When people ask how many horses I have and I answer ‘fourteen’, they often look at me with surprise or say ‘wow – that’s a lot of horses to look after’.
Yes, it’s a fair bit of work, especially as two of them are 30+ ‘oldies’ who need ‘intensive’ feeding year round and rugging in the colder, wetter months.
Horses have always been my passion and to a large extent have defined who I’ve become. While I’ve had them in my life for 50 years, I’ve been making a living with them for the past 20 so I’m used to the work and responsibility of caring for them well.
When people ask me what I do with that many horses, I used to get uncomfortable, and wonder how to explain that essentially I don’t do anything traditional with them like ride for pleasure or sport, breed or sell them on once they’re trained or rehabilitated.
But now I’ve come up with an answer which goes something like this: ‘My horses are my family – I’ve raised most of them from birth and some are in their mid-twenties so parting with them is like getting rid of your 4-year-old child.’
‘They’re also models and product testers for my online shop – and that means they’re a tax deduction.’
Whew, at least they do appear to have a ‘valid’ use!
But in reality, my horses give me so much more. It wasn’t until I lacked motivation in the office that I gave up trying to do anything meaningful and went out to trim hooves and hang with the horses. Then I realised something… there are many things my horses do for my physical and mental health – so here’s ten in no particular order;
1. Inspiration – being with them clears my mind and allows new ideas to flow. They provide topics for my writing and motivate me when I have ‘writer’s block’- this post is a good example. They are subjects for my interest in photography and other artistic ideas.
They also inspire me to develop new products that benefit others such as my LightRider Bitless Bridles.
2. Relaxation – I’m fully ‘in the moment’ with them and I forget all my worries and agendas especially when I just hang out, say hello and do some mutual grooming (which is mostly me scratching them!).
3. Time out in nature – it’s so important these days where we spend a lot of time in front of screens, driving cars and inside buildings.
Now there is also evidence that being in nature allows us to take in ‘good bacteria’ which is great for our gut and therefore our overall health.
4. Exercise – walking, occasional riding, trimming hooves, feeding, lifting hay bales/nets and feed buckets, fencing and grooming are all good and varied forms of exercise.
5. Skills – I’m constantly learning new things from and with my horses in order to keep them in good health. For example; new rope knots, training techniques, ways of feeding them better, things to enrich their lives, pasture and soil management etc.
6. Friendship & relating – horses are social beings and so are we. Mine are usually less demanding to be with than people, although sometimes I wonder when they’re all lining up to have their bottom’s scratched!
Without realising, I’ve learnt a lot about relating, becoming more aware of body language and considering the other person’s/horses point of view. This has allowed me to respond thoughtfully rather than react to difficult situations.
They also bring new friendships into my life with the helpers from all over the world that come to stay with me and love learning from my horses.
7. Research and photographic models – I test out all the products I sell before adding them to my online shop – in fact, I usually only sell stuff that my herd and I find useful and that works well. Most of my horses cooperate well to model the bitless bridles, halters, bareback pads and other apparel I develop and sell. Having 14 horses gives me a variety of size and colour choices.
8. Challenges – we all learn more from getting out of our comfort zone and horses challenge us to look for answers and try new things. Sometimes those challenges are mental – (how do we find out when and what to feed an insulin resistant horse), sometimes emotional (when do I need to euthanise the ‘oldies’) and others are physical (how do I stop that pony getting through the electric fence!).
9. Entertainment – I love observing my horses from the house – no need for a TV here during daylight saving hours! When I hear galloping hooves I look up to see them running and check why or what from (the neighbour has scary sheep!). I especially enjoy watching their herd behaviour and how that changes over time as herd friendships develop.
10. Motivation – things need to be done even if we don’t feel like getting out there. Feeding, hoof care, worming, fencing etc. and once you’re moving, it’s easier to feel like tackling other tasks outside. Once we’re out there with our horses we see the beautiful sunrise/sunset, we notice what needs doing, we enjoy being active and so life goes on with this amazing animal – the horse.
What else do your horses give you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.