Monday, April 12, 2010

God Bless Horses- Lasting Lessons From The Three Amigos

How is it possible for one person to have so much love and respect for horses while others sometimes seem to have so little? The contrast is amazing. I don't understand how any person who's ever really bonded with a horse can't love them immensely? It's frightening the contrast from person to person when it comes to emotion or lack there of. To have this overabundance of love and compassion for horses that I've never even met, is somewhat of a blessing and a curse.

For those of us who have this capacity, well, we feel it. We feel the heartache of knowing that we can't help every one. We realize we can't help eliminate all suffering despite our best efforts. There will always be those that we can't help. We will be criticized for our "foolishness" and desire to do something our hearts lead us to do. We'll be called "silly" and "irrational." We'll be told we don't know what we're talking about, despite the fact that many of our desires to help were fueled from personal experiences and first-hand knowledge- perhaps even failures and tragedy? Of suffering that would be so painful that most would have turned away from? Alas, we continue. We march on to spread the knowledge that we have acquired to others. In hopes to inspire that each and every one of us can make a difference if we are at least willing to face a challenge before us of horse overpopulation.

Take caution though, because once you are willing to honestly face this challenge, it may not let you go-ever, or at least until it's done with you. It won't let you walk away because even if you do, it will come back to you time and again, over days, over weeks, over months, over years, over decades. You won't be able to hide from it. It will find you.

This is my personal ghost when it comes to horses. For my love of them is both a blessing and a curse. They were indeed, my first friends in life. My mom used to take me with her to the barn when I was just a baby, and place me in her old mare's feed bin while she groomed her. I don't remember this far back, but it's subconsciously engrained in my heart. My heart remembers dear sweet old trusting Suzy, and it will never let me forget one of my very first most loyal teacher's and friend's. I have the photos and the faint memories of her along with the others as a youngster spending precious time with my mom and her horses at the barn. My "formative" horse years. The years that shaped my horse "obsession."

For me there is no greater happiness than comes from being at my special place, my heaven on earth... the farm I'm blessed to be a part of where I board my horse "treasures." Yesterday, while riding with my sister and a friend out in the field, I saw what to me is truly heaven and earth, and it made me stop and give thanks for the blessings in my life and for the chance to be part of it! How special it is to even recognize the value of this all!

.....Off in the distance of the field we were all riding in, were the "Three Amigos" as I call them. Wandering into their pond and enjoying the peace and perfection of the beautiful, mild spring day. Let me further describe these "Three Amigos" to paint an accurate picture:

Amigo Number 1- Popeye.
Popeye is an old thirty something horse year old horse. He is a rescue horse, that a good Samaritan at our barn saved from certain death. This sweet soul had for years been a school horses teaching many students how to ride. His time before that is a mystery. Popeye had been used as a horse at a "church" camp in the Memphis area. For whatever reason, he'd been deemed useless, and was therefore locked in a stall without adequate food and was starved. A good Samaritan found out that he was going to be shot soon and discarded. She was able to arrange a safe-haven for him at our farm, and a second shot (no pun intended) at life-lucky soul! He came to us with perfectly shod feet- the irony despite his emaciated condition! He had a terrible open saddle sore on his withers. But this old soldier had one of the kindest, most gentle eyes I've ever seen in a horse. If only I could read his eyes and see the history that has been his life. He is a wise one, and has seen the world.

With love and TLC, Popeye blossomed. Within 90 days this guy shed his cacoon and emerged into the buxom beauty and regal old gent that is his true spirit. This horse with his lope ears, his droopy lip, his quiet way sneaks into your heart quickly and claims it! It's impossible not to love such a gentle, wise spirit. Even despite the hell he endured, he still loves his humans and trusts us. It brings me peace to know that he will never again endure the betrayal of foolish humans who were too limited to see the value in this awe-inspiring creature. He is one of the true triumphs of my life. His success can't even begin to be measured in my heart by trophies, ribbons,triumphs or glory. I am so blessed to have found the true meaning of what horses are to me in my life while still in my "youth" ...I've gotta few before I hit "middle age!"

Popeye's "rebirth" and his peace near what is surely coming to the end of his days, is a happiness I can't express in words! For I've known others dear to my heart who've been cheated too early from such happiness. In their memory, I can cherish dear sweet old "Pops" as I call him so fondly. And, don't be fooled by this guy either. He's still got lots of pep in his step! As is evident anytime one of us jump on him for a "relaxing" trail ride....he quickly reminds us with a playful- granted not so intimidating buck, or a sneaky attempt to turn and head back to the barn... that his "domain" is freedom to roam in his fields....because he's earned that right! He does still enjoy a quick hack and continues his legacy of teaching new students from time to time..... to think of the number of riders over the years this guy has started..... I wonder?

But Pops is not the only one..... he is the "ring-leader." Along with Pop's is his harem of distinguished ladies.... Copper- another near thirty something grand dame, and Triscuit, who knows her age, but it's in the same range.

Amigo #2-Triscuit:
This little pony is scarily smart.... a genius. I swear she knows the entire English language. She stares at me like she can see into my very soul. Like she knows more about me than I do, and then she toys with me and plays her games. She is truly a "wild horse" at heart, but somewhere over her years got tamed or "tricked" into becoming a domesticated pony and beloved family pet. She came to our farm when her owner who'd had her for years passed away. No doubt, Triscuit had bonded with her former owner, and probably only fully loved and trusted her. She has "learned" to trust us and accept us as she lives out the rest of her days. We treat this old lady, who looks more like a billy goat than a pony certain months, like the queen of Sheeba. I'm sure her former owner is looking down upon her blissful life and smiling. Triscuit has a way of just appearing out of thin air- she's like a ghost!

Amigo #3- Copper:
Copper is an old gaited mare that absolutely adores human attention of any kind. She has had kind owners and a blessed life and completely trusts all humans. She is a sweet soul, not quite so smart as Triscuit or Pops, but nonetheless, a sweet- hearted gem and happy. She loves her Triscuit and her Triscuit is lost without her. They both love their Pops, who "tolerates" their company. She's shed off her woolly mammoth coat and has the most beautiful shine and full-bodied figure for a gal of her age.

The "Three" Amigos have earned the special "Old Geezer" distinction of being able to freely wander the farm. They don't like being treated like the rest of the horses and placed within their pasture....that's no fun. There they are low-down in the pecking order. But, when they get to roam the farm, "they reign supreme!"I know it makes them feel special. They never stray very far from the barn. They have their "usual" pasture grazing routine.

As I was riding with my sister and friend yesterday and say them wandering into the pond in the field. As I watched them happily wandering at will "free" as domestic horses can be in their "heaven" on earth it warmed my heart. For I knew these sweet souls matter! These sweet, dear, gentle, souls and the respect, love, and honor we have shown them have brought me as close to the hand of God that I will ever be able to find in this life on earth! I knew yesterday watching them, that this vision and my seeing pure bliss and dignity- it was God's way of smiling down from heaven yesterday on earth. It was God's way of showing me in life the motivation to keep moving forward and learning the lessons he has in store for me. Isn't it wondrous, how such a simple thing, a simple sight of three happy old horses, can have so much honesty, truth, goodness and it can have so much
power and strength!

This is a sight that rang out and touched my heart and soul in such a marvelous way, that I wanted to share it on my blog with you. I hope it too rings a bell in your heart and makes you smile.
Horses teach us to look beyond the obvious in life and find real and lasting value. They are in themselves a miracle!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Some Thoughts From an Emotional Horse-Crazy Girl on Horse Slaughter

It's no surprise if you keep up with this blog, or frequent this blog's facebook page, that I'm an anti-slaughter advocate. This is an emotional issue. I don't think "emotion" for those either anti or pro-slaughter in anyway devalues this issue however. The one argument, that will always get my goat, and get me fired up about this, is when people go on the attack and devalue this issue as an unimportant "non-issue" because of their opinion that it is "overly emotional"

My counter to this is: Aren't all issues that are important emotional? Without emotion, an issue has little chance of debate, of publicity, of improvement, and change for the better? So I say- bring on the emotion! I relish it! I think "emotion" is the fuel behind change, and I think that it's this "emotion" that will be the key to making improvements when it comes to horse slaughter and horse abuse in the United States!

Having said this, the paradox of "emotion" is that what's imperative for progress is reaction to emotion. This is the part we can all work on- myself included! I strive to remain respectful, always, of others opinions. I strive to remain open-minded to the points others make. I don't always succeed- that for sure!!! I'm a work in progress in regards to this!

What I've realized, comes from my upbringing and some great advice from the writer Seth Godin in his book "Tribes" ( highly recommend this btw)

" Reacting is intuitive, instinctive, and usually dangerous. Response is reaction with thoughtful action and a better alternative to reaction. But initiating is what leaders do. Initiative makes change happen." .....

"Initiative is recognizing what others ignore and jumping on it. It is causing change that others have to react to."

How this applies to the horse slaughter issue? Well, I've reacted, I've responded, and I've taken initiative. I've watched others do it as well. I can tell you from experience, I know instantly when what I've done is always leaves a pit in my stomach. I sincerely apologize when I've done so....and for future reactions. I try, to always remember to alternatively respond or initiate. Easier said than done!

Both sides pro-slaughter and anti-slaughter- have excellent points. Both have excellent supporting documentation and research to back up claims as to why one is better than another. My questions are simply these:

  • Have we really found "the solution" in slaughter?
  • Is this really the only avenue possible for "unwanted" horses?
  • Are we too quick to accept dare I say, "the easy way out?"
I've seen slaughter used as a "out of sight out of mind" solution to horses by owners who simply don't want to face the following "realities" of horse ownership.
  • The fact that if you have a horse, that horse will get old.
  • If you have a horse, being responsible means being capable of affording to feed, and care for that horse.
If you can no longer do opinion, is that "responsible" owners should not seek an easy way out, and send a horse away.... to an auction in idealistic hopes that someone there will save "old red"....will want "old red" instead of another more viable horse at the sale. "Because I don't want to deal with the emotional decision of euthanizing "old red...I'll let someone else make the decision that I am too weak to make....We've all done this, we've all avoided something we didn't want to deal with.... But this, this is too important to "pass off" and to avoid.

If you have a horse, can't afford that horse, please, please, let someone know. Try first to find a home, if a home can't be found, please pursue humane euthanasia. If you can't afford it, tell someone! Tell me. I will do my best to help you! I know there are others out there like me too! There is more shame in the alternative! Everyone has friends that would be willing to spare a few pennies to help out!!
! Please don't disrespect "old red" by an easy way out sending to auction. This is not a chance. This is a death sentence, and a long, cruel one at that for an old soldier that deserves the respect of a humane and dignified end.

The thought of all the "Old Reds" out there who have been discarded....whose owners or unfortunate circumstances have led to "The easy way out......" breaks my heart. (I'm emotional) There are more options aside from sending to slaughter if you can't afford, or starvation and neglect.....there is humane euthanasia. This is affordable....saying you "can't afford" it is an excuse if you haven't asked for help. Of course, this is my opinion, but I just can't understand those unwilling to "feel" and "face" this emotion at the expense of Old Red suffering! Old horses, young horses, teenage horses....they all deserve our help in doing everything we can to cast aside all forms: neglect, slaughter, abuse....etc.

Again, is slaughter as it stands now the end all be all answer? Are there not reform opportunities that could be researched and implemented and regulated to help abolish suffering? We can create a nuclear weapon, why can't we address such basic ethical questions? Should we not consider addressing over breeding issues? Consider not promoting such through tax breaks? Can't humane transport methods, humane euthanasia alternatives and humane slaughter methods be a goal? For every it's economically unfeasible, there will be a why it is economically feasible argument. Let's stop the Catch- 22 and actually do the "crazy" thing....lets base it on one fundamental human trait- emotion. Does not our "emotion" dictate that we do our very best as "emotional" living human beings to seek answers to limit pain and suffering?

Well, you already know my "crazy" "radical" "silly horse-loving girl" opinion. I'm not afraid to look at the emotional issues and face them. I'm not afraid to be wrong. Being wrong leads to progress, leads to change. Leads to reform. If I'm wrong so be it, but at least I'll stir the thinking of a few who are far wiser than myself. Who may have a better "end all be all solution" than slaughter and create change and reform for the creatures I thank God everyday for bringing into my life. For Horses. I will continue to pay it forward for horses.... they've already done so for me.

I write this for one purpose. To make you think. Don't tell me you agree or disagree with me. This isn't about me. Get out there and do something for horses. Follow your gutt, don't be afraid to be wrong, don't be afraid of criticism. Just do it. "It" can be extraordinary!