I don’t even remember when it started. I might have been born with it. The love of horses seems to be part of a young girl’s make-up. As a young child, our parents would take us to visit our aunt & uncle who had horses. As we got older we were able to ride them unlike when we were younger and could only ride double. Feeding them, petting them, and just be around them was worth waiting for.
The older I got the more intense my interest in horses grew. I remember thinking I could save my allowance to buy one and put it in the backyard. Or I could go work at the local stables cleaning stalls so I could put my horse there. We lived in a regular middle-class neighborhood in LA. Not going to happen. They say if you give a girl a horse she won’t think about boys. That would’ve helped.
Well, as always life happens, and dreams usually get left behind. I eventually grew up, got married, had kids, and then divorce. After the divorce, I needed something to brighten my days. I found out there was a girl that taught horseback riding lessons nearby so I signed up. It was great. I felt like a whole person again. There’s nothing better than having a horse in your life.
Fast forward to meeting a man who raised racing quarter horses. He had 20 head of breeding mares, another 8 of 10 head of miscellaneous aged ones, and 6 two-year-olds. We started seeing each other and I started working with the horses. It was great. All the things I learned about horses and their care were amazing.
He was raised in the Midwest and his father was an old-school veterinarian. This man knew more about horses than most people know about themselves. I think we only had a veterinarian out a very few times. One was when a pack of wild dogs put a colt through a fence and sliced her neck open. She needed more attention than we could do in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, no one could save her.
Horses are amazing and when you can see them in their natural environment as a herd, it’s wonderful. If you can experience this you can see how they interact with each other, the herd hierarchy, and even how they reprimand their youngsters. If the young horse has done something quite serious, they will even be kicked out from eating for a while.
I learned how to trim their feet, give shots, take blood, treat wounds, and float teeth. Their back teeth are smoothed down with a filing instrument. Sometimes, their back teeth get very sharp causing them to cut their cheek and inhibit their eating.
The foot of a horse is the second heart of the animal. For healthy circulation and blood flow, the foot needs to be kept healthy. Clean and well-trimmed. Some people go into having horses and don’t fully understand or realize how important their feet are.
Horses can get what is called thrush in their hoof, a fungal infection under the “frog” the center of the foot which can become very painful to the horse and will put them off for some time. Doctoring thrush can take time and patience before it heals up, meanwhile, you are without a riding partner. Most of the time a clean dry stall and some iodine put on the area can do the job.
Another foot problem can be a navicular disease where there is degeneration of the navicular bone and subsequent inflammation of the surrounding areas. This is usually in the front feet and can lead to lameness. Sometimes corrective shoeing can eliminate the pressure and help with lameness. Take care of your horse’s feet, they are what keep him upright.
I found I was a pretty good rider. I was able to ride one horse while “ponying” another alongside. Ponying is when you want to exercise a horse without actually riding it. Usually, it is a young, untrained horse or a racing horse that is exercised that way, but you can do it to any horse you don’t necessarily want to ride.
I loved what I learned. It was exciting to work with horses of all ages that were so full of energy and unexpected behaviors. Riding was a great part but learning about the horse itself was exciting. I learned that horses are so much like humans. Their physical characteristics are similar, internal organs, gestation time, reproductive cycle, feet, and so many things. I think that is why working with horses is such good therapy. We can connect with this huge, beautiful wild beast in a way we can with no other animal.
I have found that horses have emotions and can become emotionally connected to us. That makes selling one very difficult. They can even grieve the loss of a foal. Most people try to handle or interact with horses as dumb animals. Not a good idea. Horses are individual beings. Smart, intuitive, and have their own personalities. Also stubborn, anxious, afraid, and mean. I’ve had my share of both.
When you find a smart horse and it wants to please its rider, you have found heaven. There is nothing that horse won’t do for you and you have to treat him as such. Working with a mistreated horse is difficult and takes work to get them to trust you and come around. Those horses need a lot of time and patience if you are going to develop them to come around to the horse they used to be. It can be done and is very rewarding.
I love horses and have had several good ones. The last horse I raised and prepared for the trainer, I sold to someone who has sights set for becoming a horse trainer and I believe he will make it. He is doing a great job and I love what he has done with her. Look for another episode of my horse adventures.