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 am a very curious, horridly direct, incisive sort of person, afflicted with uncontrollable truthfulness, which means that I find most people obtuse, insecure, boring and kind of namby-pamby. It also means that I frequently make these same people quite bothered or at the least uncomfortable. Being, as I am, in the minority, I realize that I am perhaps more the problem than they are. It’s a miracle really that I managed to get married, and happily, and early on, even my mother thought I would end up as a bit of a feral thing living deep in the woods up in some tree surrounded by wet man-eating koalas.
The qualities that I respond to in people are universally hailed as well as claimed by most, while being in fact possessed by almost none. Earnestness, good nature, true inner confidence, directness, decisiveness, insightfulness, self awareness, consideration of others and an agile mind are just some of the things that are necessary for me to form connections with other people or simply to find them likable. I am not just rattling off a catalog of positive human qualifications either, I take careful inventory and fastidiously measure every one of the items mentioned in all whom I meet. The list is absurdly long too, but it has organically grown inside me like a weed, regrettably I am not its gardener and haven’t the power to redact it. Trust me, I would if I could, life would be plenty easier.
If I had to sum it all up I’d say integrity is what I find to be most lacking in my species, and I mean the daily kind, the integrity of little things, small decisions, ordinary moments, minute conversations. I think this is a legitimate gripe against western peoples and something that amply justifies my burgeoning misanthropy-ism. The trouble is though, that it’s the other, much less weighty, much more superficial stuff that often informs my feelings about my fellow humans. Sometimes, before I even have the chance to examine their deeper, more substantive aptitudes, I find myself either painfully disinterested or worse, not being able to stand them at all. Therein lies what I’ve discerned to be my central (and only actually) character flaw. Intolerance.
I am intolerant. Sometimes it means that I’m short, sharp and dismissive. It also means that inside my head I am unkind, judgmental and even unjust. The side effect of my, lets call it “persnickety”, mental conformation is that I have throughout my life been sort of socially lacking, more so than my communicative, lively nature would ideally have it.
One of my resolutions for this new year, which marks the beginning of the fourth decade of my time on earth, is to better myself (where betterment still can be attained). There aren’t a lot of areas for improvement here, cus I am obviously awesome, but this intolerant thing, well I’ve started working on it. It’s time to do some changing. I’ve realized that not all friends have to be great or close or real even, some can just be friends “lite”, like the free version of the app you want with the ads and the limited functional scope. A connection does not have to be absolute and exact to warrant some level of friendship or social engagement. I don’t know if this is progress or regress, because it certainly smacks a bit of a kind of disillusionment and settling. I am hoping though, that it’s not so much an abandonment of my exalted ideals, as it is their necessary modification and softening. Bonding being achieved not through an instant congress of souls or minds but rather through repeated physical proximity and shared social experiences? Seems like reasonable recourse.
It has not been easy. These new friends might look good, but they are trying the hell out of my patience and resolve. I do find myself having bits of legitimate fun here and there, and whereas my mental health is sometimes stretched to its limit I opt for hugging, rather than kicking or biting. I am testing the theory that negative thinking can be remedied by positive body language. I realize this might seem utterly ridiculous, but I am actually a very physically affectionate person by nature, and hugging or touching those I love is very natural to me, so I’m hoping it works similarly in reverse with those I am trying to love. Also, going out has given me a reason to color coordinate again and that’s like totally like EVERYTHING.
Mmmm that’s all I care to say on this subject right now…but it will be a multi-part post, detailing my experience as a newly minted social person with friends and things to do on a Saturday night.
Hmm, most blogs I am reading these days are terminally boring..dull…tedious even…unbearably drab. I mean so BORING. Maybe, quiet possibly my blog is also very boring to others, but it’s not to me, and this gripe is all about what’s boring to me. Step it up people. Get it done. Give me 1, just 1 post that I, of my own free will, can read to completion, extra points if it gives me something to think about for some short period after.🤪
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.”