Owning a horse is a stupid idea so how did you get suckered into it?

 

WARNING: Uncensored language. But all in fun.

Owning a horse is a stupid idea so how did you get suckered into it?

Horses are morons. It’s an undeniable truth. Never has there been any other animal that will more quickly and in a more costly fashion, reveal to you why owning one is a stupid idea. In all fairness to horses as a species, part of the misery they cause us on a daily basis is at our own invitation. Horses are clearly not designed to do any sort of job, and especially not a job that involves jumping fences at speed. They are large fast idiots with alarmist imaginations and limited survival instincts, who often seem to fail to safely coordinate all four limbs into any sort of pattern. How on earth they survived and evolved over time is truly one of the great mysteries of the universe.

The physical make up of a horse makes no sense whatsoever. X-rays of hocks and knees reveal a frankly absurd bone assembly, which looks a lot like a game of orthopaedic Jenga. When overstretched, their tendons and ligaments don’t heal particularly well, and all of this combined with their vast muscle mass means that horses are just walking vets bills waiting to happen. It’s not a case of ‘if’. It is only a question of ‘when’. Why do they need splint bones, for example? Why is there no blood supply to the pedal bone? Is there a need for all those miles of intestines? And whats with their vacuous brains? With all the self preservation of your average lemming, it’s almost unbelievable to think that we gallop these disasters at solid timber for the fun of it. And yet we do. And for the most part, they are bizarrely amazing.

Those of us who have been involved in producing horses for competition in any discipline are all too painfully aware of how rare it is to find a horse with ability, scope, a careful yet brave approach to jumping and a trainable mind. These horses are truly, hens teeth. You certainly learn to love the horses that might lack a little star quality, but who put the hard yards in to make up for it. You also learn to dislike the potential superstars who for whatever reason, just won’t get down to work. Even more rare than finding the ideal horse, is producing that same horse successfully through the levels and having him ready to perform on the big occasions. Keeping those horses sound and confident enough to shine as they progress is damn near an art form in and of itself, and a couple of decades of dealing with the equine equivalent of ‘clean up on aisle five’ will hammer this point home quite hard.

In my lifetime of caring for and producing horses, I have been lucky enough to achieve a rather pitiful amount of success. A few wins on the eventing circuit, the odd good day showjumping and a penchant for trotting in circles in exchange for rosettes just about covers it. Some of the horses I have produced and sold have thankfully enjoyed a better return-probably relieved to find themselves in fancy stables and no longer lodging with other farm animals in rural Ireland. At the grand old age of thirty five, my entire journey with horses has left me wizened and cynical-yet strangely more intrigued and more interested than ever. I have seen and lived through some truly weird and funky shit, and in my dotage I will write a book about my experiences that will leave the reader wondering if it is fact, fiction or merely a strange flight of fantasy fit to rival Alice in Wonderland. I have seen and heard it all…

 


 

There have been many highlights and low points that have illustrated to me the physical and mental fragilities of the horse, and his improbability as a surviving, evolved and useful mammal. It is a standing joke in this house that if I had a euro for every time a vet uttered the words “I have never seen one like this before”, I would be a wealthy person indeed. Septic laminitis, quittor, sickle cell anaemia, angular limb deformities, wry nose, club feet, broken legs, colic, peritoneal haemorrhage, sinus infection, severed tendons, ruptured arteries…..it has been one long wild ride.

Like people, some horses don’t tolerate accident or injury terribly well. We have all owned at least one horse in our lives who believed even minor ailments to be a death sentence. In contrast, other horses are harder than the proverbial coffin nail. Discovering that one of my event horses had been carrying a stress fracture to a front cannon bone was an educational time in my life. He had jumped off a tiny step whilst cross country schooling-on landing, he took five steps on three legs and then came and remained completely sound. I only had him further investigated because he was hanging a little bit on one rein, and had developed a small splint in a strange place. We estimate that he competed and placed at at least two events carrying that injury. With a broken leg. A BROKEN LEG. What the actual fuck?? Talk about Chuck Norris…… Still though, it was hard to not admire such remarkable durability, and desire to perform.

All in all, a life with horses is not for the feint of heart or the short of cash. Owning one of these big stupid clumsy fuckers is really a fast track to the nearest mental asylum, but then again you want to event-so you are damn near certifiable anyway. I don’t have any sage words of wisdom or encouragement to help any eventing greenhorns on their journeys through this sport, as I don’t really know how I have survived and maintained an interest for this length of time. I get through it by thinking that at least I’m paying something forward. Because of me, the vet drives a Porsche Cayenne jeep. He holidays in Barbados twice a year. He’s taking flying lessons and he owns two racehorses. Whilst my life is being ruined, I am vastly improving someone else’s. Sometimes, that’s the best ya got.

Somehow, these improbable animals manage to worm their way into our hearts and make us love them fiercely. For all of their attempts at killing themselves or their unbending desires to return to the wild, we can’t help but enjoy the majority of their quirks and foibles. Horses have some strange inner desire to (mostly) please us, a quality unique to their species alone. Humans find this irresistible, and just a few times in your life you will be lucky enough to fall into step with a horse who is willing to give you all that he has. Enjoy those brief and fleeting moments that come your way, for they are rare-but they are also the times when this life of sacrifice and dedication, this worshipful adoration at the altar of the horse, is worth EVERY LAST THING.

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