Living with Horses is a Gift Beyond Measure
by Kim Roe
As I finished my ride this evening I noticed the elk herd was back in my hayfield. The South Fork Valley herd has flourished, and they’ve discovered my hayfield is particularly tasty (no second cutting for me this year). They even bed down at night in my manure pile, having discovered the warmth and softness to their liking.
I rode my gelding out and herded them off. Like Hereford cattle, they’ve grown fairly tame, and they took their time to mosey back into the tall grass and woodlands that border my 10-acre hayfield. I noticed the bulls’ antlers were fully and gloriously developed, the cows are fat and sleek, and now a few tiny new calves have arrived. What struck me as they loped off was how healthy they are. I felt a maternal worry over those little calves, and stopped myself when I contemplated dragging a hose and water trough out to provide them with water (my animal husbandry tendencies run strong). They don’t need people to make sure they have water, vitamins, salt, or a safe place to bed down at night. They thrive without us, and their numbers grow with each passing year.
In contrast, I find that keeping horses healthy seems to be an enormous endeavor. I spend a lot of money and time attending to the needs of my horses—sheltering them, cleaning up after them, taking care of their feet, finding the best hay, scheduling regular visits with my vet, and pouring supplements into them. I’m currently building beautiful (and expensive) run-in sheds so they can come and go as they like with constant access to shelter. I’ve built-up and drained my paddocks so they never have to stand in mud, and have spent my savings on what I hope will be safe fencing.
Horses are a fragile bunch. The cost of domestication has reduced their toughness and resiliency, but in return we get to live with these amazing creatures and partner with them for sport (and rarely now, work). I love hanging out with happy, healthy horses in a clean barn or green field knowing that their beauty and peace is a result of my hard work. Living with horses is a gift beyond measure and I’m glad for it every day.
As always, I love your stories and feedback. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.