Dear kind neighbor,

I know you must think I’m some kind of awful person. I also know you mean well when you call animal control, and tell everyone who will listen about the poor horse who is starving to death in that pasture.

But you don’t know me, and you don’t know the skinny “starving” horse out in my pasture. I wish you had stopped by and asked about her before slipping that note in my mailbox and making those phone calls. You see, I’m very friendly and will chew your ear off for hours on end about every scrape and dimple on each of those horses in that pasture.

The one in question is Ladybug, she is 28 years old. She is a Thoroughbred and in her youth ran at such prestigious tracks as Belmont and Baltimore. She earned her keep on the track until she was 6 years old; for a Thoroughbred that is a really long time. That’s why she has that big knee and an occasional limp. I know she is thin now, but she wasn’t always so skinny. She used to be round and fat like her son and daughter over there under that tree.

I feed her as much as she will eat. Sadly she is just old and doesn’t digest her food that well anymore. Maybe one day they will make an Ensure for senior horses. For now senior horse feed, and lots of it, is the best I can do.

Why do I “hide” her in the back pasture you ask? Well, I realize our farm, and that front pasture  faces a main highway. The horses in that field live in a proverbial fish bowl. Which is fine, I hope the passersby enjoy watching the horses frolick and play as much as I do.

I usually don’t turn Ladybug out in the front field in the summer. Mostly because of the high traffic and lack of understanding in caring for an aging equine. In the winter she has a blanket to hide her from critical unknowing eyes.  In the summers I can’t bring myself to put fly sheets on them. I prefer to bring them in under fans on those days it’s just too hot or buggy. There is just as much grass for her in that back pasture as is in the front. Plus, the back field has a bigger water trough, which you can often find her playing in.

Usually you can catch her poll deep up to her ears plunging to the bottom to splash around. On good days she jumps right in with her front feet and splashes around. All her buddies will gather round and join in the splashfest. 

I realize to strangers it looks like I’m hiding a horse I am starving. Which is simply untrue. I have owned her for nearly 20 years. She was a wonderful competition horse and always took good care of me. Produced four lovely foals for me, the two in that field, and two others I sold to close friends.

Now in her senior years, it’s my turn to take care of her in retirement. Sure, her hearing and her vision aren’t so great anymore, and her body refuses to utilize all of the nutrition I am pumping into her. But I’m okay with that, as long as Ladybug is healthy and comfortable that’s what matters.  I will look after her, like she looked after for me, every time I made a silly amateur mistake in front of a jump. 

When the day comes and she doesn’t want to come up from the field with her friends, or meals just become unimportant to her, I will reconsider her quality of life. But for now, she’s happy and I’m happy.

I appreciate your concern, and I know you thought you had her best interest in mind. But please, in the future stop by when I’m home and chat with me before taking to the streets with your misguided opinion on Ladybug’s health. It will make everyone’s lives much less complicated.

Nickerson and slobbers,

The neighbor with the horses.

* This is a very real scenario that has happened to a few friends over the years, now that one of mine is a senior and struggling with her weight, I realize how easily things can be misunderstood by well-meaning animal lovers*