I know it is a terrible thought, and I am certainly not planning my death by any means. In fact I suspect I am much to ornery to die young. But with all that being said, the topic of conversation came up between TC and I just the other day.
If I should die tomorrow what would happen to my horses.
Obviously there is Simon and my dogs to consider too, but I took care of Simon a long time ago, and any dogs that couldn't stay with TC would go to my moms. There is no doubt about that. She would either find them really good homes or keep them herself. She is a breeder, it is what she does.
As far as the horses go I think they could be sold easily, but since I am still alive I worry about that. I worry that they would end up in a good home, and I worry that Trax, with all his baggage, could easily revert back to his old self under the wrong care. Then he could end up in a string of bad homes or even worse. The likely hood of that is very real for him.
Killian I don't worry about so much, he can pretty much handle anything that is thrown at him, and he is easy to get a long with. Anyone with any riding skill at all would do fine with him. Although I would love to see him to go to my sister in California. She really wants a horse she can ride and Killian would be good for her.
But the point of this post is not even really about where my horses would go, of course that is something I want to have worked out but there is more on my mind that that. It is about citizenship.
How many times do you see on craigs list or some other website an ad that goes something like this.
"Must have gone asap, two quarter horses. I have had Bucky and his mother, Bella, since she was in foal with him. would like to see them go together. Bucky has had a halter on, but other than that has not been handled. He is a stud colt and I think would make pretty babies. Bella is a good brood mare and is very sweet. She loves when you bring her food. Her momma was registered but she is not and neither is Bucky. I just cannot afford to feed these horses any more."
"Must sell, 10 year old gelding, was broke to ride when he was 3 but has been sitting ever since, will need "tuned up". Cannot afford to feed anymore."
These are animals that are pretty much doomed because no one ever bothered to do anything with them. They have lost their "citizenship" status, and their owners have failed them. Big time!
My biggest fear in the whole wide world is not whether or not my horses are use-able for me, but that they are they good enough citizens to make in the world if I am not around to protect them. I believe that it is my responsibility to make sure that they can survive in the human world that they were born or brought into. I want them to have the best life imaginable, whether it is with me or with someone else, and it is up to me to help them be well socialized easy to handle, easy to get along with horses.
That is my job as their owner and when I made the decision to bring them home and care for them, it was part of the deal.
Oddly enough, I didn't always feel this way...or at least I did not always realize that this is, in fact, "part of the deal."
I recently ran across some pictures on facebook of some of Sassy's first training sessions with Jay. We were out there in the cold teaching this mare who had been pretty much standing in a pasture her whole life (3 years) some of the most basic things a horse needs to know in order to survive in the human world. Every single time we worked with her we found at least 10 different things that scared the crap out of her.
The sound of a water bottle
Things touching her butt
The opening of car door
The closing of a car door
a piece of trash blowing across the yard (from 10 miles away-remember wyoming)
A dog bark
The ding ding ding if the door of my truck was left open
a piece of metal banging on the roof of the lean-to
Chinks flapping around her
a plastic bag on the end of the stick
The list goes on and on.
This was the day that Jay taught me about Equine citizenship.
We were working with her and Simon opened the pick up door and Sassy bolted to the other side of area where we were working her. I yelled at him to not do that anymore.
Jay said to me, "So are you never going to take her somewhere where people might open and close a door?"
"Um...I don't know."
"Well if that is the case then it means she is never going to leave the pasture and if that is the case then my work here is done." He then proceeded to pick up his stuff to leave and handed me my horse.
"No wait! I mean yes she will be leaving the pasture."
"Then it is your job to show her that these things won't hurt and that you will keep her safe. You are teaching her to be a good citizen. You are teaching her the basic rules of interacting with humans, respecting space, and following direction. You will also build her confidence and teach her that she can react without over reacting."
Bling, the light went on. It was the beginning of the change in me as to what it means to own a horse, and to be a horsewoman. From that day forward, if she acted afraid of anything, I made a point of exposing her to it as often as I could. She still has her moments, she still acts like a car driving by is going to eat her, but I just laugh and tell her to keep walking.
So now here I am today, my horses are all pretty good citizens. Yes I do let them get away with some stuff, and they have some holes in their training. Sometimes I get lazy or hyper focused on one thing (Trax) and the other two get pushed aside. But I can honestly say that if it had not been for Jay being in my life at that time Sassy would probably be one of those horses that is doomed, and I would have had no idea that I had failed her.
But I believe that God wants us to do right and so he put Jay into my life at that exact moment when I needed him most, and also at a time in my life where I was the most receptive to new information.
Trax still has his fears, he has several in fact. He has some of them with good reason, and some without, but they are all unfounded. I am not going to let those things hurt him. On Saturday when we were trail riding I became aware of the fact that sometimes I let him get away with stuff rather acting like the broke horse that he is.
For example, he had a big piece of brush stuck in his tail. BEC was just going to reach down and grab it out. I said no, and dismounted removed it myself and then got back on. Why? Because Trax is still weird about his hind end. I knew that if she grabbed his tail he would have tried to butt scoot away. It is not okay. In fact it was kind of embarrassing. It is time for me to get to work on that, because I want him to be a good citizen for his sake....not mine. Because I may not always be here to protect him.
So the next time I start feeling lazy about working on all the horses, or lazy about working on Trax's fears instead of his reining, I think I know just what to say to myself to pull me out of it.
If I should die tomorrow....