Timmy and Geri. Photo by Bill Olson

Count your blessings when your horse is healthy and thriving – photo by Bill Olson

Count your blessings when your horse is healthy and thriving.

I have a friend whose horse recently was kicked by another horse and sustained a fractured tibia. Obviously this is a very serious injury and we live day-to-day with his recovery, hoping for the positive outcome we think can be achieved. There are also horses in my barn who are injured and temporarily on stall rest. It makes me very sad to see their level of frustration at not being able to be turned out in their pastures. I don’t know if they understand why they are in. I see the frustration in their owners too. They are worried about their horses and whether they will fully recover. They can’t ride and don’t know how long that will be the case.

I am fortunate to have one of those horses who is solid as a rock, rarely takes a lame step and in the 8 years I have owned him, has been unrideable for maybe 10 days due to abscesses or minor muscle issues. As I write this, I am knocking on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder and crossing myself. We horse people are a superstitious lot. I am afraid to get too cocky or complacent because as soon as I do, something could happen. Horses, for all their size and bulk, are very sensitive animals. Until I owned one, I never appreciated that. Now all I do is worry about colic, injuries, swelling, infection, abscesses and 1000 other things. I also have developed a tremendous sense of GUILT.

Webster’s Dictionary defines guilt as: A bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong.  Well, they got the first part right. GUILT makes us feel bad. Whether founded or not, it is that nagging, sinking feeling we have all experienced one time or another. It’s the second part that is the kicker: caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong. I have come to THINK that feeling lucky or blessed for having a healthy horse is bad or wrong. I just can’t help it. When so many people are dealing with horse injuries or illnesses, how can I feel good about my healthy horse!?!? Well I do-but I do it in silence. I don’t want to seem insensitive. I want to be sympathetic. I understand the agony an owner goes through. I am just happy it isn’t me!

Changing places with that owner for a minute, no one wants to hear about how well another’s horse is doing when you are living day-to-day with a problem. The bigger the problem, the less you want to hear of healthy horses.

So what is the answer? Should I let guilt take over? Should I make myself feel bad when my horse is well? Do we have responsibility for all the homeless and starving people in the world? Simply, the answer is NO. I have the right to be happy and thankful for each day my horse thrives. Sometimes easier said than done, but important for OUR peace of mind. It is not wrong to be happy. We must also however, have empathy for our friends who are going through tough times. Sensitivity is the key. Think before you say something about the injured/sick horse. How will it be perceived? Offer to help where you can, but avoid giving advice. That’s what vets are for. Don’t be overly optimistic or pessimistic. Changes can happen day-to-day. Celebrate those forward baby steps. Above all, mind your own business unless you are asked. Take your lead from the owner.

After all is said and done, go hug your horse and count your blessings. With horses, things can always change on a dime.