There is a new horse in the barn. I always get excited to welcome a new member to the equine family on the farm. Maybe it is the potential, maybe it is the unknown, maybe it is just the chance to nest again, but, whatever the reason, I enjoy each new arrival. I enjoy waiting for them to arrive. It gives me a chance to anticipate their needs.
I know enough of their story to work on making the transition as easy as possible. Most serendipitous for me is the review of each of the other horses’ story this causes. It is one of the wonderfully true things of life that in the listening to the story of another I am able to tell a new part of my own story. That has been the case in waiting for this horse. She is for all intents and purposes a rescue horse. Her weight, coat, distended belly, and hooves tell the all too familiar story of being neglected while in the care of someone who should know better.
This is a small aside but it is hard for me to understand the apparent callousness that gets a horse to this place. I understand inexperienced owners who get a horse not knowing what they are getting into. But when they commit them to the care of a “knowledgeable horseperson” and then they are neglected, I am confused. I was speaking to a friend about this last week. She has seen this all too often herself. She wondered how one lives with oneself when they see the result. Is it a lack of conscious or a business decision or just the ugly side of the human tit-for-tat? I can’t say.
As a barn owner, I may have been lucky, but still even if the owner doesn’t pay, doesn’t visit and in general doesn’t keep their end of the bargain, letting the horse suffer seems like punishing the wrong party. The horse doesn’t understand the lack of food as a reflection of the lack of payment from an absent owner. I can’t imagine walking past a hungry horse with food for the other horses as making me feel any better about the situation. If everyone was honest, I suspect there would be plenty of blame to go around for the humans involved – the owner who sold the horse people who were not an appropriate match, the new owner who thought it would be fun to bring up a yearling as their first horse project and that it wouldn’t cost anything because a friend would keep it in exchange for work on the farm, and of course the friend who didn’t have a contract or anticipate the lack of commitment of the owner – but the horse wasn’t party to any of this. So, on what planet does letting a horse stand in crap up to their knees, rocks imbedding in their white line making them lame, seriously underweight, and worm infested make any of the prior bad decisions brilliant.
Okay, end of my tirade. This is her story and it shapes her needs for her new home. But for me it is also an opportunity to reflect on the times I have been caught by these or other situations. What were the second mile steps I have taken to insure they don’t happen in my barn or to the horses in my care? Are they enough or are new policies and tough discussions needed? Am I the right person to help this horse at this time? Will it have a negative impact on the horses already in my care? Every new horse gives me this opportunity to reflect and respond.
That leads to the fun of recalling the special needs of all the other members of the herd. The horse currently in the isolation stall will have to be moved as she will need care there until she is bathed, stronger and worm free. Where to put Norty then? He is kindly but not overly bright so although a new spot will be confusing at turn in, he can be put next to anyone. Then, the dominos start to tumble in story land. Putting him next to Goin’ makes me reflect on her. Cooper is her best friend maybe he should go next to her. He does love her but then he wouldn’t be next to Alley O’Malley. Ever since they returned from Kentucky, they have been very bonded. Certainly whoever goes next to Al can’t be aggressive as I have an extreme soft spot for this 27-year-old TB. Goose is too neurotic to be anywhere but where he is in the in and out stall, etc. After all the possible options, simple and complex, I settle on the least disrupting.
Executing the plan has been even more fun. Cleaning the empty stall and making it just right for Norty is the first step. Blowing out the barn including the cobwebs that grew in the beams over winter is not as fun but I love how good the barn looks. It will make me smile for weeks. Then, getting everything around for the new horse. One of the themes on the farm at this stage is using or repurposing things that are already on the farm. As anyone who has had horses for a long time knows, stuff accumulates. So finding a grooming bag, a full set of brushes, a wash pail and curries, a baker sheet, a cooler and a blanket for this little girl was possible. They all got cleaned, mended and ready – what a great feeling to share these ignored items to help out an owner who is trying to help a horse who has not had the selfless kindness of humans for most of her life. Cleaning her stall, disinfecting her water buckets, feed pail and grain bucket, adding beautiful bedding and setting two flake so nice grass hay made my day. I couldn’t wait for her arrival.
Now she is here. The planning has paid off. It only took six days for Norty to figure out where his new stall is – but not until he has walked over to his old stall now occupied by a new arrival, it is a circuitous route but it works for him. Remembering where you started helps set the course for where you are going – smart horse. She has had two baths and looks so much better. A farrier visit got rid of the embedded rocks and although it will be a year before her hooves are really good she is on the right road. She is appreciative, has a good head and is very kind. I am glad to have her on the farm. More than anything she is perfect for her new owner and her owner is willing, capable and able to move slowly and surely aware of the needs of this young mare. Seeing them together gives me an awareness of the new and wonderful story unfolding around me.
Perhaps that is why I like getting new horses in the barn. I am a storyteller at heart. So, it does my heart good to listen to a new story, to allow it to add a new dimension to the stories around me and to dare to move into a new story myself. It gets better – I have another new horse coming at the end of month! Time to start planning.