- Virginia Shaw, BTB Trainer
Be In The Know
Recently, at one of the facilities I work at, a client came for a lesson and made a comment about how her horse wasn’t acting like himself. I was initially skeptical, knowing this particular client can worry about her horse unnecessarily, but I listened. She explained what she was noticing and after we inspected the horse, we noticed he had a body twitch and elevated heart rate, prompting us to immediately call the vet. Within a half hour the vet was there, pulled bloodwork, and gave us some things to monitor with the promise she would call with results that evening. The horse was ultimately diagnosed with a severe tick-born disease called Anaplasmosis. He immediately started treatment and is now back to his chipper self.
This story resonates with me because too often I question horsemanship and whether or not we professionals are teaching it enough. Here are some things to think about when it comes to being an active horse owner.
1. Be involved. As horse owners we should know and be aware of our horse’s behaviors and habits. No one should spend more time with or know your horse better than you. You should be aware of his or her habits: eating, snacking, drinking, peeing, and pooping. You should also be keenly aware of their personality traits: where is their favorite itchy spot; when you brush are they sensitive; is that a new habit or has it always been consistent? How about an overall body check? Do you know if certain bumps, scars, scratches are new, old, sore, or painful? The overall care of your horse is up to you.
2. Boarding is not an excuse. Even if you board, you are responsible for your horse. No one can take care of your horse better than you do. I hear horse owners complain about what they get, or don’t get, at the facilities they board at. Let’s get real folks…no boarding facility can meet all of your wants. They typically have anywhere from 6-20+ horses they are caring for and as long as they are meeting the horses daily needs and providing a safe, clean environment, you are getting what you are paying for. Don’t blame thrush on a boarding facility when you haven’t been there in a week and haven’t picked your horses hooves! See what I am getting at…be an involved and caring owner.
3. Listen to your gut. As I previously said, you should know your horse better than anyone, so don’t be afraid to listen to your gut. In my opening story, if this client hadn’t persisted and asked the questions, who knows if we would caught this problem with the horse. You have the right to advocate for your horse and if people won’t listen, keep trying. Most professionals, trainers, vets, and farriers will appreciate you being aware and involved. It is important to feel like you have surrounded yourself with people who work well as a team and have your horse's best interest as a top priority.
4. Enjoy it! Enjoy getting to know your horse. Owning a horse can be full of joyful surprises and challenges. Enjoy the journey and trust the process. Spending time getting to know your horse creates a bond and trust between the two of you. Even the hard lessons have much to teach. Every success or bump in the road is a teachable moment and can lead you to progression. Try to always take the bad with the good.
It is a privilege to become a horse owner; they become part of the family, so taking the time to get to know them is all part of the privilege.