Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why I Hate Horses

Disclaimer:  I am in a shitty mood, Cleveland is dead, and if you think this blog sounds like the rantings of a spoiled brat, come pour yourself into trying to keep a good horse comfortable for a few years, just to have to lose him anyway.  Watch him die, knowing you failed at prolonging his pain-free life, and then tell me I'm whining.  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Horsechick.  I don’t know anything else or any other way to be.  I started with miniatures when I was five, and I suppose I never really grew out of it, much to the dismay of my parents.  As long as I’ve been in the horse world, I’ve heard people (mostly my siblings or former significant-others) say, “I hate horses”.  Generally this came out of their mouth when I was in the midst of foiling their plans with something horse-related.  I can’t say I blame them.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately too, actually.  And to be perfectly honest, not only do I see where they’re coming from, I’m beginning to agree with them. 

I’m facing the very difficult and unpleasant part of ownership right now in that Cleveland was laid to rest a few weeks ago.  I miss him and, frankly, this makes me very frustrated and pissy.  I don’t handle grief or vulnerability well, and I tend to display any negative emotion in the form or sarcasm or anger.  It’s wasn’t his fault that he had to die, he was used up hard his entire life, and not afforded the luxuries that a horse of his caliber and kindness should be until it was too late.  He was in pain, despite the medications he was on to try and help, and his quality of life was unmistakably low and I had to make the call to end his suffering before his body failed him completely and he ended up passing in a painful, miserable way in the middle of winter.  He didn’t deserve to have to go out like that, no horse does, and it seems like there are quite a few assholes in this world who will turn a blind eye to their pet’s suffering and wait for nature to “take its course”.  He died quickly and peacefully, high as a kite on pain meds and still chewing on a mouthful of grass.  Exactly how I want to go out, the lucky bastard.  It still hurts though, in that tiny space where they say my heart would be, if I had one.

This pisses me off, and leads me to wonder why in the hell I do what I do.  What’s the point, if there are still people out there doing the exact opposite of what’s right?  Why should I have to be the responsible owner who anticipates her horse’s pain and does her best to avoid it for the good of the horse, even if it means looking like a jackass sitting in my car in traffic with tears streaming out from under my sunglasses for a full two weeks before the horse even dies because every time I’m alone, all I can think about is the fact that he’s one of the kindest damned horses I’ve ever come across and I only got a couple of years with him?  Talk about torture….at least I could blame my red, puffy eyes on allergies.  Thank god for waterproof mascara.

Since I have a job that affords a large amount of time for internal reflection (which I’ve learned is never a good thing), I spent most of the past few weeks contemplating why I do this to myself.  Verdict: I have no idea.  The pain and aggravation far outweighs the rewards, it seems.  I’ve decided that I, much like the aforementioned men in my life, hate horses.  And upon further discovery, this is a feeling I’ve evidently held for quite some time.  I just didn’t know it.

I hate horses because, as an elementary and middle-school age child, no one ever invited me to their houses for playdates or sleepovers.  Looking back, one could probably assume it was because of my inability to get along with others, but I know it was because I had ponies at my house and everyone knows ponies are the most powerful magnet in the world to little girls.  Everyone came over to my house, I went nowhere.

I hate horses because I could have bought a much nicer dress for senior prom, had I not had to pay board or pay the farrier that month instead.  Let’s completely disregard the fact that my prom date ditched me for another girl mid-dance whom I’m fairly certain is a male, post-op, these days.  And no, I’m not going to let that one go. 

I hate horses because I probably could have gone away to a fancy school and gotten a shiny, expensive degree in something that pays a whole lot more than I’m making now with my less-shiny degree, but because I refused to “give up the damned horses” (thanks Dad), I’m working my ass off every week just to hand my checks over to the horses in one fashion or another.  Gucci?  No.  Grain. 

I hate horses because when my friends post Facebook pictures of their epic vacations and world travels, I know that I’ll never do the same because no one will be able to comprehend the feed chart in the barn or keep track of what horses need what care on a daily basis.  I also know that I’m a complete control freak and couldn’t leave town without stressing out the entire time.  Also, see above regarding paychecks….

I hate horses because we could be living in a lakefront house right now, but at last check, horses haven’t adapted to life as aquatic creatures yet, and I’m sure there’s a zoning ordinance against keeping horses in a walk-out basement and letting them graze a public boat launch.  I could have been living the boat life, but my blinding white legs (from wearing jeans or breeches constantly) prevented my bikini-body from ever taking shape.

I hate horses because I could have a closet full of the trendiest clothing and shoes, but instead, I have a closet full of outdated show clothes, Underarmour and “barn jeans”, and have legitimate anxiety attacks whenever an event arises that requires me to make a conscious effort to dress up.  I couldn’t curl my own hair if my last breath depended on it.  I couldn’t curl ANY hair, actually.  But I can braid the hell out of a fake tail.  Just don’t ask me to do it in heels.

I hate horses because fall doesn’t mean cider mills and trail rides and pumpkin-spice lattes for me.  Fall means panicked phone calls from owners who forgot that it snows in Michigan and desperately want me to sell their horses for top dollar.  This week.  For free, to “help them out”.  Even though the horse hasn’t been ridden in five years and hasn’t seen a farrier in the last six months.  But it should bring close to what they paid for it ten years ago because it’s a nice horse. 

I hate horses because instead of being ecstatic and eagerly planning a wedding, I’m trying to guesstimate how much winter hay needs to be purchased based on how many horses may end up dumped here and signed over by their owners when the snow flies.  I worry about how many I can afford to save and what happens to the ones I can’t help.  I see no rational reason to have a wedding when that money could be invested in the property in the form of a stall barn or arena footing or paying off the house.  Having horses has robbed me of the ability to take joy and excitement from something that the majority of girls dream about from the time they get their first Barbie.

I hate horses because at the end of the day, when all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a book guilt-free, I can’t.  I have a dozen emails, calls and texts to respond to from other horse owners asking for advice, tips and tricks to make life easier for them and keep their horses happy and healthy.  I hate that I dread calls from unknown numbers because they usually involve someone saying “My friend said you can probably sell/take/give away my horses for me so I don’t have to send them to the auction”. Never mind that I have a herd of my own to attend to, if I don’t answer and help them, the horses suffer. 

I hate horses because when I go to a show, its’ not with a nice, finished, expensive show horse that I can show off and take pride in.  I take what I have at home, and more often than not, I’ve loaned it to someone without a horse and am just along to help while they enjoy their day.  I cannot justify spending substantial money on a problem-free horse when I know there are hundreds at any point in time desperate for a home to keep them off the kill truck.  My guilt cripples me.  Actually, no.  My shitty knees cripple me.  My guilt (and cheapness) keeps me from owning a nice show horse. 
I hate horses because I know that at any point in time, there are at least a dozen people in the horse world that I’m forced to interact with that should eat a bullet the ugly way for what they do when no one is looking.  I see the shit that goes on, the abuse, the lies, the cheating, and because the horse world is so unbelievably small, I have to shut up and even sometimes smile.  The worst offenders, yes, I can try to do something about those (and I do), but for every big fish that I fry, there are a hundred little ones waiting for their turn to grow.   

I hate horses because I can look out in my pastures and know that every face staring back at me (only at dinner time, of course) has been on the receiving end of one of those “big fish”.  Every horse I have and that passes through my hands is broken in some way, be it physically, mentally or emotionally.  They are all the products of humans, and there is nothing I can do to change that.  Some I can fix, but the scars never truly go away, they just get covered by a little bit of hair, or pushed to the backs of their minds and maybe forgotten about for awhile in lieu of cookies, kindness and a little bit of patience.  Some are like Cleveland, who had a handful of years of peace and comfort at the end of his life, but whose life had to be cut short far too soon nonetheless.  They are products of man, never designed to be broken so badly, but broken.  And because of this, I cannot walk away.  Sure, I could quit.  Sell everything and buy that lakefront house and the nice clothes.  But then who will take care of everything I’d be walking away from?

I hate horses because they’ve built my reputation for brutal honesty for me.  This one has an issue, and no, I won’t sell him to you because you have kids and I won’t put anyone in the position to get hurt.  This is a nice horse, but you’re not experienced enough to be successful with him, sorry, I’m not going to take your money, go spend it on lessons.  This also causes me to loathe the asshole “trainer” who talks parents into an unsafe ride for their kid just to make a quick buck.  That kid gets hurt, that horse gets dumped at a sale, and I inevitably have to tell the “trainer” that she’s an irresponsible idiot and is going to get a kid killed, try to save the horse from a death sentence, and find the parents a new trainer.  Then I get accused of having “anger issues”.  Which is only slightly untrue. 

I hate horses.