Our story today comes from EverStuffRanch.blogspot.com.
It's a realistic look at our relationship and responsibility when it comes to the animals we share our lives with. It's also a wake-up call for those who point their fingers and judge without knowing the entire story.
I can afford to keep two horses.
Having livestock means having to make hard choices. They are entrusted into our care. We keep them for food, we keep them for protection, we keep them for companions. Eventually we are going to have to make a decision about them for end of life.
We decide when it's time to be butchered, when it's time to move on to someone else's care. We decide when it's time to put them out of their misery, or end suffering. It's up to us to know when to sell one to be able to feed the ones that are left so no one starves to death.
Recently I had to make a terribly hard choice. Many people would not agree with me, but I had to find somewhere else for Apache, my blind gelding. He was finally completely blind. He may have been able to see some shadows far away, but he was blind.
He was doing fairly well out in the pasture all by himself. As long as he didn't have any contact with the other horses, he didn't lose his mind. If we tried to take Ben past him, or off the property, he paced, he whinnied, he tried to plunge around and not move at the same time. It was so very sad to watch him lunge forwards three paces then pull up short, spin around and lunge forwards again. I tried putting him out front with the cows. He paced so much he made the front pasture a bog, and bruised his coronet bands.
I brought him in the dry lot and fed him hay, but when the winds came, and we get hellacious winds here in Idaho, he freaked out trying to find shelter from the blowing sand. He knew the fence was near but still tried to bolt that three paces, spin and try and bolt again. Trying to walk up to him and catch him to put him in the round pen was dangerous. He didn't want to listen or pay attention to where I was standing to avoid running me over.
The round pen was the only safe fencing for him. He couldn't hear Dave's horses out back and worried himself into a frenzy trying alllll day and night long to find a way out of the pen. He was losing weight no matter how much I fed him. He banged into the water barrel, tripped over it, scabbed up his shins.
I put Apache out on the short pasture again, and in trying to find his way to Ben, he bumped the wire fence pretty hard. It wasn't hot, but it was enough to knock some of the wire out of the insulators and bring the top of the fence down. He got tangled up in it. Apache managed to get free before I ran out there, but what if he didn't? What if I hadn't been home?
I've been so judgmental in my head about the sad ads I see on Craigslist from awful owners who want to dump their poor old horse that's too old to be pumping out babies, or ride any more. That poor old/or crippled horse who has devoted their whole life to making babies, or giving trail rides, and now
that it's not useful anymore, you want to dump it at the sale. You know what's going to happen at the sale. The meat man is going to buy it, and ship it to the processor, and it's going to go for dog food. But hey, it didn't happen where you can see it, so it's ok, Right?
I see ads for horses that are permanently lame, I've know a few people who sent their horse to the sale, or have an unrideable horse out on their property and they are talking about making the decision to send the horse to the sale. "I won't keep a horse I can't use. I can't afford to keep a pasture pet." I've always looked down my nose and thought, "That is so uncaring." Euthanasia costs a lot more than some people can afford. And then there's the problem of having the deceased animal hauled away. That ain't cheap either.
Now I'm faced with a blind gelding and unsafe fencing for him. This is my heart horse. He's small, he's got steep shoulders, an ewe neck, thin chest, scrawny mane and high withers. And I love him. He walks out faster than any other horse I've ridden, he will come over and let you love on him all day, he loves to go out and see the world and ride all day, and he's got ERU, and he's totally blind. He's only 7.
I know I can afford to feed two horses.
I'm going to miss out on a lot of the riding plans we had for the future. I can't take him hunting up in the mountains. Sure people ride and compete on completely blind horses all the time. On The Flat. Not in the mountains. Some of the places we ride I've asked myself, are we really going to make it out of here with out some one going ass over tea kettle, and needing a trailer to come haul us out?
I can afford to feed only two horses.
All of a sudden I find myself realizing where the people I've looked down my nose at are coming from, and it's not a nice place to be.
So I called Steve. He's the horse trader I got Ben from. I didn't want to have to take him to the sale. It would have been a terrifying nightmare for him to try and run him through the sale. I didn't want to think about him in a feed lot getting ready to be on a truck bound for Canada when he can't see. I don't have the money to euth him and have him hauled off.
Steve agreed on coming out to take a look and see what my options were. I know what Steve is. I know the horses he buys sometimes end up at the sale and on a truck with the kill buyer. He doesn't try and hide it. He's a horse trader and everyone knows it.
Steve and his wife came out with their truck and trailer. I got Apache haltered and he got some hands on with him. He agreed with me that he wasn't dangerous. He stopped when Steve intentionally stopped in front of him and didn't say Whoa. Apache just bumped him and backed off a few steps. I said to him I was being a realist, that I knew he might end up on the kill buyer truck. He told his wife she had a new horse to ride. See what they could do. He told me he'd put Apache down if things didn't work. He wouldn't ship him. I believe him.
I cried, I haltered him and led him to the truck. He loaded very cautiously, but jumped up without freaking. I cried some more when they pulled out of the driveway. It was terrible, but it was something that needed to be done before I came home and found him bled out from impaling himself of a tee post, his tendons sliced through to the bone from getting caught in a fence, or worse.