by Laura Crum
I was recently discussing my horses with an acquaintance, and after hearing my litany about keeping weight on my old guys and keeping them sound and giving them lots of turn out time and grooming and attention, she asked me, “But what are you DOING with your horses these days?”
I had to think about this. “Well, I still ride,” I said, a little hesitantly. “But not a lot, right now. I’m busy with a lot of different things, and just taking care of the horses takes time.”
She then said, “It doesn’t sound like you’re having much fun with your horses any more.”
I was a bit stymied by this. This gal knew me when I showed cutting horses and trained horses and competed at team roping and went on several horse packing trips in the mountains every year. You get the drift. From her point of view, my horse life looks like one big, boring drag, compared to what my horse life used to be. And really, I can see her point. But it doesn’t feel that way to me.
I could go on and on about how I’ve reached a different stage of life and just hanging with my horses and tending my garden seems delightful to me. And I’ve talked about this before. But there’s something bigger here, and it is this. It’s payback time.
Even if I still wanted to spend my time and money competing at some horsey event (which I don’t), the horses who carried me for so many miles, and in so many different competitions and trail rides are older now. Gunner is 34, Plumber is 25, Henry (my son’s horse) is 26 and Sunny is (I think) 19. Gunner and Plumber are retired. Henry and Sunny are still carrying us faithfully on short rides, but both are less than happy about steep hills (Henry doesn’t like the “ups” and Sunny doesn’t like the “downs”). Based on what I see (they are both sound on level ground) I think they have the slight arthritic changes that are typical of older horses. So we avoid steeper hills these days. The thing is, it’s time for me to pay these horses back for all that they have done for me. And I am glad to do this.
Yes, I could send them to some retirement pasture. But I don’t have the money for a really first class operation, and I have seen first hand what turning these senior horses out in a pasture with very little supervision really amounts to. The older they get the harder it is on them. And eventually they are thin, lame, shivering in storms, fly bitten in summer heat, and picked on by other horses. If I want my older guys to have the care they deserve, they need to live with me, where I can make sure they get fed the supplemental feed they must have to thrive, pain meds as needed, blankets in storms and fly spray in fly season…etc. Not to mention grooming and attention that they love. So that is my first priority right now.
Because these horses have earned this. Not only do I love them, but in all fairness, I owe them. Gunner gave me ten straight years of faithful work.
As a cutting horse.
As a rope horse.
As a trail horse.
Plumber wasn’t just a rope horse (for fifteen years), he babysat my kid and me for several years as well.
He was my pony horse for my son’s first ride at the beach.
I could never put a price on all that Henry gave my little boy in the seven years that we have been privileged to own him.
And Henry is still giving my son great riding experiences. What a good horse he is.
Sunny has been a huge gift, enabling me to ride with my kid without any worries.
We have been on literally hundreds of trail rides.
So many happy cruises down the beach together, without one wreck, or even a really anxious moment.
Yes, it’s payback time. And I am nothing but grateful and happy to do this.
Thank you, my wonderful horses. I love you. And I am glad to spend my time taking care of you, in honor of all the times you took good care of me.
I am so lucky and blessed to have you in my life.
Anybody else in this place in their horse life? Or can imagine yourself being here?