I write this as a non-horse owner so reader beware. I barter with my horse-owning neighbors each year swapping several weeks grazing on our pasture in exchange for something they can help us out with. I horse sit for a couple neighbors when they are gone. My husband rides a little in his line of work, so I don’t write this from a completely detached point-of-view. But I do not claim to be an expert or even very familiar with horses.
Most horses are really just pasture pets. Meaning that they don’t work regularly as a stock animal, be it riding or driving. This isn’t bad by any means. What it means is that like our dogs and cats we have them because of the relationship they give us, humans. We enjoy their company and the pleasure we find being with them. I had not really thought much about it until one of my friends aged horses started the decline of their twilight years. It was only then that I realized what a relationship horse people have with their pets.
Warrior was a horse they had gotten from a school for the blind. I don’t think that there was a horse more gentle. He was the favorite of a mentally challenged child who rode him each summer. That little boy considered Warrior to be his horse. Warrior could be depended on to understand his precious cargo and handle him with care. He came down with colic earlier this year , and my neighbor walked with him for hours around the pasture while measures were taken to try to save him. I watched her cry and beg Wrangler to get up when laid down, knowing that laying down was a certain death sentence. Wrangler with the huge heart he had got up and though in pain he still wanted to please. My friend visited him daily when he was at the vet in those last days to pet and talk to him so he would not think he had been abandoned. Like so often for horses with colic Warrior loss the battle. They brought him home to be buried, and there is a rock showing were he rests, just like they had done with their dog two years before.
Warrior’s buddy, Oz, began to show signs of deterioration shortly their after. Though they did not come from the same place they came into my neighbor’s little herd together. Oz’s lost his long time partner, though he still has other horses to hang out with, seems to have taken away some of his zest for life. Each time my friend’s husbands heads up or down the road he stops his truck and talks to them, often getting out and crawling through the fence running his hands over his aged friend. Warrior and Oz were “his” two horses and I think he realizes he may have to say goodbye to another soon. Oz is beginning to have weight-loss issues, though the vet can find nothing wrong with him. My friend, with her quirky sense of humor, tells me if she was eating cheese cake (what she calls the special diet Oz is on) twice a day, she be be packing on the pounds. Instead Oz struggles to maintain, needing more attention each day.
Each year the neighbor’s horse go to what I call summer camp. It is when they leave their little pasture and go to a friend’s family place. They become part of a larger herd that they see each year. It has bigger pastures and more places to run and carry on as horses. It also means that the horses get more up close and personal time as the family place is fully of kids who love to be around the horses. They get lots of unconditional love and attention that only kids can give. They get rode, groomed, patted down and shared secrets with. The horses get more attention than they can get belonging to a working family. I like to think it is a nice break for the horses each year.
This year only three of the neighbor’s horses got to go to summer camp. Oz and one buddy stayed behind. It wasn’t that they could not go, but the neighbor’s just wanted to keep a closer eye on Oz. Horses don’t like to be without their heard and so the split up this summer. Oz looks better than earlier, but his days are likely numbered. Like when a family dog or cat time may be limited, the family knows it. The family looks to spend a little extra time with them, pet them a little more, sneak them a little treat and let them know how special they are. It is a time that the pet and the owner work on saying good bye. Though these horses live outside they are clearly pets just the same, pasture pets.