I try to manage my horse herd so that there are never any horses around that are in poor condition. Most of our horses are for sale at the right price. After they get to be middle age (10 on up), I try to sell them so someone else can watch them grow old. They are worth quite a bit of money at this stage of their life, and it is an excellent time to capitalize on that value. This is also an excellent time to go on with a younger model, get the work done, and have something well broke and very saleable again in a few years.
Once in a while an old favorite or two gets to stay on a bit longer. One of my old favorite horses was a paint that I traded for when he was three. When he was eighteen, a family needed a good barrel racing horse for a twelve-year-old daughter. This horse was catty, super cowy, and fast. He could turn around a barrel as well as he could turn a cow. I valued the horse at a thousand dollars (a pretty good price for an eighteen-year-old horse in 1988). These folks had a nice two-seated buggy that they had restored, and they valued it at a thousand dollars. We traded straight across. My father-in-law chastised me, and said, "Oh, don't trade for a buggy. They deteriorate awful fast."
I countered with, "Well, what about eighteen-year-old horses. They also tend to deteriorate pretty rapidly." Anyway, the trade was made and both parties were happy. I still have the buggy, and think of my old paint horse every time I hook it up. The other people used the horse for a few years, and sold him to someone else. I never did know what happened to the horse, but he went to a good home when I sold him. My conscience was and is clear. My memories of the horse are many, and they are all of him in prime physical condition. If he had been around until he died, I would have had to watch him get skinny and suffer, and memories of him in that condition would have almost overpowered the more pleasant early memories. He ended up dead (as we all will), and I doubt if he suffered any more the way things turned out than he inevitably would have if he'd died on our ranch of old age and the infirmities and suffering that go with it.
My point is that horses are animals. They are not people. Yes, you can get attached to animals, but keep a grip on reality. Treat them humanely and with kindness when they are under your ownership and supervision. Horse owners can't be expected to continue owning every horse for the duration of its life. How could a guy ever experience the satisfaction of a horse trade if this were the case? For any living thing, a swift humane death beats a long suffering death every time, no matter how the cards are cut.
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