I used to be a "buy the horse/use the horse/resell the horse/buy another horse, repeat" person. In the world of hunter/jumper showing I came from, that was how you moved up - you got a good horse, then a better horse, and so on. That's not how I rode as a kid - then I just rode whatever horses I had or could persuade someone to let me ride and did all sorts of things with them, jumping, Western pleasure, sliding stops and rollbacks, trail rides and dressage, without even thinking about it - when I was a kid every horse was special, and useful, and I could teach any horse to do anything.
As we moved away from the show world, reselling our horses made less sense - I liked them, they were individuals and each of them had abilities and talents. Each one presented training challenges and opportunities. As we stopped selling horses, they started to accumulate - we now have 5.
I have several "forever horses" - these are horses I'm committed to, where my job is to be sure they are taken care of. Maisie, who is my principal riding horse, is young enough and sound enough that I could sell her with a good conscience - not that I have any plans to - knowing that she could have a good home with someone else. Dawn is my younger daughter's horse, and although I'll be taking care of her and working with her while my daughter is away at college, my daughter will eventually have to decide what she wants to do with her. This isn't the case with the 3 others - I need to make sure they are well cared for, for as long as they can live happy and comfortable lives.
I have posted before about the issues I confront in taking care of 5 horses - see my June 7 post "What Do You Do?". This post is a follow-on to that post and you might want to read it now if you haven't already. The whole thing is a struggle for me - I really care about the quality of care my horses receive - perhaps even to the point of being a control freak about it. But I'm getting older, my husband isn't horsey (and I wouldn't want to try to make him be something he's not), and my younger daughter is leaving for college in the fall. What to do, indeed - something has to change, both so I can have time to work with and ride Maisie and Dawn, our two rideable horses, and so that I have enough time and space for all the other things in my life.
(On a side note, there are two excellent posts on related issues - one is by Janet of Mugwump Chronicles and is at Equestrian Ink - "What are We Doing?", and the other is by Marissa at Tucker the Wunderkind - "Horse/Life balance". Read them both and keep the conversation going by commenting at those two blogs.)
So I've thought a lot, done a bunch of checking, and made some decisions. These decisions aren't easy ones - they involve my acknowledging that I can't do everything myself and need to let some things be handled by others. I also am coming to the (uncomfortable) realization that:
- I can't own every single horse in the world. I love all horses, each and every one, paints, Thoroughbreds, drafts, Friesians, Quarter Horses, appaloosas, and each and every horse breed and type you can imagine. I love horses of all colors (but especially bays!).
- I'm getting older and so is my husband. My daughters are almost grown and will be gone from home. I can't do as much as I used to be able to do, although I'm still very active. These things won't get better - I'm going to get older.
- I'm not really able to provide the care 5 horses need, without hiring a lot of help I can't afford. If I care for 5 horses, I don't have the energy to ride the 2 that can be ridden. I don't have unlimited financial resources, although I wish I did.
- My horses, particularly Norman and Lily, have needs I'm not meeting all that well now.
Although it's hard to make decisions about things like this, I feel that they are right for my horses and me:
Noble (here's the post I did about him on his birthday), my 29 year old retired Quarter Horse (sound and in excellent health), will stay at the barn we are at now as long as it is open - he is doing well and is too old to move easily to another place. I can continue to closely participate in his care. I am also extremely attached to him, since he was my first horse as a adult returning to horses.
Dawn and Maisie, our two riding horses, will also stay at our barn for now, although our facility is far from ideal for me to work with them - there is no indoor arena so riding in the winter (or even when it rains a lot) is sometimes not possible and even then is limited to trails, which I won't be doing with Dawn, at least at this point. I could at some point see moving one or both of them elsewhere, although finding a good place which meets our needs (including my need, which will increase over time, to do less heavy physical labor), at an appropriate cost in our area is a challenge. If I move them somewhere else, I will likely have less say in their care and handling.
Now here's the big change - at the end of the month (only about a week away), Lily (here's a post about Lily and her story) and Norman the pony (here's his story) will be moving to live with Melissa and Jason at Paradigm Farms in Tennessee - sometimes the blog world and the real world intersect! If you read Lily's and Norman's posts, I think you'll understand why their needs aren't being met now.
My older daughter will be trailering them down in our rig. I'm not taking them down myself because I was afraid I would be upset having to drive all the way home (9 or 10 hours) with an empty trailer - I'll say goodbye to them here and have the other horses to keep me busy. Sending a horse to a horse retirement farm is a big step - there are a lot of bad retirement places and since you don't see your horse all that often it's hard to make sure their care is good - I could do a whole post on that topic based on what I've found out. But I believe that Melissa and Jason run a really excellent operation, and I have confidence that Lily and Norman will receive care that is equal to what I could provide. They will escape our severe winters, be able to be outside (with appropriate shelter and blanketing if needed) in small herds on pasture 24/7. Both Norman and Lily should do better there, and enjoy life as much or more, than they do with me at our barn. Melissa and Jason's place is special, because they are both knowledgeable and pay attention to each horse, and I'm lucky to have access to their place for my horses.
Do I worry that Lily and Norman will miss us? Lily may miss us a little bit, but after she adjusts she'll care about her new herd more. Norman might think about us for the nanosecond he's not grazing, but I doubt it. Will I miss them? Absolutely - Norman is a real character and I have a special bond with and respect for Lily. But I plan to visit them from time to time, and I'll take comfort that they are happy and well-cared for. Pretty soon you'll be able to follow their doings on Melissa's blog!
If you have "forever horses", how are you arranging for their care? - this is a challenging topic for all horse people, I think.