Winter brings its challenges here on our little old tumble down farm. Doug carries heated water by the bucket out to the barn, and barn lot. We have no electricity at our barn, so morning chores are done by flashlight and a prayer that you did not unintentionally move something which you will now fall unceremoniously onto your face over. Winter is hard when your joints have already given half a century and more to pursuits that seemed easy just twenty years ago. But you do it for your horse.
Winter also brings about a certain sadness as you notice equines in neighboring properties that go year after year without a windbreak, a roof, water now and then, and winter hay often. It breaks my heart to see the white mule that came onto the farm fat last summer slowly wasting as he eats the bark from trees, and paws at wasted earth for nourishment that is not there, and when it finally does come after two weeks, sometimes three it will come in the form of a large round bale of blackened decomposing hay, yet he will eat it, every last horrible scrap of it, for the other choice is complete starvation. He and his three equine pasture mates endure what can only be considered three months of horror each and every winter. If they get to far gone, they go to auction, and are replaced by a new face come spring. But, what is a horse, really?
Two years running I contacted our regional horse rescue describing the horse's wasted body condition and poor living environments. The answer both times was that I should physically go to that property, trespass, take photographs to prove daily they were not being fed, had no unfrozen water source, and document the animals wasting away. If I did not have my own animals I could do this willingly, but the caliber of people we are talking about would take no hesitation putting a bullet in one of my animals while I'm at work, because what is a horse, really? These horses manage to somehow "survive" and will look like walking skeletons by February with spines two inches above their toplines. I feel agonized by this, but if I throw the hay I purchased for mine, then mine would suffer, and I'd have skinny horses.
It angers me that it happens, that people can have 4-wheelers, big trucks, horse trailers, and no money for hay, and that there is no backup to assist, and that if I do "something" mine own will be at risk, and that is no exaggeration. So the world drives by them as they futilely chew on the bark of trees, for what is a horse really?
For me a horse is magic, and beauty, and an undefineable "something" that defies words really. What I would pay (if I had it) to lay my hand once again between the eyes of my heart horse, gone now for some time. To have that indefinable electrical current race up my arm as we connect, and I share her breath. God I miss her. I could fall on harder times, and not be able to care for our horses, it is the stuff of nightmares for me, but if all I could offer was nothing but suffering then a bullet is cheap, for what is a horse really?
A horse is everything for me. It is freedom, comfort, my escape from the craziness, warmth, and yes, love. It is truly not something I can define with words and something I do not wish to be without. Hug your horse today. ~E.G.
Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association