Friday, October 25, 2013

WHY I KEEP THE OLD HORSES


A young man stood in the entrance way to the stable trying to understand the connection with horses that his girlfriend seem obsessed with. As we chatted he hesitated for a moment before asking the question. "Why do you keep all these old horses?" he said. "They aren't being used anymore, why don't you take them to auction like other stables do?" he added. I smiled and looked out to the south. Trying to explain it isn't always about economics, I began my sermon.

"The ribbons may be faded, the applause silenced, but the memories of good rides and victory passes never leave." He cracked a smile as I went on. "Some of these horses I've bred, raised and trained. Many I have purchased. Some have been donated back to farm by their owners when they could no longer ride them. All have worked hard; all have trusted me with their welfare." I smiled back at him and then continued. "They are in fact an extension of myself. I care for them as I would like to be cared for." I went on. "Just because our bones are aged and some of us don't stride as easily or gracefully as our younger counterparts, we are wise." My visitor strained his ears to listen for more. "When they have aches and pains, I treat them. When they are tired, I rest them. And when I can no longer ease suffering, they are laid to rest by my veterinarian." I looked to the gravesite as I went on. "You see this horse business is an emotional business. It is unlike any other job you will have. These horses are a gift that are lent to us for a short time. We have a duty to care for them and not betray them. They have a history with humankind and I don't mean being displayed on a dinner plate." I continued with my sermon sadly acknowledging that the kill pen is the last stop for many unfortunate horses. "When you take on a horse, you take on a financial responsibility. It shouldn't be an impulsive purchase. You can never tire of it and throw the horse away when you are done with it." My visitor's face was softening as I pointed to a headstone. "I have a conscience that makes me at ease in my heart knowing my old friends have lived and passed on the lands they freely roamed and enjoyed. I gave them dignity in life and death and loved them all." As I turned back to face the young man, I noticed a small tear roll down his cheek. I think he got my message.

66 comments:

  1. Photo above is of Trillium Reflection. He was born and lived his entire 31 years at Trillium showing, teaching others and enjoying a good romp in the pasture. He was our first Morgan to carry our Prefix. The story portrayed here is based on an actual incident involving the subject of "why I keep the old horses?"

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    1. This is beautiful! Why would you treat this animal any other way than with respect and kindness?...

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    2. As it should be, I do the same.

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    3. How very beautiful! So true!
      Years ago when I started training horses I went with my dad to a stable to see what they had. It was just outside of Kansas City. We bought a beautiful black gelding. and as my dad talked to the owner I walked through their big barn. He had an old Saddlebred and he was just the friendliest guy! So I went back and I asked the man what he wanted for this horse was it for sale? Well Sam had to be like 22 years old I swear or older. He had not been taking care of his later years and I wanted to take him home with us or I knew he would be at peace. The guy overcharged us as he paid $100 for him but it was my money for teaching lessons and it was worth every single penny! I love old horses and unfortunately they always get the short end of the stick!

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    4. Thank you for the beautiful words and your kind heart. I recently purchased a 20 something year old stallion thrown away, starved and on his way to New Holland. I just couldn't see him being killed because nobody cares.

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    5. Well said. And in the old horses we save, there will be one or two in a lifetime that will permit extraordinary intimacy, friendship and loyalty. I wonder if their emotional life is as complex and capable of loving as people. It seems so. But only in the aged horse to you see this in full bloom....

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    6. Beautifully stated. I have old horses, too. They're the best. It's a commitment for life. My first horse was with me 28 years, I got him when he was 2 (I was 5). He passed away at 30yo. Still miss him, but cherish the memories. Horses are not possessions, they are family. ♡

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    7. Dignity. Not much to ask for,
      but all important.

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    8. I wrestle with this dilemma. I have ridden for over 50 years and owned some horses of my own. I am now 66yrs old. some say this is young. i have a few health problems and iown two mares. One mare is 22 years old and i birthed her from frozen semen. I am now getting weary of the day to day care of them. the 15 yr old horse i could sell but not the 22 yr mare. they are such buddies and i think the old one would die of heartbreak if they are seperated. If I won a Lottery I would buy a huge ranch solely to have a Retirement farm for old horses..but alas that has not happened yet. i will continue to buy tickets and struggle to care for my two girls. It is a hard ship choice and my husband doesn't understand and wants to move to a sfer place and less work for us old folks. I am entertaining to have someone move into our spare bedroom just to care for the animals. that may be a good way to go till at least the old one passes on...but then the other horse will be alone and i would have to let her go to someplace when her buddy passes. HARD TO AGE FOR HUMANS AND HORSE LOVERS.

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    9. This is sooo beautiful! If I was a Billionaire, I would give you a palace for these old Mares or Geldings. The best of equipment. And many others. If I was a Billionaire.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Really?? You read a beautiful story like this, and you're worried about one misspelled word?? There's one in every crowd! SMH

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    2. Thank you. Noted and corrected as per previous comment by other reader. Glad you enjoyed the sentiment of this story.

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  3. It is wonderful what you said to the young man and full of heart. It's a good reminder of why we need to take care of our horses and other equines when they get old. And all the animals that we take into our lives.

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    1. Totally agree -- not just horses, but all the beloved pets we bring into our lives. No matter how expensive the care is (I had a $600 frog - $550 in vet bills), we owe it to them because we made that promise when we acquired them. They bring/have brought us joy, and in return we keep them happy and healthy too. Otherwise we shouldn't have taken them in....

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    2. I love that Joanne! Our last Yorkie is old and has severe health problems we spend thousands of dollars on him. It's our responsibility as his parents to take care of him until the day that he dies or if we would unfortunately have to put him to sleep. Not fair to the animals at all when people abuse use and have them as status symbols or something similar!

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  4. Oh my goodness. This is so well said.

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  5. I rescued a grey Percheron that was 16, lame and headed to slaughter in Canada. The owner made up a bill of sale for $1 and with tears in her eyes as I handed her the $1, she said how grateful she was that I was taking him. When I first saw him he had 3 little girls around 7 riding him bareback we it a halter and lead in the barn parking lot. My vet on his first visit was afraid of him because he swung his butt around as she was about to give immunizations. Back home in the paddock behind my house, he settled into lots of to, hay, a little grain, peppermints, carrots and an occasional spple, 6 months of rest, he turned into the most loveable teddy bear buddy ever! A couple of my friends rode him lightly, I never did but I never tired of the four years of friendship we shared. Three more wonderful friends and three years later, he is one of the lucky ones! Into his 20's he is well cared for and loved by others and valued. Rescues love and appreciate their rescuers!

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  6. It is heart-breaking to see folks who consider themselves "horse lovers" view the animals in their care as expendable. It seems like it's part of many "horsey peoples'" experience to use a horse, then sell it, discard it, whatever. I KNOW I'm generalising but I've seen it happen over and over again. For some reason, people view their horses differently than their pet dogs and cats - something I've never been able to understand. Just yesterday a friend put her daughter's horse "down". She sent the mare's body to a wildlife safari, to be cut up for the big cats to feast upon. She then got a new horse to replace her. Literally, the horse died yesterday, and the new horse is arriving any minute now. I just don't get it.

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    1. I sent my 29 yo Arabian stallion to the Rainbow bridge a year ago...I miss him terribly and probably always will. I have the 22 yo daughter of my foundation mare ( who lived to 35) in my pasture and she will be here as long as she happily lives. My stallion was declining so I did what I had to do..Worst part of owning critters...

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    2. I know that sounds hard hearted, but I think its much more kind then sending a horse to auction so that you can get a couple of hundred dollars for it, and having it suffer enormously being starved, trucked to Mexico and slaughtered in a manner I won't even get into here. From my perspective it is a function of what causes the least suffering for the horse, and an auction is almost always the worst option. Humane euthanasia is a totally different story, at least from my perspective. I do not feel that it is any worse for the horse if its body is eaten by other animals after a humane death. I guess its different for everyone, but people who abandon a horse at an auction is something I will never understand.

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    3. I understand and agree with your sentiments,but I would much rather see a horse humanely put down than sent to slaughter.The only thing I can say about her disposal of the body is that she was too cheap to hire a backhoe to bury the poor creature.

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    4. Many years ago a friend had to have her dear horse put down. He had been a foxhunter for years and was always at his best and most happiest when he was out hunting, so she sent him to the local foxhunting kennel to nourish his beloved hounds in death. I always thought it was a beautiful gesture honoring the life of this particular horse.

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    5. I'm not sure if an animal euthanized with drugs can be used as food for another animal.

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  7. My horses have carried me, taught me, and trusted me their whole lives, and I have trusted them with mine. I know they would burst their hearts for me, and they know I would never ask them to. That kind of partnership doesn't end when "usefulness" stops. They will grow old with me, and when their lives are no longer comfortable, I will help them leave this life with peace in their souls and my breath in their nostrils.

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  8. This was so well said I have my black horse and she is 31 she is my family and I will always take care of her for as long as she needs me always

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  9. This is my horse philosophy in a nutshell: "These horses are a gift that are lent to us for a short time. We have a duty to care for them and not betray them."

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  10. I had the distinct pleasure of taking care of an old retired racehorse, whose name was Spanish Devil. He died peacefully when he was 32. He taught me so much about life and being still and being patient. I swear that horse knew me better than my husband did. I loved him more than I've ever loved anything in my whole life. I thank GOD everyday for blessing my life with that precious horse. Rest in peace my sweet beloved Devil.

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  11. I too have cherished memories of old horses. Respect and dignity are the greatest gifts we can offer. It's almost a year since my Victorian Doll entered her final rest.

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  12. I know exactly how you feel Carolyn I had horses growing up and when I no longer wanted to ride and instead of letting a beautiful animal go to waste I took careful time to where she went. Unfortunately a few years later my beautiful horse passed away at only 9 yrs old I was devastated and vowed to one day when my financial situation was right I would own a horse again. In 2013 I was fortunate enough to have a friend that had a horse that looked almost like my 1st horse. I got to ride him and a year later I owned him and brought him home. He is now 23 yrs old still able to ride him and he is here forever no matter what. I will get another one as soon as the right retiree comes along.

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  13. Love it. Nobody puts baby in the corner.

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  14. Thank you for this lovely tribute. I only just lost my old dressage horse at 38 last week. He had been blind for a few years, and we both lost his best friend at 37 last year. I have three 31 year olds still, and three in their late 20s. They all gave to me everything I ever asked when they were young and competing or producing, and I will give them all green pasture, excellent care and love till they can't enjoy life any longer. And then I will ease their passing. I can't imagine any other way. It may not be practical, but it is my debt to pay and I pay it with joy.

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  15. Beautiful story. The words echo my thoughts on horses so well. My wonderful recycled Standardbred was 20yr old in May. We have been together 15yrs this October. I am a lucky girl to have him as my delightful companion. It is always great to know there are others out there who share my love of horses & think the way I do about lifetime commitment to their welfare.

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  16. You are so right, horses are a gift and it is a privilege to be trusted to care for God's animals. They work so hard to please us and trust us to jump in a trailer and drive them safely all over the country so they can make us look good. What a privilege to be blessed with these wonderful horses and yes, they will die on this farm in peace.

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  17. all the ponies thank each of you for your love and committed provision of space and care for them. and I thank all for the validation of my path. My husband and I have buried my riding horse and my daughter's 4-H horse on our property, which now sports a barn, paddocks and 5 acres of pasture. We now have 2 horses here, a Standardbred late-gelded and an Appy mare, who I love and who amuse me every day with their antics and their communications. great teachers, when we listen. virginia

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  18. Beautiful. I came into horse ownership later in life, at 41, with my then 17 year old "Star". Not an avid rider she has had it easy the last 17 years and I will not part with her unless she is no longer comfortable. I have my share of aches and pains and we find solace together. Thank you for stating what so many of us feel.

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  19. I had my bubba. For. 34. Years, sadly i helped him cross the rainbow bridge. Nov. 12th will be 2 years,, he was 35, it was time, my heart still aches, but i have such memories he is laid to rest right behind our barn. Where he always rolled and. Ran around. RIP. bubba. Love. You, mom

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  20. Love horses and have kept two; however, I've an affinity for dogs and cats and other animals too and I see this as applying to all the creatures whom God has allowed to intersect our lives with their love. I'm keeping this one.

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  21. All I can say is that I totally agree. I have 5 "Senior Citizen" horses in my barn right now that are 20+ yrs. old. I have half a dozen younger ones too. Many have criticized me for keeping the "oldies" b/c it's not cost efficient & they're "just feeders" taking up space. However, I have fond memories of each and every one of my old timers. They served me well when they (and I) were younger and now that we're getting older I see no reason to change anything. When they get to the point that they can no longer sustain themselves, or it becomes obvious that they are suffering, I'll humanely lay them to rest & bury them on my premises. I sure don't look forward to that day, but I know it's coming in the not-too-distant future for several of them. Matthew 7:12 in God's Word addresses treating others like you'd like to be treated. I'd like to think it applies to our animals too.

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  22. How beautiful! I feel the same way, as well! I have walked two of my horses to the end....one 34 and one 30. It's hard watching them age and being with them as they take their final breath, but that is love, kindness and respect. I would not do it any other way. They are family.

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  23. To many times I see people buy a horse for all the wrong reasons. Their child wanted a horse and that lasted just until they had the next want and the parents then just want to get rid of it so they don't have to care for it. Things usually go downhill from there. These majestic animals are like your family, I know how you would treat your family by the way you are for an animal be it a horse or a stray nut. I believe in death with dignity and respect. I bought a horse for $500 that you could see 4 inches of her backbone. She was eating sticks I bought that horse who would deliver a Colt 3 weeks later much to my surprise. They didn't tell me that. I asked a friend could I put her in his pasture and use his barn. I couldn't leave that horse I saw that day. I cried all the way home and went back the next day to pick her up. She was 5 years old and turned out to be the most beautiful horse you ever saw and had a beautiful colt.. I finally sold them both to good homes and the mare lived to be 33 and the colt was a grand cow horse. Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and be that middleman for these horses. God has a special place for people who give so much. Your touching story reminds me that we still have people who will care for the old, the unwanted and the disabled. It gives me great hope for mankind who can help without any gain other than kindness. Thank you for sharing. I will always help in any way I can.

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  24. We just laid our sons (formerly his fathers)33 year old gelding to rest on Friday. This is our 4th 30 something year old horse to lay to rest since 2009. They were good to us and we will be good to them until the last breath. Under the moonlight with a rainbow above as the sun was almost out of sight, we said our teary goodbyes to our friend.

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  25. Thank you so much for writing this - I have 54 equines on my property I'm 65 and often wonder what was I thinking when I began rescuing and working with veterans coming out of combat areas and their families and special Olympic athletes and challenged kids - having spent over a decade in combat zones I know that while I may have rescued many horses physically and saved several from slaughter, they found my soul again. I have young volunteers make bold statements that a horse must have a job otherwise they have no purpose - ah the clarity of youth!!!! Then again, these old horses DO have a job - just by being themselves, they have taught hundreds of visitors that you can not only survive adversity, abuse and all sorts of trauma, you CAN thrive!!!!

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  26. People are JUST FUCKING EVIL!!

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  27. Sadly, I never had all these wonderful times with my horses when they were at their peak. I bought them from the livery yard because they were getting on in years and nobody seemed interested in taking them on. They had worked hard all their lives and deserved something back. They are now 20 and 23 and I love them to pieces. One of them is fully retired as the vet found he has a heart murmur and the mare is ridden only occasionally. They live out most of the time, but I can stable them if the need arises. They have green fields and blue skies and I have promised them a forever home. I will keep that promise.

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  28. Well said.I have yet come to grips in life where i will have to put one down. I Don't know if i ever can and wont know till the time comes around. This struggle i fight with in my head. Yes i would want to end the suffering if they was suffering. I pray the lord will help with that decisions when and if its ever comes to me.

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  29. I agree! I only have 1 horse and I got her when she was 5 months old. She turned 27 this July. She has a home forever and after.

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  30. I absolutely love this. <3 I've kept and laid to rest five, currently have a 28yr old rescue, and will continue helping a senior horse(s) in need when I am able. They are wise old souls with so much love to give. I know in my heart and soul one reason God put me here was to be a caretaker for the elderly horses and help them cross when it is time. Love the seniors!

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  31. I have had the blessing of being a therapeutic riding instructor for several years now. Our program, which ran during the school year, depended mostly on borrowed horses. We were so thankful for owners who kept their now mature horses and lent them to us. These seniors had the maturity to handle the unpredictability of special needs riders, and I firmly believe they stayed healthier and happier longer because they had a job, interaction with people, and all the pets and hugs and appreciation they could handle. Couldn't have a program without them. They sure weren't winning any ribbons anymore, but they won much more important things.

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    1. I could not agree more - I work with military active and veterans mostly PTSD issues and challenged children - the older horses are worth their weight in gold - the difference they have made in so many human lives is remarkable - breakthroughs that could have taken years happened in weeks and months for several..."just because of the horse"....thank you for doing what you do.

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  32. Absolutely beautiful and I completely agree. For me, it's a life long commitment til the very end. I just saved one and hoping to save another. I wish there was a way I could share your story. If so, please send me a link or private message me. Thank you and God bless you for loving them til the very end. oxox Angel.

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  33. Absolutely a beautifully written story to tell. I'm so glad for people like you who have the land and ability to take care of those wonderful horses Thank you for what you do.

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  34. What a lovely blog post to read...& I couldn't agree more that we need to care for our horses throughout their lives. They aren't just a "thing" that we can sell when we are finished with them. As for only having a horse for glory, well, enough said!

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  35. Ahhhh. That's so lovely to read. My own horse is 29yrs old. We brought her when she was only 17 weeks old. She is no longer sound, so can't be ridden, but she owes us nothing. We've had many years of pleasure out of her, so it's our pleasure to look after her in her older years. She costs us a fortune as is on a specialist diet as she can't eat hay any more, but money doesn't come in to it, you can't put a price on the enjoyment we've had from her. When her time comes we don't have the facility to bury her, as we don't have our own land, so she will be cremated instead.

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  36. Ahhhh. That's so lovely to read. My own horse is 29yrs old. We brought her when she was only 17 weeks old. She is no longer sound, so can't be ridden, but she owes us nothing. We've had many years of pleasure out of her, so it's our pleasure to look after her in her older years. She costs us a fortune as is on a specialist diet as she can't eat hay any more, but money doesn't come in to it, you can't put a price on the enjoyment we've had from her. When her time comes we don't have the facility to bury her, as we don't have our own land, so she will be cremated instead.

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  37. Beautifully written. Horses are a life long commitment. It's our responsibility as owners to make sure they never end up in the wrong hands if we are unable to care for them. I've been blessed to own a farm for 22+ years. My horses have aged gracefully and passed on never having to suffer the fate of a slaughter auction. My oldest horse, Yogi, lived until 33. Although we are not able to take in every horse, we do our best to take in our boarders horses after they retire so they can live out the rest of their life here. We hope to set an example for large farms, show barns and others who are able to help those in difficult situations.
    Please visit us on FaceBook: Golden Gait Farm Inc. www.goldengaitfarm.com
    Our retirement program for the horses: www.hoofprintsontheheart.org

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