
There are those of us who consider a stable smell an aphrodisiac those of us who don’t mind a saddle in the house. Those of us who would rather be cleaning the saddle than the house. Those of us who are easily identified as equine addicts. And it doesn’t matter what breed of horse we promote; or what discipline we love. It doesn’t even matter the size of the hole in our bank account, we are all the same. And we all started out the same with the same breed of horse. The invisible horse, the dream horse, the pretend horse, at least that’s what Morris and I have discovered in our close to a hundred combined years of equine addiction. (Yikes)
We have met many wonderful horse people over the years that’ve had their first riding experiences on broomsticks, fence rails, bicycles or tricycles; All the while imagining that they are flying like Tonto across the parries on a painted pony, or that they are racing for the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby, or that...you get the picture. The pretend horse is often our introduction into the very real world of horses; at least it was for Morris and me. And even though Morris and I have the pleasure of owning and working with real hoof beat horses we have kept our pretend equine partners. Our invisible horses are still with us as an integral part of our horse herd.
We have found though, that invisible horses do need the same amount of exercising as our other horses, so we make sure that we bring them in the arena for riding lessons, spacing them in between the riders, not only do they get some conditioning but their presence in the arena helps keep the riders s a little bit safer. We follow the same practice when we are out on the trail. It doesn’t cost as much to feed an invisible horse as it does to feed the real hoof beats, but it does take the same amount of effort. When we are feeding hay we place the feed for the invisible horses in between the feed for the rest of the herd, it cuts down on horses that have a tendency to run from one pile of hay to the next and cause a disturbance. And even though invisible horses have no need for farrier or veterinary work, we bring them in the barn just the same. We tie them in between the horses that are getting worked on.
Over all of our years in the horse industry we have never witnessed a hoof beat horse striking out at an invisible horse. As far as horses go you can’t beat their disposition, besides they were our very first love in our passion for horses. The very least we can do is to give them the care and consideration that
The Release; The most important cue that we can give our horse.
For years now she’s been known as the old horse; but she wasn't always. She was the first horse that I bought as a married woman. She was part of a dual horse package that my husband and I went to look at. I wanted a gelding and I was partial to a solid faced horse. She had a blaze and I knew she was mine from the moment I saw her. My husband by the way bought the solid faced gelding.
Her name was Honey Bee and she was so much more than just my horse. She was my sanity and my stability as I navigated through the early years of being a wife and mother. My escape from the chaos and responsibilities of a young family my solace through the sometimes turbulent teen years and beyond, and the best date nights always included her. It was through her that I had the privilege of introducing, my children and then my grandchildren to the wonders of all that is a horse; she was ever patient as tiny fingers stroked with awe her velvet soft muzzle, and she was always willing when they pleaded for just one more ride.
Honey Bee and I must have logged a million trail miles, together we climbed mountains and crossed rivers. Together we discovered the show ring. She was the horse that I went through the CANTRA and CEF programs on. And together we got older. It didn't matter what I wanted to do or learn she was always more than agreeable. Because of her good nature and willing attitude I also used her as a lesson horse. I will admit that she wasn't always perfect and that she occasionally tried to get into a gait that we liked to call, ‘Honey Bee Home Speed,’ even so she was always a dependable mount and a trustworthy teacher for even the most nervous of novices. But more than any of these things, she was my horse.
How do you say good bye to horse like that, to a friend, to a partner? You don’t, you can’t, at least I couldn't. Even as she got older and older, and was no longer a ‘using horse,’ it was enough for me just to hear her soft morning knicker of hello. It was a privilege to be able to give her all of the extra care that an old horse requires, supplements, blankets and vet care. But the day came as it inevitably will for those of us who are blessed with the privilege and with the pain of owning an old horse, the day came when the supplements weren't able to keep the weight on and the blankets just weren't warm enough. So after being part of each other’s life for more than the 30 years, the day came when the Vet said, that the greatest kindness that I could show her now would be to release her from the confines of her ailing old body.
I have always ridden my horses with a release cue. The release from pressure is the way we are able say to our horse, “You got it right.” The release is our way of sayings and their way of understanding, “Thank you - you have done the right thing.” The hard part is knowing when to release- if we do not release when we have that give - we can at best inadvertently teach our horse not to trust us- and at worst teach them not to obey us. From the first day of the relationship to the last, the release is the most important communication between a person and a horse. So on a beautiful October morning when the sky was blue and the sun was shining I rewarded Honey Bee with her final release cue setting her lovely spirit free. It was the last ‘thank you’ for a job well done that I was able to give her. –
Good job Honey Bee, thank you and walk on.