I’ve been super sick, so i don’t aim to organize this well and my point is liable to get lost here or there. But, as per my usual, I promise to get wherever it is that I am going.
It is hard to describe what love of a horse is to those who do not have/ride their own horses (pats self on back). One of the most common misconceptions is that the relationships equestrians have with their horses are akin to those people have with their pets. Ages ago, when I didn’t know better and made the occasional error of gushing or worrying out loud about Ryllin to non-riders, I found, much to my chagrin, that they tended to relate my feelings to their experiences with their dogs. It became clear to me then that non-horse people really are not able to understand what I am talking about. Horses are nothing like dogs, keeping them is nothing like keeping dogs, loving them is nothing like loving dogs, they offer more, they take more, they make you a million times more crazy. The real distinction between the relationships arises when it comes to horses that are really being used, the more rigorous the riding/sport the more involved and complicated the relationship tends to be. But I’ll espouse on that in Part 2.
The financial investment alone is a hundredfold. Combined with the time investment, which is so significant that for most of us it leaves little to no room for any other hobbies, horse ownership/equestrianism is elevated to the classification of a full on lifestyle. This is also one of the chief reasons many horse people are completely off their rocker. What horses offer their riders is also markedly different from the offerings of dogs, but that portion of the lesson will be delivered in careful detail come Part 2.
For now, and with all that being said, I want to focus strictly on physiological issues which separate horses from everything else pet-like, and how those issues affect the hapless humans endeavoring to manage them. Unlike dogs, horses are dishearteningly fragile. Most people don’t realize that horses can drop dead on a dime. It would seem that these animals had never quite acclimated, evolutionarily speaking, to domestication, and, despite their imposing dimensions, are utterly frail. Their bodies can be potentially riddled with a slew of debilitating conditions, many of which, if gone unnoticed or not properly addressed, easily turn deadly. The two most common sources of horse fatality are their guts and their feet. Horse feet are complex structures, somewhat poorly designed to withstand the rigors of supporting over 1000 lbs, especially when that 1000 pounds is hurling itself over obstacles or performing complex aerial maneuvers. The saying goes “No foot, no horse”, and it is quite literal, a bad foot means at best, a lame horse, and at worst, a dead horse. Lots of care goes into maintaining healthy feet on a horse, from shoeings and trimmings, to supplements, dressings and careful selection of footing. A foot can go bad in a day, dietary issues, bad shoeing, genetic issues, weather issues, ground conditions, stall conditions, etc. all can cause deadly foot disorders and diseases. You might say, what’s the big deal, one foot goes bad, there are three more. Be assured, a horse needs all four of its tiny feet to equally distribute its enormous weight, one foot gone, means the other three will go shortly thereafter, as they cannot take the horse’s weight in perpetuity. And no, horses can’t just lie around while it gets better, like dogs. A horse’s weight and intricate circulation/nervous systems prevent it from being able to lie down for long without dying. I kid you not, a laid up horse will basically crush itself from the inside, its organs will go out one after another under its own weight causing permanent damage to its nervous system and eventual death. So not only can a horse with a compromised foot not be ridden but often, the degeneration of the hoof structures is so severe that it has to be put down. A sport horse, who becomes too lame to be ridden, is a tragedy in itself, as the amount of work, time and feeling that goes into creating an effective riding partnership between horse and rider is massive, but when said horse has to also be put down, the dimension of loss is on another level.
Second most common and sudden horse killer, that all horse people live in constant fear off, is colic. Again, seems innocuous enough right? I mean who hasn’t had a little colic, a bit of constipation here and there, some gas? Well, if you’re a horse, the word colic carries with it weight equal to that of words like cancer or apocalypse. In short, due to the unique anatomy of equine stomachs and intestines, indigestion kills. Kills suddenly and mercilessly. So there is that. It’s definitely nothing like when a dog gets upset stomach and barfs all over your favorite duvet. Not only is a horse physically unable to regurgitate its food btw, i.e. throw up, but as I had mentioned earlier, it can’t even rest it off on its back, since even laying down for too long is deadly to horses.
Another thing to mention is that unlike dogs, horses cannot breathe through their mouths, so when they have a cold, or an allergy, they can easily suffocate and, again, die. For the same reason horses often croak from simple choking.
With these few example, I am trying to illustrate why dog owners have no comprehension of what goes into horse ownership. No one really understands what it’s like to be dealing with a horse health problem, how all consuming and exhausting it can be, except for horse people of course. And this is just one dimension of horse ownership, the highly redacted physiological one. It is also why horse love is nothing like dog love. The more attention and worry something requires, never you mind money, the more significant the place it occupies in our worlds. Just from the perspective of wellness, horses are infinitely more complex and demanding than dogs. After spending years worrying and obsessing about every cough and every limp, the feeling we develop for our equine partners is infinitely deeper and more involved than the fuzzy uncomplicated affections we feel towards our sweet canine companions. It’s just simple math. Involvement and investment is commonly proportionate to attachment and meaning. The harder we work at something, the more we value the product of our labor. In the case of horse ownership and equestrianism, a live, sound horse is the product.
—–>Part 2// Why Horse love is nothing like dog love // The partnership, the sweat, the guts, the glory.
Though I have many easy enough days volunteering at the shelter, there are hard ones as well.
Luckily for me, I am not the kind of person who greatly loves all dogs. I feel deep compassion for all of them, but otherwise I am almost as dog selective as I am people selective. Furthermore in an effort to steel myself against attachments I do my best not to get to know the animals. I have to remain stoic in order to be able to help them, the alternative would be completely falling apart. I fully expect that at some point in my life I will crack and dabble in animal hoarding, there will be an intervention of some kind, it’ll probably make it onto the news. Local woman on the run from authorities with her 100+ dogs in tow, armed with biscuits and not at all dangerous. Anyways….
During my volunteer hours I usually concentrate on getting out as many dogs as possible, I am all about efficiency. Once in a while though, it can’t be helped, I get caught inside a quiet moment in the shade of a tree with an animal who puts its head in my lap as if it belongs there, as if we are the oldest of friends.
He lays there quietly, listening to the earth like he speaks her language. He stares up at the sky, takes deep breaths of the grass, he is young, but he won’t waste his energy on spastic antics, no, he wants to take the world in best he can, while he can, he knows he might not be long for it. He leans into my hands, but does not coax their movement, my fingers press gently into his coat. He seems calm, but his heart is beating fast, I think from joy. I have to bring him back to his cage. Eyes close then open slowly to look at mine, then close again. By the next time he opens his eyes I am completely wrecked. That dog destroyed me for the duration of this entire day. I cried over him, I cried after him, I cried during dinner and I am crying now, as I write.
I haven’t undergone any major epiphanies lately, sorry. Life’s been much of the same, nothing to gripe about really, but I’ll try anyways. Somewhat isolated out here in the gentrified desert, bouts of self loathing, a little road rage here and there, some brooding and wallowing, lots of coffee, rereading of Byron’s letters volume 3, an occasional Xanax to calm my idling nerves, lots of television (regrettably?), the cooking (amazingly well as usual), hiking with dogs a lot, riding of horse less than is my custom….etc.Sounds quite nice though doesn’t it, I work hard to remind myself of how nice it is, harder than I should sometimes.
I hadn’t played tennis in a couple of weeks because I broke my strings on all rackets and it took me forever to get them back, also there is a hole in my tennis shoe :(, also because my hitting partner is ignoring me and I haven’t a suitable substitute. It’s hard to be very good at something where an equally good partner is required. Poor me.
Someone asked me why my blog is so sort of “me centric”, asked why I don’t share more of my strong opinions about things that matter. The tone was markedly disdainful but somewhat masked by a compliment towards my “whimsical” writing style. As I am presently endeavoring to be more tolerant all around, I contained my knee jerk eye-roll and indulged, to some extent, the obnoxious querist. Firstly, I am not publishing a gazette here, it’s a “public diary of personal reflections”, it says so in the subtitle. As such, its primary function is to be all about me. Why? Is justification or cause needed for being self-involved in this medium? Ok. I am keeping record of my innermost thoughts so that in some far off future my brain can be reconstituted as a computer, with robotic reanimation and eternal life being the ultimate end goal of course. Also I don’t write a lot of opinion pieces about current events etc. because I mostly don’t give a shit, or don’t want to have to educate myself thoroughly enough on any meaningful subject in order to be able to really write about it. Maybe less people should express their opinions actually, cus few are informed enough to rightfully form them. A daily cocktail of ennui, apathy and sloth informs my creative efforts and outputs. Plus I wouldn’t want to make an enemy of The Atlantic, I don’t have a death wish. Additionally, Mark Twain said to write about what you know. Well all I really know is myself and my life, so I write about it. Is it indulgent to incessantly rant and rail as I do, sure, but is there a place better suited for this activity than a WordPress site, fashioned like a blog and read only by the hapless few who Google-search the word “slap” and are erroneously guided to my humble internet cubbyhole. Nope.
I spent Saturday at the Maricopa dog pound going through a two and a half hour volunteer orientation. I don’t know why I hadn’t gotten started with this years ago, I’ve thought about it plenty ever since I got my dogs from that very same pound. Wait I do know, being at the pound makes me very very sad, but I think I’ve wasted enough time choosing my peace of mind over whatever relief I can offer these dispossessed animals. I have chosen the necessary job of cleaning cages and tending to the needs of the animals on the Euthanasia list. I think I can do most good there, as my people skills are unpredictable at best. Adoption counseling and picture taking would go over easier on my nerves no doubt, but not on my conscience.
My infamous intolerance though did flare up during this “orientation”. As I sat there for a miserable 2.5 hours, all I could think about was the utter inefficiency of their process content wise. The two women leading the orientation talked and talked and talked, spinning endless, irrelevant tales and anecdotes about their personal experiences, their dogs, families and their shelter related career paths, with an occasional, seldom bit of pertinent information sprinkled in. It was so tedious and pointless, that I had to completely tune them out half way into the presentation. Though I know they are just eccentric, well-meaning sort of folks, I became deeply irritated with having my time thusly wasted by them. People, like myself, who drive up to 1 hour one way with the singular purpose of acquiring practical knowledge necessary for a specific task, needn’t be held hostage in hard plastic chairs for over two hours by two women who just want to talk about themselves. Amidst the blather I started composing on my phone a biting but constructive anonymous email, addressed to the two of them, about the virtues of time management, efficiency and conciseness. Writing out my frustration in this way helped stifle my ire and I mustered the willpower not to send it just then. This is probably for the better, since they both were/are, I am sure, lovely, warmhearted people, better in fact than most for having devoted their lives to helping the world’s four legged orphans. I had to center myself, remember my newly minted tolerance mantra, recite it and just sit there like a fidgety statue flipping through Koala memes on my phone.
On a better note, I am going to Vegas next weekend, this is mostly exciting because I get to see my most adored friend Anna from whom I am otherwise separated by 400 unbearably long miles! I am driving myself, which is a loathsome development, but the trip is so spur of the moment that I can’t justify the criminally inflated rate of flying. It is a robust 5 hour drive, which with my tiny bladder makes an 8 hour drive, and I am dreading it already. I am counting though on an exceptionally fun time there to prepare me for the 5 hour volunteer training session at the dog pound that is scheduled for the day after my return. Most certainly handling dogs on the Euthanasia list will turn me inside out and upside down, but I have to say I really look forward to helping and being of general use to them. I have been feeling more and more as of late, that the meaning of life has fallen outside my purview, I’d like to urgently restore it to its usual place inside my shiftless soul.
And, as always, I’d like to say that I miss my childhood and my grandma…and those pink pants. But mostly my amazing, beautiful, brilliant grandma, from whom I got all that is good in me.
It’s that time of year again I guess, resolutions must be made. I always, without fail, keep my new year’s resolutions because, contrary to most other people’s, mine are grounded in reality, careful self analysis and deep introspection. So after days of rigorous self examination, I have discerned that my central resolution for year 2015 is to become a TIGER. Doubtless it will take hard work and unwavering commitment to stripes, spots, purrs and naps, but I am feeling strong and quite resolved all-around. Who else out their is endeavoring to metamorphosize. Any aspiring lambs?
I am having a hard time writing and by that I mean I am not doing it at all. I don’t want to join the ranks of those miserably irritating writer/blogger types who wine incessantly about their writing blocks, but ugghh if it’s not a block it’s a definite jam and it is sorely felt. The issue is that I really don’t want to write about nothing, so I am looking for something to sink my teeth into. Prattling on about the daily minutia of life is just not doing the trick right now . I am still mostly entertaining thoughts about nothing, i.e. Kim K’s butt, Kim K’s front, fat people eating Mcdonalds, Iphone vs. Droid, a virtual celebrity death camp app that I would like to develop, how I want to name all my future children “Todd” etc. etc…..Yesterday I did spend the better part of an hour thinking about the holidays and what they mean to people, especially those people who are without people; a short but meaningful inner monologue took place in the adult corner of my mind about relationships and how sad it is that so many seem to fall apart over just sex. That last one I might be able to develop into a sufficiently scandalous and substantive write up, but I am not holding my breath. In the end nothing cohesive materialized, brain chatter subsided and settled all dew like at the floor of my cranium. Can’t drink dew.
I am trying now to start writing again with a mind to stumbling onto something that is more than nothing and perhaps actually worthy of a few semi thought out sentences and their readers.
So, the other day I somewhat accidentally killed a mouse, my subsequent efforts to revive it proved in the end to be utterly futile and perhaps more harmful than not. I think I may have inadvertently prolonged its suffering and exasperated my own distress. Mice are the scourge of barns and tack rooms everywhere, and despite my best efforts to recognize all animals as innocent and deserving of life, I am prejudiced against them in the context of stables. As a barn person, I find it hard to see mice as anything more than galling, scurrying, pooping, manducating machines, undeterred by doors, walls or threats of violence and imminent death. My favorite sweater for example, that I still wear but only at home, had suffered complete disfigurement for their indiscriminate chewing, after I haphazardly left it on top of my tack trunk for a single night. Much of my tack, including pricy leathers and bridles had fallen prey to the insatiable appetites of mice invaders any time it was not properly stored or hung up. And actual feed? Forget about it, forget you know its name. Purina? Bran? Gold Standard? They will chew through every bag, every box and tunnel past most other containments, which wouldn’t really be that big of a deal, were they able to control their bowel movements. In case you didn’t know, they are not. They defecate it seems while eating, walking, sleeping and, I imagine, plotting. Mice are in this way just like babies… but don’t start me on babies. There is always mouse poo to be found ON my saddle, but this is only just gross and it merely vexes my delicate sensibilities. The poop they leave in the feed is a whole other issue, it renders the feed contaminated and often beyond use, it’s a real problem. Anyways, you can imagine how my relationship with barn mice is at best strained and certainly fraught with enmity, still my commitment to nonviolence means that I would never intentionally harm them or seek to displace them.
Long story made shorter, I found two mice in a bucket of feed, one jumped out and ran away the other ran in frantic circles around the inside rim of the bin, I deduced that he would jump out later, and if not, well I figured it wasn’t my problem and left him. When I returned 3 days later I found him still in there, he was apparently unable to find his way out like his buddy, maybe he was younger or white and unable to jump. For lack of water and excess of food he was in a terrible state, barely able to open his eyes or move. My heart sank, I did this and there he was such a pitiful thing, clinging to life. “God” only knows what he had gone through over the past few days. I imagined his dehydrated suffering, perhaps his fear, the dwindling of his hopes, and, honestly, became deeply sad. I don’t mean to dramatize. I realize that he was only a mouse, who was more likely to fall prey to a mouse trap or a barn cat than to live out his days into old age and retirement, but this seemed like the worst kind end for any living thing.I scrambled to get him out, scooping him up into a bowl, put a little water over his body then sat him down on a damp towel with his face resting on a little dish of water I fashioned out of an orange juice cap. I then put a tiny mountain of very wet feed right next to his face and covered him partially with a piece of cloth, hoping that he might feel more secure for it. When I came back in a few hours he had moved a little and was sitting a few feet away from where I left him. I was hopeful as his eyes were now half way open. I put him back into the safe zone with the water and the food and left for the day. The next day he wasn’t there. I thought, in my foolish optimism, that he had recovered and found the strength to rejoin his brethren, but a barn hand informed me that he had found him dead under a chair earlier that morning. My futile efforts to revive him probably only caused him more suffering and fear. There is something oppressive to any pointless loss of life. It’s like when you catch a glance of road kill or those skulls and bones in old paintings-the memento mori’, small but jarring reminders of how fine the threshold is between being and not being, how all things that are living must get dead. Life is always just a visitor who brings a gift, a gift which turns to dust when she takes her leave. I was there when he was so alive with a future ahead of him; there were many a bridles he could have laid tooth to, much feed to waste, maybe even baby mice to produce with Missis Mouse. I could have helped him out of that bin and spared him the suffering and the dying, but, for no particular reason, I just didn’t. 😦 I think the fact that I didn’t intend to kill him, but kind of did, is what’s actually upsetting here. I had never killed anything before via inaction, and I can tell you that it’s the worst and with an after taste of evil. Baring responsibility for that outcome without the preceding conviction or intent makes for an unexpected burden, miserable and surprisingly abject. Poor mouse.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”