Have you ever felt inadequate as a horse guardian? Did you ever wish you had more resources to care for your horses better? Have you ever felt despondent and discouraged about your horses’ living conditions? Personally, I can answer a resounding, YES, to all of those questions!
It seems that no matter what situation we have, we can get fixated on the elements that are not great. Lord knows my readers have heard me moaning about not having enough land (and land that I own) for years!
Today’s reader question is from a woman who has plenty of land that she owns, but is terribly worried about other facets of care:
“I am in a bit of a dilemma, this is my story…. I purchased Vlad 1yr ago after much consideration, from previous owners that neglected him. I was new to owning a horse and totally ignorant!
My neighbour that checked him out said her horses and ponies are ‘bush ponies’ which I now realize means they just get turned out in whatever pasture she can find with no added supplements etc and maybe an occasional look-in to check hooves.
As I have been reading through all the wonderful articles in your site I have realized I am SO way out of my depth. I am worried I am not providing good enough care on the physical level, and now the emotional level too as he’s just lost his buddy.
I am on 100 acres with 80 being available to Vlad and 8 goats. Which is rapidly drying up over winter aaargh! Praying for rain big time!
Unfortunately due to a bad fall from Vlad last year, I have been out of work surviving on government benefits which amounts to diddly squat per week and not a lot to spare on supplements and hay is so expensive now!!! Though I would, and do, go without to help Vlad get in better condition. Somehow I seem to manage but I realize I need to do more.
I love him dearly and know he was brought into my life to help us both heal. I even had a lady who is a healer, do a healing on him (as he asked her for it) and it was profound.
Now I am faced with the need to get him a buddy too! Jini I feel so scared and overwhelmed. I just want to do the best for him and I feel I have f**** it up! I have dreamed all my life to have a horse, finally its happened and we connect heart to heart. I now realize I can’t look after him as well as I want to! God help me if I ever need to call a vet!$$$$$$
I don’t want to let him down as he’s had enough neglect from his previous owner. And due to drought it would be impossible to re-home him, not that I want to, it would break my heart to be honest! I could cry, well actually I am crying as I type this! I just had NO idea about proper care for horses I just followed my neighbour’s way. I feel so mad at myself for being such an ignorant dingus!
I am fairly isolated and had no one I could talk to about it, so I thought I’d get your thoughts on my situation. Should I just trust the universe to provide or… I just want to do the best for Vlad! Thanks again for all you and the herd give. It’s sooo appreciated. – E.L.”
I’m so pleased you reached out and also for your honesty. A few things immediately come to mind: first, GOATS make excellent horse buddies. There are horses who even prefer their goat friend to another horse. So I think you can let go of the added fear/pressure around a horse companion right there. Also, YOU are a precious companion for him – that may even be all he needs, especially since he has the goats in the pasture with him.
I’m going to share this with Kesia as well, because I know a big part of her journey with Amalia and Spero was having to care for them when she was really financially struggling – but that also helped her navigate some rough waters and kept her on track because she had to provide for them. So the perceived negative/pressure may also be the gift/purpose.
In scenarios like this I also tend to go to the worst case scenario and face it, head on. So what’s the worst case scenario here?
Worst outcome is: Vlad has to gather his food from 80 acres and experience seasonal starvation like every wild horse. I remember watching equine ethologist Lucy Rees’ videos on the wild herd she has observed for years in Spain. They dwell in a very rocky, mountainous region that is the most barren in summer when everything dies from the heat. She said it takes 100 acres to sustain 1 horse in that environment. I was incredulous. But hey, even for poor conditions, you have enough land! Then whatever added nutrients you can afford to give Vlad from time to time, his body will make the most of. Remember that even humans benefit from intermittent fasting.
If you have time and are mobile/strong enough, you could also forage for some food for him – tree branches or plants gathered from the roadside etc. Horses are foragers and can glean nutrition from a wide variety of plant and vegetable matter. There might even be more food in your pasture than you think.
Even if you go absolute worst case scenario and Vlad dies:
– would he rather die with you in love, or neglected or heartsick?
– is it his time to die?
– could you have been chosen as the one to midwife his death?
One thing I know FOR SURE from my own life experiences is that if it ain’t your time to die, it doesn’t matter what happens, you’re not gonna die!
Regarding vet care, Kesia and I both manage pretty much everything with no vet care. The only times I’ve called a vet (other than castration) is because the horse asked me to, BUT both times the horse was using the vet experience to further their own personal growth and also to teach a human something crucial – not because we couldn’t heal it. I’m working on a book right now which will include remedies (some of which are on the blog) for most things that may occur. I’ll email you a copy when it’s ready.
Next, you could set up a GoFundMe.com page and send it out to your friends/family requesting donations to help Vlad through the drought. This is what one of our horse listeners did when she felt spiritually guided to acquire a third horse from a kill pen, yet didn’t have the money to transport her. You can also post a link on the LTYH Facebook Group to the page.
I can feel how hard this moment in time is for you and I just want you to know you did good to reach out. Our own brains can take us down a whole lot of dark alleys when we’re alone and facing challenges. For the day-to-day, it’s really important to check in with your more grounded, animal self. “What is going on right now? Are we okay?” Even if you don’t know what’s coming next, or it looks bleak, it’s all completely imaginary for now. *Right now*, Vlad and you are fine. *Right now* there is still enough to eat. That is how I get breathing room when I start feeling anxious or panicky about everything I’ve taken on.
That you’re in over your head is just par for the course in a life well-lived. We have to get in too deep in order to grow, become stronger swimmers, to trust we will stay afloat just enough that we can plunge into new experiences. But that moment when your feet are swept out from under you is a pretty nerve-wracking one…
So Jini’s practice of “worst case scenario” is a great one too. We are usually afraid of the unknown, and so turning to look at all the possibilities in a practical (not macabre/melodramatic) way can really help to clarify the next step.
Okay, one more ‘lil wisdom bit – the indigenous elders where I’m from say that when you walk through the bush, you go one step at a time. All you need is to know where your very next step is. Then you stop, look around, and carefully choose the next one. You don’t know the way through but you know there IS a way through, and all you have to do is choose your very next step. The rest will come clear bit by bit as you move.
As for care of horses, there is no “proper way”. I live a hundred miles from the nearest vet, who is a small animal vet who grudgingly does horses now and then because nobody else does. We also have very limited funds. So calling the vet has become something we can only do if it’s clear that only a vet can handle this. I do call the vet, and he or his assistants might tell me what they would do, which usually is either something I can do myself, or something I know my horses don’t want done anyway! Even when I lived near horse vets, I was usually strapped enough for cash that I’d think really hard about calling them out. So we have weathered lameness, 4 separate injuries from the boar’s tusks, a birth, colic, and various other small issues without any professional help. My horses are strong and healthy and I have learned a lot from caring for them with what I have available to me – herbs, honey, homeopathy, and learning to stay out of it as much as possible.
Feed, too – so many “properly cared for” horses are being fed processed garbage and too-sweet hay, destroying their guts and delicate inner systems. Wild ponies are foragers, capable of turning the most indigestible fibre into raw energy. Horses are born survivors, adaptable and hardy – look at the Brumbies! Considered pests and culled by the thousands because they are so friggin’ good at surviving, even in the Aussie desert. I know drought is terrifying but with so few grazers you are in a good position. I wonder if there are ways – permaculture principles maybe? – that you can encourage enough moisture to keep the feed coming. Worth researching, especially when your monkey brain gets into a panicky place and needs something to do!
Finally, is Vlad telling you anything is wrong? Is he showing you that he is suffering? Or is he – and the situation – taking you further into trust and resilience? Maybe both?
Jini is right about the goats and you being perfectly adequate companions, if getting another horse feels like too much right now and you want your pasture to hold out.
Or, would boarding/agisting some horses give you a line of income, or at least be enough to cover your feed costs? There are people in your country with horses who think like you and want what you want for their horses. Maybe you could land-share with a like-minded person – rent or lease to them, they bring a trailer or whatever. Maybe even a fellow LTYH reader…?? I don’t know! It’s good to loosen up and look at lots of possibilities, though, even if it just clarifies that you’d prefer to keep doing what you’re doing.
Sending you lots of hope and strength, let us know if we can help with anything else 🙂 Kesia