Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forever Homes

I was driving home from seeing My Boy last weekend and for some reason, this very random thought popped into my head. I think I was worrying a little about the economy, gas prices, feed know, it's been on horse owners' minds.

In sale or rescue horse ads, you sometimes read, "Mr. Oats is looking for his forever home." When my mom purchased her gelding Dusty, she said he had his forever home with her. By this, she meant that she would never sell him or give him away.
As a youth, I moved up to larger or more challenging ponies and horses. I cried every time I sold one, but back then I did not have this forever perspective. But now, if at all possible, I have no plans to ever sell or give away My Boy.

Think about a horse's lifespan, say, an average of 25-30 years. Imagine how many times some horses out there exchange owners. And when I really think about it, I find it kind of sad. What if children exchanged homes as often as this? Some of you might say that I am comparing apples and oranges (that is, comparing children and horses. Wait, shouldn't the horses should be apples and the children be oranges? Oh, whatever.) But if children were to change families as often as horses change owners, can you can imagine the variety of problems they would have? Yet, it appears that we just expect horses to adjust to changes in home, sport, training, climate, riding styles, handling, attention.....and suffer no ill or negative consequences.

Show horses are the obvious example that come to mind. They are often passed on from rider to rider as they age and trek their way through the competitive world. Their riders win their awards and make their monies, then the horse is sold to someone else hoping to reach the same goal. If these show veteran horses could talk, would they speak to a colorful life, rich with travel and adventure and new experiences? Or would they speak to lack of connection, consistency, trust issues, and attachment? Do they miss their former homes, people, and pasture mates? I am, by no means, saying that nobody should sell or pass on one of their horses. In fact, if nobody did, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to own My Boy.

Yes, both horses and children are fairly resilient and adaptable. My main point is, well- I do not really have one. I am just bringing up a random thought that popped into my head, truly, this happens to me on a regular basis, I just rarely share them with anyone. And I have a psychology degree and some master's work in counseling and I am interested in social behavior and over-analyze everything.

I am hoping to add some stability in my 14 year old horse's life. He had two owners in the year and a half before he came to me. That is a lot of change. I think it has taken him a year and half just to get to know me. He is part of my family now. In his forever home. Knock on wood.


  1. Interesting topic.

    There's an old saying about it taking many horses to make a rider, but only one rider to make a horse. (Don't ask me where I heard it, I just know I've heard it more than once.)

    It certainly seems to be true in a lot of cases.

  2. The horses that get to have forever homes when they are as young as your boy are very lucky indeed.

    My JJ has been in his forever home, though home has looked different from time to time, since he was 11. I will not fail him. I couldn't never tire of him. He is, quite honestly, my sanity.

  3. Amen sister!! I love analytically-minded individuals who chew things over in their minds and come to their beliefs/decisions as a result of their own thinking rather than "buying" someone else's theories. Again, I think you are right on the money...horses are really not that much different than us two-legs, at least in where our comfort comes from. We all need to feel secure, loved and cared for, accepted - with or without "flaws", (we all have them, they just differ with perspectives) and stability. With those things in place, we/they can open up to trust and show who we or they really are and grow. In a nutshell, I guess it's nurturing which promotes confidence and self-assurance which allows a horse or an individual to be comfortable in their own skin. Sorry, long-winded I know; it's just such a passionate subject for me. I think we live in a culture which de-values life and has such a "throw-away" attitude that we fail to learn from all the wonderful differences, (some would call them flaws) and opportunities that abound. An example; we have a little mare that we got at age 14 years old...looney-tunes to be sure. After a few days, we thought we had made a huge mistake! We nicknamed her wildthang for good reason. She would explode into head-snaking, squealing, kicking theatrics whenever another horse would even look her way, let alone try to approach her. With behavior like that, our horses would just as soon kick her head off as get to know her. Anyway, looking at her papers, in her 14 years, she had been sold 9 times!!! Talk about insecure - she was showing what I believe is called passive-aggressive behavior. Acting mean and crazy was her safest form of self-preservation. She trusted no one, horse or human. Why would she? Nobody had ever taken the time to get to know her. Well, Frosted Siri L (aka Siri) is now 26 years old and we still have her. Lovely, mature lady that she is - she is one of the best horses my husband ever had the chance of riding and loving. We were "crazy" enough to keep her and we're not sorry! She has her "forever home" and family, finally. Thank you for your beautifully worded subject for thought. I for one am grateful and feel blessed to believe that horses are valuable gifts to us are children. Thank you Pony Girl for your thought-provoking topics. Keep up the good work, girl!

  4. You've got me thinking now too. I was saying to my husband recently how I'll be pushing 60 before my boy (who's 6) passes on. It took me the last year of owning him before I really felt like he trusted me to "look out for him". Getting him to trust me in the benevolent leadership role had its ups and downs. As a teen I leased a few horses. Now as an adult I do wonder what happened to them. If I met any of them on the wrong side of the street, I'd feel a responsibility to help them out.

    A horse is a horse (of course, of course!) and I think every time their "herd" (including humans) and territory changes on them, it throws them for a loop.

  5. My Arab Brandy also has a "forever" home with me. I would be really worried to what kind of home she'd end up at if I ever had to sell her or give her away. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to ride her with all her quirks/"special" needs. I think she'd end up being passed around because of her issues. I can't blame Brandy for her issues, her previous owner kept her in the same pasture for 9 yrs with little to no training.
    So when I am ready to retire Brandy she will live out her life with me until the end.
    Now I can't say the same for my Paint Fritzy. Don't tell my "other" half I said that. He loves that Paint to death but I am the one that has to deal with her lack of impatience, pushiness, strong personality etc. I love Fritzy but I don't feel she would be that "forever" horse for me. I guess I have a different bond with Brandy than I do with Fritzy.
    As cingspots said, we have that throw away mentality and it isn't just with horses. Look at all the dogs and cats that get dumped out there. Not too long ago a bunch of Australian Shepherd puppies were dumped somewhere in my citym, in a pet carrier in the middle of nowhere left to die a terrible death. An older gentleman found them and took them to the animal shelter, he said one more day and they would have died. They are now being adopted out. The animal shelter said they would have taken the puppies, no questions asked, so why did they just dump them to die? Why couldn't they take them to the animal shelter where they would get the opportunity to get a loving home? This is totally unacceptable to me. With any animal. There is absolutely no excuse for a human to behave in this way.

  6. Excellent topic. And a very tough one indeed. I have owned 8 horses in my entire life of almost 34 this order:
    Two have passed away in my hands - Buck, whose story you know, and Amber, a Shetland who was bitten by a rattle snake and died, even after aggressive treatments to save her.
    I sold 4 horses - Maggie, Brandy, Hamlet and Ollie. Each decision to sell was the hardest ever in my life. Maggie came back to live with me and will continue to live with me until she passes - she is now 30. I kept up with Brandy and Hamlet. Hamlet was killed by a lightening strike, Brandy is still living and retired in a loving home. Regrettably, I sold Ollie and never kept track of him. He is one I would have loved to get back.
    Currently I own Tonto and Filly; two disfunctional basket cases struggling for normalcy after abused pasts. I pray that they are in their forever homes with me. For as Paint Girl mentioned, I am scared to think of how anyone else would treat them.
    My Boy is a very lucky horse, and I agree that it has to take them time to get over changing hands.
    Interesting that you compare horses to children. I liked that - my husband would argue that I treat my horses like my children. :) I'll take that as a compliment. Great post - keep having those interesting thoughts!

  7. I have one horse here that will always have a forever home. Poor Pearl was bought and sold for the first 10 years of her life. She was never in the same place for longer than a year and a half. It made me sad. She had some issues. It took me about 6 months to work through them and then we showed together. Now she takes my kids to shows. I love her and she will never go anywhere. But that I do have four other horses that once I get them riding well, they will be sold to good homes. It's always sad to see them go. I often wonder about where they are and how they are doing.

  8. I have never got a horse with the intention of selling them, other than Moon who was a "project horse".
    Quinn only ended up being sold after a loooong time trying to get things to work out. When it became evident that I wouldn't be able to trust him for riding and possibly even regular handling it was time for him to move on (his new family is totally in love with him).
    When we bough Applejack the seller casually mentioned that if we wanted to replace him in a few years he'd be an easy horse to sell. Pie was horrified! He wasn't buying a horse that he needed to replace, HIS horse was his family! So I don't think our little Appy boy will ever leave :)
    And of course my dear Cessa will NEVER have another home. She's one of the lucky ones, I'm her second owner and she's 27 now. :)

  9. It is definitely a subject worth thinking about, PG. Silk went through many owners and was abused by some of them before I got her. It took almost 5 years for her to be able to trust me. So, My Boy is very lucky, and yes, we should all knock wood since these are economically challenging times.

  10. Interesting post PG. I too have issues with horses being passed around so much. I know sometimes it has to be that way but sometimes I wish people would try harder to keep their horses in their home and heart. I have gone to great lengths to make arrangements for all of my horses and ponies in the event that hubby and I should die together say in a car crash or something. Not trying to be gruesome but things happen and I wanted to make sure that my guys were placed in loving homes. Our lawyer has all the paper work on file. Thanks for such a thought provoking post, hope it makes people give this issue some thought and action.

  11. I'm with you on the forever homes ponygirl. I have bought and sold several horses in the past 3 years and finally have found my keepers. (knock wood for me too)

    Now, If I can finally convince my daughter to live w/me forever Dakota will stay where he belongs!

  12. I don't know anything about horses but I know a little about kids. I don't think they are as resilient as people assume they are. They always say that kids will just take the abuse and move on. I don't believe that< i think that the kids will just cover it up and smile because that's what they know the adult expects them to do. There are so many kids out there that have so many issues that come out later in life that stem from those past traumas that I can not say that they are as resilient as everyone assumes they are. Now are horses the same? I don't know. I am inclined to assume not. I know dogs carry past issues mine are rescues that came to me with baggage. Would solid homes have made a difference? Yeah but they were not so lucky, now they are. Such is life, we can just hope that eventually they find that Furever home.

  13. I quite agree. A horse is a creature of habit, and needs stability in order to flourish.

    Over here, a Google ad has been appearing a lot when I use Gmail, for a firm called "Horses Wholesale". I find it sad to see horses sold in this way as a commodity.

    When I ran a trail riding centre, I found it sad that so many people viewed riding simply as a commodity: they wanted "experiences" - galloping or whatever - and were aggressive to horse and outfitter alike if they didn't get what they wanted. The life of a trail riding centre horse is not always a happy one.

  14. Both of my horses are in their forever home. i could never even conceive of letting them go. But i am to a full time rider or into it for the sport either. i can see why people need to "upgrade" or trade in their horses, but my boys are my boys. And will be forever, God and grain prices willing. ;0)

  15. I have heard it said, and I find it to be true- that it takes at least a year to bond with your horse. Although I have owned and ridden nearly 100 horses in my life , there are those I love- those I hate, and those that I can't live without. The gelding I have now is one of those I will keep as long as I am alive. I don't usually get too sentimental about horses, but there are a few that have definetly touched something inside of me. I believe that certain horses come in to your life to teach you something, and when you have learned it, they leave you.Some lessons are good and some lessons are hard, and you never know what the lesson is until it's over.Humility,confidence,love, acceptance, joy- these are what my horses keep teaching me. I hope you all are as lucky.

  16. I think that's a very astute assessment and throws light on the issue of responsibility that we assume when we bring an animal into our life. I think it's paramount to treat them with the utmost respect at all times, for many of the reasons that you've mentioned and to allow them choice whenever possible. I've never brought an animal home that I hadn't committed to care for, for the long term. They have my word on that.

  17. I think that is wonderful! And honestly there is so much to learn and so much fun to be had even when the time comes to retire him (in years and years I hope) that you will be shocked how easy it is to just have him forever. I know horses are pricey but the way I look at it is that my horse brings me so much joy that if I can spend so much on gas, rent, taxes, etc I will find a way to spend the money on something I love.

  18. I love how Carolynn and Vaquerogirl put many of my own thoughts on this subject into words.

    And I appreciate you sharing your deeper thoughts and opinions here, too. It's get everyone thinking, which is always a good thing.

    I'm new to horse ownership. Always sort of treated horses at something to ride or use, and never getting to know them.

    My painted pony is certainly different. It was not love at first sight for either of us, I think. I've had her for 8 months now and I feel we have bonded and she's learned to trust me and I'm learning to trust her.
    She's beeen a lesson horse and been passed around, too.

    But she did have a good experience, I've been told being owned by a young girl who took her through 4-H and kept her until she got married and had to move to a different state.

    My hope is that my horse somehow makes the connection that this is her permanent home and that we can work on having a similar relationship as the one she had with her previous female owner.

    I enjoy riding my horse, but I enjoy just being with her, on the ground, too. Just seeing her in my pasture brings a smile to my face.

    Some people seem not to be able to understand that. If you have a horse, you have to use it, or it's useless and must be sold.
    "Why feed it, if it's not doing anything' mentality.

    But we feed our cats, dogs, birds, fish, reptiles, guinea pigs etc, etc, and they don't usually do anything but give us love, joy, affection, and a soft furry body to sink our hands into.

    I realize that sometimes an animal just doesn't connect with us and it's not a good fit. And then it is a good idea to find a better home for that animal.

    But I just cannot understand how anyone can own a dog for 12 years and then try to dump it on Freecycle because they have to move. Worse, is when the same people claim they just love their dog so much and want to find the best home for them.

    Well the best home is the one the dog had. And who is going to want an old dog? And how is that poor old dog going to feel being dumped from the only home it's even known, now that it's a senior citizen?

    I see similar happening with horses, too.
    The people have owned a horse for years and worked and ridden it. Even won ribbons and awards possibly. But then the horse is older, gets lameness issues and arthritis and can't be ridden the same way.

    You see horses like this being dumped on Craigs List all the time, oftetimes for FREE!

    These same owners say they don't want to feed a horse they can't ride.

    I think that's sad.

  19. Twinville~ You're so right. I feel the worst for any senior citizen animal that ends up at a shelter or give away free on craigslist, often they end up in bad situations. Some senior citizen animals can find second lives at a youth camp or therapeutic riding program. But not always. Many are just given away as "pasture pets" so that they can be someone else's burial problem. Brutal to say, but true.
    I hope I have the land to retire my boy into a pasture pet when he's old and gray, to live out his senior citizen years happily. If that is the case, I could hopefully afford another horse for riding, too.

  20. Oddly enough, Chris and I was just talking about this last night. The barn where I have my horses stabled at has two Arabian mares there. One is 34y/o, the other is 30 or 32y/o. I was nervous when I got out of the truck and saw an exremely thin, white mare in the first pen. I was adament that I would be doing my own chores. After we got settled in and was standing by the pickup talking to the barn owner, he explained that the owner had him boarding the mares because she had owned them their whole lives and although she knew they needed to be put down(both are filled with cancer-that is why the one is so thin), she needed to board them for a bit to seperate herself before she could do it. Both will be euthanized this fall.
    Anyway, that started Chris and I's discussion on why most people sell off or give away older horses. Disposal of the body is a huge issue these days. If you can find some place, it usually costs a fortune.
    What I think needs to be done, since they have closed the US slaughter plants(we won't go there-I would never sell one of my old horses to slaughter, but then I have several thousand acres in which to bury a horse)what they really need to implement is places a person can take their horses for euthanasia and burial. I think that would end a lot of people giving away or trying to sell off their old or crippled stuff.

  21. BEC~ you are so right. Sadly, I know that I do not have an exact plan on what would happen if due to colic or an accident, I had to put My Boy down. The cost is high, not just for the euthanization, but for the rendering of the body (we do not have the land or equipment to bury a horse.)

    There is an old gray Arabian in my sister's neighborhood that is thin and just on pasture to live out it's days (my sister knows it's owner.) Anyone driving by would assume it is neglected, but it's just old and bony. I still wonder about it's quality of life though, if it's in pain, etc. I never see anyone interacting with it. And the field is small.

  22. It's hard to imagine that we won't have our horses forever . . . . I know folks can experience changing circumstances. At the same time, these creature-companions seem to take up permanent residence within our hearts.


    PS: Got a first-ride story to share - with a young horse? Stop on by!


  23. Oh a girl after my own heart! I know you are new to my blog, so you might not even know this yet, but I am a pony girl too, and I never cried harder in my life than reading the closing passages of Black Beauty, and am almost crying now as I ponder forever homes. Our Bella and Peso have a forever home with us, and hopefully more on the horizon as the kids grow and can get their own horses as well. Always happy to meet a kindred spirit =D

  24. I love how your passion shines through!

  25. Great topic! I love the ideas you put forth in your postings. I wish I could have the time to post daily all the things that ramble along in my mind.
    I know this subject too well, but it is the CHILD side I see. Being a foster parent,I see the horrible things some kids are going thru.
    The young 12 year old girl we had, she has been in 2 foster homes and now her dad doesn't want her back, she is now up for adoption. I could go on and on about the stupidity of this situation, but I will leave that for a post.
    And the 2 little boys we have now, the mother has already lost 2 other kids due to her inability to be a fit parent (drug addict). She is going to be in jail for at least a year, the father cannot read or write and is a drug addict also, so he more than likely will never get these kids back either. Hubby and I will keep these kids as long as we need to. CPS has said they can almost see the exact path of what will happen to these kids, they will be in and out of foster care until they too are adopted out.

    My QH, she was with one owner prior to us, my Palomino was a roper's horse then went to the owner we bought her from, my Palomino's colt will be ours forever since his birth. At least that is our plans.

    My Boy is so lucky to have you!!


I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

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