Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Keeping Your Horse Healthy While Protecting Your Sanity

There are very few opportunities for self analysis better than owning or working with horses. If you will pay attention to what you are doing, the horse can tell you a lot about what you are doing to yourself.

But you have to be willing to listen to the horse and you have to be willing to constantly examine yourself and ask, as Marcus Aurelius, "is this necessary?" Is what you are doing to protect your horse's health achieving that purpose or does it merely give you a little hit of dopamine from believing that you just did something "nice" for your horse?

Look closely at all of the things that you "worry" about with your horse. Unless you can demonstrate an ability to improve your horse's health through "worry" ask yourself  what good all that worry does. Responsible horse owners work hard to stay current on research that actually affects the horse's well being. Such horse owners make up a very small proportion of horse owners. Very small indeed. 

Most horse owners are happy to be able to recite rules about how old a horse should be before it takes a rider, or how much weight a horse can carry, or whether "turn out" is worth the risk of injury. One can do nothing but pity the plight of horses whose owners are perfectly happy remaining ignorant, as long as their ignorance conforms to the ignorance of all of  other proud members of the established horse world. 

Of all the people in the established horse world there are none more pitiful than the horsepochondriacs. They are obsessed with a fear of a health problem that must be determined, examined, treated, and medicated.  These treatments and medications often involve removing the horse from his band, isolating him, medicating him, keeping him from grass, and if stabled keeping him from sunlight.

Such people often view every behavioral and training problem as a medical problem. It is bizarre indeed to see so many answers on social media to those who are writing in with problems with their horses , only to be flooded with answers that first one needs to get the vet our to make sure that the horse does not have problem with ...blah ..blah ..blah

The irony could not be richer. A healthy horse remains healthy when living in his band, eating grasses, hay and forbs, taking in sunshine and most of all, being able to move. 

Does veterinary care have its place? Of course it does. We regularly have the vets out. Our horses get shots and receive very regular hoof care. But in between those visits we do not spend our time with the horses wringing our hands about what medicine, supplement, or thing that you heard about on social media we should give your horses. 

Instead we give them what they need--a forage based diet, intense physical affection, an opportunity to live in small bands with other horses, and heavy exercise. They spend no time in stables. They have positive human experiences. That means that they are exposed to people who have learned, or are learning, to understand the horse's mind. Most of all, it means that they are not exposed to human bullies or cowards. both ae devastating to the horse's ability to become secure and confident. 

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