Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thoughts on Thoughts

Mugwump did a post the other day on passing judgement on other horse people, and her feelings on it as far as if it is OK to determine who should or should not own horses. It was really interesting and it got me thinking. Particularly what got my attention, and what I agreed with, was the mention on dogs as a comparison. What makes a dog well trained? It is determined by the owner; "the only time a dog is poorly trained is if the owner isnt happy with it's behavior". I completely had to agree with this in the lines of dogs and horses. I would rather my dog not jump on the couch whenever she wished, but I have many friends whose dogs do just that without a "given permission". Does it make their dogs poorly trained? No, because that was the message they gave to their dogs: they wanted them right there in their laps, snuggling, and up close.

It's the same with horses, and something that I think happens with just about anyone involved with them. People want to pass judgement on others' interactions with their equines and make them feel like what they are doing is wrong. And believe me, I have had my fair share of those opinions passed onto me, and by nature, I know I reciprocate. Many times I will rant and rave to Boyfriend about the condition, training, or treatment of horses I know, and he always reminds me that a lot of people with horses out there are not nearly as invested in it as I am - many simply have horses to have that hobby.

So mugwump got me thinking. Using the same concepts for "what makes a good dog" applied to "what makes a good horse", I am in total agreement that it depends on what the owner wants out of their animal. I love that my horse is mouthy and loves attention. A lot of other horse people are put off by this attention seeker and believe that I have not correctly trained my horse in acceptable behavior. There is a fine line there for me between what I consider acceptable (ie no biting or pushing over, versus liping and nosing) and what is not. I understand that this behavior is something that is important to me horse and that his nose area is an extremely sensitive and seeking area for affection, so I know that his behavior of stuffing it in your face is not one of disrespect or dominance (although there is a fine line there were it can easily become that, mostly towards others) but an important need for him to have it touched.

It really is just what we want from our animals. But going more into her post about those lines of neglect and abuse, when to take action or not, is one that is hitting home for me currently. I have not posted about the issues I am having with Milo recently. Mostly because there are a few options I am trying to circumvent them, and also because I was hoping to get the opinion and suggestions from my trainer on what to do next. I cant seem to get any time with her to actually look at my horse, so I have been taking matters into my own hands and seeking advice elsewhere.

To elaborate, my horse has been on a downhill slide for months as far as his fitness and weight. Towards the fall and beginning of winter he was not at optimum condition for going into the cold months, but I had long discussed the feeding problems we were having at that time. After moving to where we are now, the hay quality was poor for two months. That was a huge reason for moving to the self-care boarding option; so I could control the hay quality that he was receiving. While it's only been a month so far of higher quality hay, the weight keeps slipping off of him. He was never a hard keeper and at six flakes of hay a day (weight-wise, these flakes are heavy) I am near tears at determining why he is not building his healthy weight back.

This month I got a ton of second cut, beautiful Timothy hay. He had a solid month of second cutting Orchard Grass which gave his system some time to adjust from the local grass hay, and now with a few bales left over I am integrating the Timothy hay in. Timothy s richer in fiber and has less sugar than the orchard grass, and tends to have all the nutrients that horses need from it without overloading in protein like alfalfa. I am hoping that the Timothy hay will help get Milo back to where he needs to be. After some discussion, I have also added black oil sunflower seeds to his diet to promote healthy weight and a nice coat.

Given these options, I am really hoping that he starts coming back to where he needs to be. If I could ever get  him to me trainer she can recommend which wormer to give as well. So how does this all go back into the thoughts from Mugwump? I feel incredibly guilty and it makes me sick and sad when I see my horse without his blanket. By no means are his ribs showing but he has significantly lost the topline we were building and his haunches are more lean then they were (much like when he was young and still growing). I am nervous on even bringing him to the trainer in anticipation for her remarks on what happened to his condition. I am not a bad owner, I am doing everything I can for him, but a lot of the help I am seeking is not coming. It just really frustrating.


An Image of Grace said...

Very timely post Nina. I appreciate you talking about your guilt as I have been in the same place for the last week. Bought Grace some new hay and she went on a hunger strike. I had old hay to mix in with it, but the last thing I wanted was her to lose any weight. You and I take the very best care of our horses - like you it kills me to not see Grace in the condition I think she should be in. She looks good, but not as good as she could right now.

Mare said...

This is an awesome post on an often debated subject. I too tend to judge people who I feel "should not have horses" or "let their horses walk all over them." This definitely gave me something to think about!

Story said...

Excellent post. I'm getting the guilties for not riding enough. The fact is, my horse is 70 miles away and riding 7 days a week "like other people" is not going to happen. I was told that I'd be silly to put sliders on this year because you can't do reining by "pulling your horse out of the pasture once a week". Extra stinging since I actually ride at least 3 days a week but once again, not as much as that other person who really does reining. It sucks! I'm not an evil horse person for not riding every day and not any less serious! I do the best I can and give my horse every opportunity I can. But it's one of those things, in the land of horses, people are always quick to criticize.

And I totally identify with the weight thing but funny enough with the dog comparison...it's my dog! Smidgen looks like the poster child for Animal Cops. I'm embarrassed to take her anywhere. I know she's just young and super super high energy but other people just see skinny dog. We pack food into her but she burns calories like it's going out of style. It's frustrating!

SillyPony said...

Great post Nina! The fact that you are conscious of your horse's weight/condition is something to be proud of. I don't know anybody who is smart and cares deeply for their horse that thinks their horse is at a perfect weight or condition. It's because we care so much that we see what we hope to improve.

I think the big difference between poorly trained dogs and poorly trained horses is that a non-aggressive but poorly trained horse is much more dangerous to the average human than a non-agressive but poorly trained dog. The dog is just annoying. The horse can get somebody seriously injured.

paint_horse_milo said...

That is an excellent point, SillyPony. There are differences between the complications from a poorly trained dog versus a poorly trained horse. I was thinking more along the lines of those kinds of "training issues" that people like to give their not to humble advice about (like, dont use that farrier use mine, you shouldnt longe using that whip) kind of issues that are really dependent on the horse-owner relationship- those kinds of things that bother no one else and they need to keep their noses out of. BUT that is an excellent point- where is that line drawn?

Laura Crum said...

I know many people don't like to feed alfalfa hay, but I have had the experience of feeding my horses the best quality grass hay I could find and watching ALL of them lose condition. For many years now I have fed a good quality alfalfa /grass hay and all my horses look great. The ones over twenty are supplemented with an equine senior feed, the younger ones get only the hay. Their condition is just right. Everyone does it different, but I thought I'd put that out there in case its helpful. I know how frustrating it can be to do be doing the very best you know how to do and feel its not working.