We all know horses are herd animals, and should never be forced to live alone. So far so good. But from the number of “companion-only” ads out there, trying to place unrideable horses, you’d be excused for thinking that hundreds of horses were standing in lonely pastures, pining for a friend.
It simply isn’t so.
Good companion homes are nearly impossible to find, and should be reserved for those horses who need to be retired due to age, lameness, or a chronic condition that makes work impossible.
But those “free to a good home” ads so often tell you that the horse “hasn’t been ridden for a while,” or “needs to be re-started,” or “will make a wonderful partner for the right, experienced rider.”
What the owner is usually trying to say is that he/she is scared to death to get on this horse’s back, and wants someone else to try it. Better yet, find a loving owner who will ask nothing more of the horse except to decorate a paddock. Be pasture art. A lawn mower.
But how many people can afford an unusable horse?
So often, this situation just sneaks up on people. They buy a horse that’s a little too much for them. They don’t have the experience to train the horse or keep it working at the level it’s accustomed to. Maybe they confine it too much or overfeed high-calorie grain. Maybe their saddle doesn’t fit, hurts the horse’s back, and they make it worse by bouncing around on top of that painful saddle.
The list is long and varied, but the outcome is often the same. The horse picks up bad habits, has no way to burn off excess energy, or reacts negatively to the pain. The rider has a few bad experiences, maybe a scary fall, and the horse finds himself left to his own devices for longer and longer periods of time. Eventually, he’ll decide that being a lawn ornament is not a bad deal, and resents any kind of attempt at riding.
And then he ends up in a want-ad.
The problem is that he has to compete with so many rideable horses. Why take a chance on a horse with a broken body or a broken mind?
So, maybe, before it gets to that point, the owner needs to invest some money in a trainer. Or a coach. Or both. Don’t let a perfectly good horse become a problem no one will want to deal with. And forget about that “great companion-only” home. They’re as elusive as unicorns.