Friday, May 10, 2013

Why I don't own horses

Long before the area we live in was known as Wine Country, it was known as Horse Country.  The Central Coast of California has long been a place where horses have been kept, bred and shown.  If you drive through the area, you can still find horse ranches, breeding facilities, and even several race tracks, where thoroughbreds are raised up and trained, now nestled in between multi-million dollar wineries and tasting rooms.

But I don't own horses, and have no plans to get one.  At this point in my life, I'm living the wine country dream, not the horse country dream.  The horse country dream I've already done.

I was 30 before I owned a horse, and I've only owned one in my life:  FlyGirl.  FlyGirl was a Morab (half-Morgan, half-Arab) and was one of the great loves of my life.  But our relationship was not without bumps -- literally.  One afternoon on a leisurely trail ride, for example, FlyGirl spooked when someone on a nearby road threw the daily newspaper onto the driveway of a ranch, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on the side of the trail looking at nothing but blue sky and a big horse face looking down to see if I was OK.  

A long time ago, on a horse far, far away

That in itself says volumes about our relationship, because as most riders will tell you, being thrown from a horse is not only traumatic for you, it's traumatic for the horse as well, and most of them will high-tail it back to home as soon as it happens.  But not FlyGirl.  She didn't budge from my side while I lay unconscious on the side of the road.

And while I recovered from my fall with just a small bleed on the back of my brain and a whopper of a concussion, it was not an injury I took lightly.  Because there are two types of riders in the world -- the ones that have been injured in a fall, and the ones who it just hasn't happened to yet.

FlyGirl lived many years after that, and we shared many more trail rides together.  And when she developed equine Cushing's disease, I didn't think twice about spending $400 a month on medication for her, even though I was barely making it on a beginning teacher's salary.  And to this day, I still light a candle for her on the day I had to have her put down.  I still cry.  And while many people I know look forward to seeing grandparents, children, or other relatives when they finally die and cross over to the other side, I am most looking forward to seeing FlyGirl again.  I have no doubt she's there, and if she's not, then I'm not sure I want to go.

So, bottom line, horses are expensive -- emotionally, physically and financially, although not without rewards.  I started thinking about all this last week when our mail lady had an accident on her horse and broke her back in three different places. A good friend was thrown off her horse a few years ago and hit an arena railing, breaking three ribs and her collarbone.  Expensive injuries, in many ways.

And so I look at all these things, as well as my own experiences, and it makes me realize I'm just not up to horses anymore.  We may buy a little donkey for our pasture to help carry harvest and be a pasture pal to the goats and sheep we'll be getting, but that will be as close to horse ownership as I will probably get.

Yet I love horses dearly.  It's funny though, there are things you may love but don't want in your life as you grow older.  Certain men, some types of friends, a tequila buzz and, yes, horses, all fall into that category for me.  They all represent things I've been through and experiences I've had, and loved, but no longer wish to repeat.

I think this qualifies as a type of wisdom.


  1. How very touching. I'm sorry your horse isn't still physically here with you. I'll be so interested to read about your goats! Horses have been a fascination of mine my entire life. For a time I thought horses were a definite part of my future. Now I'm not so sure...we'll see. Having watched friends with horses I just don't know I could handle the heartbreak of losing one. It seems to be such a spiritual, almost mystical relationship. Thanks for sharing your story. As always, your superb writing lets the content shine.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words! You are right, the bond between horse and rider truly is mythical and spiritual. That's a perfect description! But you're wise to consider horse ownership carefully, it's a huge, huge emotional commitment.