Friday, June 26, 2009

Tough decisions

On a lot of boards recently (...such as FHOTD...), judgement and criticism is passed on individuals selling their horses, so I wanted to offer up my take - a different position.I do believe that adding a horse - or any animal, for that matter, to your home, is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires much thought and consideration for the pros and cons, as well as the financial responsibility, such a large commitment requires. An example of the costs involved, and note: this is based primarily on what our horses cost, in the Calgary, Alberta area, on a yearly basis - different areas may require different costs, so research the costs in your area before you purchase.

Board: $150-$250/month, depending on the facilities (arena or no). This is based on pasture board with hay provided (no grain). This is the low end of the scale, though many classy facilities may be priced at this end.

Farrier: $35/trim (this is not including shoes - a set of fronts plus a trim runs at about $80+). You can likely count on this having to be done approx. every 6-10 weeks, depending on the horse and depending on the time of year.

Deworming: $20/time, done every 2-6 months, depending on the area your horse is in, the number of horses in the same area, the quality of grazing, etc. Fecal tests may be included in your costs.

Hay (if your boarding facility does not provide it): $4-7/bale (small squares). Your horse will eat, on average, 1-2 percent of his body weight per day - depending on workload, metabolism, weather, etc. Weigh your bales! Use nibble nets or such to prevent waste.

Teeth floating: $150-200. A young horse should have this done every 6-12 months, a horse say over 6 can probably be checked every year and done every year or two - consult your vet.

Saddle: $500-$5000. If you're just doing pleasure riding, the $5000 saddle might not be necessary, but you do get what you pay for, so pay the money it takes to get a saddle that fits both you and your horse (have a professional saddle fitter out). Buying used can save you a lot.

Bridle: $20-$400

Halter/leadrope: $10-$50

Brushes: approx. $50

Other tack: $0-$1000's per year, depending on what you and your horse do, etc.

Lesssons: $20-$150/hour, depending on your discipline.

Horse training (for the young horse): $300-$1000/month.

Chiropractic/massage/acupuncture work (if necessary): approx. $80/session.

Vaccinations: approx. $100-200/year for a full round of shots. Even if your horse does not travel, he should be getting the full round of vaccinations if horses on the property travel to shows and such. Consider doing a blood titre on your horse to assess his level of protection. You can reduce this cost by learning how to do it yourself.

I think I am remembering everything... As you can see, horses are a huge financial responsibility! One that requires a lot of dedication and commitment. They also require a lot of time - count on spending a good hour or more with your horse several times a week.

On the other hand, sometimes people get into horses without full knowledge of the requirements of a horse, and other times, shit just happens. Sometimes we lose a job, illness occurs in the family (or to you!), we undergo some type of financial hardship - and as unfortunate as it is, sometimes it's the horse that has to go. These are not excuses, these are reasons we sometimes have to give up the horses we love when our situation changes unexpectedly. In addition, each individual handles situations differently - some are able to keep their horses through hardships, others are not. Some have different priorities. Regardless, I strongly do not feel that people who can no longer keep their horses are deserving of criticism, or our judgment - they deserve our compassion. I can't imagine losing my horses. The last thing I would need in that situation is someone else tearing me down because of a situation I feel I was forced to make. It just isn't our place to judge - even if that individual in particular does claim financial hardship as the reason they must part with their horse, despite a $50,000 RV trailer sitting in the background. We are not in that individual's shoes and have no idea where they are sitting.

My last related comment is to point out some things to watch out for when selling your horse. I scoped out the horses in the pens of an auction place one day, a couple of hours before the auction was to begin. One little mare caught my eye, not because she was all that much of a looker, but because of what was attached outside her pen. This little bay Quarab mare had a sign attached to her pen, telling of her accomplishments, why she was being sold (her owner had young kids), and listing the owner's hope that her beloved mare would find a good home. In a little town, I was betting that mare was headed for Japan on a nicely-decorated plate. I doubt her owner had those intentions, but that rather she was unaware of the fact that her little mare was likely destined overseas. So my point is this: don't auction off your horse - you have no idea of where your horse is going. If you are going to auction a horse, take them to a specific, reputable auction (such as a western ranch horse sale, or a sporthorse sale, etc) and set a reserve price that will keep your horse away from the kill-buyers. Spruce up your horse and ride her into the ring - show her off as much as possible. Preferably, sell your horse privately, where you can control where she goes. Increase your horse's training level to increase her saleability and her chance of ending up in a good home. Invest in a trainer if you need to. Also, invest in a good ad, complete with good photos, for your horse! Ask the potential buyers lots of questions. Do some research on what to look for and what to watch out for.

Okay, so back to the topic. I've been down to the point where I almost had to sell my horses and it is so easy to end up there. You don't just end up there being an uncaring, undeserving, bum whose first love is the couch and drugs. Good people end up there - good people who have to give up their horses (and sometimes end up on the street). So please do not judge those in a poorer financial position than you, who is forced to give up their horse. Reserve your judgement for your own life and offer up compassion for those enduring tough times.

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