Of Horse

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Should the Good Ole Days Still Be Good Enough?
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Should the Good Ole Days Still Be Good Enough?

Do you ever wonder how you or your horses survived when you were growing up? There are always people citing deplorable treatment of animals, but today it seems like most people worry more about their animal's welfare than the welfare of themselves or other people. I don't remember that being the case as I grew up--even with a horse crazy mother in addition to me.

I grew up in the 90s on a farm that produced pork. I had 3 horses in my backyard and although I loved them, I knew if money got tight, they were going to have to make due on the poor pasture we had so that my brothers and parents and I could eat. My horses lived outside 24/7 with a very small overhang roof of the shed that held my tack and feed. We never brought the horses inside the shed. I had friends that had barns, but they only used them for ill horses or those preparing for show. Sure I wasn't always first place when I showed, but no one ever knew, unless I told them, that my horses were, according to today's standards, nearly neglected.

As my mom grew up, she had a pony that lived in the middle of her small town. She rode the pony bareback up and down the streets of her town. Her parents didn't know anything about horses, but knew my mother had studied and saved for her pony, so they turned them loose on the town together. There were very few veterinary trips or farriery visits. The pony was hardy and didn't seem to need much care. This was commonplace during my mother's youth.

Further into history than my mother, the images of cowboys riding the range was the reality. These men depended on their horses for their livelihood and safety. However, specifically fit saddles and scientifically formulated feeds for their remudas of horses was unheard of. A cowboy usually had one saddle that he used every day regardless of what horse he rode. Contrary to being cruel, this was just the way of things--a cowboy couldn't carry an extra saddle on the range in case the next horse he caught to ride would object to the fit of his primary saddle. Yet, these horses traveled miles and miles in the hazardous countryside to round up cattle, chase fugitives, move armies, and travel from town to town. A horse with a sore back or lame legs wasn't going to be an efficient way to accomplish these daily goals. Yet, these cowboys used a single saddle, rode horses of 15 HH or less, and traveled without veterinary or farrier care. If their horses were injured the cowboy suffered with the horse and often their horse was the only conversation these men had.

Knowing what I know about those 'good ole days' makes me wonder how much of our expensive horse ownership is really that expensive. Do we really need a custom flocked saddle to ride less than 10 hours a week? Do our horses need specially formulated grain and hay? Are the vet visits we pay for necessary when there are other more easily afforded ways to care for our horses? I know many people who have scrimped and saved to have a horse only to be blown away by the expense of 'keeping' that horse. I know others who have sought endlessly for better fitting saddles in the name of comfort for the horse--even going to so far as skipping meals to save their money for the saddle.

I'm not saying any of this is bad or worthless. Instead I'm wondering if we haven't overstretched the real needs of our horses. My family is barely holding our head up financially, but our animals are well-loved and happy. None of them have custom fit equipment or specially formulated hay or grain. Yet, the vet's opinion of their care is very high. It doesn't take all the specialized things we believe it does to keep horses. Sometimes hardening back to the 'good ole days' and doing more with less is better. Maybe we need to be more like those cowboys with horse sense...


The above drawing is my own. Check out my FB page of drawings at Benedict Catholic Creations.

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  1. Of Horse Support
    Of Horse Support
    Very interesting post. It raises a lot of good questions. Often times less is more! Thanks for sharing!
  2. Olympus
    The role of the horse in today's society is very different from the "good old days". The idea that horses are livestock like sheep or cattle or tools used to do a job is outmoded, and in balance, horses and people are better off because of this shift.
    1. BiologyBrain
      I think you missed my point. Horses were treated not just as livestock, valuable livestock, but as a companion and partner for daily tasks. They were still treated humanely and with much more affection and consideration than other livestock. Thousands of dollars weren't necessary for this humane treatment. As I said in the post, those who used (or still use) horses for real work take very good care of them, but know that of primary importance is that the horse do the job. The myth that horses were always abused in the old days or that owners are somehow negligent for wanting to spend less than thousands of dollars on their horses was really my point. I used the good ole days as proof of that.

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