As an advocate for the horse, there has always been a fire in my soul for horses who live in situational vulnerability. Looking at horses who end up in places of last resort (neglectful homes, abuse situations, kill pins, rescues if they’re lucky) we see a pattern of inserviceability. Whether it be from unsoundness, sickness, age, or behavioral issues, often times the life of a horse who does not bring money, pleasure, or convenience to a person becomes vulnerable.
As harsh as it sounds, this reality is quite reasonable, as horses are expensive, time consuming, and widely available. Ever heard the phrase, “There are a lot of good horses out there”? What people really mean when they say this phrase is that there are a lot of serviceable horses out there who fit a specific need. The horses that get in trouble are the ones that no longer fit into a specific need. So what in the world can we do about this issue? Bring along serviceable horses!
Owners & trainers should be dedicated to preserving a horse physically. This means optimizing a horse’s soundness and body condition. While simple in statement, this task involves being educated in warning signs for chronic conditions like arthritis, laminitis, and navicular, and addressing them early. It means keeping a horse built up over his back through proper nutrition and fitness. It also means knowing a horse’s limits and knowing when to stop pushing a horse beyond his physical and mental ability.
Ground manners and reasonable reactions in stressful situations make a horse safe and easy to handle. If a horse is not respectful on the ground and does not handle stressful situations well, they compromise people around them and thus become undesirable, not matter how fancy they are. Think about it, even if a horse is a $150,000 performance hunter, if he is difficult and dangerous to handle, as soon as he injures himself and loses his ability to perform, his living situation is vulnerable. This is even more true for horses who do not have big money value, as they are more or less ‘easily replaceable’. So, owners please, please, please, put ground manners on your horses and work with them on handling stress because reasonable individuals living longer and happier lives.
Providing a skill set is likely the biggest favor that anyone can do for their horse. And here is the kicker- almost every horse has potential to be valuable to someone. Whether the value comes from athletic potential, upper level training, beginner safeness, the ‘baby sits others in a field’ title, or the ‘trustworthy pet’ title, horses can be valuable to people in many different facets. What we have to do is nail down what the horse’s skill set is and solidify it so that he has value to others if we ever need to put his life in someone else’s hands.