3/16/08

The Gift

My farrier, Matt, was over Friday to trim Indy and Ami. Neither of them wear shoes, but they need their regular trims just the same.

Matt is not only an excellent farrier, he's a great friend, and he only lives about ten minutes away. Over the years that he's taken care of my horses, we've come to know each other very well, and we discuss everything under the sun.

Friday we got talking about the whole slaughter/unwanted horses/owner responsibility thing. We agree that slaughter is not - or at least it shouldn't be - the answer to "unwanted" horses. We've both felt for a long time that owner responsibility - or the lack thereof - is the root cause of all these surplus horses, and that's what needs to be addressed. Owner education is the only real and humane solution.

Then Matt said something that I'll never forget. He said that we - that is, horse owners - seem to have forgotten what wonderful gifts our horses offer - the gift of riding them; the gift of working with them; the gift of just watching them; the gift of smelling their breath.

I think it was that last one that got to me the most, because it is a gift, just to smell their warm, sweet breath. I know many of you horse lovers know exactly what we mean.

What then is our responsibility to these unsurpassed creatures who give us so much? Is it - as Matt and I think - to keep our horses for the rest of their natural lives, or, failing that, make sure they go to a good home? At the end of their lives, is it our responsibility to ensure that they have a peaceful and painless exit from this world?

Or, is it okay to "dispose" of a horse that can't/won't fulfill the purpose we envisioned on purchase in any way available? Should we sell them to anyone who will meet our price without regard to what that person might have in mind for them? Should we send them to slaughter - with all it's attendant frightful possibilities - instead of providing them with euthanasia by a veterinarian? And, if slaughter is the best we feel we can do for our horses at the end of their "useful" lives, should we ever have owned them at all?

I've already stated my own opinions about these questions. I offer this post as food for thought.

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"From my earliest memories, I have loved horses with a longing beyond words." ~ Robert Vavra